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Sovereignty of these United States

  1. Apr 15, 2010 #1
    When in history did we go from the States being sovereign and over the Federal government to the Federal government being sovereign and over the States?

    The founders like Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Marshall and Webster all understood the States as sovereign with the right to secede.
     
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  3. Apr 15, 2010 #2

    mgb_phys

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    Pretty much as soon as the federal government could.
     
  4. Apr 15, 2010 #3

    russ_watters

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    September 17, 1787, the day the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the US Constitution, replacing state sovereignty with federal sovereignty.
    Nonsense. Cite your source or retract your claim.

    ...Let me just cut to the chase: Hamilton wrote some of the Federalist Papers, Adams was a member of the Federalist party when elected President and Marshall helped defined the role of the federal government as one of the first chief justices of the USSC.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2010
  5. Apr 15, 2010 #4
    Still the constitution was rather strictly interpreted to maintain the freedoms of the states from the federal government until rather recently. The Constitution certainly gave a stronger position and more power to the federal government than did the Articles but that really isn't saying much since the Articles gave little power to the federal government and supplied virtually no means of actually wielding what power it did possess.
     
  6. Apr 16, 2010 #5

    russ_watters

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    Certainly, the Articles were a contradiction - it is a wonder how the founders ever believed they would work! But the Constitution is explicit on the matter:
    And what do you mean by enforcement exactly? Ultimately, there is only one true form of political power in the world and it comes out the barrel of a gun. The goal of a social contract type government is for the citizens to be happy enough with it that the government doesn't need to use its gun (much).
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  7. Apr 16, 2010 #6

    Pythagorean

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    The federalists were pretty much working at it since the beginning, starting with a federal treasury.

    The civil war resulted in a strengthening of the union and the 14th amendment made us all federal citizens (instead of pure sovereigns).
     
  8. Apr 16, 2010 #7

    mheslep

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    To place this in the OP's terms, the 1787 constitution made the Federal government sovereign for the specifically enumerated powers in the constitution. The founders took pains through the tenth amendment and through the federalist papers to make that point clear: unless claimed otherwise by the constitution, the states remain sovereign.

    As Statutory Ape points out, that state of affairs has changed along the way. The last gasp so to speak of the old order was in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution" [Broken], where the court struck down the Federal govt paying farmers to take land out of circulation:

    After FDR's court packing threats the court started reversing itself over several cases in the late 1930s, culminating in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution" [Broken]
    which I suppose is now the law of the land. But, the constitution is in my view one of the more carefully crafted and succinct writings in existence. The idea that the founders dumped superfluous amendments in it is crock.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Apr 16, 2010 #8

    mheslep

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    Therein lies the issue. Clearly, this phrase must be taken in the context that the federal government is sovereign for only the matters enumerated in the constitution, and thus does not allow the federal government to be sovereign over the states in anything it attempts to do.
     
  10. Apr 16, 2010 #9

    russ_watters

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    You misread the line. That's not the US Constitution it is talking about, it is state constitutions. It's saying that state constitutions and laws may not contradict the US constitution or laws.

    Showing proper emphasis: "...any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary, notwithstanding."
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  11. Apr 16, 2010 #10

    russ_watters

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    That portion of the 14th amendment is redundant in that it says basically the same thing as Article 6, quoted above. It was necessary only because Article 6 wasn't being properly followed. Wiki has articles on both, for reference:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privileges_or_Immunities_Clause
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supremacy_Clause

     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  12. Apr 16, 2010 #11

    russ_watters

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    Your opinion, but that quote isn't the only court decision or historical precident to say it is superfluous:
    and:
    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment10/01.html#f3

    In any case, you said it appears clearly in the federalist papers that this wasn't the intent: do you have a particular one in mind?
     
  13. Apr 16, 2010 #12

    mheslep

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    Yes you're right I misread, though I think the point still holds. The authority of the federal government is, or should be, limited only to that which is enumerated in the constitution, and the general welfare language is not a do-what-you-will escape clause for the Fed. Otherwise the states are sovereign.
     
  14. Apr 16, 2010 #13

    mheslep

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    Oh yes, 45 to start.
    http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed45.htm" [Broken]

    I'd say Madison's first sentence has been almost exactly reversed in the modern era. It's a retro history parlor game to say so, but if the Depression era acts of Congress could have been forseen, and given the concerns of those which Madison attempts to allay above, this constitution never gets ratified as is in 1789.

