Rethinking the Southern Secession Movement of 1861

SECESSION - Union is Dissolved

by Diane Rufino, July 23, 2017

The question is: Was the Civil War fought over the issue of Slavery?  I won’t deny that slavery was an issue that inflamed the passions of both sections of the country and put each at odds with one another, but it was NOT the cause of the conflict that I will refer to as the War of Northern Aggression, a war which claimed the lives of over 650,000 young Americans.

At the end of 1860, with the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, the Union was on the verge of dissolution. By the time Lincoln was inaugurated on April 4, seven states had already seceded and a new nation had been formed, the Confederate States of America (complete with a new constitution).  Following South Carolina’s lead (December 1860), Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and then Texas formally severed political ties with the Union. On April 4, Virginia held a state convention to consider secession but voted it down, 89-45. (North Carolina would do the same). Lincoln could not allow the Union to be split; he could not lose the tariff revenue supplied by the agrarian South which, in 1859, not only supplied approximately 80% of the federal revenue, but was used to enrich the industrialized North. And so, something had to be done to give Lincoln a “pretext” to restore the Southern states to the Union.

On April 12, 1861, Lincoln tricked South Carolina militia forces into firing on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter, even after South Carolina had demanded, and even tried negotiating for, the transfer of the fort to the Confederacy. The attack on Fort Sumter would provide the pretext he needed. He used the incident to characterize the southern states as being in a state of active rebellion and thus ordering troops to subdue them. On April 15, President Lincoln declared a state of insurrection and called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion and to defend the capital.  With that proclamation, four more Southern states left the Union. The first was Virginia.

Virginia did not leave the Union because of slavery; same with North Carolina. We should take particular note of this piece of history.

Virginia looked at President’s Lincoln’s Proclamation and demand for troops, and just as her leaders did when President John Adams passed the Sedition Act, she saw serious constitutional violations and contemplated how she needed to respond.

In reading the responses by Virginia’s Governor John Letcher below, you will see that he exercised all the remedies implied in the concept of State Sovereignty, Tenth Amendment, and even the Declaration of Independence:  First, he refused to comply with Lincoln’s decree – Virginia would not supply troops. That is Nullification and Interposition. And then, because the proclamation evidenced the will of a maniac, a tyrant, and an enemy of the Constitution, and evidenced the transformation of the federal government into something Virginia could no longer trust her sovereignty with and no longer wanted to be associated with, her people decided to sever the bonds which held her in allegiance. Virginia seceded.

On April 16, Virginia’s Governor John Letcher made the following dispatch to Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Simon Cameron:

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT.RICHMOND, Va., April 16, 1861.

HON. SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which I doubted. Since that time (have received your communication, mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the militia of the State of Virginia “the quota designated in a table,” which you append, “to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.”

In reply to this communication, I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object — an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795 — will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited towards the South. Respectfully,

JOHN LETCHER.

The following day, Governor Letcher issued the following proclamation, which was published for the people of Virginia to read:

Whereas, Seven of the States formerly composing a part of the United States have, by authority of their people, solemnly resumed the powers granted by them to the United States, and have framed a Constitution and organized a Government for themselves, to which the people of those States are yielding willing obedience, and have so notified the President of the United States by all the formalities incident to such action, and thereby become to the United States a separate, independent and foreign power; and whereas, the Constitution of the United States has invested Congress with the sole power “to declare war,” and until such declaration is made, the President has no authority to call for an extraordinary force to wage offensive war against any foreign Power: and whereas, on the 15th inst., the President of the United States, in plain violation of the Constitution, issued a proclamation calling for a force of seventy-five thousand men, to cause the laws of the United states to be duly executed over a people who are no longer a part of the Union, and in said proclamation threatens to exert this unusual force to compel obedience to his mandates; and whereas, the General Assembly of Virginia, by a majority approaching to entire unanimity, declared at its last session that the State of Virginia would consider such an exertion of force as a virtual declaration of war, to be resisted by all the power at the command of Virginia; and subsequently the Convention now in session, representing the sovereignty of this State, has reaffirmed in substance the same policy, with almost equal unanimity; and whereas, the State of Virginia deeply sympathizes with the Southern States in the wrongs they have suffered, and in the position they have assumed; and having made earnest efforts peaceably to compose the differences which have severed the Union, and having failed in that attempt, through this unwarranted act on the part of the President; and it is believed that the influences which operate to produce this proclamation against the seceded States will be brought to bear upon this commonwealth, if she should exercise her undoubted right to resume the powers granted by her people, and it is due to the honor of Virginia that an improper exercise of force against her people should be repelled.

Therefore I, JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have thought proper to order all armed volunteer regiments or companies within this State forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and upon the reception of this proclamation to report to the Adjutant-General of the State their organization and numbers, and prepare themselves for efficient service. Such companies as are not armed and equipped will report that fact, that they may be properly supplied.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, this 17th day of April, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth.

JOHN LETCHER.

On April 17, in a newly-called convention, Virginia, the traditional leader of the South, made the decision to secede – 88 to 55, on the condition of ratification by a statewide referendum. Neither Virginia nor any of the other later-seceding states understood the federal government to authorize violence against member states.

Virginia’s ordinance of secession was ratified in a referendum by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451 on May 23.

On April 4, Virginia decided to remain in the Union. How did that decision preserve or extend slavery?  Virginians had been willing to endure a crushing protective tariff under President Lincoln, the likes of the Tariff of Abominations (1828). And they understood that remaining in the Union would mean that slavery would continue to be under attack by his administration. Virginia was loyal to the Union even when the government was antagonistic to her.  No, slavery wasn’t the reason the Southern states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina (and probably others), left the Union. It would be Lincoln’s demand for troops that would change their minds. To these states, remaining in the Union was to abandon every principle of confederation that they valued. Continued loyalty to a Union that would attack member states and being forced to take up arms against her neighbors was inconceivable and intolerable.

Slavery was the issue that caused the North to become aggressively hostile to the states of the South and to cause the South to question whether the two regions could ever have enough of a common interest to remain joined together with a government that was to serve each equally and fairly. But the independent ambitions of the federal government and the schemes and twisted ideology of its president were the direct cause of its violent course the division would take.

 

Reference:

“Governor Letcher’s Proclamation: His Reply to Secretary Cameron – State of Affairs Norfolk,” New York Times, April 22, 1861.  Referenced at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1861/04/22/news/gov-letcher-s-proclamation-his-reply-secretary-cameron-state-affairs-norfolk.html

 

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Those Who are Tearing Down Confederate Monuments are Forcing Selective Amnesia on Americans

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ROBERT E. LEE - in front of door

by Diane Rufino, July 27, 2017

In this era when Southern (Confederate) leaders, symbols, generals, buildings, etc are being erased from our memory and history, and vilified in our conversations because of their connection to slavery, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind folks that they should really do some homework before jumping on this politically-correct bandwagon.  A history lesson is an opportunity for speech, for dialogue, for debate, for learning.  Erase history and you erase much more than the mere reminder than an event happened. Erase the memory of the Confederacy and you erase a time when states had the backbone to stand up for the principles in the Declaration of Independence (“Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness..”). Erase the memory of the Confederacy and you erase a time when states were willing to exert their natural rights of self-determination (aka, secession) rather than allow the federal government to subjugated them completely to its ambitious designs. Erase the memory of the Confederacy and you erase the last time in our nation’s history when states actually believed themselves to be the powerful sovereigns that they thought they would be under the US Constitution.

Be careful how you treat history.

Now many, it seems, are calling for the destruction of the monuments erected to Confederate leaders and Confederate generals, such as the great General Robert E. Lee.  There is no finer gentleman, no finer American, no finer human being than General Lee.  When President Lincoln tricked the South Carolina militia to fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1860, therefore giving him the reason he needed to raise troops to invade the South and force it back into the Union, he had some soul-searching to do. He was summoned to serve Lincoln and command the Northern Army, but then he would have to take up arms against the state he loved so much. Back in the day, one’s citizenship and one’s loyalties were first and foremost with one’s state (except, of course if you were a member of Congress). It was Lincoln’s Proclamation of April 15 that made Lee’s decision to fight for Virginia an easy one. Lincoln sent a dispatch to states such as Virginia and North Carolina, demanding that they send 75,000 troops to the Northern Army in order to invade the “rebelling states.”  Taking up arms, killing fellow Southerners, and imposing government force on his neighbors were things his conscience would not allow.  And so, he resigned the standing position he had with the government and joined the Confederate cause (Virginia voted to secede on April 17).

Lincoln had a tortured understanding of the Constitution and the South was right to resist.  Robert E. Lee, like so many other Southerns, was not a supporter of slavery and was looking forward to the day when the institution would either die a natural death (which it was on its way to doing) or would be abolished. He thought it an evil institution.  But slavery was not the cause of the hostilities that brought the War. It was government ambition, the disregard for States’ Rights, and the use of government force against member states (the ones who created the government in the first place) that initiated the violence that would claim more than 650,000 young American lives.  General Lee made the right choice. It may not have been the choice that best served our collective conscience regarding the enslavement of an entire race, but that’s not what the war was about. He made the right choice because only when states have the power to make their rightful decisions, including the decision to separate from an abusive government, can they effectively carry out the essential role that they play in our government system – to check the federal government when it oversteps its constitutional authority.

So, those who clamor to take down the statues of men like General Lee, or to erase his name from buildings and streets, take a moment to read what he had to say about slavery when the war was over: “I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.”

TAKE THIS MONUMENT DOWN!

Andrew Jackson statue #2

by Diane Rufino

While we’re heading down the dangerous slippery slope of government-sponsored censorship surrounding the display of the Confederate flag and certain Civil War generals and other historical figures, I have one question to ask….. Why don’t the good people of Louisiana demand that this offensive statue of Andrew Jackson (see below) be torn down. It reads: “The Union MUST and SHALL BE preserved.”

My daughter took a pic of it while she was in New Orleans recently and I noted what was inscribed on it.

This statue honors Jackson, who apparently was a hero of the Battle of New Orleans. During the Civil War, when Union soldiers occupied New Orleans, the phrase, “The Union must and shall be preserved” was inscribed into the monument’s base. At the time, the Union often used this phrase, referring to Jackson’s support of federal supremacy over state sovereignty.

I would demand the statue be taken down as an offensive reminder of the government’s violent attempt to destroy state’s rights, neuter state sovereignty, and shred the Declaration of Independence. The statue is a constant reminder of government coercion and indoctrination, all for the purpose of maintaining the all-powerful federal government.

Enough about racism. There are far bigger issues and principles at play. A “Perpetual Union” means a perpetual government. Our Founders never subscribed to that notion. There is a reason the government supports the position that the union was intended to be perpetual, and there is a reason presidents added justices to the federal courts who believe the same way — because then the government has longevity and nothing to fear from the sovereigns that were supposed to be able to hold its future in their hands.

RESOLUTION PROPOSING TO ELIMINATE ARTICLE 1, SECTION 4 (“SECESSION PROHIBITED”) FROM THE NC STATE CONSTITUTION

Written and Proposed by Diane Rufino

RESOLUTION TO REMOVE ARTICLE I: SECTION 4 from the NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION

This is a resolution to propose that Article I, Section 4 be removed from the NC state constitution, in part to acknowledge that the federal government unconstitutionally required the provision and in part to reassert state sovereignty

Whereas, Article I, Section 4 of the NC state constitution reads:  “Sec. 4.  Secession prohibited. This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation; there is no right on the part of this State to secede; and all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation, shall be resisted with the whole power of the State.”;

Whereas, in 1865, under orders from President Abraham Lincoln, North Carolina’s provisional governor, William W. Holden, called a convention to write a new constitution for the state and to submit it to the US Congress for approval as one of the preconditions for re-admission into the Union. Two requirements for re-admission were the ratification of the 13th amendment (to reject slavery) and a provision in the state constitution rejecting the right of secession;

Whereas, North Carolina was put in a seriously compromising position whereby she had no representation in the US Congress but would continue to be governed by its laws and policies.  Re-admission would allow representation;

Whereas, in order to be admitted back into the Union, the provision “secession prohibited” was included in the state constitution,

Whereas, the provision was added against the will of the people (the new constitution was rejected in a popular vote) and hence undemocratic;

Whereas, the US promises a republican form of government in every state (one of the very reasons Lincoln felt justified in waging the Civil War);

Whereas, the provision was added under coercion (and amounts to a “forced confession”);

Whereas, the provision is a badge of shame; it attaches a stigma to the state and the people of North Carolina as a result of being defeated and plundered by the North in the Civil War;

Whereas, the provision continues to punish North Carolina for daring to side with her neighbors in 1861 rather than invade and wage war against them.  [After seven states had already seceded, Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, sent a telegram to NC Gov. Ellis telling him that North Carolina would be expected to furnish two regiments to make war on the seceded States. The governor closed his refusal with these words: “I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.”];

Whereas, North Carolina had no intention of seceding UNTIL it became clear that she would be required to wage war against her sister southern states (the states she had more in common with), and hence was coerced into secession. [In 1861, after her neighbors had already taken action, NC sounded rejected a convention to vote on secession];

Whereas, while North Carolina voted against a convention and rejected secession, it never gave up its belief in two principles: first, that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land pursuant to the express delegations of power held therein, that those express delegations define the extent of its powers with each state holding reserve sovereign powers (tenth amendment), and that the Federal government could not force one State to fight another;

Whereas, after the Civil War was concluded, the US Constitution was never altered to redefine the relationship of the States to the federal government, and thus, the states continued to retain all its reserved rights of state sovereignty under the tenth amendment;

Whereas, the Preamble to the Bill of Rights continues to emphasize how important each of the rights and privileges expressed in the first ten amendments in the establishment of the Union, the design of government, and the harmony of our federation (united states).  [”The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution”];

Whereas, secession is an inherent right under a state’s sovereign powers, pursuant it its right of self-determination and self-preservation;

Whereas, secession is a fundamental right embodied in the Declaration of Independence [Under the Treaty of Paris, 1783, King George III acknowledged that the state of North Carolina, a sovereign state, had seceded from Great Britain];

Whereas, the right of secession being fundamental and inalienable, it can never limited by the federal government in any way, including by hiding behind the Constitution;

Whereas, the provision amounts to a forced denial of North Carolina’s fundamental right of sovereignty;

Whereas, the provision continues to punish the state for daring to remain loyal to founding principles of sovereignty;

Whereas, the provision acts as a badge of shame;

Whereas, the state of North Carolina, while recognizing all of the above as true, has no intention of abandoning its fellow states and leaving the Union.

Therefore, be it Resolved, that the People of the State of North Carolina demand that Article I, Section 4 be removed from the state constitution.

NC Flag

Comparing Obama’s Amnesty Plan to the Emancipation Proclamation

AMNESTY  by Diane Rufino

According to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, President Obama’s plan to excuse the illegal action of millions of immigrants not unlike Abraham Lincoln’s effort to free slaves.  At first I thought it was a joke.  And then I remembered two things: Nancy Pelosi is an idiot and has no sense of humor.

In a press conference on November 20, Nancy Pelosi said: “Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?  People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country.”   She continued: “Remember, President Lincoln said, ‘public sentiment is everything… I wish the Republicans would at least give the public a chance to listen to what the president is trying to do.”

Listening to the people is exactly what the President should do….   Maybe he already forgot, but the election this month can be seen as a complete rejection of his policies. Republicans just won complete control of both the House and Senate for the session that will begin in January.  Voters turned out to do what they see as an urgency…. to turn out government leaders who are willing to support the President in his agenda on immigration, healthcare, and more.  The urgency in this election was not to grant amnesty to “fix the immigration problem” but to PREVENT the President from doing so.

Perhaps Nancy Pelosi looked to President Lincoln for a new Democratic talking point because, after all, Lincoln was a tyrant and consolidated executive power to act extraordinarily in extraordinary circumstances. But I question whether our current broken immigration situation amounts to an “extraordinary circumstance.” The only reason we have this current immigration problem is because the government has refused to enforce immigration laws, an express enumerated power delegated to it.  The government can’t use a crisis of its own making as a reason to invoke unconstitutional powers.

Just because one president overstepped the law doesn’t mean another president should.  The people are entitled to a government that is restrained by its charter.  The American people are entitled to a government that operates within its boundaries so they can be comforted that government acts consistently, legally, and not in violation of their rights and interests.  Nancy Pelosi likes to think that Presidents can define issues as “crises” and thereby usurp power to address them. And then she believes that this type of conduct makes a President “great.”  That type of power grab made Adolph Hitler a monster.  That type of power grab made Abraham Lincoln a tyrant and gave rise to all-powerful government rather than a subordinate one. Luckily for the government, the party that wins a war has the luxury of writing the history books, providing the talking points, re-writing its reasons for the bloodshed, and demonizing the other side.  The admiration the country has for Abraham Lincoln has everything to do with the great debt the government owes to him and how his legacy has been defined.

So, what’s the real story behind the Executive Order?  Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. This date was chosen to coincide with the news of the battle at Antietam, near the village of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Antietam is infamously known as being the bloodiest single day of fighting in the Civil War. Although the battle is officially recognized as a stalemate, the North attempted to claim it as their victory. Hence, it would be a perfect time for Lincoln to tie a northern victory with the emancipation of slaves. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then the Proclamation would go into effect. According to Lincoln, if the slaves were being forced to aid the Confederate war machine, by working in the fields and hauling armaments and building fortifications, he would act in his capacity as commander-in-chief to liberate that labor. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. U.S. Navy General Order No. 4, issued on January 1, 1863 declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”  It was issued as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war and as the North continued to watch its defeat at the hands of the South.  With the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863, Lincoln decided to go one step further.  He would not only to free the slaves outside of Union-controlled areas but also to enlist any black man as a soldier in the Union army.  Thus black men could be part of the movement to liberate those in bondage.

