Alexander Hamilton says, “No Exit.”
When the U.S. federal congress was given the power to do something, it clearly possessed the right to draft laws to execute that power. Nevertheless, to ensure that no one got any ideas about who was or was not under the power of those laws, the Necessary and Proper Clause and the Supremacy Clause were included in the U.S. Constitution. In Federalist 33, and in the context of the taxation question, Alexander Hamilton explains in clear terms why the Necessary and Proper Clause was (is) necessary and proper:
But SUSPICION may ask, Why then was it introduced? The answer is, that it could only have been done for greater caution, and to guard against all cavilling refinements in those who might hereafter feel a disposition to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities of the Union. The Convention probably foresaw, what it has been a principal aim of these papers to inculcate, that the danger which most threatens our political welfare is that the State governments will finally sap the foundations of the Union; and might therefore think it necessary, in so cardinal a point, to leave nothing to construction.
The Federalist Papers are nothing less than a Complete Treatise Against Exit. Our founding fathers knew that a Powerful Union would need all conflicts of interest between the states (slavery being the most prominent) to defer always to the interests of the One True State. To put it another way, in the interest of the State, the interests of the State are the only interests that matter. This is the principle upon which America as a nation was founded.
The State’s power is whole and complete, and its power is pointed in all directions, especially southward. Indeed, Alexander Hamilton knew that if he wanted to end slavery in the South, he simply needed to make the South part of the
North Union and enlist slaves to fight for the Union. In 1779, he wrote:
An essential part of the plan is to give [negroes] their freedom with their muskets. This will secure their fidelity, animate their courage, and I believe will have a good influence upon those who remain, by opening a door to their emancipation. This circumstance, I confess, has no small weight in inducing me to wish the success of the project; for the dictates of humanity and true policy equally interest me in favour of this unfortunate class of men.
Read it once more. If you didn’t catch it, perhaps you will the second time: one of the founding fathers thought that emancipation of slaves and the creation of the Union through revolution were one and the same project—or, at least, that the Revolution could be an opportunity for laying the groundwork for emancipation in the South. He surely was not alone.
I’m not arguing that slavery was moral. It wasn’t. However, it was primarily an economic immorality—it was wrong not because blacks were picking cotton and being mistreated but because blacks were picking cotton, being mistreated, and not being paid for it. Had plantation owners paid their laborers and allowed them some limited freedom of movement (a la the servants of the old English gentry), then slavery would have been no worse than the other forms of hard labor that were eventually ameliorated with technology and labor laws.
The point lies in how the Union solved the slavery problem—not by allowing time, technology, or incentives to do their work, or by leaving the South to its own immoral destruction, but by encompassing the South entirely under its moralistic, universalist, Puritanical power and saying, “You can’t do it that way.” No exit. This method set a dangerous precedent. Post-1865, it unleashed the leftward, ever-democratizing impulse of American politics, which was, of course, dormant but fully formalized in the nation’s embryonic state. I return you to the first Hamilton quote above.
(Had more of our founding fathers possessed the agrarian temperament of a Thomas Jefferson, the federal state may have contained seeds that would have blossomed into an eventual loosening of its own power. But that was an impossibility. Why would anyone drawn to the center want to loosen the power he finds himself embodying? Besides, agrarians don’t do well in the center by definition.)