Essay, Research Paper
Federal Sovereignty vs. Rights of the States Continued….
Federal Sovereignty versus States Rights was not a new problem to the United States. First appearing during the writing of the Constitution and continuing through Hamilton’s Bank and the Federalist Papers, this debate raged right into the 19th century, beginning with the Hartford Convention, where delegates proposed that a state had the right to “interpose authority” in a case of “dangerous and palpable infractions.” However, this was only the first in a series of arguments that would in the end, result in civil war.
The next major step was the handling of cases for businesses. During the 1810’s and 20’s Chief Justice John Marshall passed made several rulings reducing state power. In Sturges v. Crownshield, he decided that a state could pass bankruptcy laws but could not be applied to debts incurred before the ratification of the law. During Dartmouth College v. Woodward, he ruled that a state (or any party) could not cancel a contract without the consent of the other side. He struck again, in 1815, this time at the New York ferry monopoly by saying that the state could not regulate commerce on borders. Finally, in 1819, he stated that the bank was constitutional and that the federal law was supreme over the states, who had no right to tax it. In doing this, he sharply defined the rights of the states as subordinate to those of the nation’s.
However, Marshall’s rulings did not last long. During the term of Andrew Jackson, the Bank was destroyed by the president. Staring with vetoing the renewal of the Bank’s charter, he set out to eliminate what he though was a corrupt monopoly. By demolishing the Bank, he allowed smaller state banks to assume more power.
Finally, during the early 1830’s, nullification came into question. In this situation, South Carolina had declared a government law, (tariff bill) void because a convention found it to be unconstitutional. While John Calhoun argued that the Constitution was based on false assumptions and that a minority of the nation could reassume its independence. However, Jackson saw the truth. He knew that if a state could ignore the laws then the Union would cease to exist. Because of Jackson’s strong will and the Force Bill (allowing more federal power with the president’s authority to execute revenue laws), South Carolina backed out and the Union was saved….for a time. For the largest effects from this crisis were; that secession was necessary to protect slavery, since the majority resided in the North and their laws would become the country’s, and that South Carolina would never succeed without the help of the other slave states. In less then two decades they would have that support, and then the War to Save the Union would begin.