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[89]

For nearly two years after the first ratification, by Delaware in December, 1787, North Carolina held aloof from the Union, and for more than a year after the government went into operation, the great State of Rhode Island remained a free and independent nation. No attempt was ever made, or even suggested, to force them into the new Union, or to infringe even the least of their rights as free and independent States. The secession of the other eleven States from the old confederation, which was expressly declared to be a ‘perpetual union,’ furnishes the second precedent in our history for the exercise of State sovereignty when the exigency of circumstances demanded it.

If it be argued that the Constitution contemplated an indissoluble Union, and therefore makes no provision for the exercise of the sovereign right of a State to withdraw from it, it may be replied that the grant of certain powers to the general government for specific purposes, by plain implication, reserves a remedy for the abuse of those powers. That while the design of the Constitution was to form ‘a more perfect Union,’ it announces with equal emphasis its purpose ‘to establish justice’ and ‘to promote the general welfare.’ It was doubtless believed by the great men who framed it, that the administration of justice and a jealous concern for the welfare of all the States would be co-existent with the Union itself, which, bound together by these strong forces of attraction, might safely be launched upon the sea of national existence.

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December, 1787 AD (1)
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