Mention nullification as a way to resist Federal tyranny and prepare to be branded a racist who wants to bring back slavery. But nullification — the idea that if Congress passes an unconstitutional law the states don’t have to acknowledge or obey it — enjoys a rich history in the United States. It began long before slavery was a major political issue and is being used even today.
In Nullification: How To Resist Tyranny In The 21st Century, Thomas E. Woods Jr., explores the history of nullification in America. It’s a history that few students are taught in government schools, and one that even fewer mainstream historians are willing — or able — to discuss. In fact, Woods writes that at a scholarly debate he attended in 2003, only he and one other academic defended the Thomas Jefferson view of nullification (as espoused in the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts and known as the Principles of ’98).
Woods holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and received a master’s, a Master of Philosophy and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He’s a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, he edited Exploring American History: From Colonial Times to 1877 (an 11-volume encyclopedia) and is the author of 10 books.
He says that the Founders meant for the States to be checks against Federal tyranny and the 10th Amendment was put into the Constitution to reinforce the rights of States to nullify unConstitutional laws.
A commonly-used argument against nullification is the idea that the Civil War “settled” the issue. Woods argues that the Civil War had nothing to do with nullification even though the Southern States seceded based on the (correct) compact theory of the union. That theory maintains that each individual State — not a single group of united people — joined together to form the Union. Each individual State, acting in its sovereign capacity, ratified the Constitution in the months and years following its drafting in 1878.
“The very fact that the states voted separately to ratify the Constitution, and that the Constitution was not ratified by a single, consolidated vote of all individuals in the original thirteen states, is an important piece of evidence to compact theorists that the states, rather than some single American people, created the federal Union,” Woods writes.
This is not the American history that most school children learn — nor the one that most law students study. What they are taught can be called the nationalist theory which conceives of the United States as deriving from a single sovereign people rather than from an agreement among States and the residents of each State.
Woods covers the discussions that took place and essays that were written during the States’ ratifying conventions — particularly those in Virginia — that prove they understood the States maintained the right to shield their people from encroachments by the Federal government.
The idea of nullification was invoked in the Principles of ’98 by Jefferson and James Madison, and in subsequent years by a number of States over a variety of issues. And it has continued to this day.
One recent example occurred in 2005 and 2006 when 24 States nullified the REAL ID Act of 2005. Opposition to the legislation came from both Republicans and Democrats — with one side opposing the unfunded mandates and the impact they would have on state finances and the other side opposing the privacy issues involved. Another example involves the medical use of marijuana, which is illegal under Federal law but allowed in 14 States.
And it’s through nullification that a number of States are resisting the institution of Obamacare’s mandates that everyone purchase health insurance.
Woods’ book comprehensively covers the history of nullification and lays out a plan whereby Americans can battle the ever-growing tyranny of the Federal government. It deals with all the arguments for and against the idea of nullification and is an excellent source for anyone wanting to learn how to stop the leviathan state.
I recommend Nullification: How To Resist Tyranny In The 21st Century to every patriot looking to resist Federal tyranny. It provides not only a good history lesson, but a legal lesson as well.