The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia

By James Jackson Kilpatrick | Go to book overview
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1
The Olmstead Case

THE UNION scarcely had been formed, we have noted, by the ratification of New Hampshire in June of 1788, before conflicts began between State and Federal authority. Such conflicts have continued, from that day to this, as the States have struggled to maintain the role promised them under the Constitution, and the centralists of passing generations have endeavored to wrest it from them.

The titans of American history have participated in this continuing combat. More often than not, it must be confessed, the centralists have won and the States' righters have lost. Over the whole span, the record unquestionably has been one of expanding power for the Federal authority and declining influence for the States.

Yet there is much to be learned, even in mid- twentieth century, from the conflict between State and Federal power over the years. Many of the questions propounded by a Spencer Roane, a John C. Calhoun, a Thomas McKean, cannot be answered satisfactorily by Federalist sympathisers to this day. These great conservatives of the American Constitutional union captured the essence of our fundamental law; they saw, with great prescience, the absolute necessity of preserving strong State and local governments if a despotism from Washington were not to replace the despotism of George III. They recognized, in a way that has escaped us now,

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