Nullification is a Constitutional Principle

There is no easier way for tyranny to take hold than for a People to remain silent when they know, or should know, what their rights are. There is no easier way for a government to usurp the natural rights of a People to govern themselves than for them to stand by and let that government legislate when it has no authority to do so.

The early colonists certainly didn’t miss an opportunity to stand up for their rights. In fact, the Sons of Liberty formed (much like today’s Tea Party and Tenth Amendment Center) to point out where Britain was violating their rights and to help organize opposition and protest. Samuel Adams, the leader of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, wrote the following in 1769 with these words:

DEARLY BELOVED,

REVOLVING time hath brought about another anniversary of the repeal of the odious Stamp Act,—an act framed to divest us of our liberties and to bring us to slavery, poverty, and misery. The resolute stand made by the Sons of Liberty against the detestable policy had more effect in bringing on the repeal than any conviction in the Parliament of Great Britain of the injustice and iniquity of the act . It was repealed from principles of convenience to Old England, and accompanied with a declaration of their right to tax us; and since, the same Parliament have passed acts which, if obeyed in the Colonies, will be equally fatal. Although the people of Great Britain be only fellow-subjects, they have of late assumed a power to compel us to buy at their market such things as we want of European produce and manufacture; and, at the same time, have taxed many of the articles for the express purpose of a revenue; and, for the collection of the duties, have sent fleets, armies, commissioners, guard acostas, judges of admiralty, and a host of petty officers, whose insolence and rapacity are become intolerable. Our cities are garrisoned; the peace and order which heretofore dignified our streets are exchanged for the horrid blasphemies and outrages of soldiers; our trade is obstructed ; our vessels and cargoes, the effects of industry, violently seized; and, in a word, every species of injustice that a wicked and debauched Ministry could invent is now practiced against the most sober, industrious, and loyal people that ever lived in society. The joint supplications of all the Colonies have been rejected; and letters and mandates, in terms of the highest affront and indignity, have been transmitted from little and insignificant servants of the Crown to his Majesty’s grand and august sovereignties in America.

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Who coined the name “United States of America”?

by Jon Roland, Constitution Society

In another forum a participant took the position that the authoritative version of the Declaration of Independence was not the one signed by the members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, but the versions printed and sent to the states, which changes in capitalization and punctuation of some of the words. That is not correct.

The editorial changes from the original signed document to the copies that were transmitted to the states did not change the meaning. The document is its meaning, not the details of language or style, and an accurate translation into another language would be the same document.

As a hypothetical, suppose the printers had changed the meaning in some substantive way. Would their version then have been the authoritative one, even though it was not confirmed by the Continental Congress? Suppose the printer had inserted the word “not” in some of the copies, sent to some but not all of the states, changing the meaning from declaring independence to not declaring independence. Would the states that got the “not” have remained subject to Britain while the others were independent? Nonsense. The authoritative act was the voice vote to declare independence on July 2, not the signed document, which was evidence of the act, not the act itself.

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A Founder’s Proclamation of Universal Truths and the Frogs Desiring a King

In an letter addressed to the citizens of Maryland, Convention Delegate and Maryland Attorney General, Luther Martin explained his motives for withholding support for the newly constructed general government prior to ratification of the Constitution.

This letter was published in the Baltimore Maryland Gazette on April 4, 1788. The thought provoking sentiments of Mr. Martin are as true today as they were in his era. Especially regarding the history of mankind and negative traits of human nature when they exert undue influence upon societies. Mr. Martin exposes the deficiency of a Bill of Rights to the charter, while proclaiming commons sense principles necessitous for establishing a virtuous system of governance.

To the Citizens of Maryland,

If those, my fellow citizens, to whom the administration of our government was about to be committed, had sufficient wisdom never to err, and sufficient goodness always to consult the true interest of the governed, – and if we could have a proper security that their successors should to the end of time be possessed of the same qualifications, it would be impossible that power could be lavished upon them with too liberal a hand.

