President Thomas Jefferson said his “oath to protect the constitution” REQUIRED him to refuse to enforce the Sedition Act at “every stage.”
He not only pardoned those convicted under it when he assumed office, he also ordered his district attorneys to stop prosecutions because he could not permit the continued enforcement of a law he BELIEVED, but was not yet “ruled” unconstitutional.
The so called “Enforce the Law Act of 2014” passed by the imperial house of representatives this week flies in the face of what Thomas Jefferson taught us.
NO. The president should not just blanket-enforce ALL laws of congress.
No one in their right mind should want that either, especially when 98% of what Congress passes is unconstitutional.
Some very constitution-minded representatives voted in FAVOR of this bill.
UPDATE 03-15, 15:36: The source for this comes from Jefferson’s letter to Abigail Adams in July 1804
“I discharged every person under punishment or prosecution under the Sedition law, because I considered & now consider that law to be a nullity as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image; and that it was as much my duty to arrest it’s execution in every stage, as it would have been to have rescued from the fiery furnace those who should have been cast into it for refusing to worship their image.”
– Letter to Abigail Adams, 1804
each department is truly independent of the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the constitution in the cases submitted to its action; and especially, where it is to act ultimately and without appeal.
Also note that Jefferson wasn’t alone in this view.
James Madison referred to the power and role of the executive branch to refuse to enforce acts of congress in Federalist #44. He noted that the “success” of acts of congress would “depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts.”
In short – those acts wouldn’t always be successful because one or the other branches might create roadblocks to their implementation.
George Washington also felt he had a duty to resist what he regarded as unconstitutional acts from congress. The most clear example – his refusal to turn over documents relating to the Jay Treaty.
In 1796, the House of Representatives tried to force Washington to submit documents that related to the treaty. Washington refused and insisted that the House possessed no constitutional authority to determine treaties. He didn’t wait for the courts to adjudicate. He simply made his own determination of constitutionality and acted the same.
This is just a brief overview of what some leading founders had to say about the role of the executive to refuse enforcement of congressional acts.
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