by Michael Boldin
The following is based off a speech I gave at the first annual Tenth Amendment Summit in Atlanta, GA on February 26, 2010.
How can a “crazy” Californian and a “conservative” Georgian be friends? It’s simple – through the principles of ’98. In 1798, the John Adams administration signed into law that Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials. In practice, it was used to quell the freedom of speech in dissent against the sitting administration.
In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson responded:
“the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government”
But wait – that’s not all. He went on to say that all undelegated powers exercised by the federal government are “unathoritative, void and of no force.” And, that a “nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.”
There’s been plenty of people talking about nullification lately, but many people don’t know what it really means. I can think of no better way to define it than how my friend Derek Sheriff from the Arizona Tenth Amendment Center has done:
Nullification is not secession or insurrection, but neither is it unconditional or unlimited submission. Nullification is not something that requires any decision, statement or action from any branch of the federal government. Nullification is not the result of obtaining a favorable court ruling. Nullification is not the petitioning of the federal government to start doing or to stop doing anything. Nullification doesn’t depend on any federal law being repealed. Nullification does not require permission from any person or institution outside of one’s own state.
Nullification is something that’s already happening around the country – and Derek explains the process:
Nullification begins with a decision made in your state legislature to resist a federal law deemed to be unconstitutional. It usually involves a bill, which is passed by both houses and is signed by your governor. In some cases, it might be approved by the voters of your state directly, in a referendum. It may change your state’s statutory law or it might even amend your state constitution. It is a refusal on the part of your state government to cooperate with, or enforce any federal law it deems to be unconstitutional.