The Sovereign States
A Collection of Essays, Documents and Commentaries
Expounding the State and Federal Relationship

Published in 1964 by the


by James J. Kilpatrick

ON MONDAY, August 6, South Carolina's John Rutledge submitted to the Philadelphia convention of 1787 the first full draft of a tentative Constitution. His “Committee of Detail” had been hard at work, during a three-day recess, trying to knit together a hundred different provisions for fashioning a new government for the United States of America.

History does not record that anyone paid much attention to the Committee’s draft of a preamble. It read:

We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declare, and establish the following Constitution for the Government of Ourselves and Our Posterity.

On the following day, as Madison’s Notes of the Convention of 1787 disclose, the preamble was approved in that form “nem. con.” Not until Thursday, August 30, when the weary delegates worked their way to the very end of the tentative document, did a disturbing uncertainty creep into the debate. How many States were likely to ratify the Constitution at all? This was a Union being formed—a voluntary union of separate, sovereign States. Maryland’s Daniel Carroll thought that the ratification of all thirteen States should be required. Roger Sherman of Connecticut was willing to settle for ten. James Wilson of Pennsylvania pointed out that the Constitution would be binding only upon the States that agreed to it; he thought eight ratifications would be sufficient to start a new Union. James Madison proposed that the operative clause be based upon the ratifications of seven States entitled collectively to 33 members in the House. In the end, the convention compromised upon the ratifications of nine States as a sufficient number to establish the Constitution among themselves. The following week, debate moved on to other issues.

But as one reads over the notes of these historic conversations, one sense that some intensely practical questions of political tactics were beginning to assume larger proportions. By the first of September, the convention plainly was drawing to a close. There seemed no hope whatever that Rhode Island would ratify. North Carolina was most uncertain. Virginia’s George Mason had just remarked “that he would sooner chop off his right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands.” The vote in New York predictably would be close.

With all these considerations in mind, it becomes easier to grasp the prudent deletions recommended on September 12, when the Committee on Style and Arrangements, headed by Connecticut’s conciliatory Samuel Johnson, brought in a new and substantially final draft of a Constitution. This time the preamble read:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This diplomatic change, from “we, the people of [certain named] States,” to “we, the people of the United States,” aroused no recorded debate in the Philadelphia convention. As the context of their daily discussion makes clear, the delegates were perfectly well aware that the Constitution would have to be voted up or down by the States, acting individually; there was no thought of any “nationwide” referendum among the people as a whole. But the change did not escape the angry eye of Patrick Henry. The following June, in Virginia’s great Convention of 1788, he seized upon the revised preamble as evidence that the Philadelphia delegates had sought to fashion a consolidated government.

”I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen,” he cried, “but, sir, give me leave to demand, what right had they to say We, the People? My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, who authorized them to speak the language of, We the People, instead of We the States? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the States be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great consolidated government, of the people of all the States.”

One by one, proponents of the Constitution arose to assure the suspicious Henry that no such thing as a consolidated national government was being proposed. Edmund Pendleton, one of the Constitution’s strongest advocates, agreed with Henry that a consolidated government, annihilating the States, necessarily would “terminate in despotism.” Colonel Henry Lee said that “we the people” obviously meant, “we the people on whom the Constitution would operate” that is, the people within each separate State. “It is not binding on the people until it becomes their act.” Madison gave positive assurances: The people who were mentioned in the preamble were “not the people as composing one great body,” but rather “the people composing thirteen sovereignties.”

The question thus raised by Patrick Henry, and thus answered by the foremost spokesmen for the Constitution, provides a useful title and a pervading theme for the anthology of documents, statements, and essays here compiled. The principle concern of the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, a century and three-quarters later, is to raise again some of those warnings against centralism voiced by Henry and Mason, and to urge a renaissance of those sound principles of federation advanced by Madison, Pendleton, Franklin, Hamilton, Jay and others.

We speak here for the States, qua States, and for the people who are by constitutional definition citizens of each of them. Our dedication is to the structure of constitutional union erected by the ratifying States of 1788, and to the beautiful plan of checks and balances by which this house of our fathers was designed. We take the view that neither the Reconstruction amendments, nor any other amendments, have altered the statement of historic truth approved by the United States Senate in 1837:

In the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the States acted severally as free, independent and sovereign States. Each for itself, by its own voluntary assent, entered the Union with a view to its increased security against all dangers, domestic as well as foreign, and the more perfect and secure enjoyment of its natural political and social advantages.

