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 Thomas Jefferson’s Legacy

The problem with “popular” history is that it often becomes mired in conventional narratives and familiar tropes. For example, Thomas Jefferson is most commonly remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence, but his other contributions to the making of America—as a two-term President, Secretary of State, and midwife to the Louisiana Purchase—are even greater. We think of July 4, 1776 as “Independence Day,” even though the largest and most consequential colony, Virginia, had already declared itself an independent state on May 15, 1776.

While Jefferson served in the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia during the summer of 1776, representing Virginia, he wished he was in the Old Dominion’s capitol, Williamsburg, helping to draft the state’s first constitution.  As a student of world history, Jefferson saw lawgivers—drafters of constitutions—as the greatest of political leaders. Jefferson, later sidelined as minister to France during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, never got a chance to fulfill his dream of participating in the drafting (or ratification) of a constitution.

In Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America, historian Kevin Gutzman examines the legacy of the Founding Father he rates “the most significant statesman in American history.” A polymath with multi-faceted interests, Jefferson provides ample material for scholars to work with. Gutzman, the best-selling author of several prior books on the founding era, focuses on five specific aspects of Jefferson’s influence: federalism, freedom of conscience, colonization of the freed slaves, assimilation of Native Americans, and the establishment of the University of Virginia.

The second and last of these topics have deservedly received substantial scholarly attention, although in connection with Jefferson’s commitment to higher education Gutzman emphasizes the Sage of Monticello’s desire to empower common people with knowledge so they could govern themselves in republican fashion. The availability of a free, secular, and class-less system of education favored by Jefferson “would be the alternative to the old landed aristocracy.” This was a radical and highly-influential reform, often overlooked in favor of Jefferson’s beautiful architectural design for UVA.

Gutzman portrays Jefferson—the author of the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom (enacted in 1786), but not the First Amendment—as a lifelong advocate for what he described in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association as  a “wall of separation of church and state.” Jefferson was a proponent of Enlightenment thought who saw state-sponsored religion as a tool for dominance by the landed gentry. On his gravestone, Jefferson listed his authorship of the Virginia statute as one of the three achievements in his life for which he wished to be remembered.

Gutzman seeks to explore the misunderstood, neglected—and in some cases less-flattering—facets of Jefferson’s legacy. For example, Gutzman posits that “virtually all Jefferson scholars agree that Jefferson fathered at least some of his slave Sally Heming’s children.” Jefferson was an ardent proponent of federalism, a topic that comprises the longest chapter of the book. Indeed, despite many modern-day libertarians citing the Declaration as an anarchist manifesto on behalf of “one people,” Jefferson’s principal grievance with the rule of King George III was not opposition to taxation per se, but to the denial of self-determination to the American colonies as sovereign entities. Jefferson began his political career in Virginia’s colonial legislature (the House of Burgesses), later served as the second governor of Virginia, and throughout his life remained passionately opposed to centralized authority and committed to representative government at the state level.

The most interesting part of the book, at least to me, are the chapters on Jefferson’s markedly-different attitudes towards African-American slaves (whom he wished to banish from Virginia) and Native American Indians (whom he wished to assimilate into American society). For all his intellectual gifts and lofty ideals, Jefferson was just as capable of fallacy and tunnel vision as any of his contemporaries, and perhaps more so due to his penchant for armchair anthropology.

Like many planters of his era, Jefferson was a slave-owner. Although he was morally opposed to slavery, he never freed most of his hundred-plus slaves, even upon his death (unlike some other Founding Fathers, such as George Washington). Jefferson, however, favored the “colonization” of blacks—relocating freed slaves and their offspring to an independent state abroad, in the Caribbean or Africa. Jefferson felt that a post-slavery biracial society—blacks and whites living together in harmony—was impossible due to his belief in blacks’ physical and mental inferiority and the anti-white animus on the part of former slaves that he feared would persist after emancipation.

As Gutzman acknowledges, the fear of revenge by freed slaves was certainly not irrational, in light of actual or aborted slave revolts that the antebellum United States had witnessed in Richmond, Virginia in 1800 (unsuccessfully led by Gabriel Prosser), in the French colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti) amidst horrific violence in 1791-1804, and elsewhere. Nor was Jefferson’s belief in blacks’ inferiority exceptional in its time. Even Abraham Lincoln shared this widely-held notion decades later. Colonization itself was broadly favored, even among abolitionists. In 1816 James Madison became the first president of the American Colonization Society, a popular group formed to relocate free blacks from America to Africa.