Power absolute and unlimited, united with unerring wisdom and unbounded goodness, is the government of the Deity over the universe! But remember, my fellow citizens, that the persons to whom you are about to delegate authority, are and will be weak, erring mortals, subject to the same passions, prejudices and infirmities with your-selves; and let it be deeply engraven on your hearts, that from the first history of government to the present time, if we begin with Nimrod, and trace down the rulers of nations to those who are now invested with supreme power, we shall find few, very few, who have made the beneficent Governor of the Universe the model of their conduct, while many are they who, on the contrary, have imitated the demons of darkness.

We have no right to expect our rulers will be more wise, more virtuous, or more perfect than those of other nations have been, or that they will not be equally under the influence of ambition, avarice, and all that train of baleful passions, which have so generally proved the curse of our unhappy race.

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How Do We Determine the Original Meaning of the Constitution?

How do we determine the meaning of the Constitution? Where do we ultimately find the authoritative source for original understanding? Do we look to the Supreme Court? To the Federalist Papers? To notes from the Philadelphia Convention?

Actually, we should look to the ratifiers. They were the ones who represented the people and agreed to approve the Constitution. Jefferson affirmed this idea.

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

This video, with narration from the audio version of Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty, explains this idea in more depth.

WATCH IT:

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Should ALL laws be enforced? Madison said NO!

In a day and age when the federal government is despised, out-of-control and has so many laws on the books that it makes your head spin, there is at least one ‘conservative’ who is concerned that the federal government isn’t dishing out enough law and order.

In a recent post at the conservative legal blog Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki finds it appalling that the Department of Justice is celebrating the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. He doesn’t feel this way because of his opinion on DOMA, but rather he is concerned that the law is being disrespected by the Obama administration.

“I am clearly not alone in being concerned about the unwillingness of state and federal officials to defend the duly-enacted laws of their states. Indeed, refusing to defend the law and acquiescing in an adverse judgment against it seems tantamount to a retroactive veto by the Executive Branch. If Eric Holder is ‘delighted’ that the law is invalid, wouldn’t the appropriate response in our system of government be for the President to propose the repeal of the law with which he disagrees, rather than effectively retroactively vetoing it?”

Zywicki has a point about the law being disrespected by the Obama administration. From drone murders, to illegal surveillance, to arming drug gangs as a pretense to curtail gun rights, to funding Islamic extremist dictators, the Obama administration has made a complete mockery of the rule of law in America. But the recent DOMA ruling isn’t the case to complain about. Whether you support the decision or not, the idea of state non-compliance with federal laws shouldn’t be on trial here. The problem with our country clearly isn’t the fact that too many states have rebelled against the edicts of the federal government. On the contrary, it has been the states routinely jumping into the federal snake pit that has gotten us into this mess.

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The true meaning of the 4th of July

This coming Thursday, many of us will have a day off from work and be home to have a barbecue, watch the fireworks and proudly fly our American flag.

This uniquely American holiday is a time to reflect on the greatness of our Nation and its people.

However, it is not really a time to celebrate as “Americans”. It is a time to celebrate as sovereign people of the States. The Fourth of July was the day (it was actually a few days earlier) the people of the thirteen colonies through their representatives in the Congress, declared to the world that they were now independent and free States. Free from the King and Parliament and a centralized government. However, it would take a long and bloody war to actually permit these newly independent Sates to remain free.

The Declaration of Independence was signed by men who knew they were risking their “Lives, fortunes and sacred honor”. According to the King, they were all traitors who warranted death.

When the war finally came to a successful end the King and Parliament had no choice but to declare that the thirteen States were now free. The first Article of the Treaty of Paris that ended the war stated:

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Majority Wrong, Justice Thomas Right, in Arizona Immigration Case

NOTE: This is the first of several short commentaries on recent Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that portions of Arizona’s immigration law violate federal statutes. In his dissent, Justice Thomas relied heavily on my own research.

