Is the Constitution Really Inimical To States Rights? Part 14
by Al Benson Jr.
In 1844 the Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Convention Assembled at Philadelphia, in the year 1787 for the purpose of forming the Constitution of The United States of America was published by Alston Mygatt in Louisville, Kentucky. This work contained notes about the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention by Robert Yates of New York, as well as comments by Luther Martin of Maryland, both of whom had been among the Anti-Federalists who opposed ratification of the Constitution.
In the preface of this work it was stated that: "Congress has lately caused to be published the journal of the former proceedings of the federal convention; but, if we are allowed to repeat what has previously been observed on the subject, in the proposals circulated for publishing the present collection, that official journal has left history in the dark as to the views of the legislators and the principles on which they acted; and it is in reality nothing but a diplomatic skeleton, deprived of its vital parts." In other words, they told us the part of the story they wanted us to know and kept back the part they’d just as soon we had no knowledge of. So what else is new? Most of us realize the same thing goes on today, but, as you can see, this is not a phenomena of our day with no previous history.
Since Luther Martin’s commentary came at the beginning of this work, I will deal with some of what he had to say first, and his comments are quite revelatory in some instances. He began by saying that: "The members of the convention from the States, came there under different powers; the greatest number, I believe, under powers nearly the same as those of the delegates of this State. Some came to the convention under the former appointment, authorizing the meeting of delegates merely to regulate trade. Those of Delaware were expressly instructed to agree to no system, which should take away from the States that equality of suffrage secured by the original articles of confederation." In other words–don’t vote for any program that will take away the power of your own state. Since Mr. Martin did not get to the convention right when it started, he noted several resolutions that had been passed by the time he arrived. In referring to these he noted: "By another (resolution) the doors were to be shut, and the whole proceedings were to be kept secret; and so far did this rule extend, that we were thereby prevented from corresponding with gentlemen in the different States upon the subjects under our discussion; a circumstance, Sir, which, I confess, I greatly regretted…So extremely solicitous were they, that their proceedings should not transpire, that the members were prohibited even from taking copies of resolutions, on which the convention were deliberating, or extracts of any kind from the journals, without formally moving for, and obtaining permission, by a vote of the convention for that purpose." This entire project was top secret and they were not about to let anyone know what they were up to. With this kind of secrecy you have to realize that someone knew they were going to exceed the instructions given them by their states and they wanted no one at all to know about it until it was a fate-accompli.
According to Luther Martin’s testimony, as things progressed, it was found that, among the delegates, were three distinct groups with very different ideas. Of these groups he observed: "One party, whose object and wish was to abolish and annihilate all State governments, and to bring forward one general government, over this extensive continent, of a monarchial nature, under certain restrictions and limitations. Those who openly avowed this sentiment were, it is true, but few; yet it is equally true, Sir, that there was a considerable number, who did not openly avow it, who were by myself, and many others of the convention, considered as being in reality favorers of that sentiment; and, acting upon these principles, covertly endeavoring to carry into effect what they well knew openly and avowedly could not be accomplished. The second party was not for the abolition of State governments, or for the introduction of a monarchial government under any form; but they wished to establish such a system as could give their own States undue power in the government over the other States."
"A third party was what I considered truly federal and republican; this party was nearly equal in number with the other two, and was composed of the delegations from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and in part from Maryland; …This party, Sir, were for proceeding upon terms of federal equality; they were for taking our present federal system as the basis of their proceedings, and as far as experience had shown us that there were defects, to remedy those defects; as far as experience had shown that other powers were necessary to the federal government, to give those powers. They considered this the object for which they were sent by their States, and what their States expected from them…"
This group felt that, after their deliberations were done and needed changes were made, should there still be some problems (and they felt there might well be) that when the states found these they could call then for another convention. By doing things incrementally in this way they felt they could eventually make their system as nearly perfect as it could be, given human frailties.
And Martin also stated that if "On the other hand, if we, contrary to the purpose for which we were intrusted, considering ourselves to be master-builders, too proud to amend our original government, should demolish it entirely, and erect a new system of our own, a short time might show the new system as defective as the old, perhaps more so." Now there was a prophetic warning if ever anyone heard one. Sort of a "dance with the one that brung ya" exhortation. Do what you were sent here to do and don’t try to bite off too big a chunk, lest you choke. Unfortunately, it seems they did not heed this wise advice, and so today we choke on the results.
But then came the fly in the buttermilk!
Martin has informed us "But, Sir, the favorers of monarchy, and those who wished the total abolition of State governments, well knowing, that a government founded on truly federal principles, the basis of which were the thirteen State governments, preserved in full force and energy, would be destructive of their views; and knowing they were too weak in numbers openly to bring forward their system; conscious also that the people of America would reject it if proposed to them,–joined their interest with that party, who wished a system giving particular States the power and influence over the others, procuring in return mutual sacrifices from them, in giving the government great and undefined powers as to its legislative and executive; well knowing that by departing from a federal system, they paved the way for their favorite object, the destruction of the State governments, and the introduction of monarchy."
You may well read this and be tempted to say "Well, we don’t have a king, we have a president." So? In many cases that has been form over substance. We have had Lincoln, who was, technically a president, but who performed like a monarch. Others have followed in his train and now we are saddled with the "Great One" who not only does what he wants regardless of the supposed constitutional restraints, but seems to think of himself as a sort of secular messiah. Now it’s granted that the Shadow Government in back of him tells him what to do and say and when, but he’s still their front man. So the monarchists in 1787 attached themselves to one of the other groups and used it as their front. Sounds like the Anti-Federalists were the only good guys around.
It would be great to see some of the comments of Mr. Martin and other Anti-Federalists used in history and political science classes in our day, in an accurate way, but don’t hold your breath. This is the stuff you are not supposed to be aware of.
Content ©2011 Al Benson Jr.