In delegating a portion of their powers to be exercised by the Federal government, the States retained, individually and respectively, the exclusive and sole right over their own domestic institutions and police, and are alone responsible for them.

Today it is apparent to even the most casual eye that the house of our fathers has fallen into decay. The great beams that gave it strength—the separation of powers within the central government, the division of responsibility between the States and the Federal authority—now tend to crumble under subtle and insidious attack. The men who framed our Constitution built tight doors against the despotism they knew so well; now the doors hang awry, and a cold wind of judicial construction sweeps along the corridors. The States themselves, falling into impotence, often seem helpless to halt the destruction. And too many Americans, afflicted with the ills of an affluent society, are indifferent to the fundamental principles by which the greatness of the American Republic was achieved.


In the fifteenth article of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, George Mason in 1776 laid down a maxim for the sound guidance of our own generation: “Be it declared,” he said, “that no free government, or the blessings of Liberty, can be preserved to any People but by a firm adherence to Justice, Moderation, Temperance, Frugality, and Virtue, and by frequent Recurrence to fundamental Principles.”

We often tend to imagine, today, that our fundamental principles are to be dated from the Declaration of Independence or from the Constitution of 1787. Yet, clearly, Mason in 1776 was urging a recurrence to fundamental principles much older than this. What was he talking about? What did he ask the people to recur to?

Mason’s fundamental principles, we submit, were grounded in the rights of man and the duties of government. Man was free; government’s first duty was to keep that freedom inviolate. There was never much more than this. Man had rights; government had a duty to secure those rights. These were the fundamental principles, the alpha and the omega of the American Republic.

”All men are by nature equally free and independent,” said Mason, “and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter a State of Society, they cannot, by any Compact, deprive or divest their posterity.”

What were these inherent rights? There were in essence as Jefferson was to proclaim them in the Declaration of Independence of July 4: “Namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

Consider, if you will, Mason’s clear and simple definition. He did not hesitate to define the inherent rights of man, in part, in terms of “the means of possessing property.” In our own day, “property” has become a dirty word; it was not so in Mason’s time. Property rights meant something then; they do not seem to mean as much now.

What were some of Mason’s other “fundamental principles” to which he urged man’s frequent recurrence?

”That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the People; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and should at all times be amenable to them. . . . That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community. . . . That the legislative and executive powers of the State ought always to be separate and distinct from the judiciary. . . . That the people ought never to be taxed or deprived of their property [again that word!] for public uses without their consent. . . .

There were other fundamental principles important to Mason—trial by jury, freedom of the press, freedom of religion—but the first principles he set forth went to the liberty of man and to the nature of the state. These were the essential relationships he asked us to reflect upon; we cannot do better than to act upon his sage advice today.

Once the thoughtful citizen clarifies this relationship in his own mind—once he grasps the fundamental flow of power in its sure and proper channels—contemporary questions of political conflict lose some of their obscurity. In our Republic, political power springs from the people in their States—or as Madison said, from the people in their separate sovereignties—”and out of the reservoirs of the States, some of this power flows on to the Federal sea. But the source is always in the people themselves; and it is a part of the beauty of the Constitution, when it is taken with the first ten amendments and treated as a whole, that it begins with the people—“We the People”—and it ends with the people, in that familiar reservation of power “to the States respectively, or to the people.”

”All authority belongs to the people,” said Jefferson, but he knew this principle would be forgotten. “The spirit of our times may alter,” he wrote in his Notes on Virginia; and then he corrected “may alter” to read “will alter” The spirit of our times will alter: “Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. They will be forgotten and their rights discarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights.”

Contemporary examples of the truth of Jefferson’s prophecy may be found at every hand. Yet the people have become careless not only of abstract principle but also of the political machinery by which our rights and powers are distributed. “The capital and leading object of the Constitution,” said Jefferson, “was to leave with the States all authorities which respected their own citizens only, and to transfer to the United States those which respected citizens of foreign or other States: To make us several as to ourselves, but one as to all others.”