The Emancipation Proclamation broadened the goals of the Civil War. While slavery had been a major issue that instigated tensions between the North and the South, Lincoln’s only mission at the start of the war was to keep the Union together. The Proclamation made freeing the slaves an explicit goal of the Union war effort, and was a step toward abolishing slavery and conferring full citizenship upon ex-slaves.  But make no mistake, the measure was not inspired by any affection for the slave or any stirring ambition to see them free in white-dominated society.  It was a cold calculated initiative to undermine the South.  Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of the slaves who were held as property in the South. It encouraged insurrection among the slaves against their white plantation owners (who, at the time, were mostly women and children). It eroded the loyalty and devotion of confederate soldiers because now their attention was torn between the war and between their families at home with this new threat from slaves who are encouraged to undermine the confederate war effort. Furthermore, the sooner the uprising could occur, and the greater the confederate effort could be undermined, the sooner the opportunity for local slaves to be liberated.  After January 1, 1863, every advance and victory of federal troops would bring freedom to the slaves in the South.    of undermining the confederate effort were almost.  After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops would offer them immediate freedom. And again, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. [By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom].

The Emancipation Proclamation was solely designed to energize the war effort because the North was still losing at that point, and losing badly. Far greater numbers of Northern soldiers were being killed in the many battles than Confederate soldiers.  But the Proclamation lacked any force of law with respect to actual emancipation.  First, it purported to free slaves in territory that no longer was under the jurisdiction of the United States government. The southern states had seceded from the Union and immediately formed the Confederate States of America, a new and independent, sovereign nation.  The only way slaves could be emancipated was if the North won the war. Second, the Emancipation ignored legislation that Congress had passed and Constitutional provisions regarding slavery and slaves, including the controversial Fugitive Slave Laws.  True, Congress (lacking any members from Southern states) moved towards limiting slavery and freeing slaves, but it refused to do so in the states.  Their measures only applied to territories. As in the antebellum era, Congress adamantly refused to legislate regarding slavery in the states. The issue was deemed a state prerogative on which Congress had little or no constitutional authority.

The constitutional question is whether President Lincoln overstepped his authority in signing the Executive Order – U.S. Navy General Order No. 4.  As President and Chief Executive, the Proclamation was an assault on Congress as the law-making branch of government.  And he seems to have understood that.  He seems to have understood that the federal government’s power to end slavery in peacetime was limited by the Constitution, which before 1865, committed the issue to individual states (through the Article V amendment process). But with the Civil War going on, Lincoln issued the Proclamation under his authority as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, outlined in Article II, section 2 of the US Constitution.  As such, he claimed to have the martial power to free persons held as slaves in those states that were in rebellion “as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion.”  In other words, his position was that Congress lacked power to free all slaves within the borders of rebel held states, but as Commander-in-Chief, he could do so if he deemed it a proper military measure.  He did not have this authority over the four slave-holding states that were not in rebellion.

The only way Lincoln could support this approach is if he completely ignored the articles of secession of the eleven southern states that decided, in special convention, to issue in order to legally separate themselves from the government of the United States – exactly as the 13 original states did with the Declaration of Independence to dissolve their bonds of allegiance with Great Britain.  In fact, the wording of several of the Ordinances of Secession are designed very much after the Declaration (just so that the Lincoln administration should have no doubt about their intentions).  Furthermore, to support his approach, Lincoln would have to completely ignore the status of the Confederate States of America as a new, independent, and sovereign country.  He would have to ignore their Constitution, which was based almost exclusively on the US Constitution, except for provisions regarding the power to enforce protective tariffs and slavery.

During the time of the Civil War, the US Congress took up the issue of slavery.  In January 1862, Thaddeus Stevens, one of the leaders of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party and the Republican leader in the House, called for total war against the South to include emancipation of slaves, arguing that emancipation, by forcing the loss of enslaved labor, would ruin the economy of the South.  On March 13, 1862, Congress approved a “Law Enacting an Additional Article of War”, which stated that from that point onward it was forbidden for Union Army officers to return fugitive slaves to their owners.  On April 10, 1862, Congress declared that the federal government would compensate slave owners who freed their slaves. Without the South in the Union and without any members of Congress from the South to represent its interests, there apparently was no need to respect the Fugitive Slave provision of the Constitution. (Slaves in the District of Columbia were freed on April 16, 1862, and their owners were compensated).  On June 19, 1862, Congress prohibited slavery in all current and future United States territories (though not in the states), and President Lincoln quickly signed the legislation. By this act, they repudiated – nullified – the 1857 decision by the US Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, which announced that Congress was powerless to regulate slavery in U.S. territories

So the question is whether the power President Lincoln assumed as Commander-in-Chief allowed him to act outside of the Constitution’s structure of separation of powers and checks and balances during the Civil War.  I would submit that he didn’t.  He merely wanted to extend to those collateral parties to the war – the slaves – a vested interest in fighting for the North and undermining the effort of the South.  It was sabotage by usurpation.

Is Nancy Pelosi starting this Democratic talking point for the same reason Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation?   Are they hoping that Ohama’s amnesty plan will energize those here illegally?  Are they hoping to sabotage our rule of law by claiming there is precedent for unconstitutional executive actions?

Well, perhaps in this regard, the President’s amnesty plan is designed to resemble the Emancipation Proclamation.

Let’s go back to President Obama’s plan for the amnesty of 5 million illegal immigrants. In light of the recent election and voter mandate (he got slaughtered in the election!)  and despite a recent Rasmussen poll which shows that 62% of Americans do NOT want the president to act on immigration reform without the approval of Congress,  the president signed two Executive Orders yesterday, November 21, onboard Air Force One (en route to Las Vegas).  The Executive Orders would delay deportation for millions of illegal immigrants. They will grant “deferred action” to two illegal immigrant groups – (1) parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the country for five years, and (2) young people who were brought into the country illegally as of 2010. During his televised 15-minute primetime speech Thursday evening from the East Room of the White House, Obama said his administration will start accepting applications from illegal immigrants who seek the deferred actions. Those who qualify will be granted protections for three years.

It’s no wonder that Obama has chosen to go to Las Vegas for his first stop in drumming up support for his plan.  Hispanics are a growing and powerful constituency in Nevada.

In general, the American people seem confused as to what an Executive Order is, what applicability is has, and how much authority the President has to issue them.  If you look at social media and blog responses, those who support Obama’s amnesty plan claim that Obama is only being criticized unfairly because he is black and as proof, they cite the fact that President Bush signed far more Executive Orders.  This is a typical liberal response, lacking in any fact or logic. Yes, President Bush signed a butt-load of Executive Orders (and we’re talking Kim Kardashian size butt loads). But each executive order is different. A president can issue an executive order to clarify his position, to further manage “executive” operations, give directions, give instructions, make declarations, make proclamations (like the one to establish the National Day of Prayer), give directives, etc. They are mainly for clarification and for instructions. They further explain something that Congress has passed. When Executive Orders are pursuant to valid Constitutional powers, they have the force of law. But Executive Orders are ALWAYS subject to the Separation of Powers doctrine. The President can NEVER assume powers not granted to him under Article II.

In 1950, North Korean troops invaded the Republic of Korea. Backed by a UN Resolution, President Truman sent U.S. troops to aid South Korea. He did not ask for a declaration of war from Congress. Because of the “war,” demand increased for steel and prices had risen.  As steel prices rose, the steel worker union, the United Steel Workers of America, threatened a strike unless they received a wage increase.  President Truman believed that it would be a disaster for the nation if steel production were stopped and he ordered his Secretary of Commerce to take control of and operate the steel mills.  Truman wanted to make sure that the military effort in Korea would not be disrupted.

The steel mill owners believed President Truman’s seizure was unconstitutional because it was not authorized by any law and they took it to the Supreme Court. Truman argued that his position as Commander-in-Chief gave him the necessary power to seize and operate the mills. (Sounds similar to what Lincoln did with the Emancipation Proclamation). In 1951, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the landmark case known as Youngstown Steel v. Sawyer.  This is an important case and one that is certainly studied in law school. The Court struck down President Truman’s Executive Order and through its decision (full of cajones), it helped to curb presidential power. Perhaps it was an attempt to push back against presidents (like FDR and Truman, thinking themselves untouchable because of their management of the war) who had greatly sought to enlarge the powers of the Executive. The Court disagreed with Truman and held that neither the Constitution nor any act of Congress allowed the President to take over the steel mills. “The President’s power, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself.” There had been no act of Congress, so the Court turned to the Constitution. The Court ruled that the President’s role of Commander in Chief power did not authorize the action, and neither did the “several constitutional provisions that grant executive power to the President. In the framework of our Constitution, the President’s power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker.”  In other words, his power to see that the laws are faithfully executed should NOT be confused with the power to make law in the first place.

The ruling was based on the Constitution’s Separation of Powers doctrine. Legal scholars point out that the Court did not rule that any seizure would have been unconstitutional. Rather, Truman’s actions were unconstitutional because he did not have any legislative authority.

The case stands for the bright line rule that a President CANNOT act where Congress has decided NOT to act.

Another argument pushed by supporters of the president’s Executive Order, including Nancy Pelosi herself, is that Obama is not doing anything that Ronald Reagan didn’t do when he was president, in deferring the removal of certain immigrants.  I believe there is a clear difference though. Congress had passed sweeping immigration reform legislation in 1986, granting full-blown amnesty.  In Obama’s case, Congress hasn’t passed any immigration reform.  I would remind folks to visit the Youngstown Steel case.

In 1986, Congress passed a full-blown amnesty, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, conferring residency rights on some 3 million people. Simpson-Mazzoli was sold as a “once and for all” solution to the illegal immigration problem but ended up being riddled with fraud. It was passed as immediate amnesty with strict enforcement measures to be put in place for the future. Unfortunately, the bill failed to anticipate the situation where certain members of a single family qualified for amnesty while others did not.  Nobody wanted to deport the still-illegal husband of a newly legalized wife. Reagan’s Executive Order attempted to address this situation and tidy up Congress’ immigration scheme.  The public didn’t view it to a unilateral initiative to reform immigration and it was not seen as controversial.

In other words, Ronald Reagan acted in conjunction with Congress and in furtherance of a congressional purpose.  Obama is intentionally ignoring Congressional purpose.

The executive action by President Obama, however, would follow not an act of Congress but a prior executive action of his own.  Remember when he suspended enforcement against the so-called “dreamers” by Executive Order in June 2012.  The 2012 Executive Order announced a change in immigration policy; the government would stop deportations and begin granting work permits for some Dream Act-eligible students.  The policy change applied (applies) to young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, following along the same lines as the Dream Act, a bill that passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate in 2010.  (Dream Act-eligible young people are referred to as “DREAMers”).

AMNESTY #2

No one from the left seems to care about what lies at the very core of the president’s actions.  Let’s be clear….  President Obama has NO authority to do what he wants to do – to grant legal rights to illegal immigrants.  But never-mind the substantive issue here, the President has NO right to sidestep Congress and to ignore the Constitution. He has no right to rule by fiat and he has no right to act like a King. No matter where a person stands on the issue of amnesty, it is the conduct by this president and the audacity with which he approaches the job that should make every American fuming mad.

The lies, the accusation, and the frivolous comparisons to Ronald Reagan are bad enough.  But when I hear folks out there comparing the Amnesty plan to the Emancipation Proclamation and illegal immigrants to slaves, I want to scream. I want to remind those on the left who the REAL slaves are, because they really don’t have a clue.  The real slaves are the tax-paying middle class who aren’t exempt from the federal income tax scam but aren’t rich enough to have any lobbying power or ability to bribe anyone for favors.  They are the workers…  the ones who get up each day, ride a bus, train, plane, etc to work so they can pay for a house, college, car, clothes, food, and to support the kids that they carefully planned to have. The slaves are the ones who pay taxes at the expense of those who don’t but have no say in how their money (their property) is used to increasingly allow those deadbeats to live more comfortably.  The slaves are the ones who are forced to pay for the healthcare plans of those who, in great part, don’t give a rat’s ass about their health or how to improve it.  The slaves are the ones whose kids who kids can’t get into top-notch schools based on their high grade point averages because they are not a minority.  The slaves are the ones who have to save all their receipts and fill out lots of paperwork each April, hoping that the government won’t send a letter accusing them of not paying enough, while welfare recipients can use their money (OUR money) to buy cigarettes, alcohol, and luxury items, and go to gambling casinos.  Slaves are the ones who take voting seriously and go to the ballot box well-informed of the issues and with skin in the game but immediately have their votes cancelled out by ones that are cast by low-information voters without skin in the game for the sole purpose of making sure they continue to get what the other voters can provide to them.  But most importantly, slaves are the ones who, because they pay taxes and have files with the IRS, are forced to censor themselves and refrain from protest for fear that the government will use their henchmen (the IRS) to audit and otherwise harass them.

The real slaves want the President to uphold the Constitution and stop trying to make a mockery of it.

As mentioned earlier, the Emancipation Proclamation carried no legal authority and freed no one, and so in this sense, I hope that Obama’s lawless behavior will be recognized similarly and have similar results.

Watch:
Nancy Pelosi Compares Obama’s Amnesty Bill to Emancipation Proclamation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNxglS1E3pc

Nancy Pelosi to GOP on Immigration Action: ‘Look to Ronald Reagan, Your Hero’  –   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYLrmnW3JHo  (“The President’s Actions are as good as it can be under the law…. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to have a bill….  “  Nancy Pelosi)

References:
Billy House, “Pelosi Compares Obama Immigration Order to Emancipation Proclamation,” National Journal, November 20, 2014. http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/pelosi-compares-obama-immigration-order-to-emancipation-proclamation-20141120.

Henry L. Chambers Jr., “Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Executive Power,” Maryland Law Review, Vol 73, Issue 1, Article 6 (2013. http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3599&context=mlr   or http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/mlr/vol73/iss1/6

The Emancipation Proclamation, the Navy Department Library.  http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq57-2.htm

Gabriel Malor, “No, Reagan Did Not Offer an Amnesty by Illegal Executive Action,” The Federalist, November 20, 2014.  http://thefederalist.com/2014/11/20/no-reagan-did-not-offer-an-amnesty-by-lawless-executive-order/

David Frum, “Reagan and Bush Offer No Precedent for Obama’s Amnesty Order,” The Atlantic, November 18, 2014.   http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/11/the-weak-argument-defending-executive-amnesty/382906/

Appendix:

THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  A PROCLAMATION.

WHEREAS, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a Proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever, free; and the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of any such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans,) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth,) and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this Proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgement of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

NULLIFICATION: The Truths and the Fallacies

Nullify Now - North Carolina (Thomas Jefferson quote)    by Diane Rufino

PART I:  Nullification is the Rightful Remedy to Limit the Federal Government to its Constitutional Objects

Nullification is the theory that says that actions of the federal government that are passed, imposed, or exercised in excess or abuse of the express authority granted in the Constitution are not enforceable. If there is no proper foundation for the action, then that action is null and void and a state has the right, in fact the duty, to refuse to enforce it on its people. Nullification is an essential principle to ensure that the People are insulated from federal tyranny.

Nullification is a legal theory rooted firmly in constitutional history and based on the very limitations articulated in the US Constitution, specifically the Tenth Amendment and Article VI, Section 2 (“Supremacy Clause”). It is based on the federal nature of our government (separation of powers; “dual and competing sovereigns”), on the Supremacy Clause (only those laws made “in pursuance to the Constitution” are supreme and therefore trump state law), and most strongly, on the compact nature of the Constitution (the states formed the Constitution as a compact, agreeing to delegate some of their sovereign power – certain specified powers – to the federal government and reserving all other powers to themselves. Each state, as a party to the compact, has a “right to judge for itself” the extent of the federal government’s powers).  The compact – the social compact – that the states signed in forming the Union in 1789, is similar to contract law. Contracts, as we all know, outline the obligations and benefits to each of the signing parties. The parties are likewise bound by the express language of the contract. We understand this theory and this issue of contract construction as we all have signed contracts. If one party attempts to change the terms or exceed authority under the contract, the other party can either chose to ignore the perverted exercise of contract power or can break the contract altogether.

The fundamental basis for government and law in this country, as in most societies, is the concept of the social compact (or social contract). Social compact is an extension of Natural Law (upon which our Declaration is based) which states that human beings begin as individuals in a state of nature and then organize into societies for mutual benefit. They create a society by establishing a contract whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit, after which they are said to live in a state of society. This contract involves the retaining of certain natural rights, an acceptance of restrictions of certain liberties, the assumption of certain duties, and the pooling of certain powers to be exercised collectively. James Madison confirmed the nature of the US Constitution as a social compact in Federalist No. 39.

The key features of a social compact are: (i) retention of natural rights; (ii) common defense of those rights; and (iii) limitation of government power.

Now, it is true that the compact assures that the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance to it (Article VI) shall be valued as the supreme law of the land, but the converse is equally true. All power not expressly granted is reserved by the States and on those objects, state law is supreme law. This is our system of dual sovereignty. That is the brilliant design feature of our American government system which our Founders believed would ensure the protection of our God-given rights. But unfortunately, our Founders thought the government could be trusted to respect its boundaries, to protect that “precious jewel” that is liberty. They believed that if the branches of government were “advised” that their particular actions were unconstitutional, they would quickly remedy the situation and undo what they had done.

Hah, fat chance that was going to happen. It was only a few years into the operation of the federal government when it attempted, successfully too, to enlarge its powers and redefine the terms of the Constitution. And that’s when our most important Founders – Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – had to remind state leaders why we fought the Revolutionary War in the first place and what their fears had been when considering ratifying the Constitution. That’s when Jeffersonian Nullification was born. It was born out of the notion that the federal government must not be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation, for if it has the unchecked power to judge the extent of its own powers, it will continue to grow and encroach on the rights and liberties of the People and the States.

In his written assurances to the States that the Constitution was delegating only limited powers from them to a federal government, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 78: “Every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

In order that the States (and the People) be completely assured of what precise objects that their sovereign power was being delegated to the government for, James Madison explained it in the clearest of terms in Federalist No. 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

      The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States.”    

In Federalist No. 26, Alexander Hamilton wrote: “The State legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers, and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but, if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”

And with this duty to protect its citizens against encroachments from the federal government – to be both their VOICE and their ARM of discontent – we see the seeds that were sown for Nullification and Interposition (the duty to intercede and prevent the usurpation and “arrest the evil”).

