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As I read more about US history, a certain thematic consistency becomes pretty obvious.

States Rights "conservatives" and Federalist "liberals" have hated each other since before the day the United States declared its independence, and they've been bickering pretty much ever since. And of course there was that whole Civil War thing.

Why, it's as American as apple pie and root beer.

When the US created trade tariffs in 1816, you can bet the South and the States Rights folks were right there complaining about it and calling it unconstitutional, culminating in the Nullification Crisis of 1832 when South Carolina positioned its militia to enforce the state's assertion that they should be able to pick and choose which Federal laws applied to them.

History is full of States Rights advocates bemoaning Federal laws as unconstitutional and over-reaching. Same thing happened with anti-slavery laws. The income tax. Social Security. And of course, more recently, Health Insurance Reform.

Yessir. The current national conversation we're having isn't new. In fact, it's very old.

Folks like Glenn Beck and Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, seem to love to blame Woodrow Wilson for some new wave of Government Overreach, but really...they should be going further back than that to Alexander Hamilton who wrote much of the Federalist Papers.

Hamilton who wrote:

Even to observe neutrality you must have a strong government.


In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.

Folks like Beck and Perry would have people believe that Strong Federal Government is a new thing, and that a Weak or Hands Off Federal Governmet is our heritage, when that's never, ever, ever been the case.

Federal Government has the authority to trump the States.

It always has.

It always will.

And that's one of the things that allowed America to become great.

A Strong Federal Government IS our history. It IS a source of our strength.

And yet, again we see folks like Glen Beck and many on the right mobilizing the classic American rivalry. They're using the historical, Anti-Federalist sentiment and Anti-Federalist rhetoric it yet ANOTHER push to change what America has always been, and weaken the Federal Government. Even as they decry some "new" American over-reach as unprecedented and, once again, "unconstitutional" they're still basically what they've always been...the insurgent South trying to pick and choose what part of this Union they want to agree with, and what laws they want to abide by.

The insurgent South.

I encourage our leaders to stand by their Strong Federal Government beliefs. To wear them with pride. To know they have history on their side.

We Are Americans first, and that's where our strength is. It's not surprising that Obama campaigned on National Unity. No Red America or Blue America but a United States of America. That is a Federalist sentiment. And it has the backing of the entire history of this nation.

Likewise, it's not surprising that Anti-Federalist Conservatives in office would attempt to derail the power of the Federal Government. Would refuse compromise.

We are having now the same battle we've always had.

This is nothing new. And we're going to win again, as long as our American leaders realize the RIGHTNESS and HISTORICAL primacy of a Strong Federal Government. There should be no mincing words. No running away from it. A Strong Federal Government IS America. It's what Lincoln fought to preserve.

Originally posted to Muskegon Critic on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 03:15 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Question to all states rights advocates (14+ / 0-)

    Exactly why did the Founders, in their mighty wisdom, replace the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution?

    No answer other than "a stronger Federal government" makes sense at all. And "a stronger Federal government" means states rights are subordinate.

    It's not only in the Constitution; it is inherent in the very existence of the Constitution.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 03:22:01 PM PST

    •  Because they knew (7+ / 0-)

      if they had no King Arthur, they'd have a bunch of feudal Lords constantly squabbling and fighting against each other.

      This was not a good thing, what with European colonial powers still very much active in the Americas.  A weak collection of colonies or even states would neither be able to bargain froma position of strength (Ship captains - don't like the tariffs and fees in New York?  Come to Virgina or Carolina instead!  We can give you a better deal!) nor would they be able to defend against a determined enemy.

      Show me the POLICY!

      by Fabian on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 03:46:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Articles of Confederation (0+ / 0-)

      Right!  Life under the Articles of Confederation was a libertarian dream -- ie, a central government that had no power to do anything.  The Constitution was specifically created as a response to this - to create a strong central government which would help rescue the country from the economic and political chaos of the Confederation era.  They wanted a government which had greater power to regulate the economy and present a unified face to the world. This is a key fact that modern conservatives often conveniently ignore.

