Monday, February 16, 2009
WILL THE TIME COME FOR ANOTHER HARTFORD CONVENTION?
I have just spent some time with my AP classes studying and discussing the Hartford Convention of December 15, 1814 to January 5, 1815. This convention was convened in the New England area as a forum for the consideration of several constitutional amendments that would protect what were perceived as the interests of this section of the country.
Several government policies implemented by the Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson and later James Madison, had drastically affected the economic interests of New England. The Embargo Act of 1807, the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 were both passed in reaction to the impressment of American sailors mostly by Britain, that eventually led to the War of 1812. Jefferson mistakenly reasoned that the embargo would force the British to cease their impressments by causing pain in their economy. The embargo in fact, caused much more damage to the American economy generally, and the New England economy in particular.
The following Macon's Bill in 1810 was a feeble attempt to play the French and the British off against each other. The US promised to trade with whichever country would cease impressment and to ignore the other. Napoleon promised to treat Americans as neutrals in an attempt to strengthen the economic warfare of his Continental System. Madison saw through Napoleon's ruse and refused to believe his promise.
I bring this all up as a discussion point in response to Morgan's essay on Z's site, GeeeeeZ (see blogroll). My question is, how far can government go in alienating segments of America before something of this nature results? The Hartford Convention was significant in that it took to heart the Declaration of Independence that claimed a government that doesn't protect the rights of its people can be "altered or abolished." This principle was explored by Jefferson and Madison themselves in their Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798.
As we all know, perceived government injustice was at the heart of many of these uprisings throughout US history including Shay's Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion at the very beginning of the US, and later protests such as the Nullification Crisis of 1832 and of course the Civil War.
The Hartford Convention was not a call for seccession, but a call for a redress of grievances, echoing the First and Second Continental Congresses of 1774 and 1775. To say otherwise is to ignore the facts. For those who would accuse me of advocating an overthrow of the government, I include a summary of the proposed amendments to the constitution that was going to be presented in the burned out capitol in Washington D.C. The outcome of the convention was made moot by the Treaty of Ghent signed December 24, 1814 and the favorable outcome in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.
The Hartford Convention's final report proposed several amendments to the US Constitution. These attempted to combat the policies of the ruling Republicans by: 1) Prohibiting any trade embargo lasting over 60 days; 2) Requiring a two-thirds Congressional majority for declaration of war, admission of a new state, or interdiction of foreign commerce; 3) Removing the three-fifths representation advantage of the South; 4) Limiting future Presidents to one term; 5) Requiring each President to be from a different state than his predecessor. (This provision was aimed directly at the ruling Virginia Dynasty.) (Wikipedia, 2009)
Morgan's essay identifies several problems that are beginning to surface. Will the president and the majority party look to govern as Americans or as Democrats?