An Old Contest Ended

November 19, 1870


The Southern States, and the Conservatives in particular, have called it quites in the war between the parties. They're will be no more fighting with the Federal Government, no more talks of succession going forward, as all of that was settled at the conclusion of the Civil War.


The war of parties so long waged in this country - a war begun in the convention which framed the Constitution - and which was carried into every convention that was called by the States to ratify that Constitution - the war between the States-rights men and the Federalists - is ended. It was'ended by the late war - it was ended by the States themselves, or those which held the power and transferred it to the Federal Government to crush the principle of States rights - to destroy the theory supported at one time by the majority of the people and by the ablest statesmen of the land - viz.: that the Federal Government was the creature of the States - that its powers were limited - that all powers not granted to it were reserved to the States - and that they could withdraw from the federation when their reserved rights were violated. The Federalists held the opposite doctrine - that the States were bound by the Union, and could not withdraw from it - that while there were rights conferred and reserved, the Supreme Court was the constitutional arbiter of their violation on either side.'The war settled the question against the States-rights party; but the party triumphant in that war went farther than ever the Federalists dreamed of going. They claimed the power of Congress to settle all questions of right between the Federal Government and the States, and furthermore Congress usurped both the Executive and judicial power of the Government.'While we believe it possible to bring back the Government to the proper division of the three departments of the Government, we do not believe that there will ever be reestablished a states-rights party like that before the war, or that the Federal Government will ever by its acts acknowledge any such theory as that maintained by that old party. Therefore it would be a party without, hope - a party with no real ground to stand upon. Whenever the Federal Government and a State comes into collision, the State must go to the wall. She will find no allies in the'other States. Men will maintain the obligation of the Government to enforce the'laws impartially and to respect the laws of the States when not in conflict with the'Federal laws. But it rests with the Federal Government whether the laws shall be so enforced or not. Our means are entirely civil. The Government is one of force, and whenever, as we said above, a State is placed in collision with it, that State must yield.'We are not prepared to deny that this condition in our confederation of States has not come in the natural course of political events. This country has grown immensely in power, and power is ever tending to centralization. The Government necessarily has to wield great force and authority to manage public affairs grown so vast in magnitude, and whether it is granted or not, the Government will clothe itself - by usurpation, if not to be obtained otherwise - with the authority it deems requisite for such enlarged responsibility. This is the teaching of history and we may as well profit by it.'There will be no more righting with the Federal Government. That has the force. The States will never unite against it. The only remedy left is to control it at the polls. Even that may not he left us long. While it Is, it should be used boldly and independently.'It is well enough for politicians to consider these things in forming parties, and undertake the construction of no idle platforms embracing past ideas. If we would succeed, we must direct our labors to things that are attainable and that belong to the days in which we live.'
About this article

Contributed By

Travis Terry




“An Old Contest Ended,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022,