Nullification Essay

1592 words - 7 pages

Slavery was combated by the northern states with the use of nullification. State nullification is the act of nullifying or voiding an act from the federal government. Nullification is also a way for the states to protect their citizens from the federal government. Nullification is essentially of the people of the states or the states themselves saying no. This is a form of civil disobedience sanctioned by the state. There is a lot of talk and speculation on if nullification is constitutional, legal, or moral. Nullification is legal under the constitution and the states are duty bound to interpose between the federal government and the people. Nullification is the rightful remedy for the states when they want to preserve the union rather than secede.
To understand nullification one must understand how the states came together. The separate states came together under the constitution. The constitution is a federative compact by the several states. The states delegated certain powers to the federal government and retained the vast majority of unenumerated powers to themselves. Within the federative compact the states are superior to the federal government. Many argue that the Supreme court is last arbiter on what is constitutional and what is not. This is a fallacy. With it being within the federal government it cannot have the the final say on the compact. It is said within the United States that the people are the sovereign. If the people are the sovereign and allot a portion of that sovereignty to the states, then the states are subordinate to the people. The states then appropriated a portion of sovereignty to form a general government to function in a very limited capacity. The people and the states retain the right to exercise their full sovereignty. The compact was made as to bring about a cohesion between the states on foreign affairs, security, and interstate commerce. As the ratifiers and sovereigns that created the federal government, they retain the right to decide what is constitutional.
The principles of nullification were laid out in what is commonly called the principles of 98’. The Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, written by none other than Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are the first documents laying out nullification in the United States. Thomas Jefferson stated in the Kentucky resolution that the Alien and Sedition Acts were “null void and of no effect” within the borders of Kentucky. James Madison stated in the Virginia resolution that the states are “duty bound to interpose” between the people and the federal government. In 1799 Kentucky had another resolution. This resolution stated explicitly that “ nullification is the rightful remedy” to unconstitutional acts perpetrated by the federal government. These principles layout the way states can nullify and protect their citizens without going as far as seceding. The idea of states standing up to the federal government is something that is deeply ingrained into this...

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