Nullify Now! - Granite Grok

Nullify Now!

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On Saturday, March 19, 2011, The Tenth Amendment Center and WeRefuse present "Nullify Now! New Hampshire", featuring New York Times best-selling author, Thomas E. Woods, who will talk about his book "Nullification: How to Resist Tyranny in the 21st Century."

The event will take place from 10am to 6pm, at the Southern New Hampshire University (Dining Center, 2nd floor banquet hall), 2500 North River Road, Manchester, NH.

See the event’s Facebook page here, and purchase a $20 ticket to this event at the event’s website here.

Mr. Woods is the author of many books, but one of his finer works is "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History", where he challenges numerous myths about American history.  He also coined "Woods’ Law" in 2006, stating: "Whenever the private sector introduces an innovation that makes the poor better off than they would have been without it, or that offers benefits or terms that no one else is prepared to offer them, someone—in the name of helping the poor—will call for curbing or abolishing it."

Also speaking at this event will be NH State Representative Dan Itse, a strong legislative advocate for Constitutional adherence and States’ rights, and Michael Boldin, founder of the Tenth Amendment Center

More on nullification after the jump…

Nullification is the process by which States declare a Federal law to be unconstitutional, thus invalid in their sovereign domain.  Intellectually challenged Liberals, Progressives, and many Democrats, often claim that nullification is an automatic precursor to State secession, based on their incorrect knowledge of the history of the United States.  For its proponents, the basis for nullification is that each State is sovereign, that the many States make up the Union, and as participants in the "contract" of the US Constitution (the "Compact Theory") have the "final right and authority" regarding the central government’s powers.

When a conflict exists between the Federal Government and a State (or States), there are effectively four non-violent remedies to resolve the conflict: Compromise, Constitutional Amendment, Nullification, and Secession.  Each are mutually-exclusive.

In the 1830’s, South Carolina deemed that two Federal Tariffs (1828, 1832) were unconstitutional, thus null and void in their state.  The 1828 tariff was enacted during John Quincy Adams’ presidency and was meant to protect manufacturing in northern states, favoring American goods over British imports, which became cheaper in the years following the war of 1812, due to European blockades.  However, the effect was negative on southern states, who were importing significantly from Britain and would be forced to buy goods from northern states at higher prices; in addition, the tariff forced Britain to reduce the amount of cotton it imported from the South.  Overall, these tariffs hurt the South, and helped most of the North.

The tariff of 1832, during Andrew Jackson’s presidency (a Carolinian), was a reduction to the tariff of 1828, but still did not satisfy South Carolina, leading to what was called the Nullification Crisis.

In the center of the crisis was South Carolina, experiencing severe economic issues, it declared the federal tariffs null and void, refusing to honor them after February 1, 1833.  Expecting Federal military intervention, South Carolina prepared for hostilities, while Congress passed a measure authorizing the use of force to President Jackson to enforce the tariffs.  The tension even caused Jackson’s Vice-President, John C. Calhoun to resign and run for South Carolina’s US Senate seat, with the stated goal of "defending nullification".

In late February, 1833, after the nullification ordinance went into effect, the US Congress passed the Tariff of 1833, reducing the 1828 tariff to a level satisfactory to South Carolina, who repealed their nullification ordinance in March – the crisis was over.

One of the notable quotes from this crisis, comes from President Andrew Jackson, where he shows obvious inner-conflict, understanding the concerns of South Carolina, but realizing that his duty is to protect the "integrity of the Union":

"It is my painful duty to state that in one quarter of the United States opposition to the revenue laws has arisen to a height which threatens to thwart their execution, if not to endanger the integrity of the Union. What ever obstructions may be thrown in the way of the judicial authorities of the General Government, it is hoped they will be able peaceably to overcome them by the prudence of their own officers and the patriotism of the people. But should this reasonable reliance on the moderation and good sense of all portions of our fellow citizens be disappointed, it is believed that the laws themselves are fully adequate to the suppression of such attempts as may be immediately made. Should the exigency arise rendering the execution of the existing laws impracticable from any cause what ever, prompt notice of it will be given to Congress, with a suggestion of such views and measures as may be deemed necessary to meet it."

Another notable nullification episode (via the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions), took place 30 years prior, as a result of the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts.  Thomas Jefferson stated (covertly) in the Kentucky Resolution that when the federal government abused its delegated powers, The People should resolve the issue by selecting new members to represent them.  However, when the Federal government abuses a power "assumed" but NOT delegated, nullification by The States is the "rightful remedy."

James Madison, the essential father of the US Constitution, makes a similar case in the Virginia Resolution, saying that "in cases of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact [Constitution], the States, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound to interpose to arrest the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them."

Of course, there has been substantial debate over the legality or validity of nullification, and, based on certain conflicting actions taken during their subsequent Presidencies, whether Jefferson and Madison ever truly supported the concept, in spite of their writings.  South Carolina, in the aftermath of their crisis, was chided and maligned for their actions.

Contrary to colloquial belief, there have been many instances of Federal-States’ Rights conflict throughout the history of the United States, where some form of nullification came into play: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, the War of 1812, the Tarriffs of 1828 and 1832, and, of course, the slavery crisis relating to the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850, that led up to the Civil War, as well as the Brown vs Board of Education school segregation crisis of 1954.

In hindsight, most attempts at nullification were a response to some form of economic conflict, and not all were based on sound principles – but one thing is for sure, the threat of nullification has always had an influence on the crisis, in one form or another, and just may be the only mechanism of self-defense the States have, in order to protect their interests and sovereignty from an occasionally over-bearing Federal government.

The actions of the Progressive 111th Congress and President Obama, from 2008-2010, seem to be setting the stage for the next period of such Constitutional conflict.

We do not know how this period of conflict will be resolved, but future generations will read about it, alongside all the other periods, episodes, and outcomes, and will learn from it.