The Essence of Liberty: Part 229 (1) The Imperial Judiciary: It Started with Marshall “The wolf by the ear”
The Essence of Liberty: Part 229 (1)
Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
A Summary of Gutzman, Kevin R.C. The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Constitution
(The book is available from the Ludwig von Mises Institute at http://www.mises.org)
Chapter 5: The Imperial Judiciary: It Started with Marshall
“The wolf by the ear”
Missouri applied for admission to the Union in 1819. The draft of their state constitution provided that slavery should continue in the territory. New York congressman, James Tallmadge, Jr. proposed that Congress amend the Missouri constitution to phase slavery out.
Jefferson knew that the Missouri dispute was the death knell for the Union . A geographical line had been established. Taking a metaphor from an ancient Greek proverb, he said, “We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”
To understand what he meant, we need to know two things. First, self-preservation was the highest goal of society. Only it could outweigh justice. Second, Jefferson’s memory of the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 (which resulted in the death or exile of every white person) caused him to expect similar results in the South—i.e. he feared that emancipation would lead to race war.
So, Jefferson opposed Tallmadge’s proposals on several grounds. First, he believed that the slaves would be better off if slavery were diffused across the whole continent instead of confined to the Southeast. Second, Tallmadge’s plan contradicted his concept of the Union. Congress could not impose conditions on a territory that would remain binding once it became a state. New states must be admitted on an equal footing with the other states—i.e. free, as other states, to make their own policies. After all, if a northern majority in Congress could impose its will on a state despite that state’s clear rights, what was to prevent the Yankees from doing the same to the older southern states?
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Jimmy T. LaBaume, PhD, ChFC is a full professor teaching economics and statistics in the School of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, TX. He does not speak for Sul Ross State University. Sul Ross State University does not think for him.
Dr. LaBaume has lived in Mexico and spent extended periods of time in South and Central America as a researcher, consultant and educator.
“Gunny” LaBaume is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. His Marine Corps career spanned some 35 years intermittently from 1962 until 1997 when he refused to re-enlist with less than 2 years to go to a good retirement. In his own words, he “simply got tired of being guilty of treason.”
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