Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Doctrine of State's Rights

Thomas Jefferson, Father of Doctrine of State's Rights

There is a growing interest in State's Rights today, or the lack thereof. A number of state's have recently passed "10th Amendment" resolutions. The resolutions restate what that amendment says, that is the states, or the people, retain all powers not specifically delegated by the states to the federal government. But the sad fact is that the states have become little more than administrative sub-districts of the District of Columbia and the 10th Amendment has become the most ignored part of the Constitution. The federal courts have become the final arbiter of what powers the states may actually exercise. And all the states are completely beholden to Congress and the president for huge portions of their annual budgets.

The federal bureaucracy controls just about every aspect of life for most Americans with literal mountains of federal regulations. They regulate our food and drugs, public education and an ever increasing share of our health care. If you're a businessman who wants to develop his own property, or a homeowner wanting to build a retirement home, just hope your property is NOT deemed "wetlands" by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. You'll quickly find out who really controls your property. The bureaucrats even tell us how many gallons of water our toilets can have and where we can or cannot park when we go to the store.

Many people are just now waking up to what was really lost with the downfall of the Confederacy in 1865. The precious gift of the Founding Fathers of 1776 was a republic of independent, self-governing states. That was what was truly lost with the defeat of the South in 1865. Since, then, the people, in their states assembled, North and South, East and West, have seen a steady erosion of their increasingly limited powers to govern themselves.

Thomas Jefferson, the "Father of the Doctrine of State's Rights," and many other founders and leaders of the Old Republic, constantly warned and fought against the erosion of the rights of the states, which began even in their days. Many of them, including George Washington, referred to the United States as a "confederacy," not a unitary, centralized state. The early State's Rights issues included such things as the federal government paying for roads and canals within state boundaries, the "Bank of the United States," which was the ancestor of today's Federal Reserve Bank, and then there was the right of a state to regulate its own domestic institutions (i.e. slavery). The early State's Rights advocates, such as John C. Calhoun, also argued over tariffs and whether or not a state could nullify a federal law, and whether or not a state had a right to secede.

The erosion of State's Rights accelerated after 1865 with new amendments added to the Constitution, continued into the 20th Century with great battles over desegregation, prayer in school, and finally "The Right to Life" itself (the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision making abortion the law of the land in all 50 states). The federal courts became more and more powerful. The increasingly intrusive environmental laws, education controlled by the bureaucrats in Washington, undermining of traditional marriage and family, and now the pending specter of socialized medicine, completes the picture. All of those issues could have and should have been settled on the state level. Most Americans are fair-minded and would have gotten rid of bad policies that were truly unjust within their own states.

It is hard to imagine that any of the original Founding Fathers would approve of all the bailouts of banks, takeover of car companies or a National Debt that boggles the mind. And the Founders of the Confederacy could see that without State's Rights, none of our God-given rights to life, liberty and private property were safe from an unlimited centralized government.

So, what can be done about it? Can we ever get back to a semblance of self-governing states as originally envisioned by the Founders? History teaches us that nothing ever remains the same. If enough people finally wake up to what was really lost in 1865, and really want to get back the best form of government in history, a republic or self-governing states, then it can happen. Only time will tell. As Scarlett O'Hara said at the end of "Gone With the Wind," "After all, tomorrow is another day."

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