Disunited States

We Created a Situation in Which the States Are at War with One Another

The words of the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution seem innocuous enough:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The United States of America didn’t suddenly come into being as a harmonious united country. Before there was a constitution, there was a document referred to as the Articles of Confederation, which were in force from 1781 until replaced by the Constitution in 1789. That initial document didn’t work out all that well because of some serious problems, such as:

  • Congress could not regulate trade
  • There was no uniform system of currency
  • The Federal Government (such as it was) had no power to tax
  • There was no independent judiciary, foreign affairs head, and no ability to deal with internal or external threats

In other words, the various states had all the power, and the Federal Government, virtually none. It seems to me that, even with the Constitution ratified by all the states, that some states still think they are in charge. That’s one of the major causes for the Civil War of 1861-1865—a conflict whose resolution has been partial at best.

Although I am a Citizen of the United States, there are some states which I would think twice before visiting; as I doubt but that my rights would be abridged.

When it comes to issues such as abortion, one can see clear cultural fault lines:

Foreigners visiting the United States are often surprised that, in some states, there is a different set of laws. If one is traveling from ocean to ocean, one could find oneself in a different legal situation not only from state to state, but sometimes from county to county—especially if you are trying to buy alcoholic beverages or marijuana products.

When traveling in Europe or Latin America, I faced no such situation, even in areas where there were strong cultural differences, such as in some of the islands off the coast of Scotland where the Wee Frees form a large part of the population.

So You Think You Know American History?

Who Was the First U.S. President?

Who Was the First U.S. President?

That doesn’t look a whole lot like George Washington, does it? George became President in 1789, but the United States was already a going concern (to some extent) by 1781. So what did the country do for the intervening eight years? Did it engage in anarchy?

Not quite. Before the Constitution was adopted, the law of the land of the United States consisted of the Articles of Confederation. As students, we didn’t study that eight-year period in depth, except maybe to note that these same Articles of Confederation were a condign failure.

Yet, there were eight U.S. Presidents of the Continental Congress, and therefore of the More-or-Less-United States, serving one-year terms under those same articles. They were, in order:

  1. John Hanson of Maryland (1781-1782, pictured above), who wanted to resign immediately because he had neither any compensation or power, but he manage to stick it out.
  2. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey (1782-1783) was next.
  3. Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania (1783-1784)
  4. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia (1784-1785), who wound up disapproving of the Constitution because it concentrated too much power—an early Tea Partier
  5. John Hancock of Massachusetts (1785-1786)—he’s the one with the oversized signature on the Declaration of Independence
  6. Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts (1786-1787)
  7. Arthur St. Clair of Ohio (1787-1788), born in Scotland
  8. Cyrus Griffin of Virginia (1788 only)

Only after Griffin’s presidency did the U.S. Constitution become formally ratified and George Washington elected the “first” President under the new rules.

For an interesting discussion of these eight presidents, who have become more or less lost to history, click here.