Independence Hall Home Search Contents Indexes Help

Article 4, Section 3, Clause 1

Document 6

Luther Martin, Genuine Information

1788Storing 2.4.99--107

By the third section of the fourth article, no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction or any other State, without the consent of the legislature of such State.

There are a number of States which are so circumstanced, with respect to themselves and to the other States, that every principle of justice and sound policy require their dismemberment or division into smaller States.--Massachusetts is divided into two districts, totally separated from each other by the State of New-Hampshire, on the north-east side of which lies the provinces of Main and Sagadohock, more extensive in point of territory, but less populous than old Massachusetts, which lies on the other side of New-Hampshire.: No person can cast their eye on the map of that State but they must in a moment admit, that every argument drawn from convenience, interest, and justice require that the provinces of Main and Sagadohock should be erected into a new State, and that they should not be compelled to remain connected with old Massachusetts under all the inconveniences of their situation.

The State of Georgia is larger in extent than the whole island of Great-Britain, extending from its sea coast to the Missisippi, a distance of eight hundred miles or more; its breadth for the most part, about three hundred miles. The States of North-Carolina and Virginia in the same manner reach from the sea coast unto the Missisippi.

The hardship, the inconvenience, and the injustice of compelling the inhabitants of those States who may dwell on the western side of the mountains and along the Ohio and Missisippi rivers to remain connected with the inhabitants of those States respectively, on the atlantic side of the mountains, and subject to the same State governments, would be such, as would in my opinion, justify even recourse to arms, to free themselves from, and to shake off, so ignominous a yoke.

This representation was made in convention, and it was further urged, that the territory of these States were too large, and that the inhabitants thereof would be too much disconnected for a republican government to extend to them its benefits, which is only suited to a small and compact territory: That a regard also for the peace and safety of the union, ought to excite a desire that those States should become in time divided into separate States, since when their population should become proportioned in any degree to their territory, they would from their strength and power become dangerous members of a federal government. It was further said, that if the general government was not by its constitution to interfere, the inconvenience would soon remedy itself, for that as the population increased in those States, their legislatures would be obliged to consent to the erection of new States to avoid the evils of a civil war; but as by the proposed constitution the general government is obliged to protect each State against domestic violence, and consequently will be obliged to assist in suppressing such commotions and insurrections as may take place from the struggle to have new States erected, the general government ought to have a power to decide upon the propriety and necessity of establishing or erecting a new State, even without the approbation of the legislature of such States, within whose jurisdiction the new State should be erected, and for this purpose I submitted to the convention the following proposition;--"That on the application of the inhabitants of any district of territory within the limits of any of the States, it shall be lawful for the legislature of the United States, if they shall under all circumstances think it reasonable, to erect the same into a new State, and admit it into the union without the consent of the State of which the said district may be a part." And it was said, that we surely might trust the general government with this power with more propriety than with many others with which they were proposed to be entrusted--and that as the general government was bound to suppress all insurrections and commotions which might arise on this subject, it ought to be in the power of the general government to decide upon it, and not in the power of the legislature of a single State, by obstinately and unreasonably opposing the erection of a new State to prevent its taking effect, and thereby extremely to oppress that part of its citizens which live remote from, and inconvenient to, the seat of its government, and even to involve the union in war to support its injustice and oppression.--But, upon the vote being taken, Georgia, South-Carolina, North-Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, were in the negative. New-Hampshire, Connecticut, Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, were in the affirmative. New-York was absent.

That it was inconsistent with the rights of free and independent States, to have their territory dismembered without their consent, was the principle argument used by the opponents of this proposition. The truth of the objection we readily admitted, but at the same time, insisted that it was not more inconsistent with the rights of free and independent States than that inequality of suffrage and power which the large States had extorted from the others; and that if the smaller States yielded up their rights in that instance, they were entitled to demand from the States of extensive territory a surrender of their rights in this instance; and in a particular manner, as it was equally necessary for the true interest and happiness of the citizens of their own States, as of the Union. But, Sir, although when the large States demanded undue and improper sacrifices to be made to their pride and ambition, they treated the rights of free States with more contempt than ever a British Parliament treated the rights of her colonial establishments, yet when a reasonable and necessary sacrifice was asked from them they spurned the idea with ineffable disdain. They then perfectly understood the full value and the sacred obligation of State rights, and at the least attempt to infringe them where they were concerned, they were tremblingly alive and agonized at every pore.

When we reflect how obstinately those States contended for that unjust superiority of power in the government, which they have in part obtained, and for the establishment of this superiority by the constitution. When we reflect that they appeared willing to hazard the existence of the union rather than not to succeed in their unjust attempt--That should their legislatures consent to the erection of new States within their jurisdiction, it would be an immediate sacrifice of that power, to obtain which they appeared disposed to sacrifice every other consideration.

When we further reflect that they now have a motive for desiring to preserve their territory entire and unbroken, which they never had before--the gratification of their ambition in possessing and exercising superior power over their sister States--and that this constitution is to give them the means to effect this desire of which they were formerly destitute--the whole force of the United States pledged to them for restraining intestine commotions, and preserving to them the obedience and subjection of their citizens, even in the extremest part of their territory:--I say, Sir, when we consider these things, it would be too absurd and improbable to deserve a serious answer, should any person suggest that these States mean ever to give their consent to the erection of new States within their territory: Some of them it is true, have been for some time past amusing their inhabitants in those districts that wished to be erected into new States, but should this constitution be adopted, armed with a sword and halter to compel their obedience and subjection, they will no longer act with indecision; and the State of Maryland may, and probably will be called upon to assist with her wealth and her blood in subduing the inhabitants of Franklin, Kentucky, Vermont, and the provinces of Main and Sagadohock, and in compelling them to continue in subjection to the States which respectively claim jurisdiction over them.

Let it not be forgotten at the same time, that a great part of the territory of these large and extensive States, which they now hold in possession, and over which they now claim and exercise jurisdiction, were crown lands, unlocated and unsettled when the American revolution took place--Lands which were acquired by the common blood and treasure, and which ought to have been the common stock, and for the common benefit of the Union. Let it be remembered that the State of Maryland was so deeply sensible of the injustice that these lands should be held by particular States for their own emolument, even at a time when no superiority of authority or power was annexed to extensive territory, that in the midst of the late war and all the dangers which threatened us, it withheld for a long time its assent to the articles of confederation for that reason, and when it ratified those articles it entered a solemn protest against what it considered so flagrant injustice:--But, Sir, the question is not now whether those States shall hold that territory unjustly to themselves, but whether by that act of injustice they shall have superiority of power and influence over the other States, and have a constitutional right to domineer and lord it over them--Nay, more, whether we will agree to a form of government by which we pledge to those States the whole force of the union to preserve to them that extensive territory entire and unbroken, and with our blood and wealth to assist them, whenever they please to demand it, to preserve the inhabitants thereof under their subjection, for the purpose of encreasing their superiority over us--of gratifying their unjust ambition--in a word, for the purpose of giving ourselves masters, and of rivetting our chains!

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 1, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Easy to print version.

Home | Search | Contents | Indexes | Help

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000