Saturday, August 4, 2012

AFE Chapter 3: Courts Under Crisis

The United States Congress assembled dragged itself miles to the courts in Rhode Island where they wanted to challenge the legality of the amendment. The initial proceedings were rather short, since both accused each other of circumventing the Articles of Confederation. Rhode Island claimed signing the "illegal" amendment showed they had no respect for the law and should be forced to repeal it. The confederal government came back by essentially calling the state government full of hypocrites, and saying that they had no respect for the law by carrying on with pre-amendment taxation and tariffs. 

The court was arguably biased towards the state, and ruled in the states favor. However, the central government noted a certain clause in the Articles: that the courts of 10 states had to agree with Rhode Island's ruling for the federal government to repeal it. The state did not object to this interestingly enough. It was noted that if the amendment was truly illegal, then all states would be required to rule against Congress. Obviously, central states that were initial supporters would be in support of congress, which means there would be no chance of it being repealed. That meant that the 75% clause actually worked in favor of Rhode Island, but only in order to repeal it. The state slightly glossed over the fact, but many others took notice.

After these initial proceedings, the amendment started really being put into action. The confederal government began to get a steady influx of funds after the taxes being split up between them and the states. This caused the militias to become a nationally funded entity rather than state funded. Congress also had the courage to ask states who had been carrying out it's own diplomacy, most notably Virginia, to cease doing that. It seemed like the nation was being tied together a little stronger, but some criticized it as a loss of states rights and liberties.

As the case moved through the courts of the various states, that contradiction mentioned above would be the scourge of Rhode Island. Not surprisingly, the states Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Deleware ruled in favor of the government. These states quickly started to gather the nickname "the Central Four" among the other states. The fist state to rule in Rhode Island's favor was Virginia, but only with a slight majority. The reason they did so was because of the incident where the federal government asked Virginia to cease participating in it's own diplomatic pursuits. North Carolina also ruled in Rhode Island's favor, but mentioned that they didn't care much for RH and that the ruling was to more to represent themselves. This comment pushed Rhode Island even further away from the rest of the states. Massachussets, Georgia, and South Carolina ruled in favor of the central government. Connecticut had no ruling, the court was absolutely split. 

Surprisingly, New Hampshire ruled in favor of Rhode Island, which went against the ratification vote. The state decided this because they particularly disliked the new federal militias. Men from all over the country would staff these, it was no longer an each state protect itself situation. Many people disliked that, especially the state with the motto "Live Free or Die." New York was on an especially slippery slope. As Alexander Hamilton's home state, they respected him and his ideals for central government and a strongly united country. On the flip side, the amendment seemed to be tearing the country apart, and they felt the country would be much better off without such divisions.

In the end, New York was not able to make a decision either. The final count stood at 7 in favor of Congress, 4 in favor of Rhode Island and 2 undecided. That meant no 75% majority, and no decision about what should be done. Congress decreed that, according to the Articles of Confederation, they should be the last resort in case of extreme debate or a tie. Of course, they made a "perfectly legal ruling that made the amendment officially legal."

Such a remark, that Congress could be the last one to decide in case of a need for a last resort, made many state leaders angry. The Virginian government would enter in talks with the central government for what it believed to be abuse of its power, which dragged the already exhausted Congress through yet another state court. Many people across the Unites States were concerned Rhode Island would do something drastic in response to Congress' decision. They in fact went past what anyone else expected them to do.

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