Tag Archives: Articles of Confederation

A little word on the Aitken Bible…

“Resolved. That the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an influence of the progress of arts in this country and being satisfied from the above report (by the congressional chaplains), they recommend this edition of the bible to the inhabitants of the United States and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation.”

That was the resolution passed by the Congress of these united States in 1782, near the end of the American Revolutionary War.

A few things… This was in 1782, when it was necessary that something American be produced. Why not a bible? Maybe that is too cynical. Okay. Fine.

But, you realize that this Congress, well, the Congress under the Articles of Confederation had no authority to do such things, and thus broke the law in doing so? No… that will not go over well either.

Okay, how about this… Aitken was commending for publishing a bible on American soil. It was an American thing. No? Too close to the first point?

Fine… the Congress of the Articles of Confederation, and thus the first democratic union of States founded upon this continent was considered too weak and ineffectual to fully govern and was thus overthrown in a bloodless coup whereby was born the United States of America.

So, you know. Bully for them.

Do you really want your Government endorsing a bible?

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The Weakness of the Articles of Confederation

Sent by a friend, which is pertinent to an on going conversation:

But what to do? Under the Articles of Confederation, there seemed little chance that the states would coordinate efforts to fight back. ”American cannot retaliate,” said Lord Sheffield in England. It is too difficult to get the states “to act as a nation.” Oren argues that this was one of the motivations for the replacement of the Articles with the Constitution, which provided a mechanism for the formation of a navy:

“Though downplayed during the Constitutional Convention, the connection between the Middle East and the American federation figured prominently in the impassioned state-level debates on ratifying the proposed Constitution. The Reverence Thomas Thatcher reminder the Massachusetts convention that the enslavement of ‘our sailors . . . in Algiers is enough to convince the most skeptical among us, of the want of general government.’ Nathaniel Sargeant said it was ‘preposterous’ to think that the United States could continue under the ineffectual Articles of Confederation and still defend itself from ‘piracies and felonies on ye high seas.’” In Norther Carolina, Hugh Williamson “a distinguished physician and astronomer, wondered ‘What is there to prevent the Algerine Pirate from landing on your coast, and carrying your citizens into slavery?’ The Kentucky attorney George Nicholas asked, ‘May not the Algerines seize our vessels? Cannot they . . . pillage our ships and destroy our commerce, without subjecting themselves to any inconvenient.’” (from here)

As I have been arguing, the Articles, and a limited national government is weak and ineffectual. Especially for commerce….

Follow-up to Mitchell: Centralization and Confederation

First page of Constitution of the United States
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Mitchell has responded to Rodney and my previous posts; Rodney has since followed up. I, here, will offer a brief follow-up as well, but only to his charge against me.

Mitchell begins:

Does this mean that the invasion of the South and its forced reintegration into the Union is wrong?

Wrong, illegal, and immoral all take on the various aspects of Lincoln’s War. I’ll leave the morality issue to those who will decide if it was a Just War or not. Was it illegal? No. It was not illegal because while the States have the right to secede, no State was given the ability to decide that for themselves. If we were to follow the guidelines of the Constitution, we would note that States were given the ability to enter the Union by a vote of Congress. Further, States may divide, which is in effect a secession, based on Constitutional rules as well which requires that both Congress and the State vote on the decision. I note that Congress has the right to admit States in a proscribed manner. I also note that the Constitution was formed only by a select numbers of States, with other States admitted to the Union. If we are to follow Constitutional thinking here, then we must admit that if Congress can place a State within the Union, it may then give leave for that State to secede. Therefore, because secession was not followed legally, then the invasion was not illegal. We must remember what Congress is – Congress was/is the representatives of the States/People assembled in Body Politick for the purposes of governing the Union. In this assembly, membership is determined on the basis of how it will affect the Whole.

Was it wrong? There could have been a better way to navigate the legal issues, for a while, before invasion, yes. The fact remains, that Lincoln purposely goaded the Confederate States into firing on Ft. Sumter so as to ignite a War and refused entreaties to cease the war.

Mitchell then goes on to note my statement that the Articles of Confederation, the First Confederacy, was weak because it gave to the States a sovereign nation status. He writes,

That’s just weakness covered in weak sauce. We need to follow the logic here. If the Articles demonstrate that their approach to government is bad because they almost lead to war, should not the Constitution be far more condemned because it produced a war?

Mitchell’s logic is flawed. Under his logic, we should dispense with our criminal code because it produces criminals and then calls for the punishment of those criminals. The Constitution didn’t produce a war. The Constitution was meant to prevent the weaknesses of the Confederacy, but when it was violated, the Constitution had to be preserved. The Oath of Office, of the President of the United States of America, demands that when the Constitution is threatened, it must be protected. The Southern States, leaving in the illegal manner in which they did, produced a heinous crime which threatened the Constitution. The Articles of Confederation, however, allowed for wars to commence. The Articles of Confederation, a precursor to the League of Nations, allowed to States to overrule the ‘perpetual union’ and to protect their own interests over that of the national whole.

