Tuesday, July 04, 2006

When in the course of human events

This is for you, C.A.

I was reminded by a libertarian in California of our rights as human beings to determine our own "sovereignty." That is to say, there is not a "divine right of kings" in the "new world." Two hundred and thirty years ago brave men set out to "separate" themselves from the powers that were in place. They did it as thirteen sovereign states (or "nations"), many geographically larger than the countries of the old world. We celebrate today the FIRST "secession."

The "founding fathers," most notably Thomas Jefferson, had no idea of a nation covering the continent. In fact, nearly twenty years later, as Lewis and Clarke were exploring the territory recently acquired from the French, considered the "confederation" of the Atlantic states as those with a common heritage, but separate from the territories opening up. He thought that, perhaps, the new territories might form their own confederation. And that was fine with him.

This idea of separate confederations of sovereign states lasted for over seventy five years, popping up sometimes in heated discussions with such South Carolina politicians as vice president John C. Calhoun. The idea was totally constitutional, but the election of Abraham Lincoln ended all such possibilities of a peaceful separation. He wanted to change the paradigm -- the "union" was the all-important goal of the war he raged against sovereign states who thought differently. The united states of America were no longer a confederation. After the war, or even during it they became the "United States of America," a singular entity with a central government that took more and more of the "sovereignty" of the individual states. In the beginning, the united states of America were, and after "Lincoln's war" the United States of America is.

It is true the "Articles of Confederation," the first attempt of the thirteen new states to co-operate, did not last. However, the tenth Amendment left to the states or the "people" those powers not granted to the federal government in the constitution. Recent elections have shown that the ancient urge for self-government is alive. Half the nation, mostly rural and small-town America, feels that the best government is "local." Can Lincoln's dream survive the twenty-first century?

No comments: