Four of the nineteen Southern senators who helped draft a segregation manifesto, presented in both
houses of Congress on March 12, include (left to right): John Stennis ID-Miss.), Richard Russell
'D-Ga.i, Walter F. George (D-Ga.), who presented the manifesto in the Senate, and Som Ervin
iD-et.C.I. Rep. Howard Smith ID-Va.i presented the joint resolution in the House. One hundred one
members of Congress from eleven states signed a statement pledging use of "all lawful means" to
reverse the Supreme Court's 1954 decision outlawing segregation in public schools.
eign. . . . Sovereignty is retained by
the people of the separate states, since
all the people on whom the compact
is operative, having never formed a
sovereign entity, cannot retain that
which they never possessed, i.e., sovereignty."0
Dr. Wells challenges this concept of
state sovereignty, stating that the delegates did not and could not settle the
question as to the nature of the union
in such a decisive manner. "Rather,"
he says, "they compromised and left
a part of the question open for the
wisdom of the future. But they sought
above all to provide a national government adequate to 'the exigencies of
the union.' The Articles of Confederation in which the states explicitly retained sovereignty had created a political situation to which, one may suppose, no present-day American would
desire to return.
"The compact theory xvas, indeed,
discussed eet the Constitutional Convention. We are informed by Madison's note that L. Martin (Maryland)
'contended at great length and with
great eagerness that the general government was meant merely to preserve
state' governments: not to govern individuals: that its powers ought to be
kept within narrow limits.' But others
had different ideas. King, for example,
'conceived that the import of the
term "state sovereignty" had often
been used inaccurately and delusively.' The states were hardly sover-
eign in the accepted sense of the term.
They already had relinquished all
power to act in foreign affairs and the
"Robert M. Ranllolph, "Legal Basis for Inter-
I-..MI1MU," editorial page, The Dallas Morning News,
XIarch 1, 1956.
union of the United States now contemplated 'is a union of the men composing them, from xvhence a national
character results to the whole.'
"Which view was enacted by the
delegates — the compact theory or the
national theory? The most objective
answer is that neither view was accepted in its entirety. The famous
Connecticut compromise contemplated the states in both capacities, as
parts of the whole and as separate
political entities. As Madison remarked in Federal 39, 'The proposed
Constitution is in strictness neither a
national nor a federal constitution, but
a composition of both.' Is this not, indeed, the common sense of the matter?
The union is something more than a
mere compact but something less than
a consolidated system."7
Closely connected xvith the answer
to the states' rights or state sovereignty question is another, which carries with it tremendous political importance: Who is to decide when an
act of the federal government is
unconstitutional? The desegregation
decision was an interpretation by the
Supreme Court of the Fourteenth
Amendment, stating that segregation
is a violation of the portion that reads:
All persons horn or naturalized in the
United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the- United
States and eif the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any
law which shall ahridge the- privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United
States; nor shall any state deprive any
person of life, liberty, or property, with-
l.loyii vi. WeDs, "An Answer to Interposition,"
editorial page, The bulla. Morning News, Xiareh 3,
out due process of law; nor deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.
Based on psychological and sociological premises, the Court decreed that
Negroes subjected to forced separw
tion in public schools are being discriminated against, and are therefore
not receiving eeiual opportunities i»
education. Proponents eif segregation,
on the other hand, say that tlie "separate but equal" laws are adequate and
nondiscriminatory, and that they have
been so honored by many years of
precedent ancl interpretation by the
Supreme Court itself; therefore, the
Court committed an unconstitutional
act in attempting to abolish these state
Senator Strom Thurmond (D-S.C.)
points eiut the apparent inconsistency
of the Supreme Court when he seiys:
Historical evidence positively refutes
the decision of the Supreme Court in the
The 39th Congress, which in I860
framed the Fourteenth Amendment tei the
Constitution — the amendment which contains the- equal protection clause — ar#
provided feir the operation of segregated
se-hniils iii the- District of Columbia. ih'j
is positive evidence that the Congress uio
not intend to prohihit segregation hy the
Fourteenth Amendment. . , .
Between the decision in Plessy again**
Ferguson in 189fi and the- reversal "f th»'
opinion on May 17, 1954, 157 case's wore
decided on the heisis of the "separate- h"1
e-eieeal" doctrine. The United States Supreme Court rendered 11 opinions on ny
hasis; the United States court of appe»3
13; Unite-el State-s district courts, 27: an"
state supreme courts, including the U'*'
trict of Columbia, 106.
Such disregard for established doctrjfl
could be justified only if additional e*T
ilenee were presente-d which was not ava'^
able when the earlier decisions were retr
No additional evidence was present*!
to the Court to show the- e-arlie-r elee is'(1Ir
to he wrong. Therefore, the decision han
ed derwn on May 17, 1954, was contrOT
to the Constitution and to legal Prt'c
RIGHT TO INTERPOSE
In the words of Senator James i
Eastland, a champion of tin: theory ^
interposition, "The people and t-1
states did not create an agency son
rior to themselves, and they are •>
powerless to contest their own
struction at the hands of their et
tion. The right of state inte-rp<isj''1,t
exists because it has to exist. \\ i'" ii
such a right the Constitution "-v°
mean nothing."9 , g
Mr. Randolph maintains, in his .
planation of steite sovereignty. J
declaring an act to be unconstitutl%,
is the exercise of a sovereign P"\(1v
one not delegated to the federal Si
ernment nor denied to the states- -^
therefore retained bv them uneh'r
Tenth Amendment. Thus a state
"Sen. Strom Thurmond, C-mj-rrs.viimiv'
March 12, p. .'1949. ,/•
"Sen. Jamea O. EwtUnd, "The Coinm*"1
('<mviiiiit.<m Press, No. 20, p. 4.
Facts Forum News, June,
L ' Sow