Our Founders understood the nature of power….  Power can only be checked by power.

In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799, which questioned the constitutionality of the Alien & Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

If those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by the federal compact (ie, the US Constitution), but a total disregard to the special delegations of powers therein contained, an annihilation of the state governments, and the creation, upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction, contended by the state legislatures, 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:  That this commonwealth does, under the most deliberate reconsideration, declare that the said Alien and Sedition laws are, in their opinion, palpable violations of the Constitution…

In the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, also addressing the unconstitutionality of the Acts, James Madison wrote:

That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the Federal Government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states (alone) are the parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact; as no farther valid than they are authorized by the grants (of power) enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by said compact, the states who are parties thereto have the right, and are duty-bound, to INTERPOSE for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them…

       That the General Assembly expresses its deep regret that a spirit has been manifested by the federal government to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which, having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former Articles of Confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued) so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration which necessarily explains, and limits the general phrases; and so as to consolidate the states, by degrees, into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be, to transform the present republican system of the United states into an absolute, or at best, a mixed monarchy..

Historians and constitutionalists explain the Jeffersonian theory of Nullification in a way that is slightly misleading. They teach us that constitutional theory allows a state the right (and perhaps even the duty) to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has determined to be outside the powers delegated to the government under the Constitution. In other words, they say, a state has the right to determine when a federal law is unconstitutional and therefore decide not to enforce it.

Nullification is actually simpler than that. We live in a country founded on the notion of Individual Sovereignty – that man is supreme and government flows from the sovereign rights and powers of the individual. In our free society, founded on the supremacy of individual rights, constitutions were drafted to list those powers that the people agreed to delegate to their government for the protection of their rights and the orderly management of their communities. The US Constitution was no different. All other powers were retained by the People. Laws are only enforceable in such a constitutional republic when there is express authority granted by the People to do so. Consequently, when the federal government passes a law that exceeds or abuses power delegated in the Constitution, that law is AUTOMATICALLY  NULL and VOID.  It is automatically unenforceable on a free people. Judges are SUPPOSED to declare it void (to put that official check on the legislative branch and force them to repeal the law), but even if they don’t, the law is already null and void.  The federal judiciary was originally intended to be a “check” and was supposed to “advise” only. It was intended to be the weakest of all branches.

So, under the doctrine of Nullification, the states don’t really declare laws to be null and void.  Rather, they recognize that certain laws are null and void. Then they exercise their duty to maintain the integrity of our free society by refusing to enforce any unconstitutional law on their citizens.

PART 2:  Nullification is a Constitutional Principle, Exercised by our Founding Generations

There is no easier way for tyranny to take hold than for a People to remain silent when they know, or should know, what their rights are. There is no easier way for a government to usurp the natural rights of a People to govern themselves than to stand by and let that government legislate when it has no authority to do so.

The early colonists certainly didn’t miss an opportunity to stand up for their rights. In fact, the Sons of Liberty formed (much like today’s Tea Party and Tenth Amendment Center) to point out where Britain was violating their rights and to help organize opposition and protest. Samuel Adams, the leader of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, wrote the following in 1769 with these words:

DEARLY BELOVED,

REVOLVING time hath brought about another anniversary of the repeal of the odious Stamp Act,—an act framed to divest us of our liberties and to bring us to slavery, poverty, and misery. The resolute stand made by the Sons of Liberty against the detestable policy had more effect in bringing on the repeal than any conviction in the Parliament of Great Britain of the injustice and iniquity of the act . It was repealed from principles of convenience to Old England, and accompanied with a declaration of their right to tax us; and since, the same Parliament have passed acts which, if obeyed in the Colonies, will be equally fatal. Although the people of Great Britain be only fellow-subjects, they have of late assumed a power to compel us to buy at their market such things as we want of European produce and manufacture; and, at the same time, have taxed many of the articles for the express purpose of a revenue; and, for the collection of the duties, have sent fleets, armies, commissioners, guard acostas, judges of admiralty, and a host of petty officers, whose insolence and rapacity are become intolerable. Our cities are garrisoned; the peace and order which heretofore dignified our streets are exchanged for the horrid blasphemies and outrages of soldiers; our trade is obstructed ; our vessels and cargoes, the effects of industry, violently seized; and, in a word, every species of injustice that a wicked and debauched Ministry could invent is now practiced against the most sober, industrious, and loyal people that ever lived in society. The joint supplications of all the Colonies have been rejected; and letters and mandates, in terms of the highest affront and indignity, have been transmitted from little and insignificant servants of the Crown to his Majesty’s grand and august sovereignties in America.

These things being so, it becomes us, my brethren, to walk worthy of our vocation, to use every lawful mean to frustrate the wicked designs of our enemies at home and abroad, and to unite against the evil and pernicious machinations of those who would destroy us.”

Son of Liberty

From a small, secret group of agitators in Boston and in Connecticut, the Sons of Liberty grew to the point that there was a group in every one of the thirteen colonies. They organized demonstrations, circulated petitions, published newspaper articles, distributed flyers and handbills, and in general did all they could to bring the message of liberty to the colonists. But it was their simple acts of civil disobedience – like protesting a tax on tea by dumping 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor, protesting the tax on documents (Stamp Act) by forcing officials to the Crown to resign or to refrain from unloading ships from Britain, or forming angry mobs in response to the Quartering Act – which prevented the enforcement of some of the acts of Parliament that the colonists found intolerable. It was when the King responded with further punitive and oppressive measures – which Jefferson would refer to as “abuses and usurpations” – it was clear the colonies would have to declare their independence in order to remain free.

By frustrating the enforcement of the Stamp Act and the other intolerable, the Sons of Liberty exercised their early right of nullification. They recognized that the British Parliament had no right to legislate for them when they were not provided representation, as guaranteed in their English Bill of Rights of 1689. Any piece of legislation that is passed without proper authority is automatically null and void and cannot be rightfully enforced. This is the basis of the doctrine of Nullification. The Sons of Liberty stood up for this principle and energized the colonists to stand up for their rights and especially their right NOT TO SUBMIT to laws that were not properly passed in accordance with their government charters.

Nullification, as you can see, is an important check and balance on the power of the federal government, which seeks, at every turn, to enlarge and concentrate its powers and to pervert the meaning and intent of the Constitution. There has been no greater enemy than the federal courts which now openly, flagrantly, and arrogantly declare that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that is to be re-interpreted willy nilly and as they, the judges, believe will best reflect and serve the social norms of the day.

In fact, Nullification is probably the most important check and balance of them all. Dual and co-equal sovereigns, each jealously guarding their respective sphere of power, will maintain that delicate balance of power that our Founding Fathers designed and which the States themselves agreed to. It’s the same way that two skilled attorneys, adversarial in nature (the prosecution and the defense) will aggressively provide that justice is served. And it’s the same way that two political parties, one to the left in its ideology and the other to the right, will ultimately assure that policy remains somewhat in the middle so that our society is tolerable for everyone.

In Federalist No. 33, Alexander Hamilton asked and answered an important question: “If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”  Hamilton doesn’t limit the measures that people can use to redress the situation when government oversteps the bounds of its authority.  According to Hamilton, the remedy should be in proportion to the violation. If we are to take Hamilton at his word for the government’s taxing power, we should, with the same enthusiasm, take him at his word for the ability to push the government back within the bound of the Constitution.

Referring to the title of this article, the truth is that Nullification is a valid constitutional doctrine reserved “in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by said compact (US Constitution).”  James Madison, Virginia Resolutions of 1798. The states, who wrote, debated, amended (Bill of Rights), and ratified the Constitution to create the federal government are the rightful parties who have the authority, and are indeed “duty-bound, to interpose (intercede) for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.”  Virginia Resolutions of 1798.  The truth is that Nullification, while not under that express term, was an important principle and an important tool to prevent abusive and unconstitutional laws from being enforced on the colonists/colonies and then on the citizens of the various “united” States and the states themselves when the US Constitution was adopted. The fallacy is that the Constitution itself, through the Supremacy Clause, renders Nullification an illegitimate remedy. Thefallacy is that the Supreme Court, as the ultimate authority on the intent and meaning of the Constitution, has rejected the doctrine. The fallacy is that Nullification was the favored state remedy of slavery proponents and white supremists. And the fallacy is that the Civil War distinguished rightful remedies to limit government power.

Part 3:  Opponents of Nullification Attempt to Discredit our Founding Principles With Various False Criticisms

            A.  The Misrepresentation of the Supremacy Clause and Proper Constitutional Bounds 

Critics are quick to say that the theory of nullification has never been legally upheld and in fact, the Supreme Court expressly rejected it – in Ableman v. Booth, 1959, and Cooper v. Aaron, 1958. They say that the courts have spoken on the subject and have held that under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, federal law is superior to state law, and that under Article III of the Constitution, the federal judiciary has the final power to interpret the Constitution. Therefore, the critics conclude, that the power to make final decisions about the constitutionality of federal laws lies with the federal courts, not the states, and the states do not have the power to nullify federal laws but rather, are duty-bound to obey them.

The fatal flaw in their arguments, however, is that they believe that the judiciary, a branch of the same federal government that tends to overstep their constitutional bounds, is somehow above the law and not subject to the remedy of Nullification as the other branches are. As will be discussed later, the federal judiciary was the first branch to enlarge its powers, in the case of Marbury v. Madison.

Another fatal flaw in their argument is that somehow, the Supremacy Clause is a rubber stamp that labels every federal law, every federal court decision, and every federal action “supreme.” They, and especially the justices of the Supreme Court, refer to the Supremacy Clause as if it were the Midas Touch – a magical power that turns EVERYTHING the federal government does, including by all three branches, to gold. Nothing is farther than the truth. The Supremacy Clause states simply: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; …shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby…”  The is no debate that the Constitution, as originally drafted and defended, and as intended and ratified, designed a government of limited powers. Therefore it follows that only laws passed to legislate for the limited functions listed in the Constitution are supreme. Regarding objects and designs not expressly listed in the Constitution, the Ninth and Tenth Amendment remind us that they are reserved to the People or the States, respectively, and the federal government can claim no such supremacy. The Supremacy Clause states a preemptive doctrine that asserts sovereignty just as equally as the Ninth and Tenth Amendments assert sovereignty.

Hamilton continued in Federalist No. 33: “It is said that the laws of the Union are to be the supreme law of the land. But what inference can be drawn from this, or what would they amount to, if they were not to be supreme? It is evident they would amount to nothing. A law, by the very meaning of the term, includes supremacy. It is a rule which those to whom it is prescribed are bound to observe. This results from every political association. If individuals enter into a state of society, the laws of that society must be the supreme regulator of their conduct. If a number of political societies enter into a larger political society, the laws which the latter may enact, pursuant to the powers entrusted to it by its constitution, must necessarily be supreme over those societies, and the individuals of whom they are composed. But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the large society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such. Hence we perceive that the clause which declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union, like the one we have just before considered, only declares a truth, which flows immediately and necessarily from the institution of a federal government. It will not, I presume, have escaped observation, that it expressly confines this supremacy to laws made pursuant to the Constitution; which I mention merely as an instance of caution in the convention; since that limitation would have been to be understood, though it had not been expressed.

Critics also like to discredit Nullification by associating it with the more controversial episodes in our history.  A popular claim is that Nullification was used to perpetuate slavery because it was embraced by Southern leaders who did not want blacks to take their place as free and equal men in their societies. They especially link Nullification to South Carolina’s colorful Senator John C. Calhoun who was not only a vocal proponent of the doctrine and used it to justify his state’s refusal to recognize the Tariff of Abominations in 1832, but he was a strong supporter of slavery and a white supremist. They like to say that Nullification led to the tariff crisis (or Nullification Crisis of 1832) pitting the South against the North and eventually precipitating the Civil War. They allege that the Civil War settled the question of Nullification.

There are so many flaws in these arguments.

Between 1798 and the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, several states threatened or attempted nullification of various federal laws, including the Tariff of 1828, the Tariff of 1832, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and even the 1854 ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court which held that Wisconsin didn’t have to comply with the Fugitive Slave Act. None of these efforts were legally upheld, although all were successful in providing the relief they sought.

In the late 1820′s, the nation suffered an economic downturn, with South Carolina being hit especially hard. The government enacted high protective tariffs (high tariffs on imports, particularly finished goods). The North, industrial as it was, manufactured finished goods but needed raw materials (such as cotton, sugar, etc) while the South, an agrarian society, purchased almost all finished products from imports. It also made most of its money from its export of cotton, tobacco, and sugar. The tariff, as the South viewed it, harmed the South while at the same time providing an enormous benefit to the North. With the higher prices on imported finished goods, it had the effect of “protecting” the products of the North. In other words, the finished goods of the North would be preferred over imports because of the price. The South would be forced to buy products from the North, thus enriching the North. On the other hand, because of the United States’ high protective tariffs, other countries retaliated by imposing high tariffs on American imports, which greatly harmed the South. To compete, the South had to lower her prices. Like a vulture, the Northern industries noticed that Southern cotton, sugar, etc weren’t selling and took advantage of the fact that they could buy her goods at reduced prices. South Carolina was opposed most vehemently to the protective tariffs. South Carolina believed that a “common government” should serve both regions equally and in this case, it was harming the South in order to enrich the North. South Carolina alleged that the tariffs were extremely detrimental to her well-being.

In the summer of 1828, South Carolina state representative Robert Barnwell Rhett appealed to the governor and to his constituents to resist the majority in Congress regarding the high tariff (referred to as the “Tariff of Abominations”). Rhett emphasized the danger of doing nothing:

But if you are doubtful of yourselves – if you are not prepared to follow up your principles wherever they may lead, to their very last consequence – if you love life better than honor,…. prefer ease to perilous liberty and glory, then awake not!  Stir not!  Impotent resistance will add vengeance to your ruin. Live in smiling peace with your insatiable Oppressors, and die with the noble consolation that your submissive patience will survive triumphant your beggary and despair.”

Also in 1828, John Calhoun published his “Exposition and Protest,” although anonymously, in which he discussed Nullification. (He was Andrew Jackson’s Vice President at the time and Jackson was strongly opposed to Nullification):

If it be conceded, as it must be by everyone who is the least conversant with our institutions, that the sovereign powers delegated are divided between the General and State Governments, and that the latter hold their portion by the same tenure as the former, it would seem impossible to deny to the States the right of deciding on the infractions of their powers, and the proper remedy to be applied for their correction. The right of judging, in such cases, is an essential attribute of sovereignty, of which the States cannot be divested without losing their sovereignty itself, and being reduced to a subordinate corporate condition. In fact, to divide power, and to give to one of the parties the exclusive right of judging of the portion allotted to each, is, in reality, not to divide it at all; and to reserve such exclusive right to the General Government (it matters not by what department to be exercised), is to convert it, in fact, into a great consolidated government, with unlimited powers, and to divest the States, in reality, of all their rights. It is impossible to understand the force of terms, and to deny so plain a conclusion.”

In 1832, inspired by Calhoun’s defense of Nullification as the rightful remedy to not suffer unconstitutional federal legislation (he strongly supported and promoted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, respectively), South Carolina decided to use the doctrine to escape the oppression of the tariff.  Its position was that Nullification could be used by a state to resist a federal law that was not specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution.  South Carolina then assembled a democratically-elected convention and issued an Ordinance of Nullification. This ordinance declared that the federal Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and therefore null and void within the sovereign boundaries of South Carolina.

The Ordinance of Nullification read:

Whereas the Congress of the United States by various acts, purporting to be acts laying duties and imposts on foreign imports, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufactures and the giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and oppression of other classes and individuals, and by wholly exempting from taxation certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those intended to be protected, bath exceeded its just powers under the constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and bath violated the true meaning and intent of the constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burdens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the confederacy: And whereas the said Congress, exceeding its just power to impose taxes and collect revenue for the purpose of effecting and accomplishing the specific objects and purposes which the constitution of the United States authorizes it to effect and accomplish, hath raised and collected unnecessary revenue for objects unauthorized by the constitution.

      We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the several acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities, and now having actual operation and effect within the United States, and, more especially, an act entitled “An act in alteration of the several acts imposing duties on imports,” approved on the nineteenth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight and also an act entitled “An act to alter and amend the several acts imposing duties on imports,” approved on the fourteenth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens; and all promises, contracts, and obligations, made or entered into, or to be made or entered into, with purpose to secure the duties imposed by said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void.”

The Ordinance of Nullification was not received well and soon escalated to what came to be referred to as the Nullification of 1832. Andrew Jackson was inflamed and was intent on arresting Calhoun and having him hang in Washington DC. He also had Congress pass the Force Bill which authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted the tariff acts. It was feared that South Carolina would secede if pushed, and so, the members of the US Senate and then House came together to work out a solution. In 1833, Senator Henry Clay and Senator Calhoun proposed a compromise bill to resolve the Crisis. The Tariff of 1833 (also known as the Compromise Tariff of 1833), would gradually reduce the tariff rates over a 10-year period to the levels set in the Tariff of 1816 – an average of 20% lower.  The compromise bill was accepted by South Carolina and passed the US Congress and thus effectively ended the Nullification Crisis.  South Carolina got the relief it sought.

As a side note, Abraham Lincoln, who ran on the Republican Platform for president in the election of 1860, was originally a Whig and was still a Whig at heart. He was a true follower of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.  As such, he was a strong supporter of protective tariffs and promised to raise the tariff to the 1828 rate. Is it any wonder why tensions in the South were elevated with the election of Lincoln?

            B.  The Misrepresentation of Nullification with respect to Slavery

One of the biggest criticisms is that that Nullification was asserted for the purpose of perpetuating slavery. The record, however, is absolutely clear on this issue. Frustration of the federal Fugitive Slave Law was accomplished by nullification efforts all over the North and because of the success of those efforts, slaves were encouraged to seek their freedom and the movement to end slavery was able to gain momentum.

