Thursday, November 15, 2007

Was The Louisiana Purchase Unconstitutional? II

One member of the House of Representatives correctly noted that those who expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the treaty were confusing two different points.

During the debates over the treaty, Representative Joseph Hopper Nicholson of Maryland asserted that there were two separate constitutional issues, "though gentlemen had very ingeniously blended them, and considered them as one." Nicholson identified the first issue as "[w]hether the United States, as a sovereign and independent empire, had a right to acquire territory." The second, he said, was "whether they [the United States] could admit that territory into the Union, upon an equal footing with the other States."

Putting aside whether the objections, so framed, have any merit, at least they make sense: I can understand what they are.

Let's turn now to the treaty itself to understand the sources of the concerns.

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