      The question of how to interpret the Constitutional mandate quickly became a debate between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians.  Jefferson embraced a limited interpretation of the government, believing that in a simple agrarian society there was little need for a strong central government.  He worried that the emergence of a modern, industrial economy would lead to economic and political inequalities: to class divisions.  He obviously had a point, however he ignored two fundamental facts.  First, that the South already had a racial caste system of grotesque inequality.  In part the limited government argument was SPECIFICALLY a Southern strategy to avoid any federal interference with the "peculiar institution".  In this case, a weak central government was certainly not a friend of democracy and equality.  Second, Jefferson's emphasis upon a limited agrarian economy meant that the U.S. would remain in a state of "dependency" (slavery) with regard to overseas manufacturers, particularly Great Britain.  When Hamilton proposed a more expansive use of the federal government to establish a more stable financial system and encourage domestic manufacturing, he wasn't just doing so to benefit a wealthy elite.  He believed that this was in the best interests of the country, since to remain as a limited agrarian society would place the U.S. an a critical disadvantage with the rest of the world.  Consider the modern analogy.  The U.S. today spends 17% of its GDP to provide healthcare for 85% of its population.  Pretty much the rest of the industrial world spends 10% of their GDP to provide healthcare for 100% of their population.  Clearly our economy is being crippled by this critical disadvantage, but the Republicans are all too willing to sacrifice our national interests on the altar of limited government.

  •  "what Lincoln fought to preserve...and died for" (8+ / 0-)

    Pery and Beck should read a History book for once...along with Sarah Palin.

  •  As I said to my mom (5+ / 0-)

    "Yeah, that last civil war didn't work out very well, did it? Let's not push for another one."

    When people are afraid of what the future brings, their viewpoints narrow and their horizon shrinks. I suppose a comparison could be made between states rights advocates and the Federalists.

    Exactly what are conservatives conserving?

  •  I was driving to work this morning and saw (5+ / 0-)

    a big ole SUV with the license plate


    and the kicker was the bumper sticker:

    You Lie!

    This is in New York, mind you, and I'm wondering which way he thinks New York is going to turn if unencumbered by the rest of the nation's politics? Does he really think it's going to turn rightward?

    People really are silly.

  •  In a nation as diverse and increasingly (5+ / 0-)
    complex as ours a strong federal government is not only historical but prescribed.  Rick Perry can yap about secession all he wants, and then he can think about raising his own army, fixing his state's economic problems, and repaying the industrial states for all their tax money that went to Texas during the boom times.  Then he can watch the caravans leaving Texas.
  •  you can follow it back, in some aspects (4+ / 0-)

    to the english civil war in the 17th century.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 04:58:02 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary M C... looking back... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, Muskegon Critic

    it's interesting that the republican party emerged from the end of the federalists and eventually the end of the whigs.  The democrats of then were the republicans of today.

    I propose a toast, knowing that our ties subsist because they are not of iron or steel or even of gold, but of the silken cords of the human spirit. 11/9/10

    by BarackStarObama on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 04:58:56 PM PST

  •  These are NOT riveting videos, but full of facts (6+ / 0-)

    Standing on the brink of insurrection and treason

    Here's my own contribution, from April 2010:

       Actually, these neo-confederate bozos are deadly serious. Unfortunately, the fight over just what the "enumerated powers" meant in terms of the power and reach of the national government began almost as soon as the Constitutional Convention was over. Fortunately for posterity, the first President, George Washington, accepted and applied Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s interpretation that the national government was granted implied powers to perform its function as, well, as a national government, under the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution. The unfortunate idea of enumerated powers was birthed in Jefferson’s and Madison’s increasingly open hostility to the growing ministerial powers of Hamilton, and even more unfortunately, given full sanction by both when they in turn served as President, as they vainly attempted to force the United States to remain a utopian paradise of agrarian yeomen.

       Even more interesting, given the problems we face today of unaccountable corporate power and unaccountable monetary creation by the privately held Federal Reserve System and the shadow banking system, is that Hamilton’s doctrine of implied powers was fully detailed and explained in the crucial report Hamilton wrote at President Washington’s request, on the constitutionality of the national government establishing the Bank of the United States. The details of this historic pivot point is given by Ron Chernow on pages 350 to 355 in his excellent biography of Hamilton. The Attorney General, Edmund Randolph, had written a report that favored Jefferson’s position. In dismay at the specter of the new national government not being able to actually do what a national government is supposed to do, the President asked Hamilton to write his own report.

