A reader of my Nullification in a Nutshell took issue with my use of Madison as a proponent of state nullification due to the fact that he later wrote against it. Here is what I wrote in response:

I was aware that Madison later changed his tune on nullification, Mr. Ressa, as your quotes from the 1830’s, more than 40 years after the ratification of the Constitution show. I chose not to delve into that fact in this short intro to nullification because it’s quite beside the point. Madison was notoriously inconsistent in what he espoused and what he later claimed to mean. Look at his opposition to a national bank only to charter the 2nd one when President. He was against it before he was for it.

What is important is that Madison and other proponents of the Constitution told the public that there would be horizontal and vertical checks and balances in order to get the Constitution ratified. The ratifiers’ subjective understanding of what the Constitution would be, which you can determine from the assurances by proponents like Madison and Hamilton as well as the debates at the state ratifying conventions, is what is important. The ratifiers are the ones who gave the Constitution its legal effect not the writings of Madison 40 years later. I see you’ve researched this subject a lot, Mr. Ressa, so I simply ask you research a little more into the writings of historian Kirk Wood. Please check out the following before you so easily dismiss the constitutional power of the states to nullify unconstitutional laws.


You fear the states checking federal power via nullification might lead to anarchy. In reality, we all now know the opposite leads to federal tyranny.

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