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. Continue Reading →