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Summum ius summa iniuria--More law, less justice
02 January 2011
Jefferson Davis Illustrates original relationships of the States
This is a passage from The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis. Here he describes the period between the
ratification of the Constitution by 11 of the 13 States, when Rhode Island and North Carolina remained independent nations. The purpose of this passage and letter between the Governor of Rhode Island and
President George Washington was to demonstrate how individual States did in fact consider themselves sovereign and independent at the time of the Ratification, and the Nationalist school of the founding of the country was a later distortion, and that the compact theory of the formation of the United States is most valid:
Jefferson Davis, 1808-1889
It is particularly to be noted that, during the intervals between the
organization of the Federal Government under the new Constitution and the
ratification of that Constitution by, North Carolina and Rhode Island,
respectively, those States were absolutely independent and unconnected with any
other political community, unless they be considered as still representing the
"United States of America," which by the Articles of Confederation had been
declared a "perpetual union." The other States had seceded from the former
union—not in a body, but separately, each for itself—and had formed a new
association, leaving these two States in the attitude of foreign though friendly
powers. There was no claim of any right to control their action, as if they had
been mere geographical or political divisions of one great consolidated
community or "nation." Their accession to the Union was desired, but their
freedom of choice in the matter was never questioned. And then it is to be
noted, on their part, that, like the house of Judah, they refrained from any
attempt to force the seceding sisters to return.
As illustrative of the relations existing during this period between the United
States and Rhode Island, it may not be uninstructive to refer to a letter sent
by the government of the latter to the President and Congress, and transmitted
by the President to the Senate, with the following note:
"United States, September 26, 1789.
"Gentlemen of the Senate: Having yesterday received a letter written in this
month by the Governor of Rhode Island, at the request and in behalf of the
General Assembly of that State, addressed to the President, the Senate, and the
House of Representatives of the eleven United States of America in Congress
assembled, I take the earliest opportunity of laying a copy of it before you.
(Signed) "GEORGE WASHINGTON."
Some extracts from the communication referred to are annexed:
"State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, In General Assembly,
September Session, 1789.
"To the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the eleven
United States of America in Congress assembled:
"The critical situation in which the people of this State are placed engages us
to make these assurances, on their behalf, of their attachment and friendship to
their sister States, and of their disposition to cultivate mutual harmony and
friendly intercourse. They know themselves to be a handful, comparatively
viewed, and, although they now stand as it were alone, they have not separated
themselves or departed from the principles of that Confederation, which was
formed by the sister States in their struggle for freedom and in the hour of
"Our not having acceded to or adopted the new system of government formed and
adopted by most of our sister States, we doubt not, has given uneasiness to
them. That we have not seen our way clear to it, consistently with our idea of
the principles upon which we all embarked together, has also given pain to us.
We have not doubted that we might thereby
avoid present difficulties, but we have apprehended future mischief....
"Can it be thought strange that, with these impressions, they [the people of
this State] should wait to see the proposed system organized and in
operation?—to see what further checks and securities would be agreed to and
established by way of amendments, before they could adopt it as a Constitution
of government for themselves and their posterity?...
"We are induced to hope that we shall not be altogether considered as foreigners
having no particular affinity or connection with the United States; but that
trade and commerce, upon which the prosperity of this State much depends, will
be preserved as free and open between this State and the United States, as our
different situations at present can possibly admit....
"We feel ourselves attached by the strongest ties of friendship, kindred, and
interest, to our sister States; and we can not, without the greatest reluctance,
look to any other quarter for those advantages of commercial intercourse which
we conceive to be more natural and reciprocal between them and us.
"I am, at the request and in behalf of the General Assembly, your most obedient,
(Signed) "John Collins, Governor.