It was this aspect of the Constitution that most captivated Tocqueville. He thought the Constitution of 1787 “the most perfect Federal constitution that ever existed,” the work of a small convention that contained “the finest minds and the noblest characters that had ever appeared in the new world.” No aspect of their genius seemed to him more appealing than the plan by which “each colony became an independent republic, assumed an absolute sovereignty,” and then took its place as one of the United States that form “not only Republic, but a confederation.” When Tocqueville wrote, in the 1830’s, he gazed with admiration on what he termed “the 24 small sovereign nations, whose agglomeration constitutes the body of the Union.” And he added: “The great principles which now govern American society undoubtedly took their origin and their growth in the State. We must know the State, then, in order to gain a clue to the rest.” To Tocqueville, the sovereignty of the Union was “an abstract being,” but the sovereignty of the States was “perceptible by the senses, easily understood, and constantly active.”

Yet this perceptive French critic, though some of his prophecies have proved as wrong as some of Madison’s and Hamilton’s, shrewdly foresaw the dangers to the federal plan he praised so warmly. The most fatal defect he saw in the Constitution at the time was “the relative weakness of the government of the Union.” He was certain this defect would be corrected in time, but then a greater danger would arise: “I cannot perceive,” he wrote, “that a nation can live and prosper without a powerful centralization of government. But I am of the opinion that centralized administration is fit only to enervate the nations in which it exists, by incessantly diminishing their local spirit.” The trouble, he added, is that when the social power is centralized in legislative hands, it often forgets “the maxims of wisdom and foresight in the consciousness of its strength. Hence arises its danger. Its vigor, and not its impotence, will probably be the cause of its ultimate destruction.

One hundred and thirty-five years after Tocqueville wrote, the acuity of his insight commands our admiration. It is indeed the vigor of our central government, and not its impotence, that steadily threatens to destroy the American confederation. We are encountering, in our own time, the very persuasive arguments Tocqueville anticipated: It would be said, he predicted, that the central government in Washington could manage local affairs much more efficiently and more uniformly, than local governments could manage them on their own. But he added reflectively: “It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquility of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life, and if it so monopolizes movement and life that when it languishes everything languishes around it; that when it sleeps, everything must sleep, and that when it dies the state itself must perish.”


It is important, in this discussion, to ask ourselves the key question of why? Why did the people, as the source of all political power, devise the finely balanced mechanism of the Constitution of 1787? The abstractions of sovereignty and the legalities of ratification to one side, why the States? The most cursory reading of the Constitution will disclose the vital role assigned them. Under the compact, they were to have equal representation in the Senate; their electors were to choose a President—”or if that failed, the States themselves, voting as equals, were to choose a President; the final power of constitutional amendment was to rest in the States as States, and not in a mere majority of the States but in not fewer than three-fourths of them; and finally, in that ringing amendment insisted upon by New Hampshire and New York as firmly as by Virginia and North Carolina, the States wanted it known that all powers not delegated to the central government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by the Constitution to the States, were reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The architecture of the Constitution is familiar to us all. The question that occupies our reflection is why the structure was designed this way. Two reasons suggest themselves, one negative, the other affirmative, and these are as applicable to our Union today as they were at the time of its formation. First, the founding fathers feared the excessive centralization of power; second, they wanted to secure the advantages of political experiment that arise from a diversified control of political authority.

Both doctrines are old; they were part of the fundamental principles Mason and Jefferson and Patrick Henry had in mind. Aristotle warned of the dangers that arise when a government of laws is corrupted by a government of men. In his Politics, Aristotle praises the rule of the law and says this: “Therefore, he who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man rule adds an element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men. The law is reason unaffected by desire.”

Two thousand years later, in the Virginia Convention of 1788, the same abiding truths were to be eloquently expressed. One of the most interesting men in that constellation of greatness was a rough countryman. William Grayson. On June 21, he arose to respond to the pleas of Madison, Marshall, Edmund Randolph, and others that greater trust and confidence should be reposed in the men—and especially the judges—who would occupy high office under the new Constitution.

