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- Reagan Address to Members of the British Parliament June 8, 1982
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- Reagan Remarks at a White House Briefing on the State of Small Business March 1, 1982
The Nullification proponents in your state are trying to perfect the Constitution by destroying what it built. And you are being led to believe they are constitutionalists, and have in their minds, the only constitutional method for getting us out of the mess we find ourselves in. But the truth is, using activism to convince State legislators to enact legislation meant to nullify federal laws, using their definition of making them null and void in the State, and working to link many States together against the federal government, destroys the very constitution they say they love. And really, that is exactly what they are trying to do, and they aren’t telling you.
The nullifiers plod along, gathering grassroots activists together, and spin a tale that if they work together to convince key legislators to propose bills that void federal law, that liberty will soon be around the corner. But the liberty they seek is only born through rejecting the constitution’s bands between the federal government and the states.
The warped mentality that you can perfect the constitution by destroying it is something they will deny, but there is no other end result to what they are proposing, and history proves this out in the counter-resolutions in direct reaction to the Kentucky and Virginia Nullification Resolutions. Modern nullifiers use the Resolutions to prove that nullification is one, a right, and two, what the framers have used in the past in response to unconstitutional measures taken by the federal government. They don’t tell you that upon receiving those resolutions, other states rebuked Virginia and Kentucky for suggesting the break up of the union.
I often marvel at the cleverness of some of the framers, their ability to arouse public passion by doing things they knew wouldn’t fly, in order to gain a political edge. That is another thing the nullifiers deny, the political aspect of a lot of the things done in the past and done now to arouse the passions of the people.
Nullifiers begin and end with a laundry list of powers the federal government has used when it has no authority to do so. On that, most constitutionalists agree. Yes, we have a vast federal government whose reach has gotten far too significant and obtrusive. But their solution, to fester public resentment toward the type of government that the constitution established works to break apart the compact under which it was created.
I know I just used the word compact, and though there is argument about what type of government the constitution created, (if you want to read scholarly work on it, please read this Rob Natelson piece) it did not create a series of States that are independent of each other, and of the federal government. In fact, it is my belief that most nullifiers would have rather kept the Articles of Confederation, rather than adopt the constitution, and that belief is born out of arguing with them and finding out that many of their arguments for State nullification hinge on what they thought people believed during ratification, and substitute that, rather than the intent of the framers.
But keeping the Articles of Confederation was never going to happen. As Mark Levin points out in his book The Liberty Amendments, ten of the twelve states went to the convention with blessings to throw out the Articles of Confederation. They did not work. And when you spend time going through all of the nullifier’s claims, you realize their work is either a huge waste of time and effort, or a direct assault on the constitution itself, under the guise of your local friendly liberty group.
The nullifiers believe in a Utopia of sorts. Not like Thomas More’s, but one of individual State Republics, answerable to no one, connected to none other. That dream is an impossibility, and has already been tried and failed through the Articles of Confederation which led to the Constitution. But one student of nullification let the cat out of the bag when arguing with me a while back. He said it was their intent to perfect the Constitution, and that got me to wondering just what kind of person believes they can perfect an imperfect system created by imperfect men. It would seem that they believe they are perfect, or rather, the true constitutionalists. But you can’t fix the constitution by destroying it. Yes, the constitution is imperfect, but it is the best system ever devised.
Now, I fully realize I will be attacked for writing this, and I know that because I have been attacked before. They accuse me of not being scholarly, they accuse me of being a Mark Levin toady, (he’s my friend, but I write what I think,) they accuse me of not reading the right things, or understanding them correctly, they accuse me of not taking their liberty courses or spending time listening to them on the radio.
But I don’t have to do all that, and neither do you. We all can read and interpret these articles and works, and we do not need someone telling us what to think. We don’t need their super-secret handbill or document that they uncovered that they think proves their point beyond all doubt. Many times the nullification advocates take you down a path, moving from one document to another, cherry-picking quotes and either taking them out of context, or assigning meaning to them that do not naturally appear. A lot of times, you have to trust that they are the experts, and I have always had a problem with that. So, as I said, read these things yourself, interpret them yourself, use the gifts God gave you.
But most of all apply logic. If it is true that there is a right of the States to make null and void federal law through the Tenth Amendment, it means that the Tenth Amendment compels the power of States to dissolve the Union, and if you think the framers went through all the trouble of creating the nation with a ticking time bomb within it, I’m afraid you’ll have to reassess your thought process.
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