Although the concepts of States’ Rights and Nullification are historically associated with the South, they were employed by northern states to resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. While the southern states defied the federal government by refusing to accept the abominable tariffs, the northern states defied the government by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, which they believed was an unconstitutional commandeering of the state and at its core, a repugnant law that offended their conscience. Under this law, stringent measures were imposed to catch runaway slaves. These included:

  • Penalizing federal officials that did not enforce the law
  • Rewarding federal officials that did enforce law
  • Requiring free citizens to help capture runaway slaves
  • Fining or imprisoning citizens helping runaways escape
  • Prohibiting runaways from testifying on their own behalf in court
  • Denying jury trials to runaways

Special federal commissions, not courts, worked with U.S. marshals to handle runaway cases. Commissioners and marshals who failed to hold captured runaways could be sued, thus compelling them to enforce the law. They received $10 for every runaway delivered to a claimant, but only $5 for cases in which the runaway was freed. This provided a financial incentive to send even free black men and women into slavery. The law not only jeopardized the liberty of every black citizen, but it also infringed on the freedom of white citizens by forcing them to hunt for runaways against their will.

State and local governments openly defied the law:

1).  The legislatures of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Wisconsin passed “personal liberty laws” making it nearly impossible to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act in those states.

2).  The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that the Tenth Amendment protected states from repugnant federal laws like the Fugitive Slave Act, specifically citing the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 as the basis for its opinion.

3).  The Chicago City Council called northern congressmen who supported the act “traitors” like “Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot.”

4).  When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not free federal prisoners convicted of helping runaways, the Wisconsin legislature called “this assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary… an act of undelegated power, void, and of no force…”  (The Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the Supreme Court’s decision.  See discussion below)

In addition to local governments, the people themselves took matters into their own hands:

1).  In Syracuse, New York, in 1851 a jury effectively nullified the law by acquitting all but one of 26 people who had been arrested for freeing William “Jerry” Henry. Among those 26 persons arrested and tried was a US Senator and the former Governor of NY.  Jerry ultimately escaped to Canada.

2).  When Joshua Glover was captured by U.S. marshals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the sheriff supported local opinion by freeing Glover and jailing the marshals; Glover also escaped to Canada.

3).  In Pennsylvania, a mob of free blacks killed a slaveholder attempting to capture a runaway.

4).  Military force was needed to disperse a mass meeting after a black man was apprehended in Detroit.

5).  Throughout Ohio, town meetings branded any northern official who helped enforce the law “an enemy of the human race.”

6).  Other cities and states refused to help enforce the law simply because it was too expensive. Returning one runaway to the South cost the city of Boston $5,000. Boston officials never enforced the law again. All of these acts of defiance and nullification were ironically adopted from principles first introduced and later invoked by southerners.

When Wisconsin residents refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law and return escaped slave, Glover, an ensuing series of arrests would give the state Supreme Court the opportunity to use Nullification to proclaim the law’s unconstitutionality. The case would be known as In re Booth.

What has become known as the Booth case is actually a series of decisions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court beginning in 1854 and one from the U.S. Supreme Court,Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 514 (1859), leading to a final published decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Ableman v. Booth, 11 Wis. 501 (1859). These decisions reflect Wisconsin’s attempted nullification of the federal fugitive slave law, the expansion of the state’s rights movement and Wisconsin’s defiance of federal judicial authority. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Booth unanimously declared the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision but the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to file the U.S. Court’s mandate upholding the fugitive slave law. That mandate has never been filed.

When the U.S. Constitution was drafted, slavery existed in this country. Article IV, Section 2 provided that:  ”No person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

Based on this provision, Congress in 1793 passed a law that gave slave owners the power to have a runaway slave arrested in any state and returned.  The law remained intact until 1850, by which time the moral sentiment of the North against slavery had become aroused; the Liberty Party had been organized, the underground railroad had flourished and many northern men and women refused to act as slave catchers or assist in perpetuating slavery. Because of the increasing difficulty the slave holders faced in reclaiming runaway slaves, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The law placed the mechanism for capturing runaway slaves in the hands of federal officers. It provided that these cases would be heard by a federal judge or court commissioner and allowed the slave owner to prove the debt owed by the slave but precluded testimony from the fugitive entirely. The new law also increased the penalties for resistance and for concealment of fugitives.

Although it was intended as a compromise, the new law actually fueled the flames of anti-slavery sentiment and from 1854 to 1861, Wisconsin politics was dominated by the question of whether the state had to defer to the federal government’s efforts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

In the spring of 1852, a slave named Joshua Glover escaped from a Missouri plantation and made his way to Racine, where he found work at a sawmill. Two years later, his owner tracked him down and had him apprehended by federal marshals under the Fugitive Slave Act. Glover was held in the Milwaukee County Jail pending a hearing.  When Sherman M. Booth, editor of the Milwaukee abolitionist newspaper, The Free Democrat, heard of the capture, he is said to have mounted his horse and galloped through the streets of Milwaukee shouting: “Freemen! To the rescue! Slave catchers are in our midst! Be at the courthouse at 2:00!” Booth’s lawyers then persuaded a Milwaukee County Court judge to issue a writ of habeas corpus (a judicial order freeing Booth) directing the U.S. marshal to bring Glover before the county judge and justify his detention

Before the hearing could take place, Booth appointed a committee to prevent the “kidnapping” of Glover by the federal authorities. After Booth made a fiery speech, a mob led by one of the other committeemen, John Ryecraft, battered down the jail doors, freed Glover and spirited him away to Canada.  Federal authorities charged Booth with assisting Glover’s escape. Booth was released on bail but two months later, at his own request, he was delivered to the U.S. Marshal. Booth’s surrender was calculated to bring a test case in the state courts challenging the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. On the day after the surrender, Booth’s attorney, Byron Paine (later a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court), successfully applied to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Abram D. Smith for a writ of habeas corpus. At that hearing, Smith asked the parties to address the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. Paine, citing Thomas Jefferson’s writings, said states have the right to impose their authority when their sovereign rights are violated by the federal government. Paine argued that Congress had no authority to make laws based on the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution and that the Act of 1850 was unconstitutional because it denied a trial by jury and vested judicial powers in court commissioners. On June 7, 1854, Smith ordered that Booth be released, finding the warrant of commitment defective and the fugitive slave law unconstitutional.

When the US Attorney General learned of the decision, he appealed it to the US Supreme Court. The case –  Ableman v. Booth – was heard in 1859, just one year before slavery would a major issue of the presidential election.  In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Law and further held that Wisconsin did not have the power to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act.  In a decision written by Justice Roger Taney (who also wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision): “No power is more clearly conferred by the Constitution and laws of the United States than the power of this court to decide, ultimately and finally, all cases arising under such Constitution and laws.” [pg. 62]

The justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court justices were then instructed to file the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandates reversing the judgments and dismissals in the Booth case. Although there had been some changes to the bench in the years since the case was heard, the majority opinion was that the federal court had no power to review the judgments of the state Supreme Court and Wisconsin was well within its right to nullify the Fugitive Slave Law, and so the justices voted not to file the mandates in the Booth cases. The Wisconsin Supreme Court would write: “The Supreme Court said that the States cannot, therefore, be compelled to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. We regard the action of the Supreme Court of the US, in assuming jurisdiction in the case before mentioned, as an arbitrary act of power, unauthorized by the Constitution. This assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary is an act of undelegated power, and therefore without authority, void, and of no force.”

[Booth was subsequently arrested by federal agents and placed in a state penitentiary. Since Wisconsin did not assert its duty to interpose and prevent federal agents from such conduct, Booth remained in custody. But only a few short months later, on the eve of Lincoln’s inauguration, President Buchanan would pardon him].

Wisconsin successfully nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in its state.  It did not back down. It did not reverse the judgment on Booth, as the US Supreme Court instructed. Although the Civil War would start in less than two years and the affections that bound North and South together would be strained, the state of Wisconsin maintained its position on the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law and held to its conviction that it was unenforceable in its borders.

Contrary to the critics’ position that Nullification was used to promote and support slavery, the only real time we saw it used with regard to slavery is in an effort to discourage enforcement of laws to return slaves that have successfully escaped and to therefore encourage their escape to the north.

The critics of Nullification go even further and try to discredit Nullification by blaming it, for example, for Arkansas’ refusal to integrate their schools following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1953 which demanded that school segregation be ended immediately.  Martin Luther King Jr. himself vilified Nullification in his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington DC in 1963.  He said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.  I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

To condemn Nullification for one bad application would require that we also condemn the Supreme Court because of its Dred Scott decision.  Besides, there are many constitutional scholars who don’t wonder if the Brown decision was decided using an interpretation that itself was unconstitutional. While it should be universally agreed that purposeful segregation of the races based on the assumption that blacks are an inferior race had to end. It was a shameful policy that has rocked our moral conscience as a nation. But, to use the very same criteria (race), especially as in the bussing cases, to remedy for the past sins of segregation has been challenged as an unconstitutional exercise of judicial power. A violation of the 14th Amendment is a violation of the 14th Amendment, whether it’s used for bad or for good.

C.  Misrepresentation because of Political Correctness  

There is nothing more harmful to liberty and nothing more harmful in a free society than to shut down ideas and avenues of redress under the pretext that it “is offensive” to certain groups of people. Certainly, one of the oldest tricks in the book is the one whereby supporters of a centralized energetic government demonize the message that empowers its people. And that’s what has happened with Nullification and the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. used the words Nullification and Interposition for effect and to elicit passions that evoke memories of slavery and efforts by the South to deny them Civil Rights. Had he been honest, he would have also praised Nullification for providing the North with the reason not to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws and condemning runaway slaves to a life of continued forced servitude as nothing more than personal property.

It was Arkansas’ actions in response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that led to the Cooper v. Aaron case and appeared to give Nullification opponents ammunition. In the wake of the Brown case, the school district of Little Rock, Arkansas formulated a plan to desegregate its schools but most other school districts in the state opposed the Supreme Court’s rulings and attempted to find ways to perpetuate segregation. As a result, the Arkansas state legislature amended the state constitution to oppose desegregation and then passed a law relieving children from mandatory attendance at integrated schools. The school board of Little Rock, however, ignored then mandate and continued on with the desegregation program. In fact, it was this decision that led to the incident known as the “Little Rock Nine” incident (or the “Little Rock School Crisis of 1957″).  In 1957, the NAACP enrolled nine black children at Little Rock Central High. Arkansas’ Governor Orval Faubus energetically opposed the desegregation plan and even deployed the Arkansas National Guard to block the entrance to the school. On September 9, the Little Rock School District issued a statement condemning the governor’s deployment of soldiers to the school, and on September 24, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Faubus. The crisis was over and the nine students were finally permitted to attend Little Rock Central.

On February 20, 1958, five months after the integration crisis, members of the Arkansas state school board (along with the Superintendent of Schools) filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, urging suspension of Little Rock’s plan of desegregation. They alleged that public hostility to desegregation and that the opposition of Governor Faubus and the state legislature created an intolerable and chaotic situation. The relief the plaintiffs requested was for the black children to be returned to segregated schools and for the implementation of the desegregation plan to be postponed for two and a half years. The case would make its way to the Supreme Court later that same year.

In that case, Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision in Cooper  v. Aaron, noted that although the school board had apparently acted in good faith, it was nonetheless constitutionally impermissible under the Equal Protection Clause to maintain law and order by depriving the black students their equal rights under the law.  It began its analysis by noting that Justice John Marshall, in 1803 in the landmark case of  Marbury v. Madison, declared that “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” The Marbury decision established the basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.  The Cooper opinion then went on to state: “The interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment enunciated by this Court in the Brown case is the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the Constitution (the Supremacy Clause) which therefore makes it of binding effect on the States.”  Furthermore, the Court reasoned, since every state official takes an oath to support the US Constitution, they are bound to solemnly support the Constitution and such rulings. The Court then rejected the notion that a state has no duty to obey a federal court order that it believes to be unconstitutional.  In other words, the Court rejected nullification and interposition. “In short, the constitutional rights of children not to be discriminated against in school admission on grounds of race or color declared by this Court in the Brown case can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether attempted ingeniously or ingenuously.”

It is worth noting that the Framers and Founding Fathers never assigned the Supreme Court the responsibility that Justice Marshall assumed for the Court in Marbury v. Madison – that it shall be the sole province of the Supreme Court to declare what the Constitution says and means. It is a power that the Court, a branch of the federal government, assigned and delegated to itself. And that decision has never been challenged, even though the Federalist Papers speak differently of the function of the federal judiciary.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has no more the right to declare Nullification an improper check and balance on the power of the federal government as it does on the Separation of Powers doctrine or the President’s Veto power.

Some legal scholars have publicly criticized the Court’s rationale in Cooper. Perhaps the most famous criticism comes from former US Attorney General (under Ronald Reagan) and brilliant constitutional attorney, Edwin Meese III, in his law review article entitled The Law of the Constitution. In that article, Meese accused the Supreme Court of taking too much power for itself by setting itself up as the sole institution responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution. He wrote that while judicial interpretation of the Constitution binds the parties of the case, it should not establish a supreme law of the land that must be accepted by all persons.

             D.  Misrepresentation by an Incorrect Assessment of the Civil War  

Perhaps one of the most popular arguments given by the opponents of Nullification is that the Civil War settled the issue.

Of course, this is a preposterous assertion. Core constitutional principles weren’t destroyed, even though President Lincoln did everything in his power to destroy the Constitution itself. Just because a constitutional government was suspended and the proper role of the federal government was temporarily derailed does not mean our system was abandoned. The US Constitution was never rejected and supplanted by another. Our supreme law was merely modified by a few amendments and the southern states were punished (severely) for their audacity in seceding.

Opponents allege that it was the Southern States and their seditious spirit (ie, embracing Nullification) that led to the Civil War. It seems that it never occurred to them to read the Inaugural Address of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, where he talked about their pure allegiance to the spirit of the American Revolution and the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

As Thomas Jefferson so aptly explained, the power of Nullification is that it accomplishes peacefully what rebellion would accomplish forcibly..  and that is a rejection of a government that refuses to abide by its constitutional bounds.  Nullification is a gentle nudge, by the States, to put the federal government on notice that it has violated the terms and spirit of the Constitution, and therefore putting the ball back in its court so it can take the proper steps and remedy the situation. That’s why Jefferson, in fact, one of the reasons he termed it the “Rigthful Remedy.”  Nullification doesn’t lead to Secession, it prevents it.  Only when the federal government refuses to abide by the boundaries the people have entrusted it do the People have to consider more extreme measures.

In his book Is Davis a Traitor, Albert Taylor Bledsoe writes: “The subjugation of the Southern States and their acceptance of the terms dictated (forced upon them) by the North in the War of Coercion may be considered as having shifted the Federal Government from the basis of compact to that of conquest, and thereby extinguished every claim to the right of secession for the future.”

Whether one believes we have been conquered by our own government determines what they believe about Nullification and Secession. Whether one believes Bledsoe’s assessment or not speaks volumes about whether that person cherishes liberty.

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims that in America, individual liberty is grounded firmly in Natural Law and God’s law. To secure that foundation, our country adopted the government philosophy of John Locke which says that people have rights preexisting government, government exists to protect those rights, and government should not stand in the way of its own dissolution should it violate those rights. This is the express message of the Declaration.

It’s obvious that in the wake of the Civil War, the nature of government has fundamentally changed and that the relationship between itself and the people has been transformed. But while there are those who accept the notion that with the War of Coercion the government took a stand against the rights of the individual (and won) and who believe we must submit to this new system, the question really boils down to this….  Did the government have the right to coerce the States and the People to fight a war for ITS own preservation and domination?  Did it have the right to subjugate the Southern States against their will?  NO, it did not. Nowhere did the government have the right to act as it did and therefore the consequences are NULL and VOID.

Those who support Nullification still believe in the fundamental truth that people have rights that preexist government and that government exists primarily to protect our rights from those that do not respect them and NOT to control us and coerce us into serving its goals.

As Jefferson Davis indeed predicted, the northern victors would succeed in teaching history which vindicates their efforts and violations. And so, through our public schools, the great majority of books, government opinion, and even the significance of the Lincoln Memorial on the national mall, we are led to believe that Abraham Lincoln was our most important and beloved president. The reality, according to historian Larry Tagg in his book  The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled President, is that he was the most hated of all American presidents during his lifetime. He was so thoroughly hated in the North (especially in New York) that the New York Times editorialized a wish that he would be assassinated. Thomas DiLorenzo, who has done extensive research on Lincoln, said the hatred was perfectly understandable.  Lincoln committed so many constitutional violations that even Congress’ collective head was spinning. The Congressional record is full of discussion as to the extent of his violations. He illegally suspended Habeas Corpus, imprisoned tens of thousands of Northern political critics without due process, and shut down over 300 opposition newspapers. If they still tried to use the mail to distribute news, he called out the army, seized their property, and prevented their access to the US mail. He enforced military conscription with the murder of hundreds of New York City draft protesters in 1863 and with the mass execution of deserters from his army. He deported a congressional critic (Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio); confiscated firearms; and issued an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Roger Taney) when he issued an opinion that only Congress could legally suspend Habeas Corpus. He blocked southern ports without authorization of Congress (which is far and above the type of action necessary to quash a rebellion; it’s an act of war). Most of all, he waged an unnecessary war, not authorized by Congress, that resulted in the death of 1 in every 4 young men (3.4% of the population at the time; 3.4% of today’s population would be approximately 8.5 million Americans). The real legacy of the Civil War, is Lincoln’s “false virtue” – that he felt justified in trampling all over the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the sovereign rights of the states in order to do what he personally believed was necessary.  To say Lincoln saved the Union by waging the Civil War is like saying a man saved his marriage by beating his wife into submission.

