How did the original colonies enter? And where is the prohibition against leaving? Just curious.
Jay, Chief Justice:-- The Question we are now to decide has been accurately stated, viz.: Is a state suable by individual citizens of another state?...
The revolution, or rather the Declaration of Independence, found the people already united for general purposes, and at the same time, providing for their more domestic concerns by state conventions, and other temporary arrangements. From the crown of Great Britain, the sovereignty of their country passed to the people of it; and it was then not an uncommon opinion, that the unappropriated lands, which belonged to that crown, passed, not to the people of the colony or states within whose limits they were situated, but to the whole people; on whatever principles this opinion rested, it did not give way to the other, and thirteen sovereignties were considered as emerged from the principles of the revolution, combined with local convenience and considerations; the people nevertheless continued to consider themselves, in a national point of view, as one people; and they continued without interruption to manage their national concerns accordingly; afterwards, in the hurry of the war, and in the warmth of mutual confidence, they made a confederation of the States, the basis of a general Government.
Experience disappointed the expectations they had formed from it; and then the people, in their collective and national capacity, established the present Constitution. It is remarkable that in establishing it, the people exercised their own rights and their own proper sovereignty, and conscious of the plenitude of it, they declared with becoming dignity, "We the people of the United States," 'do ordain and establish this Constitution." Here we see the people acting as the sovereigns of the whole country.; and in the language of sovereignty, establishing a Constitution by which it was their will, that the state governments should be bound, and to which the State Constitutions should be made to conform. Every State Constitution is a compact made by and between the citizens of a state to govern themeselves in a certain manner; and the Constitution of the United States is liekwise a compact made by the people of the United States to govern themselves as to general objects, in a certain manner. By this great compact however, many prerogatives were transferred to the national Government, such as those of making war and peace, contracting alliances, coining money, etc."
Wilson, Justice-- "Whoever considers, in a combined and comprehensive view, the general texture of the constitution, will be satisfied that the people of the United States intended to form themselves into a nation for national purposes. They instituted, for such purposes, a national government complete in all its parts, with powers legislative, executive and judiiciary, ad in all those powers extending over the whole nation."
-- From "Chisholm v. Georgia", 1793
The Supreme Court is amply on the record to answer your question.
The whole Constitution forbids secession.
>>The whole Constitution forbids secession.
Nonsense. It is clear from the available historical facts that the Constitution would have never been ratified if it had been understood that, in doing so, the States would surrender their sovereignty, as well as their right of secession should the experiment fail. We need look no further for proof of the reserved right of secession than in the ratification of at least three of the original thirteen States. Following are excerpts from the ratifications of the States of Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island respectively:
"We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the general assembly, and now met in convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us to decide thereon, Do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will...."
"We, the delegates of the people of New York... do declare and make known that the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whenever it shall become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the department of the government thereof, remains to the people of the several States, or to their respective State governments, to whom they may have granted the same; and that those clauses in the said Constitution, which declare that Congress shall not have or exercise certain powers, do not imply that Congress is entitled to any powers not given by the said Constitution; but such clauses are to be construed either as exceptions in certain specified powers or as inserted merely for greater caution."
"We, the delegates of the people of Rhode Island and Plantations, duly elected... do declare and make known... that the powers of government may be resumed by the people whenever it shall become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the department of the government thereof, remains to the people of the several States, or to their respective State governments, to whom they may have granted the same; that Congress shall guarantee to each State its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Constitution expressly delegated to the United States."
From the formation of the original Confederacy under the Articles of Confederation of 1777, and continuing on after the ratification of the Constitution of 1789, it was a well-understood and universally accepted political doctrine that the Union was a compact, or a "league of friendship" between thirteen independent and sovereign States, from which the parties thereof could constitutionally and peacefully withdraw at will. In the words of Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge:
"When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of States in popular conventions, it is safe to say there was no man in this country, from Washington and Hamilton on the one side to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded our system of Government, when first adopted, as anything but an experiment entered upon by the States, and from which each and every State had the right to peaceably withdraw, a right which was very likely to be exercised." [Source: Henry Cabot Lodge, Daniel Webster (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1899), page 176.]
Furthermore, the Constitution is a document which defines and limits the powers of the federal government. All powers not specifically delegated are reserved to the states and the people therein. The fact that the Constitution doesn't mention secession goes to show that this is a matter left at the discretion of the sovereign states.
How did the original colonies enter?
posted on 06/21/2002 8:14:24 AM PDT
Both New York and Virginia entered the United States with ratification documents that clearly reserved the right of each state to exit the United States.
Are you claiming the ratification documents are invalid?
posted on 06/21/2002 1:36:15 PM PDT
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