Strangely, despite Jefferson’s conventionally-racist attitude toward blacks, he was an avid believer in the assimilation of Indians. A self-styled scientist with a fascination for the natural world—flora, fauna, and archeology—Jefferson became obsessed with refuting the contention of a famous French biologist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, that Europe was superior to North America. Buffon’s “proof” for this contention was that all things in the New World “shrink and diminish under a niggardly sky and unprolific land,” citing in particular the “degenerated” status of America’s indigenous people, Indians, whom Buffon deemed to be feeble savages. While other American men of letters merely mocked Buffon, Jefferson stubbornly undertook a mission to refute Buffon’s theory, spending many years on the project.

As a rebuttal to Buffon, Jefferson sought to demonstrate that the American Indian is, in all respects, the equal of European men. In his sole book, Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson offered an extensive defense of Indians—in physical strength, sexual ardor, familial devotion, courage, fertility, and mental faculties. Jefferson explained that the observable differences between Europeans and Indians—such as the Native Americans’ lack of a written language—were the result of culture, not biology. Gutzman speculates that Jefferson’s motivation for disputing Buffon was simple boosterism—“defending his hemisphere’s honor” by eliminating the taint to Jefferson’s “revolutionary dream” for America. Whatever the reason, in contrast to his pessimism regarding a biracial America, Jefferson fervently believed that Indians could be converted to Christianity, steeped in Anglo-American culture and customs, and eventually assimilated into civilized society.

Especially after the U.S. acquired the vast Louisiana territory in 1803, which Jefferson was keen to explore, he viewed the potential of the American experiment to be essentially unlimited. Gutzman concludes that Jefferson “envisioned Indians being converted from hunter-gatherers” to his beloved ideal of agrarian yeomen. Of course, this laudable goal was never realized, and after Jefferson’s death the policy of acculturation was ultimately superseded by one of removal and relocation.

The key word in the subtitle of Gutzman’s book—A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America—is “struggle,” connoting that in some areas Jefferson, whom Gutzman calls a “genius of republican optimism,” failed to achieve his ambitious goals. Even in his failures, however, the ever-complicated Jefferson inspires our respect.

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on May 09, 2018 at 09:47:34 am

Jefferson is always better in the ideal than in the practical. His governorship was questionable and statesmanship dangerously naive. Lincoln understood that his agrarian vision was just an extension of the master-slave relationship to sharecroppers, given Lincoln's life experience.

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Ron Johnson
on May 09, 2018 at 11:47:56 am

One enduring legacy of Jefferson not mentioned above is the rise of the two-party system, with Jefferson's marriage of convenience with Aaron Burr's political machine and the cesspool of vitriolic character assassination that accompanied Jefferson's rise to the presidency.

There is a very small cast of characters who were relevant both to the move toward independence and in the political order that emerged from the Constitution. John Adams, John Dickinson and Thomas McKean come to mind.

The statement that "Virginia had already declared itself an independent state on May 15, 1776" would seem to be in error. On May 15, 1776, the same day that Congress passed the preamble to its independence resolution of May 10 and 15 (authorizing the states to set up independent governments and "totally suppress" royal authority), the Virginia called on its delegates to Congress to "propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent States."

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John Schmeeckle
on May 09, 2018 at 14:04:04 pm

Jefferson deserves the most profound respect for drafting the Deceleration of Independence. It wasn't the only document of its kind in the era, but it is one that everyone, even today, should be able to embrace. It has acted in many ways like a guiding star for our nation and pointed us to greater freedom. Being a two-term President, a Secretary of State, or a "midwife" to the Louisiana Purchase is the same as many other president's or secretaries of state. But being willing to not only to "pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" knowing they were signing their own death warrant, but to draft a document that will stand the test of time as an ideal that we to this day are still striving to achieve, that is something worth being remembered for. In many ways, I think our country would be far less free but for what he wrote.

I would also point out the passage from the Deceleration of Independence that Jefferson tried to get added, but was cut from his draft: "[The King] has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain."

It is true, that he wished the slaves once freed to be sent to another land, fearing potential retribution by freed slaves as happens in Haiti. This is a tactical choice, not a principled one, of how best to transition out of a slavery society without bloodshed. But abolishing slavery was his goal. It is also true that he didn't free all of his slaves when he died (as others did), but what people don't realize is that the slaves were sold off to pay the debts. He could not have freed all the slaves even if he wanted to (his creditors would have seized the slaves to satisfy the debts he owed). Sad, but true.

Thomas Jefferson was a great man, who deserves the respect of a grateful nation. He is right up there with James Madison, and George Washington as some of the greatest heroes of our nation.

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Devin Watkins
on May 09, 2018 at 15:40:00 pm

I don't know if he does so in the book, but Gutzman has repeatedly and very falsely asserted that Jefferson, Madison and other Founders or Framers were against open borders and had intended the naturalization clause to control immigration rather than make a unified rule for [delayed] citizenship.

So I would discount anything he says in the book if it can't be backed up elsewhere. He will seriously mangle history over politics and that is offensive.

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John Ashman
on May 09, 2018 at 16:03:36 pm

I have to wonder what he would do today over the BLM. He intended to dispose of all of the LA purchase, a multi generational effort, but in the end, the Federal government just kept a lot of it for themselves with no apparent legal capacity to do so within the boundaries of any state. Jefferson knowingly violated the Constitution to make the deal, but he was also open about it and sought a lot of advice and support before making that one time opportunity deal for the good of the country. And was willing to pay the personal price for it.

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John Ashman
on May 09, 2018 at 16:15:47 pm

Goodness gracious! Is there to be no end to this "open borders" nonsense?

Check out tje numerous comments made by jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al on the "type of immigrant" that ought to come to the United States. My God, man, they even discussed whether German, or Scot would be better.

Please do not overlay your own fantastical present notions upon the minds / thinking of the Founders, who may best be described as HIGHLY PRACTICAL Reasonable classical liberals - NOT libertarians, NOT open borders types, etc.

Someone on this site had recommended Thomas West's "The Political Theory of the founding..."
Took him up on the offer and I must say that I am (as you will be, if you read it) indebted for that recommendation. You will find that, as Devin says above, they advocated *ordered liberty* and sought to foster a (near) classical virtue among the citizens in the hopes of sustaining that ordered liberty.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on May 09, 2018 at 21:24:12 pm

I dont know about that. When the LA purchase occured, it clearly wasn’t in any state. I believe almost all of that was given to states when they joined the union. It was out west (further than he LA purchase that the gov kept most of the land. Gov can legally keep ownership of the land, nothing prevents that. Without consent of the states that land should still be subject to the jurisdiction of the state (not the feds), the feds should be like any other land owner. (Way it should be, but the courts have given the feds more power to ignore state laws.)

Jefferson didnt violate the Constitution to do the LA purchase. The treaty clause and the property clause give plenty of power to do what he did. He was for a time unsure if it was constitutional, but that is just because he was a good leader who really thought about and cared about that. In the end he, rightly, concluded that it was constitutional.

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Devin Watkins
on May 10, 2018 at 07:48:14 am

As Professor Gutzman (too modest to reply himself) explained In his first book -- Virginia's American Revolution: From Dominion to Republic, 1776-1840 (Lexington Books, 2007), chapter 1, and in James Madison and the Making of America (St. Martin's Press, 2012), chapter 1, “the Virginia Convention that commenced in May 1776 was elected with independence in mind. It immediately (on May 15) adopted resolutions for a declaration of rights, a republican constitution, and federal/treaty relationships. These resolutions assumed independence. That day, according to the local newspaper, the Union Jack was lowered from atop the colonial capitol for the last time. James Madison, the youngest member of the Convention, wrote to a friend that day that Virginia had declared its independence.

https://founders.archives.gov/?q=%20Author%3A%22Madison%2C%20James%22%20Dates-From%3A1776-05-15%20Dates-To%3A1776-05-22&s=1111311111&r=1

The Convention that day also instructed its congressmen to declare independence. Virginia's congressmen were the only delegation with instructions to declare independence; other states' were told to join in if independence were declared. Note: there's no evidence that Virginians knew of Congress's May 10 resolution, and even if they had, they wouldn't have taken it as an instruction: members of Congress were ambassadors from the state legislatures (as John Adams said), not separate representatives of the people/states.

