From Founding Fathers To Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South


By James Rutledge Roesch

436 pages


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“The United States” was a confederate union, created by the acts of the peoples of sovereign States.  In the Constitution they delegated specific, limited powers to a federal government that was to handle certain matters common to them all.  It was nobody’s intention to create a government of unlimited and eternal power.  No honest student can doubt that the Southern “state rights” interpretation of the Constitution was the correct one, however much condemned by the lies and bluster of centralists.  The case has been re-made by   truth-seekers in every generation.    James Rutledge Roesch has made the case afresh for our own times, bringing to light much new and original evidence and reasoning.

James Roesch here sets himself the worthy task of describing the southern states’-rights tradition, which is the basis of the Declaration of Independence and much else, in its foremost advocates’ own words. Lay and expert readers alike will find much in this tome to admire.
—Kevin R. C. Gutzman, author of James Madison and the Making of AmericaVirginia’s American Revolution, and Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary

Mr. Roesch’s frustration with the status quo in politics is palpable in this book, and rightfully so. For the careful reader Roesch makes clear that the current political order’s illness will not be cured by election cycles. To cure the disease (centralization) it is first necessary to diagnose the extent of the disease and provide the appropriate hard medicine (robust States’ Rights). The body politic will survive, either as a centralized secularized system devouring its opposition and enslaving the rest, or as a revitalized decentralized system of self-governing States. Consider this book as a vaccination for patriots in the 1776 and 1861 vein, making them immune to the disease of centralization. Even the best intentioned patriots, once infected, become either the Behemoth’s fodder or its unwitting serfs.
—Dr. Marshal DeRosa

Rarely does a book come along that fairly and accurately presents the antebellum constitutional thought of the notable writers and thinkers of the American South. . . . Here, for the first time in many, many years, we are presented with the writings of such luminaries as Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, St. George Tucker, John Taylor of Caroline, John Randolph of Roanoke, and others about the role the States actually played in the formation of the Union and the profound difference that makes in understanding the constitution. Roesch makes it absolutely clear that “the great treatises of the Old South prove that the constitutional doctrine of State’s rights was never a pretense for slavery, but reflected a deep passion for self-government that was rooted in southern culture, as well as an earnest understanding of the constitution.” This book is long overdue and will serve as a valuable resource for honest, thinking Americans to assess, for themselves, the meaning of the nation’s organic law and, consequently, the nature of our federal Union. I heartily recommend it.
—Kent Masterson Brown, author, Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign

Additional information

Weight 1.7 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 1.1 × 9 in