I follow the logic of the Federalist Papers and the second group of Founding Fathers. A strong central government is needed to prevent what Europe saw for centuries and what was threatening to break out in this country. A strong federal government is the barrier between conflicts which arise, necessarily, between even the closest of siblings. Rodney is correct, I feel, in his assessment of the vision of a strong, central government. We have had two confederations upon this continent, within our boarders, and neither worked. One failed during peace time, while the other failed horribly in war time. Don’t get me wrong – Lincoln was an evil man, a corrupt politician, and more than a centralizer; he was a dictator. Lincoln’s administration served to show that during times of crisis, the U.S. Constitution matters little more than the paper upon which it was written. Yet, we must have a national government which is not undermined by the States. If it is not a strong government, then the various States will always have the option of doing as they wish, and this mentality necessarily leads to the idea that what really exists between the States is a gentleman’s agreement where in any State may of it’s own choosing follow, or not follow, the laws as laid out by Congress. The Federal Government must be limited to those issues of Federal Concern, and it is the duty of the people to secure that wall, but a lack of a centralize government gives us 50 sovereigns.

Mitchell’s swipe about the preamble will have be passed over for now, as I am trying to remain friendly in this conversation. The preamble does not have the force of law, but we must remember that it sets the goals of the document.

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The Preambles – Confederates and the Bloody Yankees

Replica of South Carolina Sovereignty/Secessio...
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I hope you understand the uniqueness of Rod and my examinations of the Confederacy. (And now Mitchell has decided to join in as well) He has issued his first of many postings in this arena, here, so now, it is my turn to respond. I want to do so by examining the Preambles of the respective Constitutions. I am not sure how Rodney feels, but I do think that in 1861, States had a right to secede. So, if you see me referring to the Confederacy as an independent nation, you’ll have to excuse that.

Confederate States:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

United States:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

One other document which we must consider is the perpetual union as created by the Articles of Confederation, which in its preamble, reads,

To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.

Whereas the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy seven, and in the Second Year of the Independence of America, agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, in the words following, viz:

Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

One of the problems with the Articles is that it gave to the States the status of sovereign nations, the errors of which we saw during the intervening years between the end of the American Revolution and the call for the Constitution. Several states almost went to war with one another. The U.S. Framers sought to remedy this by circumventing the States and appealing directly to the people for their authority. You have to further understand the notion of ‘people’ in the U.S. Constitution. People were white people. Further, they were the ones which needed to be protected – corporations, landed gentry, and the such. And whom did they need protecting from? The rabble. Us. Further, in appealing to the people, instead of the States, the U.S. Framers were able to get around the Articles of Confederation as a perpetual document. The Confederate States remedied that. The people, in the States, were now acting as States. In truth, this was the way it almost was in the U.S. as well, but it was not codified in the preamble and thus was rapidly changing.

It also calls to mind the Lockean theory of social contracts which was codified in the Articles of Confederation, Article II –

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.

How does this reach us today? Those who are for a decentralized form of Government is only doing what both Confederacies had tried to do before them – keep government control as local as possible without making it a democracy. Therefore, the States, which were the successors to the Colonies, where the natural body-politick and those was the only thing people could rightfully act within. The U.S. Framers actually sought to centralize the government, bypassing much of the sovereignty of the States. The Confederates sought to decentralize government and give the sovereignty back to the people acting within the States. For a continued look at the role of States as originally thought of by the actual Founders of the united States of America, read the Articles of Confederation.

Returning to the preambles, however, we do note, as Rodney did, that the Confederacy invoked the favor of Almighty God, something the U.S. Constitution never did. This was because of the high standing of traditional (American) Christianity which was used in the South at the time – which had seen a revival since the American Revolution. I note as well that there is a philosophical difference, not just a polemic one, between forming a ‘permanent federal government’ and a ‘more perfect Union.’ The Confederate States were fighting for the right to leave the Union. To then form another union would be to actually validate the previous one, which could not happen. Further, a union would erase the sovereignty of the States, but a federal government would actually allow for the States to be states. Gone now is the issue of ‘promoting the general Welfare’ which gave the U.S. Government, and still does mind you, the right to interfere in the internal issues of the States when it becomes necessary. Further, the Confederate Constitution actually forces the Government to protect the commerce and internal politics of the States from outside influence because anything which upsets the balance will not insure domestic tranquility. What we have, then, is the decentralizer’s dream of high State sovereignty, low federal involvement unless the social structures of the State is at stake.

Imagine how that would have played out in the 1960’s? Or even the 1920’s when women were finally given the right to vote? Or today, when social media is playing a large role in the way we interact with our Government. Further, and as we will get to later, the lack of Union actually helped to destroy the Southern effort. Would it have been possible to withstand the Communistic onslaught without a strong Federal Government? Or the social upheavals if the General Welfare was not promoted?

What is also noticeably missing as well is the clause of common defense. The U.S. Constitution was framed during a time of external peace, but internal division. The Confederate Constitution was framed during a time of grave external threats. Why wasn’t the issue of a common defense raised? Could it have something to do with the ‘independent character’ of the sovereign States? We do know from Confederate history that there really was not a common defense.

How does this connection with religion, theology and the such? Because as Jim says, you don’t just read theology, you live theology. Examining history and politics helps us to do that. This is a current issue – Davis was correct – and will continue to be from time to time.

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