”Mr. Chairman,” said Grayson, “it seems to have been a rule with the gentlemen on the other side, to argue from the excellency of human nature, in order to induce us to grant away the rights and liberties of our country. I have no doubt the same arguments were used in a variety of occasions. I suppose, Sir, that same argument was used when Cromwell was invested with power. The same argument was used to gain our assent to the stamp act. I have no doubt it has been invariably the argument in all countries, when the concession of power has been in agitation. But power ought to have such checks and limitations as to prevent bad men from abusing it. It ought to be granted on a supposition that men will be bad; for it may be eventually so.”

This same theme was sounded relentlessly by Patrick Henry: “I may be thought suspicious,” he cried, “when I say our privileges and rights are in danger. But, Sir, suspicion is a virtue, as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds. . . . Guard with jealous attention the public liberty! Suspect every one who approaches that jewel!” Henry was not persuaded that “we need not fear, because those in power, being our representatives, will not abuse the powers we put in their hands.”

”I am not well versed in history,” he said at another point, “but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers? I imagine, Sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny.”

George Mason was still another who sounded this alarm repeatedly in the Virginia Convention: “It is ascertained by history,” he said, “that there never was a government over a very extensive country without destroying the liberties of the people; history also . . . shows us that monarchy may suit a large territory, and despotic governments ever so extensive a country; but that popular governments can only exist in small territories. Is there a single example, on the face of the earth, to support a contrary opinion? Where is there one exception to this general rule? Was there ever an instance of a general national government extending over so extensive a country, abounding in such a variety of climates, where the people retained their liberty?”

So, too, with Jefferson. In a letter sent from Paris to Madison the December preceding the Virginia convention in June, he discussed at length the features he did not like in the proposed Constitution. There was no bill of rights; there was no positive provision for rotation of the presidential office; there was no clause expressly reserving to the States the powers not delegated to the central government. Jefferson was suspicious that too much authority would be concentrated in Federal hands. “I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government,” he said, “It is always oppressive.”

How were the oppressions of centralized authority to be avoided? Jefferson provided a thundering answer in his famed Kentucky Resolution: “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution!”

The chains rust. The prudent warnings of these great men go unheeded now. They looked upon government with a suspicious, jealous eye. “Too much suspicion may be corrected,” said Henry. “If you give too little power today, you may give more tomorrow. But the reverse of that proposition will not hold. If you give too much power today, you cannot retake it tomorrow; for tomorrow will never come for that purpose.” In our own time, a trustful and gullible people daily yield more of their liberties and responsibilities to the state, until government, like the Minotaur, feeds upon the very body of our freedoms.

What were the links the founding fathers forged—or thought they forged—that were to bind down our magistrates? The powers delegated to the Congress were accompanied at every hand by powers specifically withheld. The executive was set in check against the legislature, with a power in two-thirds of the legislature to override the executive. The President’s power to negotiate treaties was to be checked against the Senate’s right of advice and consent. Against both of these branches of government, the judiciary was to provide still a third check and balance, but the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was to be made subject, in certain particulars, to the powers of the Congress. And standing watchfully over the whole apparatus were to be the States themselves, holding the power of amendment, and ready (as they thought) to reassume their powers and withdraw from the Union if the peoples’ liberties should appear in danger. “Our peculiar security,” said Jefferson in 1803, “is in possession of a written Constitution.” Then he added a fateful warning: “Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.”

So much, then, for the first, negative, reason that explains the “why” of the States: The structure of the American Union was intended to prevent the accretion of excessive political power in the hands of the central government. With sound reason, our fathers feared such power. It was not that they loved order less, but that they loved freedom more.


There is a second, affirmative, reason for the reservation of undelegated powers to the States. Jefferson once summed it up in a blunt declaration that, ”Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government.”

The country was too large then; it is much larger now. The strength of our Federal super-structure lies in the fact that it rests upon fifty pillars, not upon one. Former Justice Burton remarked in a famous opinion that “the differing needs and customs of the respective States and even of the respective communities within each State emphasize the principle that familiarity with, and complete understanding of, local characteristics, customs and standards are foundation stones of successful self-government. . . . No national government, however benevolent, that governs over 130 million people in 48 States can be as closely in touch with those who are governed as can the local authorities in the several States and their subdivisions.”

