Covenant and Govt

Covenant and American Government

The Covenant between the States andthe Federal Government

TheTenth Amendment is a guarantee of the covenant between the states whoserepresentatives framed and ratified the Constitution and the new centralgovernment created by the Constitution. The Constitution is the covenant whichcontains that solemn agreement.

Theagreement between the several states and the new central government created bythe Constitution was really much more than a “deal” as it has sometimes beencalled. For those civil governments were governments which saw themselves asunder God’s authority, as subject to His providential blessings orchastisements for their faithful obedience or unfaithful disobedience to Hiseternal standards of rightness and justice. Really, the Constitution was acompact. Christian states—which had Christian constitutions, declarations ofrights or bills of rights, and laws—and the new Christian central governmentwhich they had authorized with the Constitution, for the Constitution was aChristian document.


AsMadison says in Federalist 39, the foundation on which the Constitution was established was“the assent and ratification of the people of America…not as individualscomposing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct an independentStates to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent andratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in eachState,–the authority of the people themselves.” And “Each State, in ratifyingthe Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all other,and only to be bound by its own voluntary act.”

Thatcovenant was also a covenant among the states, for every state which originallyratified the Constitution and joined the Union formed by the Constitution waswell aware of the intended meaning of the Constitution and went through anofficial deliberative process of considering the characteristics of theConstitution in order to determine whether or not it would join the otherstates—nations—in that Union under the Constitution. Each state ratified theConstitution as a state, not as an administrative subdivision of America as awhole, nor as a mere percentage of the populace of America. Each state ratifiedwith a full knowledge of its authority as a state, of the powers which it andits sister nations agreed to forbid to themselves, the powers which it and itssister states agreed to delegate to the central government, and the powerswhich it and its sister states agreed to reserve to themselves respectively. Inratifying our Constitution each state agreed with each other state to abide bythe terms of the covenant which united them.

Withoutthat “deal” between—and among—the several states and the new, stronger centralgovernment which the Constitution created there would have been noConstitution. Without that agreement there would have been no means of thepeople of the several states and of the Union enjoying the results of theimprovements which the new Constitution made upon the design of the Articles ofConfederation. For although the sentiment of nationalism was so strong andawareness of the weakness of their state was so acute that some of therepresentatives of the smaller states were willing to speak of surrendering the“sovereignty” (authority over its own affairs) of their state to secure anational government strong enough to protect them, such views were rejected bymost of the framers and ratifiers of our Constitution. Hence the Constitutionincorporated diverse protections for the authority of the states to governthemselves in most things, and diverse means by which the states could preventor resist encroachments upon their authority by the central government.

AgreementBetween States

Thenature of the agreement among the states and between the states and the centralor national government in our Constitution is at least the following:

1. Thecentral / national government is limited—very limited—in its authority andpowers.

2. Thecentral government has only the authority, only those powers, delegated to itby the states in the Constitution.

3.Although the central / national government has certain authority and powersover constitutionally specified areas of national concern, the centralgovernment does not have authority or powers over everything which may be saidto be of national concern or importance, for the states have only delegatedcertain powers to the central government. As Madison explained in Federalist39, “…the proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since itsjurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to theseveral States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.”

4. Thecentral government is not the sole determiner of its own authority, for thestate governments and the people of those states have the right and duty todetermine the meaning of the Constitution, the nature and extent of the centralgovernment’s authority and powers, and the nature and extent of the powers oftheir respective state’s governments.

5. Thestate governments are somewhat limited in their authority and powers. They arelimited in two ways. First, they have delegated some of their authority orpowers—the powers of nations equal in principle to the authority and powers ofany and all nations on earth, for they were free and independent nations afterthey won their independence from Great Britain—to the new central governmentwhich their representatives framed and ratified with the Constitution whichreplaced the Articles of Confederation. Second, they have forbidden themselvescertain other powers—as stated in the Constitution.

6.Although the state governments have denied themselves certain powers in theConstitution and assigned to the central government certain other powers inthat document, the state governments retain all other powers of “sovereign”states or nations: all other powers of self-governing nations.

7. Theauthority and powers retained by the several states, by the civil government ofeach state or the people of each state, are—and should be—far greater thanthose of the central government in the ability of the states’ governments totouch the lives of the people of their respective states. For the states haveonly delegated certain powers over international relations and specificnational concerns to the central government—and have retained nearly all otherpowers over their own domestic affairs.

8. Thuseach state is to be, and remain, a self-governing entity controlling its owninternal affairs. Humanly speaking, concerning its own internal affairs, eachstate is under the authority of its own people and constitution, and is to begoverned by its own republican government in accordance with its ownconstitution, bill of rights or declaration of rights, and laws.

9. Thecentral government may only interfere with the legislative, executive, andjudicial action of a state in the areas permitted by the Constitution.

10. TheConstitution of the United States does not speak clearly about who is the ultimateauthority in interpreting the meaning of the Constitution. It does not say thatthe officials or institutions of the central government have greater authorityor a greater duty than the officials or institutions of the state governmentsin interpreting the meaning of the Constitution. In fact, the Constitutionrequires the officials of the states’ governments—and ultimately the people ofthe states—to interpret the meaning of the Constitution in order to make theConstitution’s system of separation of powers and checks and balances work. Forfederalism, as Madison tells us in Federalist 51, is a system of separation ofpowers and checks and balances between the states and the central governmentwhich gives us “a double security to the rights of the people.” Thus the peopleof the several states and their elected representatives have a constitutionalduty to interpret the Constitution in order to protect their own rights andliberty against injustice or tyranny emanating from the central government: inorder to protect and preserve the original compact upon which our Constitutionwas founded and which our Constitution was designed to protect.

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