is States' Rights? Part 7|
Rights are like a cookie, no matter how big the cookie and how small the bites,
eventually you run out of cookie”
In Part 1 of this
series a concept was presented that runs a bit contrary to current
public conception – that the term
Rights can be used more for partisan benefit than a true
effort to protect the God-Given Rights of the people. Part 2
demonstrated that as early as 1801 incursions attacking
American Liberty and State’s Rights had already started and have
continued to this day. Part 3 gave details on an obvious expansion
central government powers (authority) by legislative action.
Part 4 began listing the causes of the
failure of State’s Rights. Parts 5 and 6 continued listing some
misconceptions about the Constitution of 1787.
This article will focus
on an example of how one aspect of the concept of States Rights was
instrumental in the march to our Independence and demonstrate that
this concept was lost with the ratification of the Constitution of
In May of 1776 the
Colony of Virginia held a convention to determine the course of
action that Virginia would take in the rapidly deteriorating crisis
with the English Crown and Parliament. On May 14, 1776 sitting as a
Committee of The Whole the question of Independence was discussed.
Archibald Cary was presiding and Thomas Nelson introduced a
resolution marked “No. 1” which was in Patrick Henry’s hand
writing. There were three different resolutions, but only “No. 1,”
the one written by Patrick Henry proposed that Congress be asked to
make for all the Colonies a “clear and full declaration of
After the Committee compared the three
resolutions the best features of each were
combined into, “Resolutions of the Virginia Convention Calling for
Independence in Convention May the 15th 1776. Present one
hundred and twelve members.”
The portion of this Resolution discussed
in this article follows:
That the Delegates appointed to represent this Colony in General
Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to
declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved
from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown or Parliament
of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this Colony to
such declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and
necessary by Congress for forming foreign alliances, and a
Confederation of the Colonies, at such time and in the manner as to
them shall seem best...”
Colonel Nelson delivered this Resolution
to the Virginia Delegates to Congress in Philadelphia on May 27th.
Eleven days later June 7, 1776 Richard Henry Lee moved in Congress,
as instructed by his State:
“That these united Colonies are and of
right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are
absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all
political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is,
and ought to be totally dissolved.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual
measures for forming foreign alliances.
That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted
to the respective colonies for their consideration.”
Resolution was seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts and was
debated on June 8 and June 10. A decision was postponed until July 2
- some delegates had to confer with their Colonies. On June 11 a
committee was formed to write such a Declaration to be considered on
the postponed vote.
Let’s consider this very important
sequence of events and compare with the current operation of
Congress. In the Resolution passed by Virginia on May 15, 1776 there
is one word that that is very often overlooked – “instructed.”
That the Delegates appointed to represent this Colony in General
Congress be instructed
Now for those of us living in the current
era, this may sound strange. But in the time period when American
Liberty was created, in the Colonial Congress, this was an
understood principle of how to govern. Delegates were in the
Continental or Colonial Congress to represent their Colonies or
after July, 1776 to represent their States. They were NOT
independently elected, they were chosen and appointed by their
Colony’s (later, State’s) governing body.
As you can see from the sequence of
events leading up to “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen
united States of America,”
the instructions from the Colony or State of Virginia
(Virginia had already declared its Independence from the British
Crown) was the event that led to the proposing, writing and ultimate
passage of the Declaration of Independence.
Now let’s return to the debate in the
Constitutional Convention of 1787 on
June 6 from Part 6 of this series:
June 6, 1787 the debate centered on electing the first branch of
the national government by the State Legislatures.
wished to have a good National Govt. & at the same time to leave a
considerable share of power in the States. An election of either
branch by the people scattered as they are in many States,
particularly in S. Carolina was totally impracticable.
He differed from
gentlemen who thought that a choice by the people wd. be a better
guard agst. bad measures, than by the Legislatures.
considered an election of one branch at least of the Legislature
by the people immediately, as a clear principle of free Govt.
and that this mode under proper regulations had the additional
advantage of securing better representatives, as well as of
avoiding too great an agency of the State Governments in the
From the portion of the historical record
of the Convention above - the position of the two views on the
composition of what became the US House of Representative is
Note that General Pinkney is proposing
the composition that was used in the Continental Congress. This
would have embedded a major feature of a “federated” form of
government in what became the Constitution.
James Madison was opposed to giving the
States “too great an agency” in the central or new form of
government and argued in favor of bypassing the States and imposing
direct election. This represents a characteristic of a “national”
or “consolidated” government.
This debate was settled in the favor of
Mr. Madison’s position.
For an evaluation of the two methods
let’s consider the effect of an old saying: “You
dance with them what brung you.”
"You dance with them what brung you"
is an old saying which means it might be in your best interest to
"Dance with";or, go out of your way to show rightfully due gratitude
and consideration, by your actions and words towards "them what
brung you" or those who helped you, get where you are.
In the Continental or Colonial Congress
every delegate and every citizen knew “Who brung ‘em.” It was
their State Legislature or State’s governing body. Thus the ability
to instruct their delegates to conform to the expressed interest
determined by their State’s governing body was real and understood.
The State’s had the ability to recall or dismiss any delegate that “went
off the reservation” so to speak.
In today’s world and current make up of
Congress (both the US House of Representatives and US Senate post 17th
Amendment) it is not always clear - who brung ‘em?
In some cases these Representatives are “brung”
by grass roots efforts that would coincide with the interests of the
States they represent. But sadly - most will agree that these are
the exception rather than the rule. The US House of Representatives
not considered an institution of virtue by American Citizens
today. Two questions concerning Madison’s “better representatives”
come to mind:
Are some “brung” by special
Do these Representatives “dance”
with those that “brung them?”
You know the answer to these questions. A
vast majority of American citizens
know the answers to these questions.
But have you ever considered that this
situation might not exist today if the vote on June 6 had
turned out different? The same applies to the 17th
Amendment, but that is a subject for a different series. The idea of
appointing by State Legislatures is considered un-American today.
However this so-called un-American method was instrumental in
creating American Liberty and was the original American way of
In closing this article, there is little
doubt in anyone’s mind that the Representatives and Senators
currently sitting in Washington DC care more about political
parties, campaign (and possibly personal) contributions, remaining
in office, power and greed than the interests of their States. In
this environment the concept of States Rights is reduced to little
more than political rhetoric, most commonly during political
If States Rights as a check on the
central government is important to maintaining American Liberty –
are the vote of
June 6th, 1787 and the 17th Amendment two
major events that have contributed to American Liberty rapidly
approaching a cliff? If the answer to that question is “yes” have
you considered what that means?
To be continued …
States' Rights - Part 1
What is States' Rights - Part 2
What is States' Rights - Part 3
What is States' Rights - Part 4
What is States' Rights - Part 5
What is States' Rights - Part 6
What is States' Rights - Part 7