Imagine the Possibilities

Speech to the Grand Opening of the Louisiana Chapter of the Tenth Amendment Center

I would venture to say that most of us are here tonight because we believe that the federal government is acting outside the boundaries set for it in its charter, the Constitution of the united States. So how do we deal with that? Do we rely on one branch or department of the federal government to halt the abuses of others? We have seen over the last century and more that this is futile.

There is another option to consider, and it is the main topic I wish to discuss with you tonight: state nullification.

State nullification, whereby a state refuses to comply with a federal measure that is not authorised by the Constitution, was first formulated in declarations of ratification such as Virginia’s in 1788 and later received a more formal definition in 1798 when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison penned the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, even though it had been practiced prior to that date.

In the Kentucky Resolutions, Jefferson laid down a series of constitutional principles. It began,

“Resolved, that the several states composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government…”

That statement alone is enough to shock many people today. But it gets better, much better.

“…but that by 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 party, 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 parties 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.”

Likewise, Madison in the Virginia Resolutions stated the following:

“…in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers [by the federal government], 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.”

Here we have both Jefferson and Madison explaining that each state, not the federal government, is to judge for itself in the final event whether a legislative act or an executive order or a judicial ruling is in violation of the U. S. Constitution because the states are the ones who created the federal government by writing and ratifying the U. S. Constitution.


Help for Gibson Guitars

The following is a letter I sent to both the Lt. Governor and Governor of Tennessee…


Dear Lt Gov Ramsey,

I have recently become aware of an ARMED federal raid on Gibson Guitars’ manufacturing facilities in Memphis and Nashville that took place on 24 August.  Despite evidence provided by Gibson that they are in compliance with the laws allegedly broken, the federal government refuses to drop the matter.

For more details, please follow this link:

While I live in Louisiana, how this conflict is resolved will affect me (and other States).  For if the federal government can act with this kind of violence and lawlessness toward my sister State of Tennessee without repercussion, then it is not a matter of IF such violations will happen again but WHEN and WHERE.


The negative effects of nationalism

War is coming. Not foreign but a war domestic, the war for control of Washington, D.C., in 2012. Look what hangs in the balance: energy and education policy, income and corporate tax rates, agriculture subsidies, environmental regulations, retirement pensions, the health care system, and more besides. Quickly! Quickly! To the blogs, to the streets, to the voting booth. Don’t yield an inch to the enemy. The future of the country is at stake!

My friends, this should not be so.

We are not naturally enemies of one another but neighbours. Yet we have allowed our political system to degenerate to such a degree that we now see one another primarily through the prism of party ideology, thus poisoning our relationships.

This degeneration stems from viewing the United States as one nation, one homogenous ‘people,’ rather than as a federation or league of separate communities, each with their own unique and separate identities: their own distinct religion, art, geography, dialect, history, economy, government, etc. The moment we lost sight of all these unique towns, parishes & counties, and states by focusing only on the individuals who live there and attempting to govern them all as one people who have identical interests (primarily from one capital), that is the moment disorder entered into our political system.


The hyper-regulating executive branch

Over at National Review Online, Jim Lacey has done everyone a favour by illustrating the utter contempt the federal government has come to have for the document that gives it its very life – the U.S. Constitution.  He draws a hideous picture of an executive branch engaged not in some occasional rule-making of a trifling sort, which would be bad enough, but in hyper-legislating, an unconscionable violation of the separation of powers between the Congress (in whom the power to write federal laws has been solely vested) and the executive branch:

‘The first Federal Register was issued in 1936. It contained eleven pages! For the first 147 years of the nation’s existence under the Constitution we somehow managed to get by with only eleven pages of regulations.  . . .  By 2008 the Federal Register contained 31,879 documents and 79,435 pages, while the Code of Federal Regulations comprised 163,333 pages in 226 individual books. Rules have been accumulating at a rate of nine pages a day since 1936.’

