tention that sovereignty resides in the American people in thernaggregate. But the original wording of the Preamble was in thernstyle of the Articles: “We the people of the State of New Hamprnshire, Massachusetts,” etc. This wording passed unanimously,rnbut was changed by the committee on style on the grounds thatrnit was not known which states would ratify. The change wasrnconsidered trivial and brought forth no response, as it wouldrnhave had it carried the radical meaning with which nationalistsrnlater endowed it.rnBut perhaps nothing shows more clearly the absurdity of thernnahonalist theory than the manner in which the Constitutionrnwas authorized. It was not ratified by majority vote of the 7mericanrnpeople in the aggregate but by the people of the respectivernstates. Each state ratified the ConstitLition for itself alone, withrnno authority to bind the people of another state. The questionrnof whether the new union would be indivisible was not raised atrnthe Philadelphia Convention. The would-be nationalists at thernConvention had been soundly defeated. And, having just votedrnto dissolve a union said to be “perpetual,” they were in no positionrnto argue that the new union would be indivisible.rnFrom the very beginning, and throughout the antebellumrnperiod, the Constihition was regularly described as a compact,rnthe union as a confederation, and, most importantly, as an “experiment,”rnimplying that it was divisible. This idiom was pubhclyrnestablished by Washington in his Farewell Address: “Isrnthere any doubt whether a common government can embracernso large a sphere? Let experience solve it.” It is, he continued,rn”well worth a fair and full experiment.” In only 60 years, experiencernwould show conclusively that the experiment of thernunion, having swollen to some ten times the landmass of Washington’srn”so large a sphere,” had failed.rnEveryone used the language of the compact theory because itrnwas nahiral to Americans. Under British rule, each colony negotiatedrndirectly with the Crown for its rights and duties. Havingrnbecome states, each saw its relation to the other in terms ofrna compact. Would-be nationalists were compelled to speak ofrnthe Constitution as a compact between sovereign states. Considerrnthe comforting words Madison had in the Federalist forrnthose who feared the states would be swallowed up into a politicalrnmarriage from which there could be no divorce. Ratification,rnhe said, “is to be given by the people, not as individualsrncomposing one entire nation; but as composing the distinct andrnindependent States to which they respectively belong.” Eachrnstate “is considered as a sovereign body independent of all others,rnand only bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation thernnew Constitution will . . . be a federal and not a national Constitution.”rnHamilton explained, in Federalist 28, how a state could protectrnitself from federal tyranny. The people would have the authorityrn”through the medium of their state governments, to takernmeasures for their own defense with all the celerity, regularity,rnand system of independent nations.” Even James Wilson couldrnspeak of the people of the states as sovereign: “those who can ordainrnand establish may certainly repeal or annul the works ofrnthe [cential] government.” These statements, by the most importantrnof the would-be nationalists, speaking the language ofrnthe compact theory, contain all the elements necessary for therndoctiines of state interposition and secession later developed byrnJefferson and Calhoun.rnHamilton understood that these consequences did follow,rnwhich is why he called the Constitiition a “worthless fabric.”rnBut he hoped that a clever administiation, by concentrating patronagernto the center, could “triumph altogether over the staterngovernments and reduce them to entire subordination.” In thisrnhe was right, but it would take time and would not be accomplishedrnwithout violence and the first modern total war directedrnagainst a civilian population.rnIt is important to understand that the compact theory was thernonly theory for the first 40 years of the union. There were, ofrncourse, criticisms of this or that act of state interposition orrnthreat to secede. But these did not constitute an alternative theory;rnthey were typically counsels of prudence or entreaties torngive the “experiment” a chance. In fact, Daniel Webster, whornbecame an eloquent defender of the new nationalist theory, beganrnhis career as a New England secessionist.rnBut nothing shows more clearly the deeply established beliefrnin the compact theory than the many acts of nullification andrnthreats of secession in every section of the union throughout thernantebellum period. State nullification was asserted in Jefferson’srnKentucky Resolutions (1798) and in Madison’s VirginiarnReport (1799). Connecticut and Massachusetts endorsed nullificationrnin 1808 and in 1814. Vermont nullified frigitive slavernlaws in 1840, 1843, and 1850. Massachusetts did the same inrn1843 and 1850, and declared the Mexican War unconstitutionalrnin 1846. In 1859, Wisconsin asserted the supremacy ofrnits supreme court over that of the U.S. Supreme Court (the latterrnhas jurisdiction only over those powers delegated to the centialrngovernment by the states). Northern governors used nullificationrnto block the unconstitutional centralizing policies ofrnLincoln. And there were many other instances.rnSecession was also considered an option available to anrnAmerican state. The region that most often considered secessionrnwas New England: over the Louisiana Purchase in 1803,rnthe embargo in 1808, over war with England in 1814, and overrnthe annexation of Texas in 1843. From the I830’s to 1861,rnNew England Abolitionists argued stiongly for secession of thernNorthern states from the union. Typical was this declaration ofrnthe American Anti-Slavery Society: “Resolved, that the abolitionistsrnof this country should make it one of the primary objectsrnof tiiis agitation to dissolve the American Union.” It is forrnthis reason that Abolitionists such as Horace Creeley and thosernwho wrote for Frederick Douglass’s Douglass Monthly couldrnsupport secession of the first Southern states that formed thernConfederacy. Jeffrey Hummel, in Emancipating Slaves, EnslavingrnFree Men (1996), has revived this Abolitionist argumentrnthat secession was the best way of dealing with the problem ofrnhow to end slavery.rnMany of the stiongest supporters of secession were NortheasternrnFederalists who had favored a nationalist constitiition.rnIf anyone was a nationalist, Couverneur Morris of New Yorkrnwas. He was a major figure in the Philadelphia Conventionrnand was disappointed in the Constitiition, but he knew it was arncompact between sovereign states and that secession was anrnoption. In 1812 he published an essay in the New York Timesrncalling for the secession of New York and New England to formrna more perfect union. This essay led to the Hartford Conventionrnin 1814 with the object of forming a New England Confederacy.rnFederalist William Rawle was head of the Pennsylvania barrnand a nationalist who was also disappointed in the Constitution.rnBut he too knew that the Constitution was a compactrnfrom which a state could secede. His widely acclaimed A Viewrnof the Constitution of the U.S.A. (1825) was one of the first com-rnFEBRUARY 1998/15rnrnrn