Publius on the Constitution


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NULLIFICATION DENIERS: WHAT JAMES MADISON REALLY SAID
PART 2 of 2

 

By Publius Huldah
February
5, 2013
NewsWithViews.com

Are we to believe that Randy Barnett, law professor, sitting in his ivory tower and under no pressure, is unable to distinguish between situations where a State does have a “literal power” to nullify an unconstitutional act of the federal government [when it orders The State or The People to do -or not do - something]; and when The State does not have a “literal power” to nullify the act [because, as with the alien & sedition acts, it does not dictate something The States or The People can refuse to obey]?

False Assertion 3:

That the supreme Court is the final authority on what is constitutional and what is not; and The States and The People must submit to whatever the supreme Court says.

The federal government has become a tyranny which acts without constitutional authority.

This came about because we were lured away from The Founding Principle that the purpose of government is to secure the Rights God gave us; and were seduced into believing government should provide for our needs and protect us from the challenges of Life.

Progressives of the early 1900s [9] transformed the federal government into the Frankensteinian monster it is today. They imposed the regulatory welfare state where the federal government regulates business and commerce, natural resources, human resources, and benefits some people [e.g., welfare parasites, labor unions & obama donors] at the expense of others.

The Progressives claimed the power to determine what is in the “public interest” and have the federal government implement their notions of what advances the “public interest.”

Under the Progressives, the federal government was no longer limited by the enumerated powers delegated in the Constitution; but would follow the “will of the people” as expressed by their representatives in the federal government. In other words, the Progressives gave the federal government a blank check to fill out anyway they want. People in the federal government now claim power to do whatever they want to us.

The federal government imposed by the Progressives is evil:

In order to provide benefits to some; the federal government violates the God-given property rights of others. The federal government robs Peter to pay Paul.
In order to protect us from the challenges of life (including made up problems such as “global warming” and “lack of medical insurance”), the federal government violates everyone’s God-given rights to Liberty.

And thus today, the federal government:

Usurps powers not delegated to it in the Constitution. Most of what it does is unconstitutional as outside the enumerated powers delegated in our Constitution.
Has become an instrument of oppression, injustice, and immorality.
Has taken away most of our God given rights, and is now conniving to take away our God given right to self-defense.

Now you know how the federal government was transformed from being the securer of our God given rights to a tyranny which oppresses some of the people for the benefit of others; and takes everyone’s Liberty away – except for those in the ruling class.

So! What do We do? What can We do?

The nullification deniers insist We must obey whatever Congress and the President dictate unless five (5) judges on the supreme Court say We don’t have to. They say the supreme Court is the final authority on what is constitutional and what is not.

But think: Who created the federal government?

We did! It is our “creature.” Is the “creature” to dictate to the “creator”?

The nullification deniers say, “Yes!” They say that:

Every law made by Congress [the Legislative Branch of the federal government] is “supreme”; and
Every executive order issued by the President [the Executive Branch of the federal government] is binding; and
The States and The People must obey, unless and until five (5) judges on the supreme Court [the Judicial Branch of the federal government] say the law or executive order is unconstitutional.

In other words, only the federal government may question the federal government.

Under their vision, the federal government WE created with the Constitution is the exclusive and final judge of the extent of the powers WE delegated to it; and the opinion of five (5) judges, not the Constitution, is the sole measure of its powers.

Jarrett Stepman regurgitates the statist lie that “the ultimate decision maker in terms of America’s political system is the Supreme Court.”

Randy Barnett, law professor, chants the statist refrain, “…What has the Supreme Court said and meant? and … Are there now five justices to sustain the claim?”

Barnett selects two paragraphs from Madison’s Report on the Virginia Resolutions (1799-1800), (which address the alien & sedition acts), and claims they show Madison “expressly denies, or at minimum equivocates about whether, there is a literal power of nullification in states.”

Well, We saw above that States couldn’t nullify the alien & sedition acts because they purported to grant dictatorial powers to the President; and did not require The States or The People to do - or not do - something.

And the two paragraphs Barnett claims are so “telling” as to The States’ lack of “literal power” to nullify anything, and as to the ultimate authority of the Judicial Branch, appear under Madison’s discussion of the last two Resolutions where Virginia had asked other States to join the protest. Madison merely says the citizens and legislature of Virginia have the right to communicate with other States; and in so doing, they are not exercising a judicial function.