The Independence Institute did not participate in that case. So how did it happen that I was cited? In 2010 the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law published my article on the original meaning of a constitutional provision relevant to the decision. The provision is Article I, Section 4—which the Court called the “Elections Clause,” but is more accurately entitled the “Times, Places and Manner Clause.” The Clause provides that the states may regulate the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,” but that Congress may override most of these regulations.

In the article, I discuss exactly what the Founders meant by the phrase “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections,” and how Congress’s power over its own elections should be interpreted.

The recent case involved whether Arizona’s requirement that voters show proof of citizenship when registering to vote violated federal law. The Court had to decide how widely to read a federal statute and how widely to read Congress’s authority under the Times, Places and Manner Clause.

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A Founder’s Case Against A ‘National’ Government

File:LutherMartinBig.jpgOn June 27-28, 1787, for over three hours, Luther Martin, Maryland’s Attorney General and delegate, objected vehemently on the floor of the Constitutional Convention. Transcripts of Mr. Martin’s remarks were recorded into history by Robert Yates (NY) and James Madison (VA). Madison was author of the Virginia plan, which Mr. Martin vigorously debated at regular intervals throughout the Convention.

Upon his arrival at the Philadelphia Convention, Luther Martin pondered possible remedies, as was his charge, to amend the Articles of Confederation, ratified and adopted March 1, 1781. An air of mystery presided over the statehouse, as the founders and framers conducted the work of the Grand Convention.

Mr. Martin reflected on his arrival to the Convention, on June 9, 1787, in a speech given to the Maryland Delegation on November 29 of that same year.

When I joined the Convention I found that Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, had laid before the Body certain propositions (the Virginia Plan) for their consideration, and that the Convention had entered into many Resolutions, respecting the manner of conducting Business, one of which was that seven states might proceed to Business, and therefore four states composing a Majority of seven, might eventually give the Law to the whole Union.

Different instructions were given to Members of different states – The delegates from Delaware were instructed not to infringe on their Local Constitution – others were prohibited their assent to any duty in Commerce: the Convention enjoined all to secrecy; so that we had no opportunity of gaining information by a Correspondence with others; and what was still more inconvenient, extracts from their own Journals were prohibited even for our own information.

One of the critical issues debated after the introduction of the Virginia Plan was the distinction between the differing types of general governments, particularly a federation and a national government. A federation exists by a compact, or contract, resting upon the good faith of the states, contrasted with a national government exercising complete control over the operation of the states. The nationalist position of the Virginia Plan was repulsive to many delegates, including Mr. Martin, who opposed the prospect of a central government. He argued it would consume the sovereignty of the states.

Beginning his remarks on the floor of the Constitutional Convention, Mr. Martin addressed the function of a general government.

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Who Needs the Tenth Amendment?

The Tenth Amendment wasn’t really necessary.

Wow! A pretty shocking statement from somebody who works for the Tenth Amendment Center, huh?

But it’s true.

Why?

Because the Tenth Amendment, along with its partner the Ninth Amendment, don’t really DO anything.  In fact, if those two amendments didn’t exist, the Constitution would remain unchanged. The federal government would still operate with only a few delegated powers, and all other power would still remain with the states and the people.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments are “rules of construction.” In other words, they tell us how to read the original document. They don’t add anything to the Constitution, and they don’t take anything away. The Ninth and Tenth simply make explicit what was already implicit in the original construction of our founding document.

The enumeration of specific powers in Article 1 Sec. 8 (along with the other delegated powers sprinkled through the rest of the Constitution) naturally preclude the federal government from exercising any other powers. In fact, many in the founding era didn’t see the point of including the Ninth or Tenth Amendments, or even a Bill of Rights, arguing that it was self-evident that enumeration excluded any other authority – Designato unius est exclusio alterius – a legal maxim meaning, “the designation of one is the exclusion of the other.”

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