Many writers have referred to the States as “fifty separate laboratories for experimenting in self-government.” The metaphor is apt. Political wisdom is not concentrated in Congressional retorts alone. It exists also in State capitals from coast to coast, and in the offices of State agencies. Here ideas may be tested individually: Georgia and Kentucky may experiment with an extension of the franchise to 18-year-olds; Nevada may experiment with gambling laws that seem unwise to other States; legislation dealing with highway safety, medical care, the regulation of labor, civil rights, air and stream pollution—in all these fields, the States, familiar with the needs and desires of their own people, may experiment with varying remedies. Some experiments will fail. Of course they will fail. Who should imagine otherwise? But if an experiment does fail, the consequences may be confined; and if an experiment succeeds, the good may be emulated.

This is one of the great “whys” of the States: Diversity in political solution, experimentation, refinement, innovation, the testing of governmental process on the hard anvil of trial and error. And to the extent the States are deprived of their powers in this regard, or discouraged in the use of their powers, the vitality of the Union as a whole inevitably must decline. More than this, the freedom of the people, and their responsibility for their own destinies, surely must be diminished. Uniformity is a benevolent god; smiling gently, he snuffs out the human spirit.

But it is often objected, by the advocates of a greater centralism, that “the States have failed to meet the needs of the people.” And if the States continue to fail to meet the needs of the people, it is said, the people must turn to Washington. This is a specious line of reasoning. The power to act embraces the power not to act; the power “to provide for a need” includes the power to conclude that a need does not exist. If a town or county or State refuses to build a certain school house, after public hearing and debate by the processes of representative government, is it to be said that the town or county or State has “refused to meet a need,” and therefore, the correcting hand of Washington must be summoned? This is nonsense. When the desires of articulate pressure groups become confused with the genuine needs of a prudent and thrifty people, the very essence of self-government is corrupted. We of Virginia have in the Congress 12 able men. What do they know of the local needs of Arizona or of Indiana? By what arrogance may they assume a wisdom superior to that of a State legislature in acting upon State needs? No. Organized blocs turn to Washington primarily for this reason: Because that is where the money is; and second, because the Congress is an easy mark. City Councils and State legislatures, close to their people, sensitive to reality, know when to resist. But the Congress is conscious of Aristotle’s maxim that a proposal “which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.” Accountability is spread thin on Capitol Hill.

Within the realm of their domestic concerns, the States have a right to be wrong—wrong, that is, in the view of other States and other peoples. This is not to say that the States have a right to be unconstitutional; they have a right to be “wrong,” and it is a travesty upon the political and judicial process that an action thought wrong or unwise is held to be, for that reason, unconstitutional. Courts ought never to concern themselves with the wisdom of the lawmaker, but solely with his power to enact. “State constitutions and State laws,” said Holmes, “may regulate life in many ways which we might think injudicious, or if you like, tyrannical.” This is the States’ prerogative, and judges have no authority to substitute their own policies out of some personal convictions of social or economic propriety. The States have an unquestioned right, Holmes said again, to engage in experiments that “may seem futile or even noxious to me and to those whose judgment I most respect.” Nothing in the Constitution requires Virginia to accept the social experiments that delight the California eye. Arizona is not bound in her domestic policies by visiting experts from the East. Indiana the power to bring to the local problems of Indiana the political wisdom of Indiana. Among many friends of individual liberty, the rent control that lingers in New York is seen as a violation of every great principle of property right and personal freedom. But this is New York’s business, not ours; and we of Virginia sometimes wish that New York would take the same tolerant view of matters that are our business and none of New York’s.


Now, if these ancient principles of government are sound (as we believe they are); and if they have been eroded by the avidity of our magistrates and the apathy of our people (as we believe they have); and if a responsibility exists to attack this erosion, what do we do about it?

We of this Commission have no warrant to serve as some platform committee for a Conservative party, assigned to set forth a complete statement of political objectives. We do suggest a few areas by way of example.

First, we would urge that everything possible be done, at whatever sacrifice, to stop the Federal juggernaut in its tracks. Let us press for a moratorium of Federal grants in aid, and insist that existing programs be held at present levels until a judicious and responsible rollback can be attempted.

We would propose further, that a plan be devised for gradual reduction, over a period of several years, of certain Federal programs that have distorted our structure in the past few decades. These cannot be abandoned summarily, and it is the worse sort of naiveté to cherish some illusion that they can. States and localities have been nursing on the Federal breast too long; the weaning process takes time.

