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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the National Convention of the Colored Men of America: held in Washington, D.C., on January 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1869.
1869 National Convention in Washington DC 52.pdf
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among other powers of the earth) is to be subject States, for the reason that there can be no middle ground between sovereign and subject in any one government. The law that governs this matter is as old as time, and is applicable to all governments. If Victoria is sovereign of England, her eldest son, though prince is only a subject; though in the event of her death, is king. The force of this logic was clearly seen by the secessionists before the rebellion. They were prompt to deny, as they all did, the existence of our nature as such, and claimed that we were only a compact of independent States, the General Government relying for its existence and perpetuity upon the will of the individual States. In order to show that this error is still cherished by them, I would call your attention to the title of a book recently written by Alexander Stephens. Holding to the old doctrine on which secession was built he gives his book the title "War between the States," thinking thereby to blink out the sight the historical truth that the war was not between the States as such, but one in which the supreme and sovereign Government subdued the rebellious subject States. And before I leave this point, permit me to say that if a man of his ability, of his antecedents, would seek at this late day to impress such a pernicious doctrine on the public mind, it exhibits in the clearest light the importance of settling this question of State power beyond the possibility of a doubt.
If the States are subjects, then there must be a superior of sovereign government over them, and the Constitution must be the systematic arrangement by which both individual persons and States are to be governed. I am aware that it is claimed by some that article 10 of the Constitution declares that the States have reserved to themselves certain powers and rights. This fundamental error is readily met by the recognition of the express declaration of the preamble of the Constitution, wherein is set forth whence the power, and the only power, (for there were no parties in this matter but one,) that framed the Government and gave it its powers and limitations. This was the people in all their majesty reserving to themselves whatever powers they, as a whole, did not delegate to the General Government, and at the same time prohibiting to the States whatever they chose then to prohibit, and reserving to themselves still the undoubted right to prohibit (down to the present hour, and through the future) as much more to the States as might, though experience, be found necessary to perfect their original purpose.
Thus speaks the creative power of the Government. "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general wellfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." It is clear, therefore, that whatever powers are delegated to the Government are delegated, not by the States, but by the people. In short, to use the words of the preamble, whatever is ordained and established has entire authority from the people in Convention assembled.
Now, in order to show that the States in this Government have only relative existences, I assert that no extent of territory can claim by virtue of its extent, to become a State. Second, that no number of inhabitants within said territory, by virtue merely of their numbers, can claim to be a State. A State in the American acceptation of the term is a political existence, an organized community within the jurisdiction and under the supervision of the Government of the United States, having legislative, judicial, and executive powers carried on by itself, but all subject to the Constitution and laws of the United States. All officers in the above branches or departments of each State, before they can become legal State officers, must solemnly swear to support the Constitution and laws of the United States, this pre-requisite being necessary to each officer and therefore essential to the whole body of officers forming the State Government. The conclusion then is irresistible
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