Virginians long remembered May 15, 1776 as their state's independence day. Cf. the speech of Gov. William Branch Giles, Chairman of the Committee on the Executive (and, inter alia, 1801 US House Majority Leader), in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-30.

Patrick Henry was inaugurated as Virginia's first republican governor on June 29, 1776. The Straussian/nationalist account of things fails at this point even if they refuse to concede that the resolutions of May 15 marked Virginia's independence: a republican state with a fully operational republican constitution is obviously independent of the British monarchy.”

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Mark Pulliam
on May 10, 2018 at 08:17:29 am

Give me any quote from the Founders stating that immigration needed to be controlled or that the Feds have the plenary or delegated power to do so.

And then we will see who is full of crap and who is not.

The Naturalization Clause was specifically written as the counterweight for open borders. Delayed citizenship.

And not one state would have signed a constitution that allowed armed thugs to invade their states to toss out any immigrant they wanted. Especially the slave states for obvious reasons. The Founders weren't used to asking permission to exercise their rights, and certainly not to move from one place to another.

Stop being a brainwashed simp.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 08:26:30 am

Jefferson would most certainly disagree with you. He made a heroic effort to dispose of this land rightfully to the people. He was CONVINCED that it was constitutional, and that he would be supported, but he was rightly skeptical.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 08:27:43 am

Convinced by others, that is.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 08:28:41 am

"Modest". Too funny.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 09:24:29 am

I'll start. From the DoI.

"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.........

.......He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands."

Immigration laws are "injuries", "usurpations" and "absolute tyranny". Now imagine these people thinking they wanted to create a new King George IV and call it the Federal government? I think not. There is zero evidence. Zero.

But I will be pending of you thoughtful reply. Even better if the "too modest" Gutzman can supply his proofs, in context for a change, and not paraphrased or butchered.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 11:32:03 am

And here is just a SMALL sampling of the founders thoughts on what kind of immigrants ought to allowed entry:

Washington: "The constitution will render this country the asylum of pacific and industrious characters from all parts of *EUROPE*"
Speaking of the Dutch, he proclaimed that the dutch "would be friends to the rights of mankind" and would be "a valuable acquisition to our infant settlements."

Indeed, Jefferson went so far as to even question the propriety of permitting TOO MUCH EUROPEAN immigration. "It is for the happiness of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which they must of necessity transact together...Immigrants will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth...Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France... It would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of a half million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here."

Admittedly, Jefferson's views may have been motivated by his vision of an agrarian America and his antipathy toward the developing industrial / merchant class. Jefferson, like Franklin, believed that the rise of industry and its sustenance could only be actuated by a large pool of "pauper laborers" such as was to "be found in Europe" - a prospect he found unacceptable.

Governor Morris at the Constitutional Convention: "Every society from a great nation down to a club had a right of declaring the conditions on which new members should be admitted."

So much for the notion that the Constitution supports open borders or that the Framers believed that.

Recall also that the objection to Britain's "immigration" offenses may have had MORE TO DO with the fact that under British Law, "once a subject of the Crown, ALWAYS a SUBJECT of the Crown" Consider how such an attitude / policy of the Crown contributed to the American colonists grievances against a government that believed that Americans were simply SUBJECT to the Crown which believed and acted as if it was entitled to "govern in all matters whatsoever."

BTW: "Brainwashed simp" - Here we see the consequences of ideological rigidity expressed as an ad hominem.

One should know that we Wizards, just as the American Framers have questionable "bathing" habits; thus, it is unlikely that we would have been brainwashed.

Now let me get back to my cauldron and whip up another potion - perhaps, it shall be an ANTI-IDEOLOGY potion for you, Sir!

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gargamel rules smurfs
on May 10, 2018 at 12:24:19 pm

Thank you for proving my point. Of course you carefully edited Governor Morris' comments to exclude the fact that they were discussing minimum eligibility for Senators and House members. The entire purpose of a Naturalization Clause is to delay citizenship to allow immigrants time to learn our government so that they could vote and serve with the interests of the US at heart and not with those of their birth country. People who wish to be fully educated rather than propagandized may see the full context here -

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_809.asp

The fact that Washington might have enunciated a preference for "all parts of Europe" works against you yet again, because he may have simply assumed no one else had the ability or desire to come to the US. But many despised the idea of people from European countries OTHER than England coming. The Irish, Germans, Italians, Slavs, etc. Washington held no such prejudice.

