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Judicial Supremacy or State Nullification?

July 23, 2010
Marty Babitz, New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center
7/20/2010

There was a time, in the early days of our Constitutional Republic, that the forces of monarchy and tyranny ran deeper than perhaps even today. In 1798, our would-be King John Adams and his Federalist henchmen in Congress trumped up war fever, a tyrant’s best friend, to pass a Sedition Law that made criticism of the President and Congress, interestingly the very ones who enacted this law, a jailable offense.

Vice President Thomas Jefferson, an opponent of the Federalists, who was inconveniently omitted from the protection of this law, jumped into action, but secretly for fear of the Federalists and prison where many of his colleagues in government and the press had been sent under this nefarious law.

Jefferson and James Madison drafted Resolutions that were passed by the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures respectively, whose principles can be summarized by this statement from Jefferson’s pen appearing in the Kentucky version:

“The principle and construction contended for that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism – since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their powers: That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction, and that a NULLIFICATION by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.”

And now… the rest of the story. …..

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