But suppose it were said, for instance, that Federal grants for urban renewal—a program of the most doubtful constitutionality—would be steadily reduced in the future; suppose it were said that Federal shares of aid to various welfare recipients steadily would be decreased, that grants for local sewerage would decline, that schools would be expected to pay more of the cost for “free” hot lunches.

Obviously, a terrible cry would go up from the State and local officials charged with raising money and administering the many plans now subject to Federal aid. But their anguish might be quieted—and this is a necessary corollary to the whole proposal—if simultaneously tax sources now preempted or dominated by the central government also were relinquished to the States. Mr. Eisenhower once urged precisely this approach: He was agreeable to seeing the Federal tax on telephones repealed, so that the States could reenact it, if they chose, without additional burden to telephone subscribers. Nothing came of his plan, and Mr. Eisenhower did not push it. But the approach was essentially sound.

Other objectives present themselves for candid review: Existing tax policies make the formation of capital economic structure exceedingly difficult, and capital supports the entire economic structure. Those who would recur to fundamental principles should take the lead in seeking a continuing program of tax reduction and reform—a program that would leave to the people more of their earnings, make available to the private economy new reservoirs of capital, and in the end augment the revenues of government itself.

On another front, a determined effort should be made to get the government out of some of its business-type enterprises. Again, the divestiture of billions of dollars in property, involving the entrenched jobs of thousands of persons, cannot be accomplished in a twinkling. But in our despair at solving the problem as a whole, we ought not to abandon attempts to solve bits of it piecemeal. It is the very vastness of the Federal machine that overwhelms and defeats so many efforts to bring government under better control: Why save a million dollars, it is wearily asked, when a billion is being wasted away somewhere else? The answer is of course to resist the outpouring of non-essential billions, but realize that a flooded river is not brought back in its path. A levee is built one bag at a time. An orderly disposition of Federal surplus property, and a planned suspension of various Federal enterprises, provide reasonable goals for reasonable men to aim at.

Many other specific objectives could be enumerated. Senator Tower has suggested, for example, in his excellent covenant of conservative pledges, a renewed effort to obtain enactment of Representative Howard Smith’s “anti-pre-emption” resolution. This resolution passed in the House by a large vote in 1960 and narrowly failed in the Senate. Several amendments to the Constitution merit affirmative support: The old Mundt-Coudert plan, for instance, by which presidential electors would be chosen by congressional districts within each State, instead of by the States at large, has much to commend it. Sound principles of federalism support a revision of Article V by which the States themselves, without the intercession of the Congress, could submit proposed amendments to the Constitution directly to their sister States, which amendments would become part of the Constitution on approval of three-fourths of the States. A renewed dedication to old ideals would embrace a program of greater freedom for the farmer, greater freedom for the railways, greater freedom for the businessman, greater security for the worker’s right to work—and yet make it quite clear that we propose a return of neither dust bowls nor robber barons.

Finally, it may be suggested that no positions that might be taken at the national level will amount to much unless simultaneously, in ever State, a truly determined and active effort is made to promote constructive programs within our own bailiwick. The Governor of New York said in 1962:

“We stand upon the threshold of a new test of leadership at the State level. For so great and urgent are the demands of national defense and foreign policy upon all resources of the national government that now, as never in our history, are State governments challenged to face and meet the pressing domestic concerns of our society. We stand, in short, at an historic point in the long evolution of our federal idea. It summons us to remember and to apply a basic truth of American political history—the truth that our States are designed to be our great centers for political experiment. The time is upon us to assert again the older and more vital tradition, to call upon our States to be active where they have been passive, progressive where they have been timid, creative where they have been merely cautious. In a word, it is time for the States to lead.”

Virginia subscribes wholeheartedly to this view. If we will work in our States for genuinely constructive programs; if we will look forward to the 21st Century as often as we look back to the 18th, we may again see the great beacon light of constitutional government shining through the clouds that now obscure it. The eternal truths that govern man’s best and happiest relationship with the state are not dead. They are sleeping, and need only to be awakened and applied to the political problems of our own day and time.

—J. J. K.

June, 1964