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States Rights at the North--political anatomy.
by Geo. Fitzhugh.

[From an article written for De Bow.] The North is interposing, through her Governors, just as Virginia and Kentucky did in 1798-99, to restrict and control the action of the Federal Government. They have not as yet, like those two States, studiously elaborated a string of arborescent absurd and exuberantly fallacious reasons for their conduct. They have acted naturally and sensibly, and, like all individuals and communities who so act, are wholly unconscious of the motives which impel them. The Governors are the representatives, the impersonated sovereignties, of distinct and perfect nationalities. Each State is a perfect nation, because it has within itself all the parts or institutions that constitute distinct and full political sovereignty. Political sovereignty, separate nationality, or State sovereignty, is a physical anatomical fact, not a metaphysical deduction; a thing not reserved by compact, but inherent and natural; a thing which all the compacts, constitutions, and written parchments in the world can neither give or take away. A State is as purely a physical fact or being as a horse, and a much more complex one. It would be quite as easy to make a horse by ingenious wording on paper as to make a State. Ohio is a perfect nation, a nation at all points, just as Rozinante was a perfect horse; and when provoked to it, she will act as a nation, because it is part of her nature, and she can't help it. Let's anatomize her: she has a large and fertile territory, a people numbering millions, a distinct and peculiar common law and statute law, a judiciary of her own, a militia or army, a legislature, and a sovereign ruler — called Governor, Gerbernator, or Helmsman — a much more comprehensive and significant term than King, Czar, or Emperor.

Virginia and Kentucky, in '98 and '99, broke their halters, and neighed and kicked up their heels in a most defiant and sovereign way. Nothing wiser or more natural than the action of those States; nothing more absurd than the reasons assigned for it. We repeat, ‘"Our ancestors never did a weak thing, and never said a wise one."’

In 1856 Gov. Wise had called on the other Southern Executives, and was prepared, in event of Fremont's election, to assert and maintain, in the most practical manner imaginable the inherent, natural, physical sovereignty of Virginia. The Governor was probably the first to discover that States-Right is a physical fact, not a metaphysical abstraction. He never did belong to the metaphysical States-Rights school — that of Madison, Jefferson, and Calhoun — but, in 1856, and again after the John Brown raid, led the physical school in an astonishingly earnest fashion. We ought to have in all our Colleges and Universities a Professor of Political Anatomy. Such a chair, well filled, would prevent the repetition of such absurdities as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Virginia Bill of Rights, and the resolutions of '98-'99.

It would teach that legislators and statesmen must take States, nations, and institutions as God and Nature had formed them, as they had grown up, and not attempt to create them. Doso, and tinker, and mend, and revise their institutions as Moses and Confucious, Lycurgus and English Alfred did; but not profanely attempt, like Locke and Jefferson, and Abbe Sierges, to make them out and out.

States-Rights are never in danger so long as State political organization remain with adequate military strength to defend and maintain that organization. Institutions — natural, prescriptive institutions — are the only checks and balances of power, the guarantees of right, and the defences of liberty. There can be no such thing as consolidation; no great or dangerous Federal or Confederate Government, until the present separate political organization of the States is destroyed, and they become fused into one homogeneous whole.

We have often attempted to show in the pages of this Review that States'-Rights is a physical fact and necessity, resulting from the political anatomy of each State, and we embrace the occasion of the uprising of the Northern Governors to exemplify, illustrate, and establish our theory. Had Lincoln learned political anatomy he would have understood the great difference between counties and States. Like the comparative anatomist or naturalist, he would have seen at a glance that a county or a city corporation was but a part, limb or member of a sovereign political being; and that it was, like the arms and legs of man, dependent and subservient, and not sovereign.

Had the old Federalists or modern National Republicans understood political anatomy, they never would have mistaken the United States for a people or nation; for the Federal Government had neither a people nor a territory, the most essential elements or constituents of nationality.

Had the Southern States-Rights School understood it, they would have relied on the structure, institutions, and anatomy of the States to prove that they were sovereign political beings, and on the structure and anatomy of the Federal Government to show that it was a mere league, and that no form of words whatever could divest the States of their sovereignty, so long as their institutions or political organization remained in tact; and no form of words could make the Union a nation, because a nation is a physical social being, having and requiring physical limbs and members, just as animals have and must have limbs and members.

To organize a nation, one must first have a people and a territory. The most cunning and ingenious writings, charters, and paper constitutions, cannot conjure a nation into existence. A confederacy is all that can be made out of sovereign States, word your constitution, league, or agreement as you will.

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