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Construction Construed, And Constitutions Vindicated

by John Taylor

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Taylor, John. Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated. Richmond: printed by Shepherd & Pollard, 1820. iv, 344pp. Reprinted 1998 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. LCCN 97-49411. ISBN 1-886363-43-9. Cloth. $65. One of the major works of the Virginian John Taylor of Caroline [1753-1824]. Little-known today, Taylor's work is of great significance in the political and intellectual history of the South and is essential for understanding the constitutional theories that Southerners asserted to justify secession in 1861. Taylor fought in the Continental army during the American Revolution and served briefly in the Virginia House of Delegates and as a U.S. Senator. It was as a writer on constitutional, political, and agricultural questions, however, that Taylor gained prominence. He joined with Thomas Jefferson and other agrarian advocates of states' rights and a strict construction of the Constitution in the political battles of the 1790s. His first published writings argued against Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton's financial program. Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated was Taylor's response to a series of post-War of 1812 developments including John Marshall's Supreme Court decision in McCulloch v. Maryland, the widespread issuance of paper money by banks, proposals for a protective tariff, and the attempt to bar slavery from Missouri. Along with many other Southerners, Taylor feared that these and other measures following in the train of Hamilton's financial system, were undermining the foundations of American republicanism. He saw them as the attempt of an "artificial capitalist sect" to corrupt the virtue of the American people and upset the proper constitutional balance between state and federal authority in favor of a centralized national government. Taylor wrote, "If the means to which the government of the union may resort for executing the power confided to it, are unlimited, it may easily select such as will impair or destroy the powers confided to the state governments." Jefferson, who noted that "Col. Taylor and myself have rarely, if ever, differed in any political principle of importance," considered Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated "the most logical retraction of our governments to the original and true principles of the Constitution creating them, which has appeared since the adoption of the instrument." Later Southern thinkers, notably John C. Calhoun, were clearly indebted to Taylor. Sabin, A Dictionary of Books Relating to America 94486. Cohen, Bibliography of Early American Law 6333.



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