Mr. Lincoln's War

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    Dr. McClanahan,
    I just wanted to thank you for the lectures on the war. I’m a grad student and had a class last fall (Readings in US history to 1877) which basically took the Northern position, so this set of lectures and readings will go a long way to balancing out that perspective. Again, thank you very much.


    You may be interested to know that in chapter 5 of _James Madison and the Making of America_, I show — what no other account of these events has ever mentioned — that Virginia Federalists — FEDERALISTS — said in the Virginia Ratification Convention that secession would be a state’s right under the proposed US Constitution.


    Kevin: That’s incredible! I haven’t had the privilege of reading your book yet, although it is on my list for the future.

    Which Federalists said that? Were any of the individuals that made that statement present during all or part of the Philadelphia Convention?


    My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it.


    Check out this article by Kevin:


    The three chief Federalist spokesmen in the Richmond Convention were Governor Edmund Randolph, George Nicholas, and James Madison. Nicholas explained this point in great detail at the very end of the Convention — right before the vote on ratification. Randolph had already repeatedly made clear that the new government would have only the powers “expressly” delegated — which of course do not include power to put down secession, raise an army without calling Congress into session, ignore the chief justice’s writ of habeas corpus, conscript soldiers, print paper money, banish political opponents, etc. Besides that, Federalists assumed throughout the Convention that, as Edmund Pendleton explained in his speech accepting the presidency of the Convention at its very beginning, the Virginians were a people — not part of a people. This negates John Marshall’s contention in _McCulloch v. Maryland_ that the Constitution was ratified by one American people. As Nicholas put it, Virginia was to be as one of thirteen parties to a compact.


    Besides that, as James Madison made clear in _The Federalist_, the meaning of the Constitution was not to be found in what was said in secret in the Philadelphia Convention, but in the explanation of the Constitution given to the people when they were considering whether to ratify it. In other words, it’s the ratification conventions, not the Philadelphia Convention, that count.


    Of course, Randolph was the sponsor of the Virginia Plan in Philadelphia, as well as one of the five most voluble orators there.


    From the 10th Amendment Center on Lincoln’s War

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