Congress Loses Control Over the States

June 21, 1866


Congress feels that if it loses control over the new states it readmits, it will never again regain control of the nation as it has now.


Congress may admit new States, but a State once admitted ceases to be within its control, and can never again be brought within it. What changes her people may at any time think proper to make in her constitution is a matter with which neither Congress nor any department of the Government can interfere unless such changes make the State government anti-republican. It then it can only be done under the obligation to guarantee that it be republican. In the third section, article 4, of the Constitution, to admit new States, to what extent they can under that power interfere in the formation and character of the constitution of such States preliminary to admission into the Union, no one has ever pretended that when that is had the State can again be brought within its influence. The power is exhausted when once extended, the subject forthwith is raising out of its reach. The States admitted, like the original thirteen States, become at once and forever independent of congressional control. A different view would change the entire character of the Government, as its framers and their cotemporarics designed and understood it to be. They never intended to make the State governments subordinate to the General Government. Each was to move supreme within its own orbit, but as each would not alone have met the exigencies of a government adequate to all the wants of the people, the two, in the language of Mr. Jefferson, constituted "coordinate departments ot one single and integral whole," the "lie having the power of legislation and the administration " in affairs which concerned their own citizens only ; the other, "whatever concerned foreigners or citizens of other States," Within their respective limits each paramount. The States as to all powers not delegated to the General Government are as independent of that Government as the latter in regard to all powers that are delegated to it is independent of the governments of the States. The proposition, then, that Congress can, by force or otherwise, under the war, or insurrectionary, or any other power, expel a State from the Union or reduce it to a territorial condition, and govern it as such, is utterly without foundation. The undersigned deem it unnecessary to examine the question further. They leave it upon the observations submitted, considering it perfectly clear that States, notwithstanding occurring insurrections, continue to be States of the Union. Thirdly, If this is so, it necessarily follows that the rights of States under the Constitution, as originally possessed and enjoyed by them, are still theirs- and those I they are now enjoying, as far as they depend upon the executive and judicial departments of the Government. By each ot these departments they are recognized as : States. By the one, all officers of the Government required by law to be appointed in such States have been appointed, and are discharging without question their respective functions. By the other they are, as States, enjoying time benefit, and subjected to the powers of that department, a fact conclusive to show that, in the estimation of the judiciary, they are, as they were at first, States of the Union, bound by the laws of the Union, and entitled to all the rights incident to that relation. And yet, so far, they are denied that right ; which the Constitution properly esteems as the security of all the others- that right, without which government is anything but a republic is, indeed, but a tyranny- the right of having a voice in the legislative department, whose laws bind them in person and in property. This, it is submitted, is a state of things without example in representative republican government : and Congress, as long as it I denies this right, is a mere despotism. Citizens may be made to submit to it by ; force or dread of force ; but a fraternal spirit of good feeling towards those who I impose it, so important to the peace and prosperity of the country, are not to be hoped for, but rather unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and enmity.
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Brooke Beam




“Congress Loses Control Over the States,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 1, 2023,