• Were the States Sovereign Nations?

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    A
    defining — but so far unasked — question regarding the Civil War
    is the political status of the states: specifically, was the “United
    States of America” indeed, as our popular Pledge of Allegiance claims,
    “one nation, indivisible?” Or was it, rather, a union of sovereign
    nations, bound only to each other by mere treaty, as with any
    other treaty – such as the current United Nations? (As a point
    of fact, the term “union” is the only term used in the text of the
    Constitution to refer to the United States, while the word “nation”
    never appears a single time).

    This
    question seems to be the proverbial “elephant in the room” of American
    law and history, for its answer is key in defining a state’s
    right of secession: this question marks the difference between,
    for example, Boston seceding from Massachusetts, and Spain seceding
    from the United Nations. While in the first instance, few would
    question the legal right of state officials to use force in preventing
    local urban inhabitants from seceding with a state’s city, such
    an exercise against a sovereign nation in the latter example would
    be (hopefully) viewed as nothing short of ruthless imperialism
    equivalent to that of Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler or Genghis Khan.

    As
    such, similar implications accrue to United States President Abraham
    Lincoln from this question, in appraising him as either an
    upholder of law or a dictator, regarding his particular
    instance in history of using military force. If on
    the one hand, the states were held – by law – irrevocably
    to the Union, then Lincoln would have simply been performing
    his sworn duty as necessary under extreme conditions, and his
    defenders might have firm ground in excusing his having
    "bent a few rules" to get the job done.

    If, however, the
    states were indeed separate nations, then this would define Lincoln
    as both the ultimate traitor, and most ruthless imperialist of
    his time, via breaching his oaths to defend the existing order of a
    self-defined republic of separate nations in order to overturn
    it in favor of what fits the official definition of an “empire;”
    likewise, his defenders and supporters would likewise classify as
    both similarly ruthless power-seekers, and what Lenin
    termed “useful idiots.”

    To
    resolve this dichotomy, we must examine the relevant facts:

    Lincoln
    claimed in his famous First Inaugural Address that “no State upon
    its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union.” He could
    only have been referring to “the Union” as set forth in the Constitution;
    for, prior to this, there can be no disputing the fact that the
    states were free and sovereign nations – as established in
    the Articles of Confederation, which under Article II states that:

    “Each state
    retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every
    power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation
    expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

    Here
    the term “delegated” requires contextual definition, meaning
    literally “to make lesser law;” when powers are “delegated,” they
    are merely passed down a chain-of-command to a subordinate agent
    by a superior principal authority, in order to provide that agent
    with representative “proxy” authority to carry out respective
    duties. In no way may does this delegated authority ever supersede
    or negate that of the delegating body – any more than a company
    employee who is delegated authority by his manager, can give orders
    to the firm’s owner, or override the dictates of such. Rather,
    such a representative can be overridden at any time at the
    behest of the superior – or discharged entirely.

    As
    such, a “delegation” clause cannot be seen as a compromise
    or surrender of sovereignty in any way.

    Thus,
    the force and effectiveness of this sovereignty which was thus “retained”
    from the Declaration of Independence, was equivalent to that of
    any other nation; this was made clear in the Declaration, via the
    statement:

    “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; and that,
    as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war,
    conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do
    all other acts and things which independent states may of right
    do” (emphasis in original).

    (Note
    that the term “state” used here in the Declaration, is clearly
    used synonymously with the term “nation” for the purposes of this
    document; as such, the United States had no more claim in binding
    South Carolina or Virginia, than it had in binding England or France,
    and the term "United States" literally meant "United
    Nations.")

    Lincoln
    and his defenders, then, must believe that the states somehow “surrendered”
    their status as sovereign nations, in the act of ratifying the Constitution
    (or, as Lincoln added in his First Inaugural, "the union matured”).
    However this is negated by the 10th Amendment specification that
    powers were merely delegated, i.e.,

    “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” (emphasis added).

    In
    this context, therefore, powers were delegated to the federal
    government via the Constitution by the states ratifying it, not
    out in the interest of any sort of collectivism, but merely for
    the purposes of practical harmony in co-existence – with both
    union and non-union nations – solely for advancing the
    individual benefit of the respective delegating state.

    Meanwhile,
    the 9th amendment likewise states that:

    “The enumeration
    in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed
    to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    Since
    the term "others" as used here, clearly refers to
    rights not enumerated in the text of the Constitution,
    then it thus implicitly preserves those rights enumerated
    via prior documents – such as the Articles of
    Confederation, which specifically retains the “sovereignty,
    freedom and independence” of every state – which the Constitution
    does not exclude anywhere (but rather preserves, since states
    would have to retain their sovereign powers in order to delegate
    them).

    Here
    the term “the people” must likewise be defined, with this term referring
    to the same “people” referenced initially in the Constitution’s
    preamble — and which, as has been well-established elsewhere, did
    not refer to all persons in the United States collectively; rather,
    the term "the people" refers solely to the citizens
    of the states individually and respectively, speaking through their
    elected officials — and even then, only those states
    ratifying the Constitution at the time.

    This
    is further implied in the Constitution’s Article IV, Section 2,
    statement that:

    “The citizens
    of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities
    of citizens in the several states.”