This unrestrained law writing by executive agencies, this ‘metastisizing’ of the regulatory state, as Mr Lacey rightly calls it, has occurred under the watch of both Republicans and Democrats and with the blessing, implicit or explicit, of all three branches of the federal government.

So what does Mr Lacey propose as a solution to this problem he is rightly grieved over?


Do federal elections really matter?

Do federal elections really matter?  The answer around the Tenth Amendment Center seems generally to be No.  Perhaps a more nuanced way of answering the question would be, in the near term, Yes, but in the long run, No.

The trouble is with the place itself.  Washington, D.C., has indeed become ‘ “the asylum of the base, idle, avaricious and ambitious” ’ that New York Anti-Federalist George Clinton predicted it would become (Bill Kauffman, Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet (hereafter FFDP), ISI Books, Wilmington, DE: 2008, p. XIII).  It has a culture all its own, and when elected officials go there to serve out their terms of office, that culture has an effect on them.

‘I have smelt/Corruption in the dish, incense in the latrine, the sewer in the incense,…’ (T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral (MitC hereafter), HBJ, New York: 1963, p. 67)

Luther Martin, an Anti-Federalist from Maryland, described that troubling effect this way:  ‘ “If he [a U.S. senator] has a family, he will take his family with him to the place where the government shall be fixed; that will become his home, and there is every reason to expect, that his future views and prospects will centre in the favors and emoluments of the general government….  [H]e is lost to his own State.” ’ (FFDP, p. 97)

Why should this surprise anyone?  ‘Their paymaster in the federal city, predicted Martin, will absorb their energies and loyalties.’  (FFDP, p.37)


We Must Choose Another Path

Nullification is perhaps the best kept secret of our country’s history. A textbook in recent use at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, American Passages, devoted a meagre five out of its 1,003 total pages to the subject. This despite the past use of nullification in states across the Union on a variety of objects, such as a national bank, federal violations of the freedom of speech and of the press, illegitimate uses of the federal taxing power, and unconstitutional Supreme Court rulings.

While the details of any act of state nullification, past or present, would be beneficial for timid elected officials or uninformed citizens to read and contemplate, one has especial significance for us in Louisiana because of the oil drilling ban the federal government has put in place in the Gulf of Mexico: the federal government’s embargo law of 1813 and the response of the State of Massachusetts.

The embargo law of 1813 was intended to punish Great Britain for harassing American vessels at sea by barring all American trade with Great Britain. But as J. J. Kilpatrick noted in his book The Sovereign States, ‘Trade with Britain was the lifeblood of New England.’ Because of the federal embargo, ‘That blood was being drained away.’


Mending our Illness

When looking at any sign advertising the price of gasoline or diesel fuel, the effect of the Obama administration’s drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico could not be clearer. And the full scope of the troubles wrought by this ban encompasses more than higher fuel costs alone.

Many seem to think that Louisiana and the other Gulf states are completely at the mercy of the federal government vis-à-vis offshore drilling. However, if Louisiana and her sister states are willing to study history and to show a modicum of courage and independence, there are steps that can be taken to mend what the federal government hath made ill.

The first step is recognising the fundamental characteristics of our polity. The United States are not, and were never intended to be, a centralised, homogeneous nation with an all-powerful federal government directing all aspects of the citizens’ lives, whether moral, political, or economic. No, the genius of our Union is the division of power between federal, state, and local governments; and the limited nature of government at each of these levels.


Freedom to Drill Act

The federal government persists in hindering efforts to begin new offshore drilling for energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the Louisiana State Sovereignty Committee (LSSC) contends that the states never did delegate authority over their territorial waters or seabeds to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution and therefore retain the authority…


The Commerce Clause super precedent

Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney-General for the State of Virginia, makes a cogent point in his interview with regarding the Commerce Clause of our federal constitution: Would the newly freed citizens of the 13 States have given the federal Congress and president more power to regulate their commercial activity in the Constitution of 1787 than the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain exercised over them when they were colonists? The answer of course is No. To quote Cuccinelli, ‘Otherwise, why rebel?’