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Article 6, Clause 2

Document 17

Impartial Examiner, no. 1

20 Feb. 1788Storing 5.14.4

Suffer me, then, in the first place to advert to a part of the sixth article in this constitution. It may, perhaps, appear somewhat irregular, to begin with this article, since it is almost the last proposed: yet, if it be considered that this at once defines the extent of Congressional authority, and indisputably fixes its supremacy, every idea of impropriety on this head will probably vanish. The clause alluded to contains the following words, "This constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby; any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary, notwithstanding." If this constitution should be adopted, here the sovereignty of America is ascertained and fixed in the foederal body at the same time that it abolishes the present independent sovereignty of each state. Because this government being general, and not confined to any particular part of the continent; but pervading every state and establishing its authority equally in all, its superiority will consequently be recognized in each; and all other powers can operate only in a secondary subordinate degree. For the idea of two sovereignties existing within the same community is a perfect solecism. If they be supposed equal, their operation must be commensurate, and like two mechanical powers of equal momenta counteracting each other;--there the force of the one will be destroyed by the force of the other: and so there will be no efficiency in either. If one be greater than the other, they will be similar to two unequal bodies in motion with a given degree of velocity, and impinging each other from opposite points;--the motion of the lesser in this case will necessarily be destroyed by that of the greater: and so there will be efficiency only in the greater. But what need is there for a mathematical deduction to shew the impropriety of two such distinct co-existing sovereignties? The natural understanding of all mankind perceives the apparent absurdity arising from such a supposition: since, if the word means any thing at all, it must mean that supreme power, which must reside somewhere in [a] state; or, in other terms, it is the united powers of each individual member of the state collected and consolidated into one body. This collection, this union, this supremacy of power can, therefore, exist only in one body. This is obvious to every man: and it has been very properly suggested that under the proposed constitution each state will dwindle into "the insignificance of a town corporate." This certainly will be their utmost consequence; and, as such, they will have no authority to make laws, even for their own private government any farther than the permissive indulgence of Congress may grant them leave.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 6, Clause 2, Document 17
The University of Chicago Press

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

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