As Thomas E. Woods, Jr. points out in his book Nullification and his website Nullification: Answering the Objections : “If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, warned James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in 1798 on government powers, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on government power.”
The Virginia Resolutions of 1798 were drafted by James Madison and agreed to by the legislature of Virginia, James Madison referred to it as the “Duty” of the state to interpose between and federal government and the citizens of the state.
“and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.”
The Jefferson drafted Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99 followed the same logic “… that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism – since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the Constitution, would be the measure of their powers. That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and, That a nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.”
The Report of 1800 (sometimes called Madison’s Report or the Virginia Report of 1800) reaffirms The Virginia Resolutions of 1798; affirming that the states must Interpose themselves between the citizens of the states and the federal government.
There are numerous other examples of the states expressing their right to tell the federal government it has exceed its authority. The most modern examples of states refusing to go along with the federal government are the Real ID Act and medical marijuana.
There are those who say, “They have the power — in fact, the duty — to challenge laws they deem objectionable, but this must be done within the existing constitutional framework.” Which usually means electing new representatives or installing more “conservative judges.” That’s worked out well, hasn’t it? Asking the Supreme Court, an equal partner in the federal government, to rule that the legislature or the executive have over stepped their powers is like asking your mother-in-law to decide who is right in an argument between you and your spouse.
For the continued existence of the states under a federal system of government, the states must jealously guard their sovereignty and the sovereignty of their citizens. The division of powers between the states and Washington, like that between the branches of the federal government, serves as an impediment to the growth of an oppressive national central government. Nothing is more important than the vertical division of powers between the states and Washington – even more so than the horizontal separations of powers within the three branches. Madison stated that the most ardent opponents of a central government considered the state legislatures the “sure guardians of the people’s liberties” against violations from the federal government.
Madison addresses the importance of states holding the federal government in line in Federalist 51.
In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.
Our Declaration of Independence asserts that the people are sovereign and have natural rights. They have delegated some power to state governments for them to exercise for the general good. The states, with the consent of their citizens, passed some of those powers to a unified government to act as their agent to do specific enumerated things for the good of all the states.
One of the arguments is that states will use nullification as a way to seize more power for themselves. Which seems more likely: that the states would take back limited powers freely given to their agent, or that the agent would want to grow and would seize more powers from the states and the people?
It is obvious that the agent has grown ever bigger, and is consuming more and more power from the states and people. It is the nature of government to grow and to become less and less responsive to the people; this is what the founders feared most, and rightfully so. Our system of a divided government will only work if each part follows the written rules, and more importantly, all the branches restrain quests for more power by the others. The states have been letting Washington slowly chip away at their reserved powers for more than 100 years, and if this trend is not reversed, the states will be reduced to nothing more than provinces of an all powerful central government.
Finally, a decision must be made. There are only three choices for free people who fear an ever growing centralized government – submission, rebellion or nullification. There is only one choice that preserves our freedoms and our federal republican system of government and that is nullification. The time for action is slipping away. If we are to save our federal union, the states and our elected representatives must reassert state sovereignty. The future citizens of the several states will not hold us or our elected representatives who failed to protect their rights guiltless.
How do you want to be remembered?