Sunday, July 31, 2011

Resolution VI of The Virginia Plan

Lawprof Kurt T. Lash has written some great articles on the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, among other things. A new article is always a treat. I haven't read it yet, but I see via Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory Blog that the good professor has a new article up at SSRN: "Resolution VI": The Virginia Plan and Authority to Resolve "Collective Action Problems" Under Article I, Section 8. The abstract is as follows:
In the past few years, a number of influential constitutional scholars such as Jack Balkin, Robert Cooter, Andrew Koppelman, Neil Siegel and others have called for doing away with the traditional principle of judicially limited enumerated power and replacing it with the principle declared in Resolution VI of the Virginia Plan originally introduced in the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. According to Resolution VI, federal power should be construed to reach all matters involving the “general interests of the Union,” those “to which the “states separately are incompetent” and those affecting national “harmony.” Resolution VI advocates maintain that, under this principle, Congress has power to regulate all collective action problems of national importance. In support of their claim, Resolution VI advocates argue that the members of the Philadelphia Convention adopted Resolution VI and sent the same to the Committee of Detail with the expectation that the resulting text would be based on this overriding principle of national power, and that they accepted the text of Article I, Section 8 as the enactment of Resolution VI. These scholars also claim (or rely on the claim) that Philadelphia Convention member James Wilson publicly declared during the ratification debates that the framers based Article I, Section 8 on the principle of Resolution VI.

A close reading of the historical sources, however, shows that the framers did not view Article I, Section 8 as having operationalized the general principle of Resolution VI and allowing federal action in all cases in which the “states separately are incompetent.” In fact, they expressly stated otherwise. Even more importantly, it turns out that there is no historical evidence that Resolution VI played any role whatsoever during the ratification debates. Claims to the contrary are based on an error of historical fact.
For those who are not familiar with it, the full text of Resolution VI, as reprinted in Farrand's Records, provided as follows:
6. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; that the National Legislature ought to be impowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation & moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, or in all which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual Legislation; to negative all laws passed by the several States, contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of Union; and to call forth the force of the Union agst. any member of the Union failing to fulfill its duties under the articles thereof.
Prof. Solum awards the article his "Download of the Week" prize and opines, "Highly recommended. Download it while its hot!" I've already done so.

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