For those who believe that the Civil War settled the question of whether Nullification is a proper remedy, then I ask this: How is it that a constitutional remedy can be destroyed by unconstitutional conduct by the President of the United States and the US Congress?  How the essential principles of self-preservation and self-government proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence be destroyed by the very institution that that document assured would be established to protect those rights?  How can a liberty-minded people buy into this fatal argument that it is OK for the US government, a creature of the People themselves, to take a hostile position with respect to the Declaration of Independence and deny them the promise “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  How is it that a nation so singular in its purpose when it fought the Revolutionary War (to secede from an oppressive government, in order to live free and govern themselves accordingly) has deteriorated to the point that its people can no longer make the essential connection between their Constitution and the principles proclaimed in the Declaration which underlie it?  It was all about liberty and freedom – the condition of independence (liberty) and the right to go about our business without being controlled or subjugated (freedom). In explaining why it was so important for our founding colonists to stand up against the growing tyranny of the British King and Parliament, Mercy Otis Warren perhaps articulated it best when he said, in 1774, “in order to preserve inviolate, and to convey to their children the inherent rights of men, conferred on all by the God of nature, and the privileges of Englishmen claimed by Americans from the sacred sanction of compacts.” And so the Declaration proclaimed the supremacy of Man (“to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle him”) and outlined the purpose of government (to secure and protect his rights). By the very words of the Declaration, man has inalienable rights that no government can take away and he has the right to defend them and preserve them. That’s why the document provides that man can “alter or abolish” his government when it becomes destructive of his rights and the free exercise thereof. In other words, the rights of man would always trump the power of government; and while man has the right of self-preservation, the government has no such right.

The Constitution merely designed a government according to the moral dictates of the Declaration. That’s why it was limited in scope and permeated with so many checks and balances in order that it remain so. Thomas Paine wrote: “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.” Rights of Man (1791-1792)

The Supreme Court, in one of its earliest cases – Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance (1795), which addressed a property matter as between the states of Pennsylvania and Connecticut – Judge Paterson explained: “What is a Constitution?  It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established.  The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people and is the supreme law of the land…”  [Indeed, the unprecedented task confronting the Court in its infancy was that of interpreting our new written constitution so as not to disturb the settled, existing framework of the document as written, intended, and understood by the States when they signed it. That task was short-lived].

We are NOT free when we wait for the government or for the Supreme Court to tell us what our rights are or tell us that avenues that were once open to us to restrain the power and influence of government over our once-free lives are no longer available (because they threaten the power of government).

Again, the government was instituted to protect that rights of self-government and self-determination for us; not to destroy them. And if we believe that we have the right to define our government and reclaim the rights that We the People are endowed with that a government is trying to take away or has taken away, then we have to believe in Nullification. It is the rightful constitutional remedy that restores the proper balance of sovereign power – peacefully.

Unfortunately, all too often the government is more concerned in controlling the governed rather than controlling itself, and so the responsibility falls to us to control it.

E.  The Misrepresentation that the Courts Have the Final Word

In 1958, in the case Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court rejected the doctrines of Nullification and Interposition, asserting that states have no right to refuse to enforce federal law (even when that law is one created from the bench rather than the legislature). A person who is brainwashed into believing that the federal judiciary was established to be the one final tribunal to declare what the Constitution means and which laws are constitutional and therefore bind all states and persons to those decisions has not done his or her homework. That person is a sheep.. the kind of citizen that an all-powerful government treasures and hopes to multiply.

Our Founders had something quite different in mind. Sure, Founders like Alexander Hamilton believed it best that one tribunal speak on constitutionality – for consistency. But that voice was only to render an opinion and not to have the power of supremacy.

With respect to the Founders’ intentions for the federal judiciary (as an independent branch), I tend to follow the view that Hamilton set forth in Federalist No. 78:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatsoever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

      This simple view of the matter suggests several important consequences. It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter….. Liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other departments; that as all the effects of such a union must ensue from a dependence of the former on the latter, notwithstanding a nominal and apparent separation; that as, from the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; and that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.

      Some perplexity respecting the rights of the courts to pronounce legislative acts void, because contrary to the Constitution, has arisen from an imagination that the doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power. It is urged that the authority which can declare the acts of another void, must necessarily be superior to the one whose acts may be declared void. As this doctrine is of great importance in all the American constitutions, a brief discussion of the ground on which it rests cannot be unacceptable.

       There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

       If it be said that the legislative body are themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.

      This exercise of judicial discretion, in determining between two contradictory laws, is exemplified in a familiar instance. It not uncommonly happens, that there are two statutes existing at one time, clashing in whole or in part with each other, and neither of them containing any repealing clause or expression. In such a case, it is the province of the courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation. So far as they can, by any fair construction, be reconciled to each other, reason and law conspire to dictate that this should be done; where this is impracticable, it becomes a matter of necessity to give effect to one, in exclusion of the other. The rule which has obtained in the courts for determining their relative validity is, that the last in order of time shall be preferred to the first. But this is a mere rule of construction, not derived from any positive law, but from the nature and reason of the thing. It is a rule not enjoined upon the courts by legislative provision, but adopted by themselves, as consonant to truth and propriety, for the direction of their conduct as interpreters of the law. They thought it reasonable, that between the interfering acts of an EQUAL authority, that which was the last indication of its will should have the preference.

      But in regard to the interfering acts of a superior and subordinate authority, of an original and derivative power, the nature and reason of the thing indicate the converse of that rule as proper to be followed. They teach us that the prior act of a superior ought to be preferred to the subsequent act of an inferior and subordinate authority; and that accordingly, whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter and disregard the former.

It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every adjudication upon any single statute. The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove anything, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body.

      If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty… ”     [Then Hamilton goes on to explain that judges of the federal judiciary will be insulted from the passions of temporary political whims or majorities who want the legislature to act in violation of the Constitution by account of their life tenure.  That is what, in his opinion, would keep the federal judiciary as the faithful check on the other branches by reviewing their actions for constitutionality and rendering constitutional ‘opinions’].

The intended role of the judiciary, both generally and specifically, was to serve as the “bulwarks of a limited constitution against legislative encroachments.” (Federalist No. 78). The Founders believed that the judges would “regulate their decisions” by the word and spirit of the Constitution for the preservation of that limited government which was so necessary for maximum liberty. As the “faithful guardians of the Constitution,” the judges were expected to resist any political effort to depart from its literal provisions. The text of the Constitution and the original intention of those who framed and ratified it would be the judicial standard in giving it effect and preserving its integrity.

The Court was intended to strictly interpret and offer an opinion as to the meaning of the Constitution, as well as the legality of the actions of the Executive and Legislative branches. It was intended to protect the People from unjust laws and oppressive conduct by their government. As James Madison explained, the Constitution was written the way it was in order “to first enable the government to control the governed and in the next place, to oblige it to control itself.” An independent, constitutionally-bound judiciary was the oversight which was created to remind the other branches to control itself.

From what I understand from the Federalist Papers and the intent of the Founders, the power to interpret the Constitution should reside with the federal judiciary in order that there be one tribunal that speaks with one voice, rather than opinions all over the place by each of the states. But the Supreme Court was not intended to do anymore than offer “an opinion” as to the meaning of a particular provision of the Constitution or as to the constitutionality of a particular piece of legislation. The Court was supposed to interpret strictly in accordance to the plain meaning and the spirit of the ratifying conventions. Once the Court rendered an “opinion,” it was the understanding that the other branches would respond accordingly, ie, Congress would repeal a bill that was passed without proper and express authority, or if it refused to do so, the President would veto it (under the checks and balances). States would refuse to enact legislation that violated the Supremacy Clause. In other words, how the other branches responded to the ‘opinion” was their concern, but as to the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches (together with the state’s direct voice in the Senate), and then the voice of the States under the 10th Amendment and the people’s power at the ballot box, in the end the only actions of the government that would be enforced at the state level (ie, on the People) would be those that adhere to the language and spirit of the Constitution.

Founders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison quickly saw the threat the federal judiciary posed to a constitutionally-limited government. It’s one of reasons why Jefferson, when discussing the possible remedies available when the federal government oversteps its constitutional boundaries, expressly rejected the federal courts. He strongly advised the States and the People NOT to trust the judiciary with their precious liberties. Again, he expressed the opinion that the States were the best and most reliable guardians of that precious jewel and that’s why Nullification was the “Rightful Remedy.”

Here are some of the warnings and comments he made about the federal judiciary (again, being mindful that he was witnessing firsthand how the Supreme Court was actively re-defining the Constitution and undermining its guarantees of individual liberty):

To consider the Judges of the Superior Court as the ultimate arbiters of constitutional questions would be a dangerous doctrine which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. They have with others, the same passion for party, for power, and for the privileges of their corps – and their power is the most dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the Elective control. The Constitution has elected no single tribunal.  I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves.”   [in a letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820]

The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary: an irresponsible body, working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”    [in a letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821]

The judiciary of the United States is a subtle core of sappers and miners constantly working underground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a coordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. The opinions are often delivered by a majority of one, by a crafty Chief Judge who sophisticates the law to his mind by the turn of his own reasoning.”   [in a letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 1820]

The question whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law has been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there is not a word in the Constitution which has given that power to them more than to the Executive or Legislative branches.”    [in a letter to W. H. Torrance, 1815]

The Constitution meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”    [in a letter to Abigail Adams, 1804]

The true barriers of our liberty are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed.”   [in a letter to L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811]

The powers of the Supreme Court were fundamentally transformed – enlarged – by the Court itself in 1803 in the case Marbury v. Madison. In the opinion he wrote in that landmark case, Chief Justice Marshall declared that the Court had much more power than merely offering an opinion to the other branches. Not only would the Court have power to render opinions to the other branches and to “put the States and the People on notice,” it would also have enforcement power. It would be the final word on matters of the Constitution to which all sovereigns would be bound… (Unfortunately, the Court is part of the federal government and not necessarily a fair umpire for the parties to the social compact that is the US Constitution. The decision, to me, seems to contradict that which Hamilton sought to assure the States in Federalist No. 78 – that the judiciary would not be superior to the other branches such that its decisions would not be subject to checks from the other branches (or the States). And it seems to contradict what the states found so troubling with a proposed federal government that had stronger powers than the Continental Congress under the Articles – that the federal government would have the tendency to become centralized, at the expense of the States, and would have the exclusive domain to define what its powers are.

If we had remained with that pre-Marshall definition of the Court’s power, then the States would have clearly been able to check the opinion of the federal judiciary by either concurring with it and abiding happily by the decision (relying on their understanding of the Constitution through the Federalist Papers and their ratification debates) or disagreeing and thus ignoring it.

Marbury is not entirely a bad decision. Strict constitutionalists will agree that parts of Marshall’s analysis are spot on.

The facts of the case, in and of themselves, give support to the skepticism that Thomas Jefferson had of the federal judiciary and its capacity to align itself with evil-intentioned government officials rather than act as a neutral and constitutionally-restrained independent tribunal. The case arose as John Adams tried to stack the federal courts with Federalists in his final hours as President in a move to frustrate the incoming Thomas Jefferson (who, after the attempt to establish a Federal Bank and the seeming concurrence of many Federalists with Hamilton’s position of “implied government powers). Adams made the commissions and handed them to his Secretary of State to deliver them. All were delivered except for a few, one of which was the appointment for William Marbury. The appointments were made pursuant to the Judiciary Act of 1801, which Adams had Congress pass in a specific attempt to stack the courts.

After the Constitution was ratified, the first Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789 which established the federal court system. It established a Supreme Court (with a Chief Justice and 5 associate justices), three circuit courts, and 13 district courts (one district court for each of the 13 states). In November 1800, Adams lost his bid for re-election. Jefferson was elected President. Turns out the Congress changed hands as well. The Federalists, who had been in power, lost control of the House and Senate. But for those few months before Jefferson and the new Congress took office, the Federalists still had control. As I mentioned above, in order to frustrate his nemesis and his administration, Adams persuaded Congress to pass a new law – the Judiciary Act of 1801 – which would increase the number of judges sitting on the federal benches and therefore give him the opportunity to appoint several new federal (Federalist) judges. Section 13 of the Judicary Act provided: :The Supreme Court shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts and writs of mandamus to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States.”

Adams appointed about 39 new judges pursuant to the Judiciary Act. His Secretary of State delivered them successfully. However, he failed to deliver the commissions of 3 new justices before Adams’ term of office ended. Again, one of those commissions was to go to William Marbury. When Jefferson took office in March 1801 and learned of Adams’ attempt to pack the courts with Federalists, as well as the failure to successfully deliver the 3 commissions, he instructed his Secretary of State, James Madison, to refuse the appointments. Marbury then applied to the Supreme Court for the remedy offered him under Section 13 of the Judiciary Act.

The case asked 3 questions: (1) Does Marbury have a right to the appointment? (2) Does the law afford him a remedy? and (3) Is the law that affords that remedy constitutional? Chief Justice Marshall concluded that Marbury had a right to the appointment and that the Judiciary Act offered him a remedy to assert that right. But the case boiled down to the question of whether Section 13 conflicted with the Constitution, and he concluded that it did. It improperly enlarged the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Article III established original jurisdiction and Congress does not have the power to alter the Constitution (only the amendment process can do that).

In reaching the decision that Section 13 is unenforceable, Justice Marshall articulated several principles that re-enforce the notion of limited government, social compact, original intent, and yes, nullification. He wrote:

The question whether an act repugnant to the Constitution can become the law of the land is a question deeply interesting to the United States, but, happily, not of an intricacy proportioned to its interest. It seems only necessary to recognize certain principles, supposed to have been long and well established, to decide it.

      That the people have an original right to establish for their future government such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected. The exercise of this original right is a very great exertion; nor can it nor ought it to be frequently repeated. The principles, therefore, so established are deemed fundamental. And as the authority from which they proceed, is supreme, and can seldom act, they are designed to be permanent.

      This original and supreme will organizes the government and assigns to different departments their respective powers. It may either stop here or establish certain limits not to be transcended by those departments.

      The Government of the United States is of the latter description. The powers of the Legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may at any time be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed, and if acts prohibited and acts allowed are of equal obligation. It is a proposition too plain to be contested that the Constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it, or that the Legislature may alter the Constitution by an ordinary act.

     Between these alternatives there is no middle ground. The Constitution is either a superior, paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and, like other acts, is alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it.

     If the former part of the alternative be true, then a legislative act contrary to the Constitution is not law; if the latter part be true, then written Constitutions are absurd attempts on the part of the people to limit a power in its own nature illimitable.

      Certainly all those who have framed written Constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be that an act of the Legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void. This theory is essentially attached to a written Constitution and is consequently to be considered by this Court as one of the fundamental principles of our society. the particular phraseology of the Constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written Constitutions, that a law repugnant to the Constitution is void, and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.”

 From these and many other selections which might be made, it is apparent that the framers of the Constitution contemplated that instrument as a rule for the government of courts, as well as of the Legislature.  The particular phraseology of the Constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to that Constitution is void and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.

      If the courts aren’t bound by the phraseology of the Constitution, why does it direct the judges to take an oath to support it? This oath certainly applies in an especial manner to their conduct in their official character. How immoral to impose it on them if they were to be used as the instruments, and the knowing instruments, for violating what they swear to support! The oath of office, too, imposed by the Legislature, is completely demonstrative of the legislative opinion on this subject. It is in these words: 

      ‘I do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich; and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent on me as according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States.’

      Why does a judge swear to discharge his duties agreeably to the Constitution of the United States if that Constitution forms no rule for his government? If such be the real state of things, this is worse than solemn mockery. To prescribe or to take this oath becomes equally a crime.

      It is also not entirely unworthy of observation that, in declaring what shall be the supreme law of the land, the Constitution itself is first mentioned, and not the laws of the United States generally, but those only which shall be made in pursuance of the Constitution, have that rank. [pp. 176-182]

The problem arose when Marshall announced that the Court would possess the power of deciding upon the “operation” of the law being scrutinized. The Court would made the final decision and all branches, all state courts, etc would be bound by its decision.

The problem with believing the indoctrination that when the Supreme Court speaks, the issue of supremacy is determined without question is that it compromises our notion of Liberty and our fundamental belief that our government is a creature of the People, constrained by the Rule of Law.

The central point behind nullification is that the federal government cannot be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation. If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, it will, without a shadow of a doubt, continue to grow, regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and the various checks and balances. There should be no more powerful indictment of this statement than the Supreme Court’s approval of Obamacare and its ringing endorsement of an unlimited taxing power.

Part 4: Why Nullification? 

The TRUTH about Nullification is that it is legitimate and is the only way to effect a meaningful check on the federal government when the executive, legislative, and judicial branches unite on an incorrect interpretation of the Constitution and threaten the independence of the States and the reserved rights of the People. The federal government CANNOT be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation. If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, as Madison and Jefferson warned in 1798-99, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other limits on government power. Nullification has always been available to push the government back within the boundaries of the Constitution but for too long, those hostile to the Constitution have insinuated – FALSELY – that the doctrine was the reason for the Civil War and for segregation, thereby trying to use shame to invalidate it.

We should take a cue from Patrick Henry. When others were celebrating the Constitution and rejoicing that a more effective compact was created, Henry urged them to cool their heads and take a step back and look carefully at the document they were asked to ratify.  It was his opinion that the government created by the Constitution would tend to concentrate power, strip power from the states, and become no better than England’s monarchy (“it squints toward monarchy”).  He urged Virginia to reject the Constitution. He reminded the delegates that trade, power, and security should not be the first concerns on their mind.  He said the proper inquiry should be “how your liberties can be better secured, for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.”

On that first day of the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1788, Patrick Henry addressed the delegates with these words:

Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessing — give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!  Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.   

       When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different..  Liberty, sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty: our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors: by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.”

