Mr. Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle recently offered his opinion on the Georgia legislature’s proposal to nullify the Affordable Care Act. Other than the usual mockery and standard ACA-support quotes from the Democratic Party, Mr. Williams’ remaining water-tight argument against nullification came down to this: “American history tells us nullification as a practical approach to government was pretty much settled with the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War.”
Apparently, a war filled with blatant disregard for the Constitution coupled with hideous violence committed against northern citizens, and southern secessionists, was enough to permanently alter the basic nature of the American system. In fact, why don’t we just throw out that silly, irrelevant constitution-thingy anyway? It’s so inconvenient.
Simply put, raw violence only settles which side can most efficiently wield force. The Civil War proved the north had superior military might. Nothing more. It certainly didn’t “settle” the legitimacy of nullification, any more than punching Williams in the nose would prove me right.
Just for fun, let’s pretend the U.S. Constitution is a valid document that we’d at least like to consider before we bundle up our liberties and drop them to the street from our 71st story balcony. Could it be that the Constitution was intended to be just as the Founders described – a compact between sovereign States? A voluntary union that sets up a general level of government with limited, enumerated powers – all other powers remaining in the hands of the States and the people? If we’re willing to consider that possibility, then we must be willing to consider the possibility that the States’ authority supersedes federal authority in all areas except those listed in the Constitution. And the mechanism that Madison, Jefferson and even Hamilton described to assert that State authority over unconstitutional federal acts still stands.
As Jefferson so eloquently put it:
The several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.