Tenth Amendment Center’s Interpretation of Nullification Destroys Constitutional Compact | Jen Kuznicki

Tea partiers must be made aware that the does not speak the truth when it insists that nullifying federal law, as defined by the Center, is in line with Madison and Jefferson.

Here is the small fringe group’s Communications Director, Mike Maharrey, that Madison never rejected nullification.

Madison never rejected nullification.

He was wary of it late in life, but he always affirmed it as a viable option. Whether now is the time to nullify is a fair debate. But pretending it is an illegitimate, kook doctrine rejected by Madison is nothing short of ridiculous.

It is important for everyone to understand that nullification for Madison and Jefferson was clearly understood, and that the Tenth Amendment Center is using a destructive, narrow definition of nullification to rally tea party members to advance the destruction of the Constituted relationship between the Federal government and State governments, which Madison described as a “compact.”

Madison indeed rejected nullification by the States if the definition of nullification was “to declare null and void, or unenforceable” a federal law. That is the Tenth Amendment Center’s definition listed on their website.

It is true that Madison wrote the Virginia Resolution of 1798, which called for nullification, and Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution did similarly. However, when the rest of the States said hell no, the matter was dropped, as Jefferson agreed, that the minority must yield to the majority. Those resolutions were written as a protest to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and it became a big reason Jefferson was elected President in 1800.

The threat of nullification, declaring a federal law null and void, was in Jefferson’s view, in a letter to a Mr. Giles in 1826, “the rightful remedy of a state in an extreme case to be a separation from the Union, not a resistance to its authority while remaining in it.”

Meaning, that nullification itself, under those terms, is secession. And that Jefferson believed it was the last straw.

However, Madison repeatedly describes nullification as an rightful individual protest, and when a State offers nullification in the form of a formal protest, it should weigh upon the federal government in an embarrassing way. He approved of nullification as a protest, not secession, not declaring a law “null and void” because that would break the compact between the federal government and the States.

The Tenth Amendment Center is pushing to destroy the compact between the Federal government and the States. Perhaps because they believe there is no recourse.

But the Center repeatedly says that they hold no negative position on the Article V Convention of the States process, which Madison affirmed, “the final resort within the purview of the Constitution, lies in an amendment of the Constitution, according to a process applicable by the states.”

So why do they spend so much time on nullification/secession and not on the Constitutional prescription?

28 Responses to Tenth Amendment Center’s Interpretation of Nullification Destroys Constitutional Compact

  1. rob zerr says:

    You really have to watch out for the "fringe" groups. They typically advertise themselves one way but their agenda is often hidden or not understood fully by those who embrace them.

  2. Eddy S. says:

    That's curious Jen, because Mark said in his C-SPAN interview that if after the Article V amendments were ratified the government continued to enact unconstitutional laws, that the States would then have no duty to comply. Hmm, sounds like nullification to me. Why wait until Article V amendments are passed. The States already ratified the actual Constitution, which is being ignored already! P.S. It's sad that Levin's facebook page is blocking people who agree with him but also support not complying now.

    • Jen Kuznicki says:

      If the States amend and the Fed ignores, then it’s the Fed nullifying, not the States. There are two prescriptions, and proves how wonderful the Constitutional system really is. You need to read a lot more history in order to not sound silly.

      • Eddy S. says:

        The Feds are already nullifying!! So the States can only nullify AFTER amending? So, the States can only nullify in regards to an amendment but not the ACTUAL Constitution? Now who sounds silly?

        • Jen Kuznicki says:

          Yes the feds are nullifying laws. The prescription for that is Art V. The States wouldn’t nullify after amending, the federal government would. But, they would still destroy the compact, which is the tenthers goal.

          You would be the one sounding silly. And frankly, you are too quick to snipe to be able to grasp simple concepts.

      • says:


        By your reasoning, the Feds are already nullifying most of the constitution, and vastly exceeding their delegated powers, and therefore the States, respectively, and the People, have no duty to comply.

