In 2016, the world will witness a Civil War.

However, it will not on be fought on the streets of America, but on the big screen.

Marvel’s Civil War is destined to draw huge money all over the world – and I do not think its theme could be timelier. This movie is based off of a graphic novel of the same name – which pits one time friends and allies against each other in a fight against tyranny and each other.

The battles between former Avengers Iron Man and Captain America are intense. But intense battles have been taking place between liberty and tyranny since time began.

One such battle occurred in the late eighteenth century when Avengers of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison took issues with the totalitarian actions of one of their closest allies in times past, John Adams. After Congress passed  “Alien and Sedition Acts,” and Adams enthusiastically signed them into law, the Avengers of Liberty armed themselves with ink and paper, and penned some of the most powerful responses to legalized oppression ever written.

Their weapons of their warfare were not Vibranium Shields or Repulsor Blasters, or even swords. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798  served that role, offering an answer to a crucial question: how can states fight back against the central government in order to protect the civil liberties of the citizenry?

In the Kentucky Resolutions, Jefferson provised a blueprint showing how a state should respond to unconstitutional federal actions. His words are piercing and his tonality cannot be underscored – for Jefferson is a firm believer that the “pen is mightier than the sword.” And what flows from his pen in this document is masterful.

Jefferson opens the resolutions with this classic statement:

“The several states composing the United States of America, are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their general government.” [Emphasis added]

It seems if we lined up his words with our actions today (or lack thereof) against the tyranny of the federal government, we would be in direct conflict with his thoughts and intentions. His viewpoint was that a piece of legislation in and of itself does not carry the weight of authority so long as it falls outside of the powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.

And that you and I should never exercise “unlimited submission” to the federal government and their laws…what does that mean? It means that a law is not always lawful.

Jefferson looked at federal legislation much differently than we do today. He understood that we the people delegated the federal government enumerated powers. In Jefferson’s conception, federal acts falling outside of those enumerated powers conflict with the Tenth Amendment.

So what should happen to a law that is in conflict with the Tenth Amendment? To quote Jefferson, “its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

That is the reoccurring theme of the Kentucky Resolutions. Powers not delegated to the federal government “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.” So we see that it is our duty to defy any law that is born from a politician’s discretion versus the powers delegated to them by the Constitution.

When outlining his opposition to the “Alien and Sedition Acts”, Jefferson does so to ensure we understand that if we allow oppression to hit our neighbor, eventually that same oppression will hit us. It is a political pendulum. The Alien Acts targeted immigrants. Jefferson offered a stark warning to everyone when he wrote, “that the friendless alien has indeed been selected as the safest subject of a first experiment; but the citizen will soon follow…already has the sedition act marked him as its prey.” If you contrast this thought process of Jefferson’s with say how a large percentage of our population looks at the Patriot Act, and how it allows unelected officials and bureaucrats to listen to your phone calls, check your emails and indefinitely detain you for the being “suspected of terrorism”, it is easy to understand that we should never allow any law like this to stand because it will eventually target you.

Jefferson goes on to give examples of how the Alien and Sedition Acts are contrary and should not be seen as authoritative because they are in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In closing, Jefferson pens a powerful declaration writing, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of the confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief, by the chains of the Constitution.”

He understood that no matter how seemingly kind or honorable a politician may be, and no matter how well-intentioned, he or she must never be allowed to stray from constitutional parameters.

But was Jefferson alone in this sentiment? Did Madison agree? What does the other Avenger of Liberty say about the “Alien and Sedition Act”? Do Madison’s words mirror Jefferson’s?

Yes. Yes. Emphatically, yes!

Madison prefaces his resolution by saying “That the General Assembly of Virginia doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this State, against every aggression either foreign or domestic.”

Madison, considered by many to be the father of the Constitution, understands intimately the importance of adhering to the enumerated powers. Madison’s resolutions mirror Jefferson’s in many ways. Here are a few key quotes

“…it is its duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles, which constitute the only basis of that union, because a faithful observance of them can alone secure its existence.”

“That this assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare that it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact…as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact…and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted by the said compact, the States, who are the parties thereto, have the right, and are duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil and for maintaining within their respective limits.”

“the alien and sedition acts, passed at the last session of congress…exercises a power nowhere delegated to the Federal Government…”

Madison emphasizes the egregiousness of the Alien and Sedition Acts. He makes very clear that the Congress is overstepping its bounds. However, I think what most is telling is how he feels that we are “duty bound ”to“ maintain ”the federal government’s“ respective limits. How do we maintain these limits in a day and age in which so few care about the process to begin with?

As is clearly seen from the writings of the Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, we have a responsibility. A citizen must stay vigilant so as to guard against the laws of the central government, or any other S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque agency when they are in direct conflict with their limitations and attempt to trample our rights underfoot. All of them must be held accountable.

The Avengers of Liberty alluded to that fact that the majority of the power lies with the states, and consequently, the People of those States. We must be willing to NULLIFY, or make void, any law which seeks to overstep the states’ power and bring us all under one tyranny.

The Tenth Amendment Center and other liberty groups are out there and need to pull together in order to protect our freedoms. We can do so by using the tools at our disposal. Social media has made dissemination of information amazingly easy. Create a podcast. Create your own YouTube channel. Heck, start your own Facebook page. Do something. All it takes to create a fire for freedom is a simple spark.

Are you that spark?

Are you that next Avenger of Liberty?

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


Maharrey Minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.