History has shown us there will always be people who lust for control of others and desire to shape events to their own will. In the USA, they find the door open when lack of understanding of the US Constitution is coupled with a real or perceived crisis. Even in recent times, it was reported that the expression, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, has been the basis for expansion of governmental control.
One of the historical examples that can arguably be cited as gross disregard for the words of the US Constitution is the creation of the state of West Virginia.
Let’s begin with the words of Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution:
“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union, but no State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State … without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States Concerned as well as of the Congress”.
Please reread that Quotation.
Timeline for West Virginia:
West Virginia became a state during the conflict between the Union and the Confederacy.
- March 11, 1861… Seven states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.
- April 12, 1861… Hostilities began.
- May 24, 1861… Virginia voted to secede and then joined the Confederate States of America.
- June 11, 1861… Representatives of 50 of the 160 Virginia counties met, calling themselves the Restored State of Virginia, and remained loyal to the Union.
- October 24, 1861… The voters of the 50 counties declared themselves to be the legitimate state of Virginia.
- June 20, 1863… The US Congress approved statehood for the area as the state of West Virginia.
During the Congressional debate to approve the new state, the measure was not without opposition.
Representative James Blaine of Maine noted the obvious fact that the government of West Virginia was granting itself approval to be formed within the jurisdiction of Virginia.
Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania confessed that there was no constitutional process by which the state could be admitted, but only by the absolute powers of war.
Even after West Virginia was admitted, Senator Davis of Kentucky stated, “I hold that there is legally and constitutionally no such state in existence as the state of West Virginia…”
Here we have had an exercise in mental gymnastics.
- The US government went to war to prove that Virginia was still a state in the US.
- The US government then recognized the Restored State of Virginia as the real Virginia, thus authorizing itself permission to become the new state of West Virginia.
- Thereafter, the war continued in order to prove that the government in Richmond was still that of the state of Virginia with no right to secede.
If that reasoning seems illogical, we could just agree with Thaddeus Stevens that superior military force had taken precedence over the US Constitution, and the members of Congress were free to violate their oath of office.
Did any of your history teachers ever touch on this little episode?