        Also, nullification efforts have been alive and well for many years – liberals around the country refused to enact enabling legislation for the RealID act, because it was passed under the hated Bush, which effectively nullified it. However, let conservative states suggest nullifying Obamacare or the EPA's regulations (themselves unconstitutional), and all hell breaks loose, and the specter of Calhoun is exhumed to scare the voters.

        Wait a cotton-pickin Southern minnit! Calhoun was a Democrat, and Secession was a right which the Sovereign States insisted upon before signing the compact.

        The tenth amendment center does not advocate secession, which, by the way, is a silly way of interpreting nullification. It advocates state laws enumerating the constitutional limits on Federal power, and seeks to tell the Feds "This far, and no farther".

        • Jen Kuznicki says:

          as a last resort, but there is the Art V convention of the States, which is set up to be used prior to. Again, it isn’t my reasoning, but Madison’s and he was there.

          • says:

            Indiana's leader of the Senate, David Long, is leading an effort to organize a safe, limited Article V Convention. I can support such an effort if that can be accomplished. What I've asked him, and now you, is what makes you believe you have the time [many years] to accomplish such an amending of the Constitution through this process before the wheels come off and the Republic is no more?

  3. totamus says:

    Why? For the same reason that left will sponsor phony Tea Party candidates. The intention is not to win, but to divide the opposition.

  4. Ryan B says:

    What is so wrong with having multiple avenues? Nullification is likely to be a loser in the courts but if it shames the Federal government and opens peoples eyes, all while delaying horrible federal legislation, what is so wrong with it? And as others have noted hasn't the Federal government been nullifying states rights? Whether that be AZ trying to police its borders or CAL legalizing grows and having them raided?

    The Article 5 convention process makes sense, but it is also a grand undertaking that will take some time. Using nullification as a delay tactic while pushing for a convention would seem to be the most realistic way to delay and then stop the ever expanding federal government.

    • Jen Kuznicki says:

      not a problem, but the Tenthers are actively discouraging the Art V process, a constitutional one, in favor of “burning it down.” (my words because I’ve had enough of them for today.)

  5. says:

    States are already using nullification. States are already nullifying Obamacare, Marijuana, National ID.
    The states do not have to follow unconstitutional laws especially those built on fraud that no one read.
    I frankly do not have one legislator in my state that I would trust to go to an Article V convention.There are many more important issues to get behind than a divisive COS. we have enough division. Get statesmen in office, expose the communists and follow the constitution would be good to start.

  6. Greg says:

    There is one REALLY BIG DIFFERENCE between the Tenth Amendment Center and this person's blog. On most articles that do any quoting of the founders, the Tenth Amendment Center cites their sources. Notice, this article is glaringly absent that most important key…CITING THE SOURCE FOR YOUR CONCLUSION!!!

    • Jen Kuznicki says:

      I want people to go read the places I have indeed cited, just not linked to. Go and read, it’s good for you.

      • Eddy S. says:

        When the Feds pass legislation that defies the Constitution, is that breaking the compact?

        • Jen Kuznicki says:

          Nope. Federal authority over States. There are several remedies before secession.

          • dan says:

            “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme law of the land.” It does not mean that Fed Authority over States.

            laws which shall be made in ("pursuance thereof") emphasis added.

          • Javier says:

            "Nope. Federal authority over States. There are several remedies before secession". Yes, like nullification rightly understood. I just came across this blog unfortunately. Your ideas about what nullification is is utterly confused and uniformed. You confuse nullification with secession as Mike Rogers posted above. Anyone who endorses Levin's book is not looking for serious changes. Perhaps you should demonstrate better familiarity with these articles … …

          • Jen Kuznicki says:

            nullification is secession as understood by Jefferson. You cannot operate within the compact while resisting authority over States by Federal Government. Mark Levin didn’t come up with Art V Convention of States, it was voted unanimously and written into the Constitution and ratified by the States.

          • Greg says:

            As far as Federal over State, the most commonly cited sources for this thinking is the "Supremacy Clause" of the Constitution. This clause was well debated to make sure that the particular view you're taking was not what was intended.

