Abel Upshur Quote

“The Federal Government is the creature of the States. It is not a party to the Constitution, but the result of it the creation of that agreement which was made by the States as parties. It is a mere agent, entrusted with limited powers for certain specific objects; which powers and objects are enumerated in the Constitution. Shall the agent be permitted to judge the extent of its own powers, without reference to his constituent? To a certain extent, he is compelled to do this, in the very act of exercising them, but always in subordination to the authority by whom his powers were conferred. If this were not so, the result would be, that the agent would possess every power which the agent could confer, notwithstanding the plainest and most express terms of the grant. This would be against all principle and all reason. If such a rule would prevail in regard to government, a written constitution would be the idlest thing imaginable. It would afford no barrier against the usurpations of the government, and no security for the rights and liberties of the people. If then the Federal Government has no authority to judge, in the last resort, of the extent of its own powers, with what propriety can it be said that a single department of that government may do so? Nay. It is said that this department may not only judge for itself, but for the other departments also. This is an absurdity as pernicious as it is gross and palpable. If the judiciary may determine the powers of the Federal Government, it may pronounce them either less or more than they really are. ”

~ Abel Upshur

In his book, The Federal Government, Its True Nature and Character, 1868

Ratings and Comments

Dave Wilber, St. Louis

The book mentioned is available and valuable

Mike, Norwalk

extremely well said

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

I sadly regret that I have but one thumb to put down! This is so unbalanced, he fails to state that the States gave up their sovererignity when they created the Union of States. Obviously in the history of hierarchy there has never been a system in which the constituent members can jerk around the whole or each other. The Whiskey Rebellion was brought up the other day. A few counties in Western Pennsylania tried to take the law into their own hands. That ended in favor of and enhancing the power and authority of the Union. Mr. Upshur is on to something however in regards to "one department ruliing or judging for all". In the same manner a court only has jurisdiction within its geographic region. Thus if the Fifth Circuit rules a certain way in a case it does not control the law in the entire country only in the Fifth Circuit. Only when the case is adjudicated all the way to the Supreme Court does it become the Law of The Land. Thus States, Courts and Departments cannot dictate to the entire country. Arn't we glad we are a land of law and not dictators whether they be any of the above entities.

E Archer, NYC

Excellent -- it couldn't be clearer. Waffler, you are truly a deluded soul. All that is being said here is that the federal government is subservient to the states which are subservient to the people. It is YOU who argues for autocracy and totalitarianism.

Ken, Allyn, WA

It used to be common knowledge that governments were of the people, by the people, and for the people. Now it is just a platitude spoken by people who both want to rule and want to be ruled. People looked for their fascist dictator and they have found him.


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