    Edit: And 39, which shows the care taken in striking a balance between loose confederacy (ie federal government) and a strong monolithic (ie national government)
    http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed39.htm" [Broken]

     
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  15. Apr 16, 2010 #14

    Pythagorean

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    The redundancy seems to be in the line:

    ""No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.""

    The line I'm talking about:

    "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. "

    Where they created a kind of dual-citizenship. The folklore (i.e. Authors like Lynne Meredith) claims that this was because they wanted to control the rights of newly freed slaves to make sure that they didn't have pure sovereign rights (so they couldn't quickly move in on politics and/or become land owners).

    So they compromised, the legend goes, and made us all half-slaves by putting us in debt with national treasury, and carrying that debt through the US Dollar and its taxes.

    The general idea is that you still have your sovereign rights, but you can easily sign them away by entering into the contract with the US Federal Government (i.e., allowing yourself to become a Federal citizen under 14th amendment).

    Meredith (and other sovereign authors) talk about all the ways we accept this citizenship, and enter unknowingly into a commercial contract with the government (by using zipcodes and federal codes for states in our mail: like AK, OR, WA. By checking "YES, I'm a US Citizen" on forms, by carrying US Federal Notes (US Dollars).


    Of course, I don't know how much of this is true, but for a long time, people used it to get out of punishment for statutory laws (which is allegedly bound by the UCC and violates constitutional rights) and not pay taxes.

    Most of them were actually successful in terms of legality, but the authors that distributed this information eventually got raided by the IRS.

    As a personal anecdote, I relied on the Jefferson Party website, which pertains more to
    Alaska (which started as a Foreign Trade Zone, so has a slightly different backbone of law.
    I used their website to legally get out of a handful of moving violations (which actually prompted the local court system to skip the preliminary hearings for traffic violations: now we either turn in our ticket with money or we don't... and get a bench warrant... the preliminary hearing was the only opportunity to state your case constitutionally. Now you get arrested, spend a night in jail, and then state your case constitutionally. Not worth the night in jail)


    The Jefferson Party website is now associated with malware. This is strange to me, because I know the group that ran it and they're not out to destroy people's computers, they're actually vigilantly trying to spread the word and increase public awareness. I can't help but suspect a third-party is involved here:

    Here's google's warning page about the site

    http://www.google.com/interstitial?url=http://www.jusbelli.com/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  16. Apr 16, 2010 #15
    What does sovereignty really mean in a republic anyway? The whole point of a republic is to allow citizens to self-govern by rule of reason. The branches of government are supposed to check and balance each other and protect the sovereign rights and freedoms of individuals.

    This may be my own interpretation or not, I'm not sure, but it seems like the purpose of dividing power between federal and state governments is that they should check and balance each other's power to assure that no individual's rights and freedoms are solely conditional on the power of a single level of authority.

    In other words, sovereignty is supposed to be multiple to prevent autocracy. If the point had ever been to delegate absolute sovereignty to any level of society from the president to the landlord, the whole principle of all people being equal and having inalienable rights and freedoms would have been compromised, because a single sovereign government or governor would have a monopoly on the institutional means of claiming those rights for the people within their jurisdiction.
     
  17. Apr 16, 2010 #16
    In my perception the confederate states was much like a large scale formalized syndicalist style government. The Federal government was not an autonomous authoritative body but rather more a forum for voicing and resolving grievances. Resolutions arrived at by the fed were to be followed but this hinged on the willingness of the individual states to actually enforce any particular resolution. The problem here, as with most syndicalist style governments, was that those states with greater wealth, resources, and access to shipping lanes and ports necessarily made a far weightier vote than the less wealthy states. The consequence being that few wished to go against them and even if a resolution was made against these states they could easily flout the resolution without much concern that any of those states who rely upon them would actually attempt to enforce it. The effect of course is that the federal government made many resolutions that the governors of individual states were unwilling to abide or enforce.