People who wish to be fully educated rather than propagandized may see the full context here -

https://founders.archives.gov/GEWN-04-06-02-0002

Once again, you go to great lengths, in epic Gutzman style, to butcher Jefferson's words. Here is the end of that -

"If they come of themselves, they are entitled to all the rights of citizenship: but I doubt the expediency of inviting them by extraordinary encouragements. I mean not that these doubts should be extended to the importation of useful artificers. The policy of that measure depends on very different considerations. Spare no expence in obtaining them. They will after a while go to the plough and the hoe; but, in the mean time, they will teach us something we do not know. It is not so in agriculture. The indifferent state of that among us does not proceed from a want of knowledge merely; it is from our having such quantities of land to waste as we please. In Europe the object is to make the most of their land, labour being abundant: here it is to make the most of our labour, land being abundant. "

He had repeatedly said that America should be open, but that government should not, with rare exception, encourage immigration.

People who wish to be fully educated rather than propagandized may see the full context here -

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/jefferson/ch08.html

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 12:31:21 pm

Why my other post has links and therefore has to await moderation, you might also be interested to know that Gutzman doesn't just claim that US history and the Constitution are anti-immigrant, he is so virally anti-immigrant that he tweeted Ann Coulter's anti-immigrant article that asserts that "Every Pro-Immigration Claim is a Lie". Which in and of itself is a laughable falsehood.

But it makes it clear that Gutzman is IDEOLOGICALLY anti-immigrant and pro-federal immigration law, that it has absolutely nothing to do with scholarship or facts, but simple right wing talking points.

For this, I think anyone who bothers to buy his books should be prepared to question every statement, every claim.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 12:41:53 pm

Have not read Gutzman's book and probably will not. I do not believe that COTUS is anti-immigrant. HOWEVER, nor do I believe that it endorses, much less guarantees unfettered immigration. Were that the case that COTUS would be silent on the matter; yet, it clearly grants the Legislative authority over immigration and SCOTUS has consistently ruled that immigration law is a sovereign power.

As for "pro-federal immigration law" - bully for Gutzman. So am I and so is the US constitution.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on May 10, 2018 at 13:12:30 pm

Again, there is absolutely NO proof by originalist doctrine of federal sovereignty. Federal governments have NO inherent powers, but only those agreed and signed. Naturalization is NOT immigration, provably and laughably, even the INS knew that or it would just be the "NS". It is a simple and meritless conflation, nothing more. There is no "guarantee" of unfettered immigration, there is simply no power to stop it. The States MAY take SOME measures and refuse people as long as SCOTUS doesn't invoke the 9th Amendment as migration is a natural right that existed long before nations and borders existed.

So, when you say "clearly grants", then you should be able to quote the actual power with the word "immigration" in it. They knew the word, they used it, but they never considered controlling it by law or Constitution.

Also, in my now delayed post, I put up the actual contexts of all of your carefully edited quotes. I don't know if you took the time to edit them or whether you prefer your comments pre edited for your ideological happiness.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 13:24:32 pm

Also - http://www.libertylawsite.org/2016/10/12/justice-scalia-and-congresss-power-to-regulate-immigration/

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 13:59:41 pm

As my other post is now posted, you can see that Jefferson actually even said that even though mass immigration shouldn't be encouraged or discouraged, "no expense" should be "spared" to bring talented and skilled people here. Now, does the Constitution allow that? No. But he *personally* wanted to promote the immigration of skilled people. So he might even argue the value of paying the tickets and transportation for what we tyrannically call "H1B Visa holders". Maybe even give them a stipend. Except the Constitution doesn't allow for that.

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John Ashman
on May 10, 2018 at 18:05:32 pm

Yes, Jefferson did favor immigration - but ONLY of a certain kind.

One question that is fundamental BUT is often overlooked and should be the first question asked:

"Do we need more immigration at this or any time."

It should be noted that the drafters of the Pennsylvania constitution (if i recall correctly) stated that while there exists a natural right to EMigrate, there is no corresponding right to IMMIGRATE and that such immigration is only at the sufferance of the receiving country. This seems proper to me.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on May 10, 2018 at 18:48:00 pm

I favor sex of a certain kind. It doesn't mean I want to control or outlaw all other kinds. Not my business. Not my responsibility.

