The Doctrine of Nullification lost in the court of history… as a nation state and as a people we rejected it, outright. Our Constitution created a hierarchy of law to bring order to the muddled system of 13 competing legal systems. Madison, describing government as an unruly beast defended the Supremacy Clause: “it would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members”.
- The Resolutions of 98- Roundly rejected by 10 of the 13 legislatures, Jefferson and Madison had taken their objections to the Alien and Sedition Acts too far. Unconstitutional actions by the legislature can be addressed in the Federal Courts. Washington saw the danger in them: “they would dissolve the union or produce coercion.”
- McCulloch vs. Maryland- The Supreme Court settled the issue in 1819 striking down Maryland’s attempt to tax the Second Bank of the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall defended implied powers in the Constitution: “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.”
- Nullification Crisis of 1831- John C. Calhoun’s pernicious attempt to undermine the Jackson Presidency- South Carolina unlawfully “nullified” the tariff of 1828. A tariff is a DELEGATED power; not reserved for the states, and not implied in a clause…it is specifically cited in the Constitution. Calhoun and his ilk were no match for Old Hickory and his willingness to use force to defend Federal authority.
So why are amateurish politicians like Greg Abbott…in Texas hearkening back to something as discredited as Nullification? Abbott proposed it several times in his suggested list of “amendments.” Governor Abbott needs to read some history. We’ve been down this road before- it leads nowhere…