Now! Note Well: Madison actually says, in the same Report Barnett cites, that it is “a plain principle, founded in common sense” that The States are the final authority on whether the federal government has violated our Constitution! Under his discussion of the 3rd Resolution, Madison says:

“It appears to your committee to be a plain principle, founded in common sense, illustrated by common practice, and essential to the nature of compacts; that where resort can be had to no tribunal superior to the authority of the parties, the parties themselves must be the rightful judges in the last resort, whether the bargain made, has been pursued or violated. The Constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction of the States, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds to the stability and dignity, as well as to the authority of the Constitution, that it rests on this legitimate and solid foundation. The States then being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity, that there can be no tribunal above their authority, to decide in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and consequently that as the parties to it, they must themselves decide in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.” [emphasis mine]

A bit further down, Madison explains that if, when the federal government usurps power, the States cannot act so as to stop the usurpation, and thereby preserve the Constitution as well as the safety of The States; there would be no relief from usurped power. This would subvert the Rights of the People as well as betray the fundamental principle of our Founding:

“…If the deliberate exercise, of dangerous power, palpably withheld by the Constitution, could not justify the parties to it, in interposing even so far as to arrest the progress of the evil, and thereby to preserve the Constitution itself as well as to provide for the safety of the parties to it; there would be an end to all relief from usurped power, and a direct subversion of the rights specified or recognized under all the State constitutions, as well as a plain denial of the fundamental principle on which our independence itself was declared.” [emphasis mine]

A bit further down, Madison answers the objection “that the judicial authority is to be regarded as the sole expositor of the Constitution, in the last resort.”

Madison explains that when the federal government acts outside the Constitution by usurping powers, and when the Constitution affords no remedy to that usurpation; then the Sovereign States who are the Parties to the Constitution must likewise step outside the Constitution and appeal to that original natural right of self-defense.

Madison also says that the Judicial Branch is as likely to usurp as are the other two Branches. Thus, The Sovereign States, as The Parties to the Constitution, have as much right to judge the usurpations of the Judicial Branch as they do the Legislative and Executive Branches:

“…the judicial department, also, may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution; and, consequently, that the ultimate right of the parties to the Constitution, to judge whether the compact has been dangerously violated, must extend to violations by one delegated authority as well as by another — by the judiciary as well as by the executive, or the legislature.”

Madison goes on to say that all three Branches of the federal government obtain their delegated powers from the Constitution; and they may not annul the authority of their Creator. And if the Judicial Branch connives with other Branches in usurping powers, our Constitution will be destroyed. So the Judicial Branch does not have final say as

“…to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial as well as the other department hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power, would annul the authority delegating it;[10] and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers, might subvert forever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy, the very Constitution, which all were instituted to preserve.”

Shame on you nullification deniers who misrepresent what Madison said, or ignorantly insist that Madison said the Judicial Branch is the Final Authority!

False Assertion 4:

That James Madison opposed Nullification by States of Unconstitutional Acts of the Federal Government.

Matthew Spalding (Heritage Foundation) and David Barton (Wallbuilders) cite South Carolina’s Nullification Crisis of 1832 as “proof” that James Madison “vehemently opposed” nullification.

What Spalding and Barton say is not true. Did they read what Madison wrote on S. Carolina’s doctrine of nullification? Are they so lacking in critical thinking skills that they can’t make the distinction between the nullification doctrine Madison (and Jefferson & Hamilton) embraced, and the peculiar doctrine of nullification advanced by S. Carolina?

We saw in Madison’s Report on the Virginia Resolutions (1799-1800) that in a proper case, “interposing even so far as to arrest the progress of the evil” is essential “to preserve the Constitution itself as well as to provide for the safety of the parties to it.”

And we saw above that the condition which must be present before nullification is proper, is that the act of the federal government must be unconstitutional.

Now, let’s look at The Tariff Act of 1828 and the S. Carolina Nullification Crisis:

South Carolina was an agricultural state. During the 1820’s, they bought manufactured goods from England. England bought cotton produced by S. Carolina and other Southern States.

However, “infant industries” in the Northeast were producing some of the same manufactured goods as England; but they were more expensive than the English imports. So they couldn’t compete with the cheaper imports.

So! In 1828, Congress imposed a high tariff on the English imports. The Southern States called this the “tariff of abominations,” because the tariff made the English goods too expensive to buy; and since the Southern States stopped buying English goods, the English stopped buying Southern cotton. The Southern States had to pay more for manufactured goods, they lost the major buyer of their cotton; and their economy was weakened.

Now! Note Well: Our Constitution delegates specific authority to Congress to impose tariffs on imports, and the tariff must be the same in each State (Art. I, Sec. 8, cl. 1).

Thus, the Tariff Act of 1828 was constitutional![11]

So! Can you, dear Reader, see something which Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., and David Barton are unable to see? South Carolina wanted to nullify a constitutional law! Of course, Madison opposed S. Carolina’s peculiar doctrine of nullification! Madison (and Jefferson & Hamilton) always said the act nullified must be unconstitutional!

