Saturday, August 7, 2010

pp. 37-38 A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa

What was the contradiction of the seceding states in 1860-1861 from a Jeffersonian standpoint? What did the southern states mean by compact and what did Jefferson and Madison mean?

Relevant Passage: Jefferson appeals throughout the Kentucky Resolutions to the principles of "compact," the Constitution itself being a particular compact."' The idea of compact is at the heart of American constitutionalism. It is at the heart of the philosophical statesmanship that made the Revolution, of which the Constitution is the fruit." In the most fundamental respect, compact is an inference from the proposition "that all men are created equal." If men were by nature unequal-that is to say, if some were horn with saddles on their hacks, and others booted and spurred-then it would be naturally right for those with the boots and spurs to ride those with the saddles. It is because there is no such inequality within the human species that legitimate government arises from compact or consent. In 1860-61, the "seceding" states also referred to the Constitution as a compact. From their peculiar understanding of its meaning, they found justification, not only for slavery, but also for their withdrawal from the Union. That understanding differed fundamentally from Madison's and Jefferson's, in that it severed the connection between human equality and the requirement of consent. They might consistently, even if erroneously, have denied both equality and consent; but they could not consistently demand the benefit of being ruled only by their own consent while denying that other human beings shared in that human nature that is the original and necessary justification for the requirement of consent. It is therefore of the highest importance that we understand the term "compact" as an expression of the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence and as the essence of the philosophical and constitutional statesmanship of the Revolution. This is the sense in which Jefferson and Madison understood it in 1798-99, a very different sense from that in which it was used by South Carolina and her spokesmen in the debates surrounding nullification and secession from circa 1831 to 1861.

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