Are States Sovereign in America?

Reading through many postings I kept seeing recurring themes of disobedience, division, and a movement bent on secession and civil war. It became obvious that despite many Internet political readers being more rooted in our history there is a representative voice echoing the belief of a large number of citizens. Sparking the discussion were legislatures in Arizona, New Hampshire, Washington, and Oklahoma introducing a general warning the 10th Amendment still applies. (In June of 2008 Oklahoma actually passed the legislation by a 92 to 3 margin while most of us slept.)  Montana and Missouri are two examples of specific claims under the 10th Amendment with their focus on firearms and abortion.

There should be no surprise by those who believe this is a good movement others see it as a bad movement. In our lifetime states have not appeared to be sovereign nations unto themselves but merely a sub-category of government between the federal and city levels. Just as many believe we are a democracy the way history is taught combined with the changes we've instituted through Constitutional amendments and Supreme Court rulings it is easy to understand why opponents to this movement are confused.

The 16th Amendment created a system where the federal powers took money directly from the people and a funneling back to states began to occur. The 17th Amendment stripped the Legislative Branch from a true bicameral system of a Senate representing the states and a House representing the people to the facade of bicameralism as both chambers now represented the people. Even further back were the 14th Amendment alterations weakening the states sovereignty. Supreme Court cases over the past 60 years have given little credence to the 10th Amendment. However, we must remember the Supreme Court has given little credence to any of the founding principles since the 1930s. (For an analysis of SCOTUS assault read “The Constitution in Exile” or “Who Killed the Constitution.”) When we consider Constitutional Law classes in our country focus more on modern events than any attempt to first embrace the original intent of those founding the United States of America it is easier to understand the confusion over the sovereignty question.

Combine this with what many mayors across the country asked President Obama to do this past week and we cannot blame any citizen for believing we are one nation and states are merely a sub-category. Articulated during news appearances by Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, the mayors traveling to Washington D.C. did so to encourage the Stimulus Bill's quick passage and funds for cities are sent directly to the city without being filtered through the states. When mayors bypass governors while citizen watch without batting an eye who is to believe states are sovereign?

We've had this debate before when Federalist supporters (those actually wanting one nation) clashed ideologically with Anti-Federalists (those wanting recognition of states as sovereign nations). Would it surprise you to learn states, in the language of the day, were considered nations rather than a sub-category within a nation? In the Treaty of Paris King George III did not recognize one independent nation but 13 sovereign nations. According to Dr. Kevin Gutzman, “[b]ut sovereignty lay in the states. That was the first principle of American government.” (Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, p. 16) When this was last debated the words of the 10th Amendment were crafted to protect the power and sovereignty in the states as the Anti-Federalist clearly understood the tyrannical nature of a single, federal level control.

Are we to clearly abandon, once and for all, the key principles that helped in making us a great United States of America? Many of us have grown to accept two very dangerous ideas already. As this recent movement points out too many believe states are not now, nor should they be, sovereign. Also, as we will discuss in another article, too many believe we are a democracy. As keystones for securing our grand experiment are abandoned we crumble. Pause long enough to study our history and attempt to clearly understand your beliefs so you more clearly understand the direction you support.


Remember our history, not our modern traditions that are moving us toward representative democracy. Here is some recommended reading to help begin the stirring of our memory. Study these with friends and family as if you were studying the scriptures of your religion or the stats of your favorite sports team.

Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson's Account of the Declaration

Independence a Solemn Day by Richard Henry Lee

U.S. Constitution and Amendments

Federalist Papers

Anti-Federalist Papers

1828 Webster's Dictionary (learn the language of the founders)


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The most important thing we can all restore is conversation regarding politics.

2008 by Gary Wood

Columnist, radio show host, and co-founder of Hear My Thunder.

March of Liberty Radio Show Sunday's at 7pm EST

1828 Webster's Dictionary (learn the language of the founders)

Gary Wood

Gary Wood

I'm a simple man who has journeyed near and far. My experiences have taken me to foreign lands and across the country. One constant has guided me, there are great people and great beauty everywhere.I have loved, laughed, struggled and cried. My foundation is set in a belief of more good than evil, more fair than not, more time for admiration, less time for hate. I'm also a student of government and history who stands proud of our country's heritage and the oath I swore four decades past.
Gary Wood

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nolan Chart or its ownership


      • Steve Storck says

        I am an Objectivist; I have never heard Obama promoting the sovereignty of the individual. He is obviously part of the collectivist camp. States should have stronger authority than the federal government, but the individual is sovereign. If you understand that rights only apply to the individual, then this should make perfect sense to you.

  1. Noel Reyes says

    Each state should have sovereignty over its land and its people. The federal government should exist an all encompassing entity with its power derived from the combined sovereignty of all states. Novel idea idea, huh? But, why not? The federal government simply will not exist without the states..

  2. Jim Bedson says

    Either Obama is your God, or the God of the Bible is as expressed through juries of God given conscience in sovereign States. Do you want to be under color of law (can be legally unconscionable) or be entitled to that which is conscionable ? We had the juries of God given conscience at one time (The Most Trusted Folks In the State).

    Jim Bedson,

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