    The issue here is that the fed was not considered to have the authority to abridge state law through its actions unless the constitution gave it the explicit authority to do so. So congress could pass federal laws only so long as the subject of those laws fell squarely within the domain of the federal government and, assuming this criterion was met, no state law could then countermand the federal law. Mostly it has been invoked with regard to treaties as the fed reserves absolute authority to enter into treaties. Any treaty made by the Executive and ratified by congress, so long as its provisions do not violate the constitution, is supreme and countermands any laws of any individual state.

    The Privileges and Immunities clause has always been interpreted as a remedy for the issue of individual states instituting discriminatory laws and taxes aimed at citizens of others states. This was a major issue under the Confederate States which was never adequately addressed.

    The Fourteenth Amendment specifically requires states to recognize the right of its citizens to Due Process of Law and Equal Protection. Until this amendment was instituted the Bill of Rights was considered to only apply to the federal government. Since then the USSC has slowly but surely been defining Due Process and insinuating the various rights of the amendments one by one, a change that has been ongoing even through the last century and still a couple of those rights have not been incorporated.

    The Constitution has been interpreted as a contract between the states and not of the people so the rights and limitations in the Constitution, unless otherwise specified, are considered to only apply to the federal government and its relationship with its citizens and the states.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2010
  18. Apr 17, 2010 #17
    It seems to me that when you try to resolve this by giving less powerful entities more power, it only ends up magnifying the problem since those more powerful only work harder to buy the power of the "little guys" who have been given more power artificially. In other words, it just gives small players more bargaining power to become subsidiaries of bigger players. What would motivate a less powerful entity to actually utilize its power to stand up to bigger players, instead of just trading its power for a greater portion of the spoils?

    This reads like something a lawyer would write trying to specify and delimit rights and powers in order to contain them. What about the fact that these entities are supposed to check and balance each other, not just restrain themselves to their defined terrain?

    So you are saying that state agents have no responsibility to observe the rights and limitations of the constitution? That doesn't make any sense? Why would anyone be immune from observing constitutional rights just because they have the privilege of claiming state authority? That sounds like confederationism.

    I think the EU still protects state authority against federal intervention to a large degree. Last I heard, for example, the EU state governments determine citizenship and only people with EU state citizenship can get EU passports, but that may have changed.
     
  19. Apr 17, 2010 #18

    mgb_phys

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    There are no eu passports or eu citizenship. Citizens of each member state can live and work in any member country . Although the eu has 'influnced' a few countries' rules on how they grant citizenship.

    Still creates a few interesting political positions - each nations government argues that as much power as possible must be concentrated at national level - less bureaucracy / close to the people / accountable / no super-state etc.
    While at the same fighting independance for local regions - because power given out to local areas leads to inefficiencies, unaccountability, less power for people, breakdown of nations etc.
     
  20. Apr 17, 2010 #19
    Sorry Brainstorm. I typed out a rather lengthy response to this that was subsequently lost and I do not have the patience to try to reconstruct it fully.

    Basically: Yes, it is very much like confederationism. That was the idea back then. You are misplacing the principle of checks and balances. The checks and balances were designed into the federal government; specifically the relationship between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the federal government. The idea was to avoid the perceived rampant abuse of power in the English Parliament of that time. There were not, in fact, any checks and balances designed into the relationship between the state and the federal government. Protection of sovereignty was the aim of the limitations in the constitution which were predominantly leveled at the federal government. The relationship designed between the states and federal government was indeed the limitation of each to their respective domains.

    Also remember that we are talking about a time when only white male property owners were allowed to vote. They were the ones that voted on state laws. They did not necessarily have any care for the plight of the poor and underrepresented who were most likely to be abused by state law.

    And please note that I am not advocating such a system as I am presenting but only attempting to illustrate the historical precedent. Ed's belief that the relationship between state and federal government has changed drastically over time is correct. The answer to his question of when this happened, where the turning point was, can probably be found in the 14th Amendment and the Reconstruction era after the US Civil War as already noted by other members.

    I am currently finishing reading a textbook, an introduction to basic constitutional law, and most everything I have posted is based on my understanding of the information I have gleaned from that source. If you would like any citation I will cite the book or find online accessible sources at your (or anyone's) request.
     
  21. Apr 17, 2010 #20
    As I am reading "The Real Lincoln" by DiLorenzo now. I will use that for references.

    Hamilton page 89 from "The Federalist Papers" (number 81) he states

    "It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of any individual without its consent. This is the general sense and the general practice of mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every State in the Union."

