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The Examiner and Journal of Political Economy: Devoted to the Advancement of the Cause of State Rights and Free Trade

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“The States united to maintain the independence of each, not the sovereignty or supreme power of the General Government, that being merely the agent of the States.”

—Extracts from a Speech on the Question of admitting Missouri into the Union. Delivered in Congress, the seventh of February, 1820, by Louis M’Lane, Representative from the State of Delaware.

“This Union, as I shall presently show, is nothing more than a compact between the States which compose it, and the General Government.

“The fundamental principle of this, and of every other republican government, is, that the sovereign power resides, and is inherent in the people, and not in the government. The sovereign power is the right of the people to unite together for objects of their mutual safety and advantage, and to establish a public authority to order and direct what is to be done by each in relation to the end of the association. Upon the principle of our Government, all the sovereignty is in the people; they are the fountain whence it flows and the General Government has no more power than what the people have delegated to it for federal purposes. In the establishment of public authority, a greater or less portion of power may be delegated by the people, by voluntary engagements; but whatever may be the power delegated, the sovereignty is not impaired, since it was by their will, and may be recalled or modified by the same will, when the ends and objects of their association require it.

“All governments are instituted for the protection of this right in the people. Before the formation of the Union, the people of each State were sovereign and independent; they had exercised their sovereignty in the formation of State constitutions and governments; they not only retained all power not given to those governments by their constitutions, but they possessed the right of altering and changing their constitutions at will. In virtue of this sovereign power, the people of the old States consented to form a compact of Union, for their mutual safety and equality of rights, and they consented to vest in the Government of the Union certain powers; the better to guarantee to the people the enjoyment of the remainder. The powers of the General Government are therefore limited; and all the power not delegated remains with the States, as far as their constitutions give it, and with the people. In all other respects, the States and the people are as completely sovereign as they were before the Union.

“The powers of the General Government are purely federal; they are neither national nor municipal; the rights of the people in their State Governments are both national and municipal. The jurisdiction of the Federal Government extends to the connections, intercourse, and commerce of the republic with foreign States and Governments, and with each other as sovereign independent States. But the administration of their local concerns, the regulation of their domestic relations, the rights of property, together with the whole routine of municipal regulations, belong to the States and the people.”


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