Thursday, May 14, 2009

States Rights...? Originalist?!

Thomas Jefferson is often cited as a great defender of "states rights" and is quoted by "constitutional originalists" for his many quotes about the infringements of the Marshall Court upon state power, such as the control of charters in the case of Dartmouth_College_v. Woodward, from his opposition to the Bank of the United States, and other criticisms of internal improvements by the Federal Government. But it is only fair to note that Jefferson used such arguments when they served his purposes, and they did not always. As an instance, let's look at the matter of funding the freeing and recolonization of slaves, and where the necessary funds should come...

"Why not from that of the lands which have been ceded by the very States now needing this relief? And ceded on no consideration, for the most part, but that of the general good of the whole"

This reflected a past battle that Jefferson had lost. Several years earlier, he had this to say about the dispersion of lands...

"I am very differently affected towards the new plan of opening our land office, by dividing the lands among the States, and selling them at vendue. It separates still more the interests of the States, which ought to be made joint in every possible instance, in order to cultivate the idea of our being one nation, and to multiply the instances in which the people shall look up to Congress as their head. And when the States get their portions, they will either fool them away, or make a job of it to serve individuals. Proofs of both these practices have been furnished, and by either of them that invaluable fund is lost, which ought to pay our public debt. To sell them at vendue, is to give them to the bidders of the day, be they many or few."

Such ran across the grain of the Jeffersonian philosophy. So did industrial subsidy, which also bestowed a privilege upon the few under the guise of providing for the Common Welfare. Said Jefferson about such subversion of republican ideals:

"Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures, and call it regulation to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry, and that too the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the other, the most flourishing of all."