The jury is still out on this thing we call the Great American Experiment. We separated from Great Britain when we insisted on governing ourselves consistent without our own values. Those values were articulated in the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to the “divine right of Kings” which was the system respected in Britain, the American colonies would establish a government “of the people, by the people, and FOR the people.” It would go one step further.. it would establish a government whose powers were derived from the people themselves (so that the people could always take them back when they were fed up with that government). While the British people had to stand up for their rights many times, Americans have never done so since the Revolutionary War. The British protested and demanded that the King respect their rights in 1100 (resulting in the 1100 Charter of Liberties), in 1215 (the Magna Carta or “Great Charter”), in 1628 (the Petition of Right of 1628), in 1641 (The Grand Remonstrances of 1641), in 1679 (the Habeas Corpus Act), and finally in 1689 (English Bill of Rights of 1689).  [The Grand Remonstrances and The English Bill of Rights, like our Declaration of Independence, set out lists of grievances against the King for usurpations of the rights that were proclaimed in the earlier charters]. The interesting thing about history of the British people in asserting their rights and demanding restraint from their government is that each time they did so, they were able to secure greater freedom. We can take a lesson from British history. There is another great distinction between the British and our system. When the Kings signed those charters, they often did so very reluctantly. For example, almost immediately after  King John (the infamous King John of the Robin Hood legend) signed the Magna Carta, he ignored it. It was ignored on and off until the 17th century. The point is that the rights of the people were enjoyed at the mercy of the King. There was no meaningful way to enforce the charters. Parliament tried to, but as with King Charles I (son of King James I, who granted the charters to the Pilgrims and Puritans to settle in America), when Parliament tried to force his hand, he turned around and dissolved it. Our Founding Fathers intended that our Constitution and Bill of Rights would be stand the test of time, guarantee the proper relationship between the People and government, and not jeopardize the rights and liberties of the people. That’s why they divided power among two equal sovereigns (power to check power) and why they included so many checks and balances. To deny Nullification is a dangerous decision. To deny it is to: (i) deny the wisdom of our Founders; (ii) trust your rights to a government which is growing more hostile to them by the day; and (iii) submit to the notion that government is capable of restraining itself and capable of divesting itself of all the unconstitutional powers it has already assumed and repealing such laws it has passed.

Liberty must always come first. Liberty is a gift, as KrisAnne Hall says, that we must pay forward. We don’t pay it forward by not second-guessing the actions of the federal government, especially when we know it likes to enlarge its powers at every chance.  We don’t pay it forward by accepting the government’s version that constitutional remedies that were put in place by our Founders to preserve the rights on which this country are founded are no longer valid. We pay it forward by preserving it. We do that by using every option we have to limit the intrusion of government in our lives and over our property. Our Constitution is not the living, breathing document that the progressives and federal judges claim it to be, for if that is the case, it can be twisted so completely as to destroy our understanding of it.  The only thing that is living and breathing is us, the citizens of the United States who have inherited a precious gift of freedom to live our lives and raise our families. And so let’s use the common sense and spark of brilliance that God so endowed us with when he also endowed us with free will and inherent rights.

References:

Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958).  http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/358/1/case.html

Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 5 U. S. 177 (1803)

Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1858). http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/62/506/case.html

In re Booth, 3 Wis. 1 (1854). http://www.wicourts.gov/courts/supreme/docs/famouscases01.pdf

Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795).  http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s24.html

Robert Lowry Clinton, “The Supreme Court Before John Marshall,” Supreme Court Historical Society.  Referenced at: http://www.supremecourthistory.org/publications/the-supreme-court-before-john-marshall/

Walter Coffey, “Nullifying the Fugitive Slave Law,” February 3, 2013.  Referenced at: http://waltercoffey.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/nullifying-the-fugitive-slave-act/

Federalist Papers No. 33 – http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa33.htm

The Kentucky Resolves of 1799 (Thomas Jefferson) –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/kenres.asp

The Virginia Resolves of 1798 (James Madison) –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/virres.asp

Edwin Meese III, “The Law of the Constitution,” October 21, 1986  (speech transcript) – http://www.justice.gov/ag/aghistory/meese/meese-speeches.html

Patrick Henry, speech before the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1788 – http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_va_04.htm#henry-01

Thomas DiLorenzo, “More on the Myth of Lincoln, Secession and the ‘Civil War,”  The Daily Bell, June 2, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://www.thedailybell.com/29156/Thomas-DiLorenzo-More-on-the-Myth-of-Lincoln-Secession-and-the-Civil-War

Full text of “American patriotism: speeches, letters, and other papers which illustrate the foundation, the development, the preservation of the United States of America”  – http://www.archive.org/stream/patriotismam00peabrich/patriotismam00peabrich_djvu.txt

Time for Another Tax Revolution: Abolish the Federal Income Tax and the IRS With It!

IRS

by Diane Rufino, July 3, 2013

The 16th Amendment states: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

The Sixteenth Amendment, which gave the American people the affliction of confiscatory income taxes, is 100 years old this year. It was ratified on February 3, 1913.

One hundred years of affliction is a long time. The time has come for tax reform….   No, the time has come for a tax revolution.

The IRS, which is in charge of collecting the income tax revenue, is 138 years old.  It was created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. It has gone from being an agency that terrorizes citizens over their tax returns to an agency that terrorizes citizens based on their speech and political viewpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice if the American people, being in charge of their government, could walk into the massive IRS building in DC and deliver the line that has made Donald Trump famous: “You’re Fired!”

The Sixteenth Amendment was proposed in 1909 and adopted in 1913. The proposal of a constitutional amendment to give Congress the power to impose an income tax began as a scheme of political maneuvering that went horribly awry.  In fact, the proponents, House and Senate Republicans who were in a battle for a new tariff bill, proposed the amendment as a political trick and expected the proposal to be killed by the States during the ratification phase, thereby making a popular and political statement that the American people in general do not want an income tax. But the plan backfired.  A brief overview of the history of the income tax, including the Sixteenth Amendment in the United States is provided below.

The Founding Fathers had rejected income taxes, as well as any other direct taxes, unless they were apportioned to each state according to population. At the time of our founding, wealth was measured in terms of property rather than income. Property was the goal of freedom. One exercised his inalienable rights to “pursue” happiness and obtain property.  Our founders didn’t talk much in terms of “income.” They rejected the income tax entirely, but when they spoke of taxes they recognized the need for uniformity and equal protection to all citizens. “All duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”  “Direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States.”  “No direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to a census.”  This is what the US Constitution  reads. Then, the 14th Amendment promised “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens.  The principle behind the progressive income tax – the more you earn, the larger the percentage of tax you must pay – would have been appalling to the founders. They recognized that, in James Madison’s words, “the spirit of party and faction” would prevail if Congress could tax one group of citizens and confer the benefits on another group.

In Federalist No. 10, Madison asked, “What are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine?” He talked about political factions, the reasons for them, the “mischiefs” presented by them, and apportionment of taxes. He wrote, most prophetically:

A faction is a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

      There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

      There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

       It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

       The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

       The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation….

       The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

So, our founders took the view that taxation of wealth by the government should be equal and apportioned.

Before the Civil War, the government received most of it revenue through tariffs (that is, taxing goods as they came into the ports). The South, being an agricultural community, relied heavily on imports and therefore generated most of the tariff revenue for the government (at least 70%).  But then came the war, which meant ports were blockaded, ships were sunk, and in general, there was little money to spend on things that were not considered essential, and hence, there was almost no revenue from tariffs.  Besides, the southern states had seceded and formed a new county and so their tariff revenue did not go to the federal government. So during the Civil War, Congress decided to try an income tax. It devised a really clever plan to get people to pay. It made the tax returns public. Essentially what would happen was this: If your neighbor saw you driving around on a brand new plow, he’d inquire through the public record how much he reported on his income tax. In order to avoid scrutiny and accusations, the rich would pay their required taxes. And in fact, the income tax fell almost exclusively on the rich.

The financial requirements of the Civil War prompted the first American income tax in 1861. On August 5, Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax by signing the Revenue Act of 1861. Strapped for cash with which to pursue the Civil War, Lincoln and Congress came up with a tax scheme to impose a 3% tax on annual incomes exceeding $800. The Revenue Act’s language was broadly written to define income as gain “derived from any kind of property, or from any professional trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere or from any source whatever.” (Interestingly, according to the US Treasury Department, the comparable minimum taxable income in 2003, after adjustments for inflation, would have been approximately $16,000).  By 1862, however, the United States government realized that the war would not end quickly, and that revenue gained by this income tax would not be sufficient.  So the tax was repealed and replaced by another income tax, one of a progressive nature, in the Revenue Act of 1862.

Thus, it was the Revenue Act of 1862 that introduced the first progressive income tax in America.

The First Progressive Income Tax –

The Revenue Act of 1862 proved to be more effective at raising money to fund the War. It contained three main provisions: (i) it established the office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, a department in charge of the collection of taxes; (ii) it levied excise taxes on many (a majority of)  every day goods and services; and (iii) it introduced the first progressive tax.  Indeed, this new tax reflected the taxpayers’ “ability to pay” by separating citizens into multiple categories and taxing accordingly:

  • For individuals whose annual incomes were less than $600, no tax was collected.
  • For individuals whose annual incomes were greater than $600 and less than $10,000, a percentage of 3% of total income was demanded in tax.
  • For individuals whose annual incomes were greater than $10,000, a percentage of 5% of total income was demanded in tax.
  • The act also stated that in order to assure timely collection, income tax was “withheld at the source.”

After the war when the need for federal revenues decreased, Congress, in the Revenue Act of 1870, let the tax law expire in 1873. However, one of the challenges to the validity of this tax finally reached the Supreme Court in 1880. The challenge was brought by a taxpayer. In Springer v. United States, the taxpayer contended that the income tax on his professional earnings and personal property income violated the “direct tax” requirement of the Constitution; that is, that is needed to be apportioned among the states. The Supreme Court concluded that the income tax was not a “direct tax” but rather an “excise tax,” and hence did not need to be apportioned. The tax was upheld. [Excise taxes are taxes on the on the sale, or production for sale, of specific goods within a country. Excises are distinguished from customs duties, which are taxes on importation. Typical examples of excise duties are taxes on gasoline and other fuels, and taxes on tobacco and alcohol (sometimes referred to as sin tax].

Although the Revenue Act of 1862 was allowed to expire, government had already gotten a taste of the revenue that could be generated by taxing the income of American citizens, It wouldn’t be long before it looked once again to American purses. During the years of Reconstruction and rebuilding the nation, the growing industrial and financial markets of the eastern US generally prospered. But the farmers of the south and west suffered from low prices for their farm products, while they were forced to pay high prices for manufactured goods. Throughout the 1870′s and 1880′s, farmers formed various political organizations such as the People’s (Populist) Party and the National Farmers’ Alliance) and advocated for a graduated income tax to relieve them of their tax burden. And so, in 1894, a Democratic-led Congress passed the Wilson-Gorman tariff (a high tariff bill) which imposed the first peacetime income tax. The rate was 2% on income over $4000, which meant fewer than 10% of households would pay any income tax. The purpose of the tax was to make up for revenue that would be lost by tariff reductions. This was a controversial provision at the time and it was almost immediately struck down by the Supreme Court in 1895, in a case calledPollock v. Farmers Loan & Trust Company.  Once again, a taxpayer challenged the legality of the income tax. In Pollock, a taxpayer sued the corporation in which he owned stock, contending that they should never have paid the income tax because it was unconstitutional. In this case, the tax was paid on income from land, and Mr. Pollock argued that since a tax on real estate is a direct tax, then a tax on the income from such property must be a direct tax as well. Since the Constitution prohibited a “direct tax” unless certain conditions are met, Pollock argued that the income tax should be declared unconstitutional. (The “direct tax” argument had also been used by Mr. Springer in 1880, but because the income tax had been expired for eight years at that point, it is believed that the Court just wasn’t interested in looking closely at the wording in the Constitution and making distinctions between the different types of taxes).

The Court in Pollock held that the income tax was a direct tax and as such, it had to be apportioned among the states according to their populations, as the Constitution sets forth in Article I, Section 2, clause 3 and in Article I, Section 9, clause 4. Since the tax at issue was not apportioned, it was struck down as unconstitutional.

The provisions at issue in the Pollock (and Springer) cases are as follows:  Article I, Section 2, clause 3: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”  Article I, Section 8, clause 1 provides that “all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”  Article I, Section 9, clause 4 provides that “no capitation, or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to a census or enumeration herein before to be taken.”  Section 2 of the Constitution deals with the House of Representatives specifically. Section 8 gives to Congress certain enumerated powers. And Section 9 lists what is prohibited to Congress.

How does apportionment work, as per Article I, Section 2, clause 3?  How would an “apportioned” income tax work?  If an income tax is subject to apportionment, a state with one-tenth the national population, for example, has to bear one-tenth the aggregate tax liability, regardless of the state’s financial condition. Suppose the populations of Iowa and Maine were equal, but Iowa’s per capita income were twice Maine’s. The rates for an apportioned income tax would have to be twice as high in Maine, the poorer state, as in Iowa.

How is direct tax supposed to based on a census, as per Article I, Section 9, clause 4?  If the government desired to raise $10 million and New York had 20% of the total U.S. population at that time, then New York would be required to raise $2 million. If New York had 1 million residents, each resident would owe $2 in taxes. Obviously, a tax based on income could not achieve such proportionality, since incomes differed across individuals.

By the turn of the century, the progressive movement was entrenched in politics. It was the era of social unrest. The movement began after the Reconstruction era (the 1890′s) in order to modernize society to the new industrial age. The movement was based on the assumption that the old principles of our founding were no longer adequate and so it sought to reform society and the role of government by addressing certain economic, political, and cultural issues. The common view of the Progressive movement, aside from the dismantling of traditional institutions and founding principles, was that government would need to grow and be actively involved in these reforms at every level. Furthermore, it held that the existing constitutional system was too constrained and outdated and must be transformed into a dynamic, evolving instrument to effect social change. Another theme was that the focus of government on the rights of the individual would have to be surrendered to seek the best for society as a whole. In certain aspects, such as basic rights and protections for factory workers, the movement helped government serve society well. But in many other aspects, such as the movement’s inherent hostility and resentment of the wealthy and its need to increase taxation to seek social justice, government veered sharply from its constitutional course.

At the same time, as public sentiment was changing, so did the complexion of the Supreme Court. The idea of using a tax to “soak the rich” began to take root among liberals in both major parties. Several times the Democrats introduced bills to provide a tax on higher incomes but each time the conservative branch of the Republican party killed it in the Senate. The Democrats used this as evidence that the Republicans were the “party of the rich” and should be thrown out of power.

In a speech on April 14, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt endorsed a progressive estate tax:

“It is important to this people to grapple with the problems connected with the amassing of enormous fortunes, and the use of those fortunes, both corporate and individual, in business. We should discriminate in the sharpest way between fortunes well-won and fortunes ill-won; between those gained as an incident to performing great services to the community as a whole, and those gained in evil fashion by keeping just within the limits of mere law-honesty.

      Of course no amount of charity in spending such fortunes in any way compensates for misconduct in making them. As a matter of personal conviction, and without pretending to discuss the details or formulate the system, I feel that we shall ultimately have to consider the adoption of some such scheme as that of a progressive tax on all fortunes, beyond a certain amount either given in life or devised or bequeathed upon death to any individual — a tax so framed as to put it out of the power of the owner of one of these enormous fortunes to hand on more than a certain amount to any one individual; the tax, of course, to be imposed by the National and not the State Government.  Such taxation should, of course, be aimed merely at the inheritance or transmission in their entirety of those fortunes swollen beyond all healthy limits.” 

In 1907, he stepped up his campaign for several progressive additions to the nation’s tax system. In his message to Congress on December 7, he urged lawmakers to consider an income tax:

      “When our tax laws are revised the question of an income tax and an inheritance tax should receive the careful attention of our legislators. In my judgment both of these taxes should be part of our system of Federal taxation. I speak diffidently about the income tax because one scheme for an income tax was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; while in addition it is a difficult tax to administer in its practical working, and great care would have to be exercised to see that it was not evaded by the very men whom it was most desirable to have taxed, for if so evaded it would, of course, be worse than no tax at all; as the least desirable of all taxes is the tax which bears heavily upon the honest as compared with the dishonest man. Nevertheless, a graduated income tax of the proper type would be a desirable feature of Federal taxation, and it is to be hoped that one may be devised which the Supreme Court will declare constitutional.”

The inheritance tax was even more desirable, Roosevelt continued. Not only did it serve the cause of social justice, but it had been upheld by the federal courts:

“The inheritance tax, however, is both a far better method of taxation, and far more important for the purpose of having the fortunes of the country bear in proportion to their increase in size a corresponding increase and burden of taxation. The Government has the absolute right to decide as to the terms upon which a man shall receive a bequest or devise from another, and this point in the devolution of property is especially appropriate for the imposition of a tax. Laws imposing such taxes have repeatedly been placed upon the National statute books and as repeatedly declared constitutional by the courts; and these laws contained the progressive principle, that is, after a certain amount is reached the bequest or gift, in life or death, is increasingly burdened and the rate of taxation is increased in proportion to the remoteness of blood of the man receiving the bequest.”

Roosevelt rejected arguments that an estate tax would penalize thrift.

“A heavy progressive tax upon a very large fortune is in no way such a tax upon thrift or industry as a like would be on a small fortune. No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood. We have not the slightest sympathy with that socialistic idea which would try to put laziness, thriftlessness and inefficiency on a par with industry, thrift and efficiency; which would strive to break up not merely private property, but what is far more important, the home, the chief prop upon which our whole civilization stands. Such a theory, if ever adopted, would mean the ruin of the entire country–a ruin which would bear heaviest upon the weakest, upon those least able to shift for themselves. But proposals for legislation such as this herein advocated are directly opposed to this class of socialistic theories. Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be an equality of self-respect and of mutual respect, an equality of rights before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to his fellows.”

The Bailey Bill –

In 1909, progressives in Congress were talking once again about enacting an income tax. They were going to  attempt, once again, to attach a provision for an income tax to a tariff bill. President William Howard Taft had called Congress into a special session in 1909, shortly after his inauguration, to discuss the issue. He wanted Congress to address tariff reform. House of Representatives immediately passed a tariff bill sponsored by Sereno E. Payne (R-NY), the House Majority Leader, which called for reduced tariffs, but including an inheritance tax to make up for lost revenue. However, the Senate quickly substituted a bill, written by Senator Nelson W. Aldrich (R-RI), Senate Majority Leader and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which called for fewer reductions and more increases in tariffs. Aldrich was a long-time advocate of protective tariffs. His answer was to increase the amount of duty items. The problem, however, was that there was an impending budget deficit that had to be addressed. A protracted debate ensued, and progressive Republicans maneuvered to add an income tax amendment to the Aldrich bill. In April, Senators Joseph W. Bailey, a populist Democrat from Texas, and Albert B. Cummins, a progressive Republican from Iowa, introduced separate versions of an income tax provision.  A compromise version was reached between the two – which became known as the Bailey-Cummins amendment – for inclusion in the Senate bill. In response to this amendment, Senator Aldrich defiantly declared: “There will be no income tax, no inheritance tax, no stamp tax, and no corporation tax!”  It soon became evident, however, that the opposition, comprised of Democrats and progressive Republicans from the Midwest, had enough votes to force the issue in the Senate and thereby enact an income tax.  Seeking to avoid that humiliation, Aldrich met with President Taft.

