States Rights Debate and Poll
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The Constitution, in Article 6, states: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land." The Tenth Amendment, however, says that: "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."
Before the Constitution was ratified, most of the opposition to it was based on a fear of endowing the central government with too much authority. Fear of federal power was based in great measure on the high-handed policies of Great Britain's king and Parliament prior to the American Revolution. For that reason many Americans viewed the new Constitution as a compact between the states, a compact that any state had the right to nullify if it felt threatened. Even the safeguards written into the Constitution by the Bill of Rights were insufficient to allay fears of too great a national power.
Early politics in the United States was dominated by the states rights debate since the administration of George Washington. Federalists and Anti-Federalists those who supported a strong federal government and those who did not. Leaders of the Federalists were Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. Both were from the Northeast where Federalist sentiment was strongest. Thomas Jefferson became the acknowledged leader of Anti-Federalist sentiment.
History 4In 1798 Congress passed four internal security laws in anticipation of an expected war with France. These were collectively called the Alien and Sedition Acts. Three of the laws restricted the freedom of immigrants, and the fourth put limitations on freedom of the press. Although the acts were generally popular, Thomas Jefferson and his followers strongly opposed them. He and James Madison drafted documents of protest that were passed by the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures, respectively. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, as they are generally called, affirmed the right of the states to determine the validity of federal legislation.
The federal tariff laws of 1828 and 1832 created a controversy over states' rights. In 1832 South Carolina passed an ordinance nullifying the tariff acts, threatening the unity of the nation. Congress compromised on the tariff law, and the South Carolina legislature repealed the nullification.
States' rights was used by the proslavery states to justify secession. The election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860 was viewed by Southern slaveholders as a direct threat to their constitutional rights.
After the Civil War the principle of states' rights was invoked in an attempt to abolish civil rights for black Americans and to prevent the passage of child labor and anti-lynching laws. Southern states tried to prevent enforcement of civil rights laws, and Western states embraced the doctrine in order to control their natural resources.
Historically, whatever faction has been out of power in America has pushed for States Rights. It appears that in the past States' Rights were popular with people who were trying to deny others their rights.