"The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the states;
and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their nationality,
nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people.
If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact,
it would be difficult to disapprove its right of doing so, and
the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims
directly either by force or right."
Alexis de Tocqueville
(1805-1859) French historian
Democracy in America, 1835
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Reader comments about this quote:
If Lincoln had only heeded this!
 -- Shooterman, Beaumont, Tx     
    Brilliant. It's so easy to get caught up in the "bigger is better/more powerful" and forget that the states (or, more to the point, each and every state) is more powerful than the Federal government. "Federal laws" do *not* supercede state laws! (Although many government agents may want you to believe otherwise.)
     -- wuz2blu, Portland, OR     
    @ Shooterman: I was just coming to think about this as i was hitting "send" on my previous comment. I am sorry (and i apologize to you) that i didn't pay more attention to what you'd already said. Kudos to you, friend.
     -- wuz2blu, Portland, OR     
    Tocqueville, from the perspective of a legal and religious historian, had some great insight into the US's creation and that to which would make it great.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Shooterman, Beaumont is right. Read "Lincoln Unmasked" for more on "Honest Abe".
     -- jim k, austin,     
    I understand Lincoln and Karl Marx exchanged letters. It showed.
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
    Cal, Marx had plenty of influence on today's USA. (http://www.greaterthings.com/Constitution/Associates/10Marx_planks.htm) And for more on Lincoln / Civil War and other US wars, read John V Denson's "A Century of War". It will definitely open your eyes. States Rights should for sure supersede the crooks in DC.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    Yes, yes, yes, Please let this happen - my only reason for not wanting it to happen is that those states which are today more fundamental, and the antithesis of liberalism, will become more so and further the separation of the people of this continent - this will lead to its isolationism which for our children would be detrimental (but this could be overcome through creative alliances). America's policy up until the WWll was non-intervention and protectionism (and then we invade other sovereign states – what hypocrisy) - it wasn't until American corporations realized the profit to be made from war and a free market that they did 180 degree change. A free market only works when there are equal terms. The biggest component in any foreign trade policy is one of labor and its costs. If America continues along its present path we will have States wishing to secede and that may be a good thing for the continent – perhaps an alliance with regard to Security may be the only common denominator. Shooterman makes a valid point.
     -- RBESRQ     
    De Tocqueville left much to be desired in a lot of his writings and foundational thinking (he being influenced more by the French philosophies than by the foundational and established English philosophies that this country was built); however, this is great.
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
    De Tocqueville usually recorded things accuratelly as he saw them. The thinking of the day may have been correct as he stated it but the legal question of secession was still brewing. The trend since the revolution was for greater and greater union, thus the Constitution was wriiten "in order to form a more perfect union". All societies experience union and disunion voices. Great Britan has those in Scotland and Wales who want disunion. The French had trouble with those of Normandy or Brittany the Bretons, the Spanish with the folk in the NW province etcetera. In de Tocqueville's day the distance of the states from each other and from Washington made independence or secession more imaginable but today with travel and economic interdependency the idea is toally old hat. We are now virtually one state and the old state borders might just as well be eliminated.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    Montana is getting close to succeeding. Now they have distinct laws related to owning gun, manufacture of guns, manufacture and sales of ammunition and have refused to include Real ID in drivers licenses. By the way, New Mexico has started biometric imaging in drivers licenses without establishment of new laws. They simply use their current law, after failing a House Bill in 2005 or 2006 to coincide with Real ID. And the watch dog of civil rights, ACLU, went along with it. A new Federal HB2160 will require all states to share their biometric ID with the Fed government data bases. Closer and closer to one state.
     -- Juggs, Any Towm     
    de Tocqueville is wrong in my view. The states did not have separate nationalities. First of all they were only 13 years removed from being colonies of England and most folk considered themselves of English nationality. Of course their were the other various European immigrants groups but by and large the folk were English spoke English. I think he is totally off base to say that they were distinct nationalities. The separate colonies found their nationality when they realized that they were Americans and Continentals not mere regionalists.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    We were only a few votes from speaking German
     -- RBESRQ     
    Where did you get that info RBESRQ. As we know at least in this country language is not legislated but evolves. The language of the overwhelming majoirity of the colonists was English. The Virginia, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania residents all had their ancestry and nationality from England. To be speak of these colonists as separate nations is a real reach and I believe an error in de Tocqueville's perception.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    In addition each and all of the colonies were ruled by the same King and Parliament in London it was therefor somewhat natural for them to choose 13 years after freedom from London to espouse themselves or chain themselves (as some would have it) to another central government even if of their own choosing. Those who think that secession and this nationality thing is something else are just doing wishful thinking because they don't like the current or recent Washington scene.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    I agree with Waffler. Everything very well said. As far as understand, the Constitution of the United States - or of any nation - is never designed to include "withdrawn". Lincoln knew that it was in the young nation's people's best interest that the Union should be preserved so that a larger number of people of be able to enjoy the benefits of a stronger united nation. That assured, rights must be preserved and protected and differences must be worked out. Note: The three stars were in consideration to Monsieur de Tocqueville's conjectures on rights and freedom of choice, which are incorrect when it is about the constitution of a nation and The Constitution of a country.
     -- Elisabeth, Astoria, NY     
    de Tocqueville was right when he said it, and it was indeed the intent of the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution that each State was a sovereign state with its own Constitution. Just because people have twisted the word 'federal' into 'national' does not change facts. People should also remember that the American Revolution was unprecedented -- it was a revolution of the mind, of the idea that man was not born a slave or a subject of another man, king, or council. The King objected! And if our illustrious founders had been more enlightened, they would have freed the slaves, too, with the Declaration of Independence (but without unanimous consent, the declaration of Independence would never have been made). The same with Lincoln's war of southern aggression -- slavery was never the issue, the Emancipation Proclamation only emancipated the slaves of the seceding states, not those still in the Union. Again, it is about power -- the power of the ruling class over the people -- "you are ours!" FDR furthered the idea, and Obama is going even further. We have lost control of our government -- we keep electing 'leaders' when they are but 'rulers' -- we don't need to be ruled, we need to keep the so-called rulers in check and out of the public's business. Alexis is describing the sentiment of America in his day -- we have obviously come a long way, baby.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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