Nullification Is No Crackpot Theory




” In a May 2 column [Alabama State Senate Embraces Crackpot, Antebellum Legal Theory], Robert Schlesinger relegated the idea of nullification to the historical trash heap. But if James Madison and Thomas Jefferson strolled down the streets of D.C. today, listening to current political discourse, they’d likely declare conventional wisdom holding the federal government supreme in all it does a “crackpot post-antebellum legal theory.”

Even Alexander Hamilton would undoubtedly express shock. After all, he was one of the first Constitution defenders to point out the limits of federal supremacy in Federalist 33.

Thirteen independent sovereign political societies came together to form the United States, delegating specific powers to a general government. Both supporters and opponents of the Constitution agreed the new government was to remain limited. The ratification debate revolved around one question: Would the Constitution create the limited government intended?

When anti-federalists insisted the government wouldn’t remain constrained, Madison countered that the states would serve as a check. In Federalist 46, he wrote that state “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” and “legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions” would serve to “present obstructions.”












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