Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The President's House, a Dedication to Slaves, A Reminder of a Time of Constitutional Government

The Memorial of the President's House
Grandpa took grandma and me on a little trip to Philadelphia and while there we took in the historic spots that can be found in this city of love. One of those sites we visited is a newly dedicated memorial. It is called the President's House. It stands where our first President resided during his terms in office. Its focus is on the nine slaves that also resided there, the slaves of President Washington. As we stood there grandpa made this observation. And as he talked a quiet became apparent as the other tourists began to listen to the words of grandpa .

“To me it is more than just a memorial to the people who resided in that house, it is a memorial to a time when it can be said that we were a Constitutional government. It reminds us and exemplifies the division of powers between the federal and State governments. For it is there that clearly shows that even the President of the United States knew he was subject to State law when it came to the issue of slavery not to federal laws.

It also reveals that when it came to domestic affairs State laws were the dominant laws of the land, not federal law. This is the core meaning of State rights. This is revealed by the fact that even the President of the United States was subject to State laws when the issue of slavery was being addressed and not the federal Constitution.

Pennsylvania law at the time declared every slave was a free man after a six months residency in the State. President Washington used a loophole in that law in order to keep his slaves by taking them out of the State prior to the completion of their six months residency. Even the most die hard of ideologist will have to admit that if the federal Constitution is and was the dominant law of the land as they claim then there would have been no need for the President to do what President Washington did in regards to his slaves.

This viewpoint would also be consistent with the idea behind the proposed Corwin amendment passed by Congress at the time of Lincoln. It would also be consistent with the claim of the President of the Confederacy when he declared that the war was a war in defense of State rights rather than a fight over the issue of slavery as some like to claim.

So, what is the bottom line? We know by President Lincoln's own words he did not lead the union to war to free the slave but in order to maintain the Union of States.  If it had been a war over slavery as claimed then the President would have been duty bound by oath to defend the Constitutional rights of the slave owner. 

We know by the words of the President of the Confederacy they did not fight the war over the issue of slavery but over the issue of defending State rights established by the Constitution. Slavery was just the particular issue of debate which is within the broader issue of State rights which the federal Constitution implied. Even if it had been a war over slavery as claimed then the Southern States were fighting a war in defense of the Constitutional rights of the individual slave owner.

This does not mean that the federal government had no say in regards to the issue of slavery. The federal government had and still does have the power and authority over the issue of immigration. It is a known fact the the federal government had outlawed the importation of slaves but its power and authority ended there.  Once a person crosses the border into a State that person become subject to State laws. that was the Constitutional intent of the founding of this great nation of ours.

The end result of that war is that we are a nation ruled by men now and not by the rule of law as so founded. If we were ruled by the rule of law as established there would be no diagreement of the interpretation of the Constitution. And we are an unfortunate generation to be a witness to the corruption of that rule of law and now must pay the consequences of the corruption. And I can only see the principle of compromise as being the cause of this corruption. It is ideological differences that requires that one compromise their principles and this corruption of principles did not occur over night but over a long period of time.”

As I looked around at the small gathering of people when grandpa finished his history lesson I could see from the look on their faces that they were thinking about what grandpa said and were disturbed by his words.


SjP said...

Ah my friend! Long time "no see"! This is certainly a very interesting post and "Grandpa" uses Washington, slaves, and the constitution is certainly thought provoking. But, did Pennsylvania law prohibited the freeing of slaves and/or mandated that the new president had to have them?

The Griper said...

nope it did not. and Washington did give freedom to his slaves upon the death of his wife in his Will.

Pennsylvania law mandated that a slave was a free man after 6 months of residence in the State. this contradicts federal law at that time as did the laws of every State that was defined as free States.
it was the laws of the southern States that was consistent with the federal Constitution.

but that is irrelevant to the point of this post. The point of this post was to illustrate the division of power and authority between the States and federal government.

the federal government was given the authority and power in regards to foreign affairs which the issue of immigration fell under while the States retained sole power and authority in regards to domestic affairs which the issue of slavery fell under.


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