Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
Concord Learning Systems


States rights; whatever happened to THAT concept?

Nearly 109 years after the death of Hamilton, the United States put the last piece in place to give him complete and total victory over all of his adversaries. What happened?

A year before the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the colonies began to fight the War for Independence which lasted until officially ending with the Treaty of Paris of 1783. However, on March 1, 1781, the colonies had formally united with the Articles of Confederation; a loose agreement filled mostly with pledges to provide funds for common goals. There was no central government with enforcement powers. During the meeting of the Colonial Congress which constructed the Articles of Confederation, it had become apparent that none of the colonies were willing to surrender any sovereignty to a central authority.

The war years were followed by a period which saw American ships hijacked on the high sea, conflicts in trade arrangements with foreign nations, conflicts with trade between colonies, and an inability to make and enforce treaties. By 1787 it had become clear that the Confederation was not working. Delegates were sent to Philadelphia to upgrade and strengthen the Articles but the delegates soon realized that a complete replacement was necessary. Delegates dispatched messages or returned home to convey the news that a union was required with a constitution and a central authority. The news was not well received.

Each colony gave careful and exact instructions to its delegates; there would be no surrender of state and individual rights beyond the absolute minimum required to satisfy the broad national interest of national security, interstate and foreign trade, make and enforce treaties, make war and peace, and resolve conflicts between states. As debates raged throughout the hot summer months a few other items were added to the list; postal service, standards for weights and measures, immigration and U.S. citizenship, and coining of money but the overall theme was never altered: The states would govern themselves and only the states could regulate the affairs of its citizens.

Three factions evolved as the convention progressed. 1) Those who believed that the problems could be handled by modifying the Articles of Confederation. 2) Those who wanted a very strong federal government with the states filling a local role or being eliminated altogether. 3) And those who believed that the instructions to the delegates, as outlined above, could be met. In 1787 these groups were called Anti-Confederation, Federalist, and Anti-Federalist. Historians later assigned new names to these factions: 1) Anti-federalist. 2) Federalist. 3) Democratic-Republicans. The last name evolves from the concepts of democratic elections for choosing representatives to operate within a Representative Republic, -- which is what the United States system is supposed to be. A Democracy is a system which allows ALL voters to vote on every issue... A Representative Republic is the system of choosing representatives to make the decisions, and right or wrong, they stay there until the next election.

Those in the first group -- the Anti-Confederation -- soon recognized the futility of their arguments and went home to become lost in history. The second group, -- Federalist -- led principally by John Adams of Massachusetts and Alexander Hamilton of New York, were greatly outnumbered and lost vote after vote to the predominate third group, -- Democratic-Republicans, -- led by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin. George Washington was President of the convention and did not participate in the debates, but his later leanings indicate that he probably would have voted with the second group -- Federalist -- more often than the third group, although it is clear that he never would have gone along with the elimination of state governments.

Today, the political parties CLAIM: Democrats -- Federalist: Republicans -- Anti-Federalist. But in reality they are Super-Federalist and Federalist. Neither party can claim Anti-Federalist.

The ink was still wet on the final document when Washington became the first President and appointed Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton had laid back in the convention and withheld arguments because he saw a way around the writings in the Constitution. Although the convention had adjourned and the states ratified the constitution with the idea that the ONLY powers the federal government had were spelled out in the document, Hamilton immediately put forth a new argument -- "IMPLIED CONSENT." This argument holds that IF it is not expressly PROHIBITED in the Constitution, the federal government has the IMPLIED CONSENT to do it.

By 1791 James Madison had mustered enough support in Congress to gain approval for amendments to the Constitution and they were ratified as the Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment reads as follows:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

The Amendment sounds all encompassing, a catch-all but it is not. Congress quickly found a way around it. Its called the "commerce clause." Gradually the congress began to pass laws concerning anything traded in interstate commerce because the Constitution gave it the power to "regulate commerce" between states and internationally. This suited congress OK for nearly a hundred years, but in 1868 it passed a law taxing individual citizens! This was WAY out of bounds. Alexander Hamilton must have laughed aloud. Some people knew well that such a tax was unconstitutional but nobody complained so it stayed around. Finally, in 1913 the law was challenged and congress acted by proposing an Amendment to the Constitution. The states didn't even hesitate... went along by ratifying the 16th Amendment. It reads as follows:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration."

As of Feb. 03, 1913, Hamilton had won. State governments were no longer relevant. Congress now had the authority to collect ALL taxes in Washington and then dole the money back to the states -- with certain restrictions, i.e., fasten your seat belts, -- speed limits on city, county, and state roads, -- retail prices of milk, bread, etc., -- set your thermostat to a certain temperature.

There is NOT a WORD anywhere in the entire Constitution or in any Amendment on the subject of "EDUCATION." Yet, the Federal Government controls every aspect of this traditionally local matter.

The 10th Amendment is never discussed in public debate. It is one of the Bill of Rights. Try stepping on the 1st Amendment, or 5th, or any other, and the fur will fly. Try going into a Federal Court and argue for redress under the 10th. The judge will probably lock you up.

Even the most hard fought battle of the 1787 convention has now been lost to history -- a states' right to police its own citizens. The federal government now decides what ARE crimes, how to conduct arrest, who to arrest, when to arrest, the sentence, how long to serve, etc. The states have no say-so in any matter that the feds decide to take on. That is the Hamilton way.

Philosophos Historia


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