by Kevin Gutzman
State nullification of federal policies has a venerable history. Not only is it currently being used by states across the country in opposition to federal policies regarding medical marijuana, Real ID, and Obamacare, and other matters, but its first formulation came from Thomas Jefferson, America’s foremost advocate of liberty, and James Madison, chief author of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
On June 14, 1798, President John Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts. One of those laws, the Alien Enemies Act, has been uncontroversial, but the others were highly problematic.
The reason was that they purported to empower Adams to expel aliens whom he adjudged dangerous and to ban American citizens from saying anything that tended to bring the government into ill repute. Under that provision, numerous prominent people, including leading Jeffersonian newspaper editors and even a Vermont congressman, were imprisoned for daring to write or speak against the Adams administration.Details