    Clearly,
    separate reference to "citizens of each state,” as
    opposed to “citizens in the several states,” clarifies
    that citizenship was strictly state-specific and derived, and not
    union-related in any way whatsoever: in fact, the term “Citizen
    of the United States” was never known prior to the passage of the
    14th amendment following the Civil War – being a pure post-Lincoln
    invention – , and would have no more meaning prior to that
    war, than “Citizen of the United Nations” in today’s context to
    imply similar supremacy.

    As
    such, it is clear that the Ninth Amendment implicitly reserved the
    right of every state, to the same sovereignty, freedom and independence
    which existed previously, i.e., no less than that of any other nation
    in the world.

    Finally,
    even when admitting all of the above, anti-secessionists almost
    unanimously claim their proverbial "trump-card" in the
    Constitution’s so-called “Supremacy clause” of U.S. Constitution
    Article VI, which states that:

    “This Constitution…
    shall be the Supreme Law of the Land, and the judges in every
    state shall be bound thereby, anything in the laws or constitutions
    of any state notwithstanding.”

    The
    level of absurdity in declaring any sort of logical victory, based
    on such an obviously flawed argument is astounding; for here the
    explicit language regarding this “Supreme Law” clearly, specifically
    and unmistakably states – in plain English, no less –
    that this “law” is binding on “the judges in every state
    — ” and only the judges.

    In
    contrast, the remainder of the Article omits all other officials
    from any such bond, using very different language in describing
    its relation to them; to wit:

    “The Senators
    and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several
    state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both
    of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound
    by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious
    test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or
    public trust under the United States.”

    Any
    person literate in the English language — not to mention the language
    of law and logic — should be able to recognize that such explicitly
    omissive and separate treatment, translates to the fact that the
    Constitution does not claim any legal binding effect whatsoever,
    on anyone but state judges; rather, such language merely
    implies recognition of the Constitution by officials as a mere mutual
    good-faith agreement. It is simply absurd, after all, to claim that
    the phrase “state judges shall be bound by law, while all others
    shall be bound merely by a promise or agreement to support
    the law,” somehow translates to the notion that “all officials
    are bound by law – ” particularly when the final clause specifically
    precludes any religious test from implying the term “oath or affirmation”
    as binding via any common "higher law," such as an oath
    specifically to God, Allah or the Buddha – even allowing religions
    for which oath or affirmation has no higher context.

    As
    such, the implication here is that the Constitution is a mere treaty
    between separate and sovereign nation-states — a treaty which state
    officials simply agree to “support,” as opposed to
    being bound to obey such as a law, under penalty of
    such. Rather, this treaty is written as merely a
    bi-lateral agreement, with each side bound solely by its own
    conscience and good reputation – and as such, may
    be thus dispensed with entirely, if either side believes a
    breach of faith has been committed by the other.

    To claim otherwise, i.e., that every state committed itself to the
    supreme and final binding arbitration (and mercy) of the Federal
    government in settling disputes – under force of law wielded
    by such – would not only be nonsensical for the purposes of
    protecting the states from possible abuses by this same Federal
    government, but moreover is nowhere expressed – or even implied
    – in the Constitution or any other document.

    With
    the Constitution thus expressing nothing contrary to individual
    states retaining their status as sovereign nations, Lincoln found
    it thus necessary to invent such, claiming in his First
    Inaugural Address that “Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed,
    in the fundamental law of all national governments.”

    Here
    Lincoln commits a pure logical fallacy – if not an outright deception
    – via switching context and assuming, outright, that the
    Constitution defines a “national government.” This assumption is
    not only supported nowhere in the Constitution or prior documents,
    but in fact his statement “implied if not expressed” specifically
    contradicts Ninth and Tenth Amendment reservations that
    all un-expressed rights and powers — including those of
    state sovereignty, freedom and independence — were retained by the
    states; even expressed powers of the United States were
    likewise mere delegations of state authority – thus implying
    their status as separate sovereign nations.

    In
    conclusion, I cannot imagine why anyone would imagine that separate
    nations, would knowingly and willingly surrender their individual
    sovereignty — particularly, as in the case of the United States,
    after their having just won it via bloodshed from centralized and
    consolidated tyranny firsthand, against all believed likelihood
    of success; perhaps such persons believe Lincoln’s claim –
    which he makes in his First Inaugural Address once again –
    that “All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are
    so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties
    [sic] and prohibitions, in the Constitution that controversies
    never arise concerning them” (emphasis added).

    In
    like manner, I cannot answer how any rational or thinking person
    can be so naive, as to actually believe that any laws or order can
    be made so perfect as to preclude any incidence whatsoever of government
    breaches or excesses – to the extent of such "never
    arising" – so that the supreme protection of national
    sovereignty was no longer considered necessary or even desirable
    to the people of any state in the Union. Rather, I can only
    prove that such supreme national sovereignty was established and
    recognized by law for each and every state – and that no law
    or document that surrendered or compromised it in any manner whatsoever,
    was ever passed or ratified by them.

    April
    20, 2004

    Brian
    McCandliss [send him mail]
    is a business and economics graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg,
    VA, a law student, and a businessman in Detroit, Michigan.

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