    Marshall page 90 a state can not be "called before the bar of the Federal court."

    Webster page 90 'said in 1851 "if the Northern states refuse, willfully and deliberately, to carry into effect that part of the Constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provide no remedy, the South would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain can not be broken on one side, and still bind the other side."

    Adams page 87-88 a quote from a speech in 1839 it is long so I will quote only a small part "Then will be the time for reverting to the precedencts which occurred at the formation and adpotion of the Constitution, to form again a more prefect Union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separate parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the center."

    Jefferson page 86 quoting DiLorenzo "Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration, was a strong supporter of the Union, but he nevertheless defended the right of any state to secede from it."

    from the back page of the book DiLorenzi is professor of economics in the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola College in Maryland. Specializing in economic history and political economy, he is the author of eleven books and is widely published in academic journals and such national pubilcations as The Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, USA Today, National Review, and Barron's.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2010
  22. Apr 17, 2010 #21
    I'm pretty sure DiLorenzi's credibility has already been addressed, who cares if on the back of HIS book it praises him and his 'accompishments'.
     
  23. Apr 17, 2010 #22
    The fact that EU citizenship is framed in this way is an irritating reminder of the propagandistic culturalism that is infused into EU policies. The idea is to give citizens the benefits of economic unification while protecting their right to ethnically differentiate from each other and practice exclusionist ethnic pluralism.

    Despite the hypocrisy and exclusionism of pluralism, at least there is concern for linguistic and other cultural diversity. I just wish diversity was pursued more proactively alongside integration, instead of culturalism always becoming a reaction against migration and interethnicity.

    Usually when I read complaints about EU level government as being undemocratic because its not directly elected, it seems like it's a reactionary argument on the part of people who want greater national autonomy. In fact, it's rare that I read discussion of EU politics that doesn't come across as a politically loaded spin-bomb designed to implicitly insist on one or other perspective.

    The most important political-cultural goal of Europe should be to detach culture from ethnic territorialism. Culture preservation and expression are truly important, but they shouldn't be used as a means of practicing the national-socialism of ethnosocial solidarity. Part of the problem is that the ideology of individualism is denounced among many Europeanists as a typically American and therefore anti-European philosophy. In this way, individuals are pressed to identify with group- and sub-group identities and to orient toward culture in terms of conformity instead of individual freedom and independent reason. Independence is derided as a form of egoism, which shames people into subjugating themselves to groupism.

    Maintaining a discourse of structural levels and divisions is part of this groupist ideology. The idea is that individuality only exists in the shadow of collective boundaries and regulatory frameworks. Choosing how to be governed from above is emphasized above individuality and reason in self-governance and cultural practice.
     
  24. Apr 17, 2010 #23
    I always hear people say that the constitution is inherently flawed because it was written in a historical context of slavery and subordination of women. My feeling is that the men who wrote it had the right idea in that they were laying a foundation for self-governance through reason instead of submission to the authority of a sovereign. It seems clear to me that this same claim to self-governance through reason is valid for anyone regardless of identity or status. The problem is that people's claims of reason are not always reasonable and you get into power-struggles over who gets to claim the right to self-govern as such and what that does or should entail.

    You say that the state governments were not to be checked by the federal government, but how is the federal government supposed to tolerate abridging of rights at the state level? The exercise of state-power is limited by the federal constitution, isn't it? Are you trying to argue that the federal constitution protects state sovereignty over individual rights?
     
  25. Apr 17, 2010 #24

    mgb_phys

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    Of cource if you're scottish and a conservative government gets in then that's pretty much not-directly elected (generally conservatives win no seats in Scotland)

    I meant that it's interesting to watch a politician argue against Europe and that decisions shouldn't be made by some distant foreign politicians that you didn't vote for - and then argue that Scotland shouldn't be independent for exactly the same reason.

    Ideally the EU should make it easier for small countries/regions to be independent. 50 years it would be difficult for Wales or the Basque country to be independent - are they going to have an army, their own central bank, their own currency , their own passport and embassies - now it should be easy.
    That's probably the main reason for most national leaders to be anti-Eu.
     
  26. Apr 17, 2010 #25
     
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