In a message to a joint session of Congress on June 16, Taft first reiterated his support for tariff reform but warned of an impending budget deficit.  On June 16, in a joint message to Congress, Taft  In order to fend off Congress’ proposed initiative for an income tax but yet provide for a mechanism to raise the revenue necessary (while making tariff reduction possible!), Taft  recommended that Congress enact a tax of 2% on the income of a corporation “for the privilege of carrying on or doing business as a corporation in the United States.” (Taft predicted – accurately, as it would later turn out – that the Supreme Court would view the corporate tax as an “excise” tax and not a “direct tax”). In his message, President Taft also endorsed the idea for a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress authority to impose a progressive income tax.

The debate in Congress was whether to include the income tax provision (Bailey-Cummins amendment) or the corporate tax provision in the tariff bill. This was June. Progressive Republicans (also known as “insurgent” Republicans) were joining the Democratic block in support of the income tax.  Their position on income tax was summed up by comments made by Rep. William Sulzer (D-NY) on the House floor:

“I am now, always have been, and always will be in favor of an income tax, because, in my opinion, an income tax is the fairest, the most just, the most honest, the most democratic, and the most equitable tax ever devised by the genius of statesmanship. . . . At the present time nearly all the taxes raised for the support of the Government are levied on consumption—on what the people need to eat and to wear and to live: on the necessities of life; and the consequence is that the poor man, indirectly, but surely in the end, pays practically as much to support the Government as the rich man—regardless of the difference of incomes. This system of tariff tax on consumption, by which the consumers are saddled with all the burdens of Government, is an unjust system of taxation, and the only way to remedy the injustice and destroy the inequality is by a graduated income tax that will make idle wealth as well as honest toil pay its share of the taxes needed to administer the National Government.”

The showdown by Democrats and Progressives regarding the Bailey amendment was perhaps intentionally orchestrated. The theory was that after the regular Republicans rejected the bill, the Democrats could then point a finger at them and claim, for political purposes, that Republicans rejected the Bailey bill to protect their corrupt wealthy corporate friends. They would use the rejection as proof of such an alignment between Republicans and the wealthy.

The conservative Republicans knew what the Democrats were up to and they launched a counter move. Facing an embarrassing loss on the income tax issue, regular Republicans in the Senate decided to make a political maneuver, capitalizing on the endorsement of a constitutional amendment made by President Taft. They proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose an income tax on the rich. The theory behind their plan was that  when the States refused to ratify the amendment, the Republicans could use that failure as proof that the people, through their State legislatures, were against the idea of a new income tax.  They could then use that argument to defeat the Bailey Bill, for how could Congress approve an income tax against the rich after the people, through their state legislatures, had spoken on the issue. Conservative Republicans were sure they did their homework. They were most certain that it could and would be defeated when it went to the states for ratification. They calculated that there were more than enough conservative states to defeat the 3/4 majority that were required under Article V to approve an amendment.

Senator Norris Brown (R-NE) was the first to propose an income-tax amendment to the Constitution, on June 17, 1909, but it was rejected. On June 28, Senator Aldrich submitted a proposal (Senate Joint Resolution 40). It authorized Congress to “lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states and without regard to any census or enumeration.” It passed the Senate by a vote of 77 to 0, with 15 members abstaining. On July 12, the proposal passed in the house, by a vote of 318 to 14. The resolution proposing the 16th Amendment therefore passed the 61st Congress and was submitted to the state legislatures.

Once the amendment was submitted, it was clear that it had more support than was anticipated. Rep. Sereno Payne, a conservative Republican, was so concerned and was so convinced that their plan would backfire that he took to the House floor, denounced the resolution that he himself introduced in the House, and made a last-ditch effort to appeal to Congress:

As to the general policy of an income tax, I am utterly opposed to it. I believe with William Gladstone that it tends to make a nation of liars. I believe it is the most easily concealed of any tax that can be laid, the most difficult of enforcement, and the hardest to collect; that it is, in a word, a tax upon the income of honest men and an exemption, to a greater or lesser extent, of the income of rascals; and so I am opposed to any income tax in time of peace…I hope that if the Constitution is amended in this way the time will not come when the American people will ever want to enact an income tax except in time of war.”

Not all states were initially in favor of an amendment. The gamble that the conservative Republicans were taking at first seemed to pay off.  Many states realized that the imposition of a federal income tax would mean the rise of a federal revenue bureaucracy that extended from Washington, D.C., throughout the country and into the personal and business transactions of every American and every business. Private transactions would no longer be private; government would be able to monitor what everyone was doing.

Richard E. Byrd, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, voiced his concerns on March 3, 1910, during the debate on whether to ratify the 16th Amendment:

“It means that the state must give up a legitimate and long established source of revenue and yield it to the Federal government. It means that the state actually invited the Federal government to invade its territory, to oust its jurisdiction and to establish Federal dominion within the innermost citadel of reserved rights of the Commonwealth. This amendment will do what even the 14th and 15th Amendments did not do — it will extend the Federal power so as to reach the citizens in the ordinary business of life. A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of a Federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house.

      The law will of necessity have inquisitorial features, it will provide penalties. It will create a complicated machinery. Under it, businessmen will be hauled into courts distant from their homes. Heavy fines, imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals, will constantly menace the taxpayer. An army of Federal inspectors, spies and detectives will descend upon the state. They will compel men of business to show their books and disclose the secrets of their affairs. They will dictate forms of bookkeeping. They will require statements and affidavits. On the one hand the inspector can blackmail the taxpayer and on the other, he can profit by selling his secret to his competitor.

      When the Federal government gets a strangle hold on the individual businessman, state lines will exist nowhere but on the maps. Its agents will everywhere supervise the commercial life of the states…. I am not willing by any voluntary act to give up revenue which the State of Virginia herself needs, nor to surrender that measure of state’s rights which was, and the construction of the Federal courts have permitted to remain.”

Much to everyone’s surprise, the amendment was ratified by one state legislature after another, and on February 25, 1913, with the certification by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox (Woodrow Wilson had just taken office), the Sixteenth amendment took effect.  “Soaking the Rich” was clearly a popular policy. “Shifting the growing burden of federal finance to the wealthy” make a lot of sense to those who, at the time, were sure they weren’t in the income bracket that would be targeted.  The end run of the Republican leadership did indeed backfire.

As James Madison had feared, the seeds of class warfare were sown in the strategy of different rates for different incomes.

Not only were conservative Republicans burned by their attempt to end Congress’ scheming for a progressive income tax by in fact ensuring that such a tax would become the law of the land, but the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909 was also passed and signed by President Taft on August 5, 1909. (The corporate tax was reduced to 1% by the time the bill was signed)

[As a side note, the bill hurt Taft greatly, and in fact, would have disastrous consequences for the Republican Party in general. Lowering the tariff caused a big split in the party by pitting producers (manufacturers and farmers) against merchants and consumers. Failure to address tax reform was another sore spot. The debate split the Republican Party into Progressives and Old Guards and led the split party to lose the 1910 congressional election. Two years later, with the 1912 presidential election, the tariff issue continued to split votes amongst Republicans in most states, resulting in Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson being elected. That was the election where Teddy Roosevelt returned to politics to “save the Republican party from Taft” by running for president under the new political party he created, the Progressive Party – commonly called the “Bull Moose.” He had entered the race too late and Taft has already secured the GOP nomination].

It turns out that Sixteenth Amendment was Congress’ way to get around the Pollock decision (much the way the 14th Amendment got around the Dred Scott decision) and enact an income tax, progressive in nature, without having to worry about whether the tax is classified as “direct” or not and whether it needs to be apportioned among the states on the basis of population.

It should be noted that there is credible evidence to suggest that the 16th Amendment was not properly and legally ratified pursuant to the requirements set out in Article V of the US Constitution (the “Amendment Process”).   See the Appendix for a summary of this evidence, as researched by Bill Benson.

How the Income Tax Grew –

On April 21, 1913, the House Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Rep. Oscar W. Underwood (D-AL), took up consideration of a revenue bill, which included tariff reductions as well as an income tax. The Underwood bill (H.R. 3321) was heartily approved by the Democratic-controlled House but reached opposition in the Senate. While the bill was clearly a Democratic bill, it was the Democrats and regular Republicans that wanted the most modest progressive tax rates. It was the progressives, on the other hand, that wanted higher rates.  For the conservative (regular) Republicans and the vast majority of Democrats, wealth redistribution of any significance was not among the sanctioned uses. When Robert La Follette, the progressive Republican from Wisconsin proposed a maximum individual income tax of 10% and an inheritance tax reaching 75%,  John Sharp Williams (D-MS) protested that “the object of taxation is not to leave men with equal incomes after you have taxed them.”  Explaining that the Democrats had no such radical intentions for the power to impose an income tax, Williams declared:

No honest man can wage war upon great fortunes, per se. The Democratic party never has done it, and when the Democratic party begins to do it, it will cease to be the Democratic party and become the Socialistic party of the United States; or better expressed, the Communistic Party of the United States.”

Neither traditional Democrats nor regular Republicans were willing to use income taxation to redistribute wealth.  Such a radical policy was repudiated by all but a handful of Progressives and Populists on the fringe. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA) warned that “it will be an evil day for us when we enter on confiscation of property under the guise of taxation.”  The income tax of 1913 was intended to raise revenue to finance tariff reduction and not to level incomes or to destroy the wealthy as a class. According to those representatives who looked at the income tax objectively, they believed it was only fair that the wealthy pay the bulk of the income tax because they benefited most from the high tariffs. In other words, they felt it was only “equitable” that they should contribute their “fair share” of the cost of government via the federal income tax.

On October 3, the Underwood bill was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. It enacted the first income tax – a minor income tax – under the authority of the new constitutional amendment. After decades of political controversy and conflict, the federal government once again had an income tax. To be sure, this was a minor levy. Most federal revenue still came from the tariff and federal excise taxes (especially those on alcohol and tobacco products).  Corporations were subject to a flat tax of 1%, with no exemption allowed and for individuals, a tax of 1% was imposed on income above $3,000 for single taxpayers (and above $4,000 for married couples). Those were very generous exemptions, as fewer than 4% of families had an annual income

of $3,000 in 1913. As a result, less than 1% of the population (or 2% of households) was subject to income taxation the first year of the new tax regime. With regard to the progressive aspect of the tax, there was a surtax of 1% imposed on income above $20,000 and 6% on incomes above $500,000.  Thus, the maximum marginal rate reached 7% on income above $500,000. In 1913, there were very few taxpayers in that upper bracket.  The tax provided for only a handful of exemptions, exclusions, and deductions, and the same tax rate applied to both earned and unearned income.

All that would change over the next 100 years. Even more dramatically, it would require only a few years for the federal income tax to become the chief source of income for the government, far outdistancing tariff revenues.  The age of big government had officially begun.

The Underwood Act defined taxable income as:

“….. subject only to such exemptions and deductions as are hereinafter allowed, the net income of a taxable person shall include gains, profits, and income derived from salaries, wages, or compensation for personal service of whatever kind and in whatever form paid, or from professions, vocations, businesses, trade, commerce, or sales, or dealings in property, whether real or personal, growing out of the ownership or use of or interest in real or personal property, also from interest, rent, dividends, securities, or the transaction of any lawful business carried on for gain or profit, or gains or profits and income derived from any source whatever…”

And the Act then provided, in part:

  • An income tax of 1% on individual income over $3,000 (or $4,000 for married couples), up to incomes of $20,000.
  • A progressive surtax ranging from 1% to 6%, depending on income.
  • Returns for the new tax were to be kept secret
  • Exemptions for charitable organizations (using language from the 1894 and 1909 tariff bills with regard to charitable purpose – Under these statutes, tax exemption was granted to “any corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes…” In other words, these organizations were to be considered “non-profits”; Under the 1913 bill, tax-exempt organizations could earn tax-free income from both mission-related activities and commercial business activities that were unrelated to the purpose for which they were exempt, as long as they used the net profits for exempt purposes. That would change with the Revenue Act of 1950)
  • Income taxes to be collected at the source, meaning that some kinds of income would be taxed before it reached the taxpayer, as with the modern system of tax withholding.
  • The Bureau of Internal Revenue established a Personal Income Tax Division to collect the new tax. (Recall that the IRS has its roots in the Lincoln administration. The position of Commissioner of Internal Revenue, within the Treasury Department, was created by the Revenue Act of 1862).
  • In general, it established the modern federal income tax system

When the Act was passed and sent out to the people, Congress predicted confidently that “all good citizen will willingly and cheerfully support and sustain this, the fairest and cheapest of all taxes.” And indeed it was harmless at first. The first tax ranged from merely 1% on the first $20,000 of taxable income and was only 7% on incomes over $500,000. Who could complain?  (How harmless was this tax?  Famed author, Cleon Skousen, put it this way: “If the tax was expressed in 1994 dollars, this sentence (above) would read, ‘the first tax ranged from merely 1% on the first $298,000 of taxable income and was only 7% on incomes above $7,460,000.’”)

In the beginning, hardly anyone had to file a tax return because the tax did not apply to the vast majority of America’s work-a-day citizens. As mentioned above, when the tax was first imposed, only 1% of the population was subject to a federal income tax.  In 1939, twenty-six years after the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted, only 5% of the population, counting both taxpayers and their dependents, was required to file returns. In 1994, more than 80% of the population were required to file and pay.  Today, it is 50% of the population.

Those who support this scheme of taxation are exactly what our Founders warned us about.  Thomas Jefferson wrote: “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”    

Today, it is still a popular idea to tax the wealthy so that the less fortunate can live easier and more comfortably with their more modest salaries and without having any income tax liability. For example, 82% of Democrats polled in 2011 supported raising taxes on millionaires (compared to 54% of Republicans). In 2008, 58% of Americans (mind you, 48-49% weren’t required to pay income taxes) thought it was a good idea to raise taxes for the wealthy (by wealthy, they meant those who have an income in excess of $250,000)  in order to pay for “new government programs and tax cuts for those making less money,” as well as to help lower the nation’s deficit.

As our Founders would frown upon that mindset if they were here today, they would surely comment: Those who don’t respect the rights of others don’t deserve it for themselves.

American economist Thomas Sowell has written quite a lot about this mindset of allowing the government to arbitrarily decide what is considered “poverty” and what is considered “wealth.” When that happens, of course, classes of people are treated differently. Different sets of standards and rules apply, which is not what “Equal Protection of Laws” is all about. Even worse, Sowell writes, is allowing the people themselves to decide when others should be taxed. That is exactly what Founders like James Madison labored to avoid. He referred to a democracy as “mob rule.” He, as well as the other Founders, understood that individual rights could never be secure in a pure democracy. A republic – a constitutional republic – would be the system of choice.

A republic is representative government ruled by law (specifically, the US Constitution). That’s why we say that we are a nation of laws and not of men.  A democracy, on the other hand, is government ruled by the will of the majority (mob rule; “mobocracy”). Benjamin Franklin defined it as: “A democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” And Thomas Jefferson defined: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

A republic recognizes the unalienable rights of individuals (which no majority rule can violate) while democracies are only concerned with the wants or needs of a majority group. Social justice is easier to pursue when there is mob rule or when the rule of law disintegrates.

In a constitutional republic as ours, lawmaking is a slow, deliberate process, requiring approval (and surviving scrutiny) from all three branches of government, in order that cool heads prevail and the fairest laws are produced.  In a democracy, laws are passed by majority polls or voter referendums. 50% plus 1 vote (ie, the majority) is enough to take away anything away from the 50% minus 1 vote (ie, the minority). For purposes of this article, a perfect example would be this: If 51% of the people don’t pay taxes and want to keep up that lifestyle or even want more from those 49% that pay taxes, they can easily vote a tax increase. Income is no longer a protected property right in the United States, thanks to the Sixteenth Amendment, so in effect, taxation is subject to mob rule. And to the conscience of every elected official in Washington DC.

History records that democracies always self-destruct when the non-productive majority realizes that it can vote itself handouts from the productive minority by electing the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury. These candidates, in order to remain popular, must adopt ever-increasing tax and spend policies to satisfy the ever-increasing desires of the majority. As taxes increase, the incentive to produce decreases, causing many of the once productive to drop out and join the non-productive. When there are no longer enough producers to fund the legitimate functions of government and the socialist programs, the democracy inevitably collapses due to economic depression and chaos, and almost always, it is followed by some sort of dictatorship or socialist/communist regime. Prior to its decline (around 100-44 BC), Roman emperors couldn’t meet the demands of its poor They taxed heavily to provide “bread and circuses” (free grain, gladiator games) to the poor and the disillusioned – those who no longer valued historic Roman civic virtues. This system of state bribery worked for awhile; it placated them so that they wouldn’t riot and cause problems for the Emperor. “For the People who once upon a time took an interest in military command, high civil office, the legions, and the state of the republic, they now restrain themselves and anxiously hope for just two things: bread and circuses.” But in the end, the policies disillusioned too many Romans and the empire simply wasn’t worth fighting for any longer.

Back to Thomas Sowell and his views regarding the government’s power to arbitrarily decide what is considered “poverty” and what is considered “wealth” for purposes of re-distribution…  On that subject, he wrote:

“Leaders of the left in many countries have promoted policies that enable the poor to be more comfortable in their poverty. But that raises a fundamental question: Just who are ‘the poor’? … ‘Poverty’ once had some concrete meaning — not enough food to eat or not enough clothing or shelter to protect you from the elements, for example. Today it means whatever the government bureaucrats, who set up the statistical criteria, choose to make it mean. … Most Americans with incomes below the official poverty level have air-conditioning, television, own a motor vehicle and, far from being hungry, are more likely than other Americans to be overweight. But an arbitrary definition of words and numbers gives them access to the taxpayers’ money. This kind of ‘poverty’ can easily become a way of life, not only for today’s ‘poor,’ but for their children and grandchildren. Even when they have the potential to become productive members of society, the loss of welfare state benefits if they try to do so is an implicit ‘tax’ on what they would earn that often exceeds the explicit tax on a millionaire. If increasing your income by $10,000 would cause you to lose $15,000 in government benefits, would you do it? In short, the political left’s welfare state makes poverty more comfortable, while penalizing attempts to rise out of poverty.”   