            In the North Carolina Ratifying Convention, James Iredell explained that the supremacy clause meant only that:
            “when Congress passes a law consistent with the Constitution, it is to be binding on the people.”
            And he emphasized that:
            “the question, then, under this clause, will always be whether congress has exceeded its authority.” ~ Elliot, Jonathan. Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (2d ed. Washington, D.C., 1836) Volume 4 page 179

            William R. Davie, discussing the supremacy clause said a federal law stated:
            “can be supreme only in cases consistent with the powers specially granted and not in usurpations.” ~ Elliot, Jonathan. Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (2d ed. Washington, D.C., 1836) Volume 4 page 182

            In the Virginia Ratifying Convention, John Marshall assured the Ratifiers that the supremacy clause did not extend to all cases; that a federal law:
            “not warranted by any of the enumerated powers’ would constitute “an infringement of the Constitution.” ~ Elliot, Jonathan. Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (2d ed. Washington, D.C., 1836) Volume 3 page 553

            In the New York Ratifying Convention, Antifederalist’s saw “the Supremacy Clause” and pointed to it with alarm. Alexander Hamilton assured them that each government [federal and state] was supreme in its sphere, stressing that:

            “this balance between the National and State governments…is of The Utmost importance…It forms a double security to the people.” ~ Elliot, Jonathan. Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (2d ed. Washington, D.C., 1836) Volume 2 page 257

            In Federalist #33, Hamilton wrote that laws:
            "which are not pursuant to its Constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the States” will be merely “acts of usurpation," not "the supreme law of the land".

            Chief Justice McKean told the Pennsylvania Ratification Conventions that the meaning of the supremacy clause:
            “is simply this, that the Congress have the power of making laws upon any subject over which the proposed plan gives them a jurisdiction, and that those laws thus made in pursuance of the Constitution, shall be binding upon the States.” ~ McMaster, J. B., and Stone, F., Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution 1787-1788 (Lancaster, Pa., Inquirer Printing, 1888). Page 277

          • Jen Kuznicki says:

            Then why did Madison and, by Madison’s pen, Jefferson, acknowledge, “No example of the inconsistency of party zeal can be greater than is seen in the value allowed to Mr. Jefferson’s authority by the nullifying party; while they disregard his repeated assertions of the Federal authority, even under the articles of confederation, to stop the commerce of a refractory State, while they abhor his opinions & propositions on the subject of slavery & overlook his declaration, that in a republick, it is a vital principle that the minority must yield to the majority..”

          • says:

            I think we all agree that there is no overt statement in the constitution allowing nullification. How ludicrous that would be: Federal Laws are supreme unless you feel they are unconstitutional, then you don't have to follow it. As bad as it is, there is a method that has been used to "officially" determine constitutionality for a couple hundred years. The problem is the supreme court is a group of men who can be bribed or blackmailed. we need to require our state legislators to require congress to call a convention to write amendments to bring the federal government back in line. It is not a perfect or easy fix, but I see no better way. Remember even if they come back with spurious or despicable amendments, they must be ratified by 3/4ths of the states.

            While all nullification may not be the same as seceding, seceding is certainly the most severe form of nullification. The constitution does not forbid a state to secede from the union. And President Lincoln had no constitutional right to stop the southern states from seceding, but how did that work out? I posit that nullification has been tried and does not work so well.

  7. theBuckWheat says:

    We must somehow seek a peaceful way to repair and redefine the Federal Government's powers and its relationship with the States and the People who vivified it in the first place. We now have a Leviathan State,one that has given itself permission to create enough money out of thin air that it can substantially fund its operations without having to ask the taxpayers for permission any more.

    We now now that it has given itself the power, by the approval of a secret court, to suspend the Fourth Amendment when it deems it necessary, which strangely it almost always does. A government that can excuse away a key component of the Constitution is a government not bound by a Constitution.

    Strangely, many people oppose a Convention or conference to alter the Constitution because they fear they might lose some precious right. I understand, but ask if the present trajectory of the Federal Leviathan is going to leave us with many rights as it arcs from today into the future. We must act while there is still time, and we still have the means to do so.

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