In his Notes on Nullification (1834), [12] Madison addressed S. Carolina’s peculiar doctrine. He said that in the Report of a special committee of the House of Representatives of South Carolina in 1828, a doctrine of nullification was set forth which asserted that:

A State has a “constitutional right” to nullify any federal law; and
The nullification is presumed valid, and is to remain in force, unless ¾ of the States, in a Convention, say the nullification isn’t valid.

What Madison opposed was the particular doctrine of nullification set forth by S. Carolina; and what Madison actually said about the S. Carolina doctrine is this:

The federal government has delegated authority to impose import tariffs;
The Constitution requires that all import tariffs be uniform throughout the United States;
States can’t nullify tariffs which are authorized by the Constitution;
¼ of the States don’t have the right to dictate to ¾ of the States on matters within the powers delegated to the federal government;
Nullification is not a “constitutional right”;

And near the end of his Notes, Madison quoted with approval Thomas Jefferson’s statement:

“…but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy: that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact, (casus non foederis,) to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them…”

Madison then says:

“Thus the right of nullification meant by Mr. Jefferson is the natural right, which all admit to be a remedy against insupportable oppression.” [emphasis mine]

Do you see? Madison is saying that:

S. Carolina couldn’t nullify the Tariff Act of 1828 because the Act was constitutional.
Nullification is a “natural right”- it is not a “constitutional” right. Rights don’t come from the Constitution.
All agree that when the federal government acts outside of the Constitution, nullification by the States is the proper remedy.

Application Today

When WE THE PEOPLE ratified our Constitution, and thereby created the federal government, WE did not delegate to our “creature” power to control our medical care, restrict guns and ammunition, dictate what is done in the public schools, dictate how we use our lands, and all the thousands of things they do WE never gave them authority in our Constitution to do.

Accordingly, each State has a natural right to nullify these unconstitutional dictates within its borders. These dictates are outside the compact The Sovereign States made with each other –WE never gave our “creature” power over these objects.

As Jefferson and Madison said, without Nullification, The States and The People would be under the absolute and unlimited control of the federal government.

And that, dear Reader, is where these nullification deniers, with their false assertions and shameful misrepresentations, would put you.

To sum this up:

Nullification is a natural right of self-defense.
Rights don’t come from the Constitution. Like all Rights, the right of self-defense comes from God (The Declaration of Independence, 2nd para).
Nullification is a reserved power within the meaning of the 10th Amendment. The Constitution doesn’t prohibit States from nullifying, and We reserved the power to do it.
God requires us to disobey civil authorities when they violate God’s Law. That’s why the 2nd para of the Declaration of Independence says we have the duty to overthrow tyrannical government. See: The Biblical Foundation of our Constitution.
Nullification is required by Oath of Office: Article VI, cl. 3 requires all State officers and judges to “support” the federal Constitution. Therefore, when the federal government violates the Constitution, the States must smack them down.

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Conclusion

Our Founders and Framers were a different People than we of today. They were manly men who knew statecraft & political philosophy and could think. But our “experts” of today have been indoctrinated with statism and can’t think. They just repeat what they hear. We need them to man up, throw off the indoctrination, learn our Founding Documents including The Federalist Papers, get a Logic Book, and stop disseminating misinformation! We need them to repudiate cowardice as the proper response to the evil which is overtaking our Land. Man up, People!

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Click here here for part -----> 1, 2,

Footnotes:

9. Teddy Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Platform of 1912. Both major parties have been dominated by progressives ever since.
10. Hamilton says, respecting the Legislative Branch (Federalist No. 78, 10th para):

“…every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.” [emphasis mine]

11. The Tariff Act of 1828 was constitutional; but benefited the Northeast at the expense of the South. It thus violated our Founding Principle that governments exist to secure the rights God gave us. God never gave us the right to be free of competition in business! Since the tariff was constitutional, but unjust, the remedy was to get Congress to fix it.
12. Madison’s Notes on Nullification (1834) are long & rambling. Copy to Word, enlarge the type, & color-code to sort out the strands of arguments. Keep in mind that what Madison is addressing is S. Carolina’s peculiar doctrine where they wanted to nullify a constitutional tariff!

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Publius Huldah is a retired attorney who now lives in Tennessee. Before getting a law degree, she got a degree in philosophy where she specialized in political philosophy and epistemology (theories of knowledge). She now writes extensively on the U.S. Constitution, using the Federalist Papers to prove its original meaning and intent. She also shows how federal judges and politicians have ignored Our Constitution and replaced it with their personal opinions and beliefs.h

E-Mail: publiushuldah@gmail.com


 

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A State “interposes” when it stands between the federal government and The Citizens of the State in order to protect them from the federal government. Interposition takes various forms, depending on the circumstances.