1860 and 2010

When Jefferson wrote the Virginia Constitution, he put in a secession clause. New York and Rhode Island had one as well. He considered the states to be the first defense against a federal government gone autonomous, gone immoral, gone crazy. In 1797, when President John Adams breached the Constitution with the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson and Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, making the claim that the contract between the states was nullified. It was clearly his original intent. That same idea was brought up here in Vermont and New Hampshire at the beginning of the war in Iraq, and the Kentucky Resolutions were cited. 

People were mystified. We’d been taught differently. But technically, we had a point. Jeff Davis was never brought to trial for secession because President Ulysses S. Grant was advised that Davis was probably right on that point. The Civil War was a moral campaign against slavery. Leave it at that. 

The headline today in
The New York Times, “States’ Rights is the Rallying Cry of Resistance for Lawmakers” is evidence that we are at a historic turning. The states, north, south, east and west, have rediscovered Jefferson. His is a good program, and one fundamental to American growth and maturity. He will not go away now. Whether or not Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gets the votes now or does not seems increasingly irrelevant. The states have learned how to defend themselves. 

Historian Frank Owsley wrote that there are two fundamental American conditions: Hamilton’s in New York and Jefferson’s in Virginia. Hamilton saw global empire with one center. Jefferson saw multiple rich and mature advanced cultures within our own borders. The Hamilton vision has reached its edges and they are beginning to fray. We learn this week that China and even Israel are unhappy with their status as pseudo-Americans. The Jefferson vision is one best returned to when we begin to develop internally, culturally and morally, and that is what we are doing now.


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.