       Chernow writes that Hamilton:


    told Washington that, if adopted, "principles of construction like those espoused by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General would be fatal to the just and indispensable authority of the United States."35 Then, in blazing italics, Hamilton trumpeted his main theme: "Now it appears to the Secretary of the Treasury that this general principle is inherent in the very definition of government and essential to every step of the progress to be made by that of the United States: namely that every power vested in a government is in its nature sovereign and includes by force of the term a right to employ all the means requisite and fairly applicable to the attainment of the ends of such power." If Jefferson's and Randolph's views were upheld, "the United States would furnish the singular spectacle of a political society without sovereignty or of a people governed without government."

           Hamilton waved away complaints that the Constitution did not explicitly mention a bank: "It is not denied that there are implied as well as express powers and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter."37 To argue, as did Jefferson, that all government policies had to pass a strict test of being "absolutely necessary" to the performance of specified duties would paralyze government. How could one say with certainty what was absolutely necessary? Hamilton pointed out that, in setting up the Customs Service, he had overseen construction of lighthouses, beacons, and buoys, things not strictly necessary, but useful for society all the same. He was drafting a rationale for the future exercise of numerous forms of federal power.

           The Bank of the United States would enable the government to make good on four powers cited explicitly in the Constitution: the rights to collect taxes, borrow money, regulate trade among states, and support fleets and armies. Jefferson wanted to deprive the federal government of the power to create any corporations, which Hamilton thought could cripple American business in the future. At the time, few corporations existed, and those mostly to build turnpikes. The farseeing Hamilton perceived the immense utility of this business form and patiently explained to Washington how corporations, with limited liability, were superior private partnerships. In the end, his bank argument was predicated not only on interpretation of the Constitution but on his reading of history: "In all questions this nature, the practice of mankind ought to have great weight against the theories of individuals."38

           After writing this magisterial defense, Hamilton packed it off to Washington before noon on Wednesday, February 23. The next day, Washington studied the opinion and, despite lingering doubts, was sufficiently impressed that he did not bother to send it to Jefferson. The day after that, he signed the bank bill.

           Hamilton's plea for the bank had a continuing life in American history, partly from the influence it exerted upon Chief Justice John Marshall. When Daniel Webster made oral arguments for the Second Bank of the United States in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819, he quoted Hamilton's 1791 memo to Washington on the necessary-and-proper clause. In words that distinctly echoed Hamilton's, Marshall said that necessary didn't mean indispensable so much as appropriate. Repeatedly in American history, Hamilton's flexible definition of the word necessary was to free government to handle unforeseen emergencies. Henry Cabot Lodge later referred to the doctrine of implied powers enunciated by Hamilton as "the most formidable weapon in the armory of the Constitution ... capable of conferring on the federal government powers of almost any extent."39 Hamilton was not the master builder of the Constitution: the laurels surely go to James Madison. He was, however, its foremost interpreter, starting with The Federalist and continuing with his Treasury tenure, when he had to expound constitutional doctrines to accomplish his goals. He lived, in theory and practice, every syllable of the Constitution. For that reason, historian Clinton Rossiter insisted that Hamilton's "works and words have been more consequential than those of any other American in shaping the Constitution under which we live"40

       How, then, to account for the growth of belief in the argument that the national government is limited to the enumerated powers? My own view is that all such arguments have been put forward by factions seeking to preserve their own rent-seeking economic behavior, or to avoid being forced to account for the costs of economic externalities they have imposed on others. Or, in the case of the Southern slave-owning planter aristocracy, to prevent the national government from moving forcefully enough to extirpate their "peculiar institution."

       This, obviously, is a long enough comment, and just as obviously, could become even longer. I shall close here with two observations. First, that, as you stated, these neo-confederate yahoos are ahistoric morons, who have never taken the time to actually examine some of the principal founding documents of our nation, such as Hamilton's report on the National Bank. Second, that it is more than coincidence that these neo-confederate yahoos hate the Ameircan government, but love the "free market" and "free trade" economic doctrines of the British East India Co., which doctrines, we should note, were developed as justifications for the slave trade, and later for the opium trade and wars, and even later repackaged by Milton Friedman and marketed as "freedom to choose."

    A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

    by NBBooks on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 05:14:17 PM PST

  •  If they want a weak Federal Government, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    they need to go back to the time between the end of the American Revolution in 1781 and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when we weren't the United States, but were united under the ill-fated Articles of Confederation. If a mere 13 independent states could not govern themselves with a weak Federal Government, how in the name of all that is reasonable and rational in this world can anyone believe it would work any better for a collection of 50 states?

    "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi -9.38/-6.26

    by LynneK on Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 08:53:26 PM PST

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