04 April 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Shadow & Unlimited Submission

Yet another nullification law was just passed in Missouri.

On April 3rd the Missouri House passed an "emergency" bill to nullify "virtually every federal gun control measure in the books." The bill – HB1439 – drew a supermajority of support, 110-36. According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the bill borrows language from Thomas Jefferson to reject "unlimited submission" to the federal government.
Language from the Missouri House bill:
The several states of the United States of America respect the proper role of the federal government, but reject the proposition that such respect requires unlimited submission 
And my fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, must be smiling:
Resolved that the several states composing the US. of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style & title of a Constitution for the US. and of Amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General government assumes undelegated powers, it’s acts are unauthoritative, void, & of no force. ~ Thomas Jefferson
Story here.

As I was reading this, I recalled something fellow Virginian and blogger, Robert Moore wrote in my book, Lexington, Virginia and the Civil War.
The path which Robert E. Lee followed in making his decision on Virginia's secession differed little from that of Southern Unionists. The difference was where the respective courses changed, and how those courses were altered by by an individual and personal understanding of responsibilities and commitments. In many of those decisions, eventual actions can be defined as either conditional or unconditional Unionism. Lee's Unionism had it's breaking point; it was conditional. Others did not; they were unconditional. The same could be said of those who committed to secession and the Confederacy. Some embraced it, seemingly without condition, while others went only as far as personal levels of tolerance would allow. 
Interesting, isn't it, how these principles continue to be points of raucous debate. Evidently, when it comes to gun control, the Missouri House has reached it's "breaking point." In thinking about all this, I was also reminded of something that historian Douglas Harper wrote:
No one can deny the importance of slavery to the feud that split the United States, or that the CSA states made protection of slavery one of its central purposes. But the secession of 1860-61 and the shooting war that followed were the climax of a long interplay. Like a couple heading into divorce, the regions fought often, in the open and in secret. But they nursed grudges, and what they argued out loud was not always the real issue. During the 1840s, slavery became the symbol and character of all sectional differences. It was the emotional gasoline on the sectional fires. Its moral and social implications colored every issue in terms of right and rights. William Seward, the Republican leader, recognized the fact: "Every question, political, civil, or ecclesiastical, however foreign to the subject of slavery, brings up slavery as an incident, and the incident supplants the principal question."

And that "principal question" continues to be the question of "unlimited [or unconditional] submission."


Anonymous said...

Compare to 1861 Force Bill:

The Daily Dispatch: February 23, 1861.

The Force Bill in Congress.

The following is the bill proposed by Mr. Stanton in Congress:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the provisions of an act approved... in the year 1795, entitled "An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasions..." and of the act approved... in the year 1807, entitled "An act authorizing the employment of the land and naval forces of the United States in case of insurrections," are hereby extended to the case of insurrections against the authority of the United States .

ropelight said...

Today, on Jefferson's birthday it is both right and proper to remember his thoughts on the issue of slavery expressed in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence.

In listing the transgressions of the English King against his colonial subjects, Jefferson denounced the slave trade and the Crown's attempts to arm slaves to put down colonial resistance.

He [George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piractical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against lives of another.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

RL -