Conservative Political Commentary

Anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-Constitution,
and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Are These Words in Your Vocabulary?


We have had two centuries of the Federal Government overstepping its proper authority in all three branches. There have been various protests, and at present, people are still mostly free to express their opinions. In the years since Ronald Reagan, the trend toward growing government authority has been very noticeable, but under the administration of Barack Obama, this trend has been very forcefully advanced. Now we occasionally hear the once virtually forbidden words nullification, interposition, and secession in connection with the relationships of states to the Federal Government. We are going to be hearing, and possibly using, these words frequently over the next few years.

The Federal Government was established, by the states as states, as an agency of the states. The Federal Government does not have the power to be the final arbiter of the Constitution, nor does it have the power to act beyond its enumerated powers. The Tenth Amendment means what it says.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas raised eyebrows and drew criticism for mentioning secession in some of his Tea Party speeches. He did not advocate it, but just the mention of the word was enough to get attention. Debra Medina, Texas gubernatorial candidate in the Republican Primary of March 2 (Texas Independence Day, by the way), unapologetically holds out nullification and interposition as appropriate state responses to federal laws and actions deemed unconstitutional.

The first two sections of the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which is similar to other states’ statements, is as follows:

“THE TEXAS CONSTITUTION

“ARTICLE 1. BILL OF RIGHTS

“Sec. 1. FREEDOM AND SOVEREIGNTY OF STATE. Texas is a free and independent State, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, and the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government, unimpaired to all the States.

“Sec. 2. INHERENT POLITICAL POWER; REPUBLICAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT. All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.” [1]

The Jeffersonian tradition holds that federal laws that are unconstitutional are null and void, and states may declare them so, and thus make them of no effect within the state so declaring. The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, written by Thomas Jefferson, asserts this power of states. The Virginia Resolutions, around the same time, written by James Madison, express similar things. The Alien and Sedition Acts, which the opposition party found oppressive, were answered by these resolutions. Jefferson used the word “nullification,” while Madison said the states should “interpose” between their citizens and the Federal Government. Nullification and interposition are basically the same thing. [2] For the full, very interesting lecture by Thomas Woods, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, Mises.org has audio here. This is also linked from SovereignStates.org, a good website of sources on these topics.

The Texas Secede! Website notes in their FAQ section, that the Texas Constitution says the state is subject only to the Constitution of the United States, not “subject to the President of the United States,” and similarly not subject to the Congress of the United States, nor any other state or group of states. [3]

The website FAQ section further states as follows, with clear logic:
“Where the Constitution does speak to the issue of powers, they resolve in favor of the states unless expressly granted to the federal government or denied to the states. No power to prevent or reverse secession is granted to the federal government, and the power to secede is not specifically denied to the states; therefore that power is retained by the states, as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment.” [4]

Secession is understood to be the action of last resort, when the situation is intolerable and no other remedy will suffice. Even this could be done amicably. But nullification and interposition serve the purpose of checking the illegal acts and laws of the federal government, while still preserving the Union.

The existence of three branches of government is not in itself a sufficient check on federal power. Nor is the U.S. Supreme Court the final arbiter/interpreter of the Constitution. The Constitution is a compact among the states, as states, and gives the federal government specifically enumerated powers. The Tenth Amendment, which Thomas Jefferson said is the cornerstone of the Constitution, has been almost swept away, but efforts are underway to restore it to its proper place.

Why are we hearing such words now, when we haven’t heard them much in recent memory? People now are sensing a strong federal effort, on the part of the Obama Administration and the Democrat-led Congress to change our government by great expansion, and to obligate our country to monumental debt, thus threatening our freedom at many levels, and destroying our prosperity and economic power.

The main agenda items of the Administration are unconstitutional on their face, yet Democrats claim that the Interstate Commerce Clause, the General Welfare Clause, and the Necessary and Proper Clause give them a virtually blank check to do whatever they wish, provided that they claim it serves a purpose under any of these clauses. Not so. The federal government is limited to its enumerated powers. The states have the power to decide whether the federal government’s laws and actions are allowed under the Constitution. The Federal Supremacy Clause makes the Constitution the law of the land, but anything unconstitutional is not the law of the land.

The Federal Government, almost from the beginning of our nation, has sought to expand its authority and usurp that of the states and the people, and with few exceptions, states and people have acquiesced. I am reminded of the statement in the Declaration of Independence that “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Virtually all government agencies, committees, or other bodies normally seek ways to expand their power, and thus constant vigilance is required, as they will soon exceed their actual authority.

But a point can be reached where abuses are no longer tolerable. Under the present socialist-Marxist-fascist administration, virtually everything being done in domestic policy is unconstitutional. Unconstitutional laws and actions which have been done under previous administrations are not only continued, but made worse, and proposals are in the works that would greatly exacerbate the situation, notably “health care reform” and cap and trade. In taxes and regulations, the government has a virtual stranglehold on our society. In unprecedented and unnecessary spending with almost incomprehensible debt, the government is seriously damaging America financially.

There is no support among conservative or libertarian leaders for any kind of violent “revolution,” but there is considerable support for nullification in the more serious constitutional violations by the Federal Government. In the following video, Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News Channel and Lew Rockwell, founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, discuss the concepts of nullification, interposition and secession:



Why should not states firmly assert their sovereignty, and respond with threatened or actual nullification laws? States have already, in effect, nullified the “RealID” law, to the point that it is not being enforced. Probably, it will never be enforced.

These issues are the basis of the Tea Party Movement, and a lot of activity not specifically identified with the Tea Party movement. Possibly the best spokesman for such principles is Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), who recognizes the unconstitutionality of so much that the Federal Government is doing, as well as the massive Ponzi schemes and, as some say, counterfeiting operation being run by the government and the Federal Reserve.

The idea of nullification of unconstitutional Federal laws by states is gaining traction throughout America. If the Federal government continues on its present path, we’re going to be hearing a lot more about it. After the 2010 and 2012 elections, we should be seeing a more responsible and responsive government in Washington.


[1] Texas Constitution and Statutes.

[2] Thomas Woods on The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799, Mises.org

[3] and [4] Texas Secede! Website FAQ

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