You have a good point about emigration versus immigration, which is why I think they would respect state wishes in this area as they viewed them as sovereign when it came to affairs of the people. The Feds had to do with affairs of trade, international affairs and interstate affairs. That is it. The Framers would, perhaps to a man, side with California's sovereign power to accept as many immigrants as they like.

I believe that Jefferson used the term "migration" as well as "emigration". None that I know of stated that there was a natural right to immigrate. That being said, the issue here is that the newly formed Federation would have been seen as King George IV if they interfered in state affairs such as this.

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John Ashman
on May 11, 2018 at 09:52:28 am

John:

But what manner of sovereignty is this that proscribes the "making of war", the conclusion of treaties, the coining of money, control over the migration of citizens from one State into another State, the regulation of commerce between states and subordinates the Laws of each of the Several States to the Laws of the Federal Government and, further, even places limits upon the "police powers of each of the Several States" by guaranteeing the P&I of all citizens of the Federal Union shall be honored in each and every one of the Several States. Then again, there is the (never invoked) Guarantee Clause that further subordinates the fictional *sovereignty* of the Several States by positing a right, an authority, resident in the Federal Government to negate certain, how shall we say, "political restructurings" that may be embarked upon by the Several States.

Again, I ask, "What manner of Sovereignty is this?"

Answer - it is NOT! Rather, it is a subordinate but integral role in the confederation - nothing more!

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gargamel rules smurfs
on May 11, 2018 at 10:06:57 am

"The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States. "

Federalist 45

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John Ashman
on May 11, 2018 at 10:08:52 am

"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution."

Federalist 39

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John Ashman
on May 11, 2018 at 10:10:51 am

"Do they require that, in the establishment of the Constitution, the States should be regarded as distinct and independent sovereigns? They are so regarded by the Constitution proposed."

"Do these principles, in fine, require that the powers of the general government should be limited, and that, beyond this limit, the States should be left in possession of their sovereignty and independence? We have seen that in the new government, as in the old, the general powers are limited; and that the States, in all unenumerated cases, are left in the enjoyment of their sovereign and independent jurisdiction."

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John Ashman
on May 11, 2018 at 10:13:42 am

That is Federalist 40

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John Ashman
on May 11, 2018 at 13:31:39 pm

This is the problem with dueling commentaries (as I call them). One can find various comments by any promionent person to suit one's end. No, I am not asserting that you are doing that - only that it is possible, indeed quite probable, that any of the Founders may be found to have made utterances that may be viewed as either supporting or disapproving of a certain proposition.

In the case of sovereignty, I prefer to look at the TEXT of the constitution AND the SPECIFIC LIMITS UPON STATE SOVEREIGNTY contained therein, rather than to Publius's rhetoric designed to counter anti-Federalist arguments and concerns (quite correct as it turns out) regarding State Sovereignty. Madison's famous turn of phrase re: part national..... is nothing more than a sop to those who were properly concerned over the extent of Federal Powers.

All the limits upon State Power contained in the Constitution should make it clear that Publius' posturing to the contrary, the States were NOT SOVEREIGN.

His words matter less than the text of the Constitution that he crafted.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on May 11, 2018 at 13:32:47 pm

Lincoln? The guy who got split up the country and killed 750,000 people killed, versus the guy who ran mostly budget surpluses, increased the size of the country dramatically, who had only one military engagement in the self defense of the US and ended it? The guy who lowered the US debt by about 25%? Okay.

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John Ashman
on May 12, 2018 at 10:49:58 am

There are no doubt that he was one the most significant statesman in American history, and we can still see some effect of his policy till this date.

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Working Desktop
on May 13, 2018 at 21:38:18 pm

There were almost no limits on the States in the Constitution until the 14th Amendment, but nowhere in there is the transfer of immigration power to the Feds. That is a fact well backed up by history. Sorry.

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John Ashman

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Yesterday’s post, on the seemingly unstoppable growth of federal transfer payments to state and local governments, ended on a question: what happens when both parties to the transaction, the states and the feds confront unsustainable commitments? The brilliant answer our federalism has produced: make yet more unsustainable commitments. Why? Read on to find out.