You have to give Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce credit. He’s consistent.
He’s also wrong. Conspicuously, unrepentantly wrong. But at least he’s consistent.
We first encountered (and refuted) Pierce a couple of months ago when he blasted the documentary Nullification: The Rightful Remedy. Now Pierce is back and as ignorant as ever about nullification. This time he takes on Ron Paul, or as Pierce calls him “Crazy Uncle Liberty”, for Paul’s recent comments in support of nullification.
As he has previously done, Pierce smears nullification by attempting to draw a link between it and the Civil War. Back in September I wondered what fantasy version of history Pierce believes that would cause him to view the Civil War as a conflict over nullification. We still have no answer to this question, but Pierce remains mired in the fantasy.
Pierce’s attempt at linking the Civil War to nullification falls flat because the linkage is, of course, erroneous. That is, it is erroneous unless Pierce is referring to the southern states’ citation of the northern states’ nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act as a reason for secession. I suppose that Pierce, being such a staunch opponent of nullification and so desirous of avoiding conflict at all cost, would have been happier if escaped slaves had been rounded up and shipped back to the plantation.
Pierce’s assertion that the Fourteenth Amendment somehow “put(s) to rest” the doctrine of nullification is similarly unfounded. One is hard-pressed to find anything in that amendment that would make nullification unconstitutional. Furthermore, the so-called Incorporation Doctrine, to which Pierce is apparently appealing, has been proved to be utter nonsense, historically speaking.
Even more ignorance is on display when Pierce claims that James Madison, unlike that dolt Thomas Jefferson, “at least spent the rest of his life trying to distance himself” from nullification. Pierce gleefully recounts how “Andy Jackson brought (Madison) out of the bullpen to kick John C. Calhoun in the teeth on the subject.”
I guess Pierce missed that part of history class where his hero Jackson ethnically cleansed Native Americans, kicking them off of their own land and killing at least 4,000 people in the process. It seems an odd omission by someone so preoccupied with the carnage of the Civil War. But, hey, Jackson opposed nullification, so all is forgiven.
Nevertheless, Pierce is dead wrong about Madison distancing himself from his support of nullification. While it is true that Madison opposed South Carolina’s nullification movement in 1832, he opposed its form, not the principle.
Pierce concludes that nullification is “a dangerous and idiotic theory” because, presumably, large-scale centralized power is totally harmless and oh so reasonable. In order to believe this, however, we must ignore the history of the 20th century, when massive centralization resulted in world wars, genocide, the obliteration of civil rights and economic devastation. Totalitarian governments, free from the checks of smaller political units, were finally able to wreak the greatest amount of havoc against their hapless civilizations.
There is nothing unique in Charles Pierce’s opinions. They’re a dime a dozen among people intent on ignoring the lessons of history. But in smearing nullification as “dangerous”, he necessarily argues in favor of the single most destructive political force the world has ever known. The most despotic tyrants of centuries past would have given their crowns for the unquestioned support of centralized power from toadies like Pierce.