“Soaking the Rich” or Re-distribution of Wealth? –

So, did the income tax actually “soak the rich” as the slogan described?  The wealthy, especially the super-wealthy, had anticipated the adoption of a progressive federal income tax and had created a clever device to protect their riches. It was called a “charitable foundation.” The idea was to co-sign the ownership of wealth, including stocks and securities, to a foundation and then get Congress and the state legislatures to declare all such charitable institutions exempt from taxes. By setting up boards which were under the control of these wealthy benefactors they could escape the tax and still maintain control over the disposition of their fabulous fortunes.

In fact, long before the federal income tax was in place, multimillionaires such as John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie had their foundations set up and operating. What they needed to do was make certain that the tax bill passed by Congress contained a provision specifically exempting their treasure houses from taxation. And sure enough, the Underwood bill included such a provision (Section 2, paragraph G). The bill borrowed language from the 1894 and the 1909 tariff bills, both of which provided exemptions for charitable organization. Under these statutes, tax exemption was granted to “any corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes…” In other words, these organizations were to be considered “non-profits.” Under the 1913 bill, charitable (non-profit) organizations could earn tax-free income from both mission-related activities and commercial business activities that were unrelated to the purpose for which they were exempt, as long as they used the net profits for exempt purposes. (That would change with the Revenue Act of 1950; In 1950, Congress established the “unrelated business income tax,” or UBIT, which would be imposed on any activity that was not “regularly carried on” and “substantially related” to the organization’s charitable purpose).

Section 2, paragraph G provides: “Provided, however, that nothing in this section shall apply…to any corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific or educational purposes.” This magical provision locked up the riches of the super wealthy for all of their foundations were specifically designed to qualify under one or more of these categories.

Within a few years, President Woodrow Wilson would hijack the income tax to pay for WWI. He would tax the very wealth at 67% and then up to 77%.  On April 2, 1917, he stood before a joint session of Congress, requesting a declaration of war. This, of course, led to an even greater need for additional revenue. The debate over taxing versus borrowing to finance the war raged over several months across the country. Taxes would have to be increased.  But what taxes should be imposed, and by how much? Once again the question was raised as to whether to broaden the tax base or raise the rates on the wealthiest. The War Revenue Act of 1917 imposed a 2% tax on individual incomes over $1,000 (or $2,000 for married couples), featured graduated surtaxes reaching as high as 67% (63% on incomes over $1 million and 67% on incomes over $2 million), and increased a variety of excises and duties (including on automobiles). It also added an additional tax of 4% to the existing corporate income tax. Revenue grew exponentially. In the years prior to 1917, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) took in an average of about $281 million. In the years following the War Revenue Act of 1917, the average was $2.78 billion….   ten times the amount of tax revenue!

The Agency grew dramatically; it had to. The number of income tax returns that were filed after the Act of 1917 increased by over 1000%.

In his famous “Politics is Adjourned” address to a joint session of Congress on May 27, 1918, President Wilson made a strong pitch for more revenues. He urged: “Our financial program must sustain it to the utmost. Our financial program must no more be left in doubt or suffered to lag more than our ordnance program or our ship program, or our munitions program or our program for making millions of men ready.” In defense of the new taxes requested on war profits, he said the American people were not just willing to send their men to possible death overseas, but “to bear any burden or undergo any sacrifice” to win the war including taxes. “We need not be afraid to tax them, if we lay taxes justly.” If the American people know that the burden is being distributed equally, he went on, “they will carry it cheerfully and with a sort of solemn pride.”  Wilson made it sound almost as if Americans were actually seeking a tax increase in order to feel the joy of sacrificing their hard earned money for a righteous cause.

And so, the Revenue Act of 1918 (which actually passed in early 1919) increased taxes further. Corporations were given an exemption of $2,000, but rates were raised to 12% on net taxable income and the surcharge on the highest incomes was increased to 77%.  The income tax now occupied a central place in the federal revenue system. In 1916, income taxes had been providing 16% of federal revenue, but from 1917 to 1920, that percentage ranged as high as 58%. The tax was now a pillar of federal finance. Still, however, it remained a narrow levy on the American people. In 1920, only 5.5 million returns showed any tax due.

By 1919, there was a clear and broad consensus that held that steep wartime tax rates were unsustainable. Even Wilson himself finally agreed, and in his State of the Union that year, he suggested the possibility of reducing taxes.  A series of tax cuts (called Mellon tax cuts, for Andrew Mellon, the Treasury Secretary at the time) began in 1921, as legislators from both parties set about revising the wartime tax system. In the end, the tax cuts in the Revenue Act of 1921 were generally a disappointment for everyone and actually included a hike in the corporate tax rate.

Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, using the excuses of depression and war, permanently enlarged the income tax. Under Hoover, the top rate was hiked from 24 to 63%. Under Roosevelt, the top rate was again raised – first to 79% and later to 90%.  [If he had his way, in 1941, a 99.5% marginal tax rate of 99.5% would have been imposed on all incomes over $100,000. That was his proposal. After that proposal failed, Roosevelt issued an executive order to tax all income over $25,000 at the astonishing rate of 100%. Congress later repealed the order, but still allowed top incomes to be taxed at a marginal rate of 90%].

It was one thing to impose taxes but another to collect them. The collection process was greatly facilitated in 1943 by a device created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to pay the costs of WWII.  It was the tax withholding provision, also called “withholding from wages and salaries.” In other words, income tax would be collected at the source – collected at the payroll window before it was paid to the taxpayer.  Economists point out that this device, more than any other single factor, shifted the tax from its original design as a tax on the wealthy to a tax on the masses – mostly the middle class.

In 1946, Beardsley Ruml, then the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, wrote an article in American Affairs in which he explained the real function of the income tax. The article was entitled “Taxes for Revenue Are Obsolete.” Ruml theorized that with the Federal Reserve, an institution and mechanism were in place to provide the federal government with a constant and virtually unlimited flow of dollars. That, of course, is inflationary, so Ruml believed that income taxes served the purpose of dampening inflation by lowering demand, a measure achieved by reducing the purchasing power of the masses by taking money out of their paychecks.

That was but one purpose of taxation, according to Ruml. The other was the redistribution of wealth from one class of citizens to another. Though done under the banner of social justice and equality, the real purpose was to supplant the decisions of a free people in a free market with the rule of the masters of a planned economy. As Ruml put it in his own words:

“The second principal purpose of federal taxes is to attain more equality of wealth and of income than would result from economic forces working alone. The taxes which are effective for this purpose are the progressive individual income tax, the progressive estate tax, and the gift tax. What these taxes should be depends on public policy with respect to the distribution of wealth and of income. These taxes should be defended and attacked in terms of their effect on the character of American life, not as revenue measures.”

T. Coleman Andrews, who served as Commissioner of the IRS for nearly 3 years during the early 1950s, made the following remarks after his resignation in 1955:

Congress, in implementing the Sixteenth Amendment, went beyond merely enacting an income tax law and repealed Article IV of the Bill of Rights, by empowering the tax collector to do the very things from which that article says we were to be secure. It opened up our homes, our papers and our effects to the prying eyes of government agents and set the stage for searches of our books and vaults and for inquiries into our private affairs whenever the tax men might decide, even though there might not be any justification beyond mere cynical suspicion.

The income tax is bad because it has robbed you and me of the guarantee of privacy and the respect for our property that were given to us in Article IV of the Bill of Rights. This invasion is absolute and complete as far as the amount of tax that can be assessed is concerned. Please remember that under the Sixteenth Amendment, Congress can take 100% of our income anytime it wants to. As a matter of fact, right now it is imposing a tax as high as 91%. This is downright confiscation and cannot be defended on any other grounds.

      The income tax is bad because it was conceived in class hatred, is an instrument of vengeance and plays right into the hands of the communists. It employs the vicious communist principle of taking from each according to his accumulation of the fruits of his labor and giving to others according to their needs, regardless of whether those needs are the result of indolence or lack of pride, self-respect, personal dignity or other attributes of men.

      The income tax is fulfilling the Marxist prophecy that the surest way to destroy a capitalist society is by steeply graduated taxes on income and heavy levies upon the estates of people when they die.

[As matters now stand, if our children make the most of their capabilities and training, they will have to give most of it to the tax collector and so become slaves of the government. People cannot pull themselves up by the bootstraps anymore because the tax collector gets the boots and the straps as well.]

The income tax is bad because it is oppressive to all and discriminates particularly against those people who prove themselves most adept at keeping the wheels of business turning and creating maximum employment and a high standard of living for their fellow men.

      I believe that a better way to raise revenue not only can be found but must be found because I am convinced that the present system is leading us right back to the very tyranny from which those, who established this land of freedom, risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to forever free themselves…

Taxation today is clearly used as a scheme of wealth distribution. In his bid for the presidency in 2008 and again in 2012, Obama talked about increasing taxes on the wealthy. His favorite line was: “We can restore the American dream where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” He was referring to some sort of “advantage” that those who work hard and earn more money have over those who don’t have much. Even Joe Biden, in 2009, urged the wealthy to pay more in taxes, to “do their patriotic duty.”  And as we see, what President Obama wasn’t willing to do outright (raise taxes on the wealthy) because of political backlash, he did deviously.  Obamacare contains a whole host of new taxes, only a few of which apply to middle-class Americans.

Under what notion of fairness is it OK for people to be relieved in their economic “discomfort” by using the funds that taxpayers have to work 1/3 of the year for and then surrender to the government?  Under what notion of fairness is it OK for people can be relieved in their decisions not to become educated, seek training, or look for work by simply living off the finances that taxpayers have to work 1/3 of the year for and then surrender to the government?  Under what notion of fairness is it OK for people to have lots of children without adequate ability to provide for them while the funds to raise them come from taxpayers who take money from their own families (affecting their own decisions to have more children) and who have to work 1/3 of the year for and then surrender to the government?  President Obama should not surrender the American Dream of one segment of society to serve the dreams of another segment.

IRS Scandal #5 (childrens Tea Party)

Audits for Enemies –

FDR became the first president to practice on a large scale what James Madison called “the spirit of party and faction” and what Justice Stephen Field called the “war of the poor against the rich.” With a steeply progressive income tax in place, Roosevelt used the federal treasury to reward, among others, farmers (who were paid not to plant crops), silver miners (who had the price of their product artificially inflated), and southerners in the vote-rich Tennessee Valley (with dams and cheap electricity).  In the 1936 presidential election, Senator Hiram Johnson (D-CA), a Roosevelt supporter, watched in amazement as the President mobilized “the different agencies of government” to “dole out subsidies for votes.” In other words, he was using government funding to ultimately serve his re-election. Johnson calculated: “He started out with probably 8 million votes bought. The other side will have to buy their votes one by one, and they cannot hope to match his money.” In that campaign, Roosevelt defeated the Republican Alf Landon by an electoral vote of 523–8.

The flip side of rewarding supporters was investigating political opponents. It started with an investigation of Senator Huey Long of Louisiana, who had threatened to run for president against Roosevelt. Next came an audit of William Randolph Hearst, whose newspaper empire strongly opposed Roosevelt for president in 1936. Moses Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, criticized the New Deal and vehemently opposed Roosevelt’s re-election campaign in 1936 and ‘coincidently,’ became a target of a full-scale audit the following year (which was followed by a prison term). But perhaps no one was harassed more aggressively than Andrew Mellon, a powerful Republican and former Treasury Secretary. Remember it was Andrew Mellon who fought so hard to reduce the federal income tax rate, both for individuals and corporations.  The Roosevelt administration tasked the IRS and an army of tax inspectors and prosecutors to scrutinize Mellon’s financial records, especially to find out whether deductions for his vast philanthropic activities amounted to tax evasion. Even after IRS agents found nothing irregular, the Justice Department pursued the investigation. Historians have found no documents explaining the Roosevelt administration’s focus on Mellon, but a comment Roosevelt made about him in 1926 may offer a clue: Roosevelt dubbed him “the master mind among the malefactors of great wealth. A federal grand jury declined to indict Mellon for tax fraud in 1934. But the IRS was still pursuing claims against Mellon for at least $3 million in back taxes. Mellon’s “tax trial” before the Board of Tax Appeals in Pittsburgh and Washington lasted 14 months. At a private meeting with Roosevelt during the trial in 1936, Mellon offered to build the National Gallery and endow it with his own collection. Roosevelt accepted the offer, but instructed federal prosecutors to make “no change whatsoever” in the government’s position on the Mellon tax case (according to Mellon biographer David Cannadine). Mellon died the next year, and the suits, including any against his estate, died with him.

The president’s own son, Elliott Roosevelt, conceded in 1975 that “my father may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.”

President John F. Kennedy  – together with his brother, Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General – used the IRS to go after mobsters and similar types suspected of racketeering for possible tax evasion. But JFK soon expanded the scope of IRS investigation to include political enemies as well. In November 1961, President Kennedy turned to the IRS to challenge the tax-exempt status of “right-wing extremist groups,” as well as fundamentalist Christian ministers who had been openly opposed him for president because of his religion – a Roman Catholic.  In a move not made public at the time, the Kennedy administration established an “Ideological Organizations Audit project” within the IRS, which targeted  conservative groups, such as the John Birch Society. In November, the IRS launched audits of 22 “extremist organizations,” several of which lost their tax-exempt status, jeopardizing their fundraising.

President Richard Nixon used the IRS as his own special gestapo agency. In effect, he re-directed Kennedy’s “Audit Project” to target left-wing groups. After he took office, his administration quickly created a Special Services Staff to mastermind what a memo called “all IRS activities involving ideological, militant, subversive, radical, and similar type organizations.” More than 10,000 individuals and groups were targeted for tax audits because of their political activism or slant between 1969 and 1973, including Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling (a left-wing critic of the Vietnam War) and the far-right John Birch Society. Nixon went after quite a wide range of political “enemy” groups, including anti-war groups (and the churches and other nonprofits that sheltered them), civil rights groups, reporters, and prominent Democrats.

Additionally, the IRS was also given Nixon’s enemies list to, in the words of White House counsel John Dean, “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” Luckily, as a result of Watergate investigation (1973-4) and, especially, the disclosure of White House tapes, many of these unethical, unauthorized activities became public. The tapes provided a direct line of accountability from the IRS to the Oval Office that was often missing in previous administrations. They provide unambiguous evidence that Nixon used his power to direct aides to use the IRS to get back at political enemies. In a taped conversation on Sept. 8, 1971, Nixon told his chief domestic policy adviser, John Ehrlichman, to direct the IRS to audit potential Democratic rivals, including Sens. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Edmund Muskie of Maine.  “Are we going after their tax returns? I … you know what I mean? There’s a lot of gold in them thar hills,” Nixon said.

Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment brought against President Nixon in 1974 charged him with “acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, to endeavor to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigation to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

Bill Clinton liked to deny that he would ever use the IRS to target political and personal enemies. Yet the audits speak for themselves..  The list of women, and other persons who faced tax audits – some immediately after going public with their accusations of sexual harassment or rape (Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick), who alleged sexual affairs (Gennifer Flowers and Liz Ward Gracen), or who agreed to offer testimony in such cases (such as Linda Tripp), as well as persons involved with the Whitewater scandal – suggests a pattern of political retaliation.  Even Bill O’Reilly was audited three times by the Clinton administration and the watchdog group, Judicial Watch, was audited as well.  It was no wonder the IRS targeted Judicial Watch. The organization alone filed more than 50 lawsuits against the Clinton administration for improper targeting of individuals by the IRS, in violation of privacy rights and IRS policy. In a meeting with Judicial Watch officials in January 12, 1999 to discuss the audits, an IRS agent boldly stated: “What do you expect when you sue the President?”

Under Clinton, the IRS was notoriously used as a tool to harass and intimidate.  As was done by the administrations before him, the IRS was tasked with auditing a wide range of organizations that were viewed as hostile to the White House agenda. These included leading conservative publications, think tanks, and interest groups, among them The American Spectator, the National Review, the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association, the National Center for Public Policy Research, the American Policy Center, American Cause, Citizens for Honest Government, Citizens Against Government Waste, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Landmark Legal Foundation, and Concerned Women for America.

IRS official Paul Breslan knew exactly what the organization was doing. And a memo was used to tie Clinton himself to the audits. In the memo, White House Associate Counsel William Kennedy is documented as saying that the IRS is “on top of it.”  In a speech on the House floor in 1996, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) said: “The fact is, the White House in this case misused the IRS and the FBI in an incredible abuse of power.”  During the Clinton years, conservatives used to joke back that if Clinton didn’t have the IRS audit you, then you weren’t a real conservative.

And now we see that the Obama administration has used the IRS to single out and target Tea Party, patriot groups, and other conservative organizations in their applications for tax-exempt status.  According to a House probe, for the past 18 months (although it is likely the abuse has gone back as far as 2010), the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” – that is, focusing on groups with conservative-sounding words or phrases in their name, such as “Tea Party,” or “patriot – for scrutiny in their tax-exemption applications. As if that wasn’t bad enough, IRS agents also misappropriated the information contained in the confidential tax returns of conservative organizations and donors to GOP candidates (such as Mitt Romney) and leaked it to political enemies, in violation of federal law.

IRS - Internal Revenge Service

Conclusion –

Glenn Beck summarized the Tax Code and the IRS rather well a few years ago: “The tax code is not meant to be read and understood by the people. It’s meant as a shelter for those who’ve taken power from us, and a weapon of selective enforcement to be used against any who would dare to raise an opposing voice. The law is not for them; it’s for you.” I guess what we are seeing right now is this explanation being exposed for the truth that it offers.  Beck continued: “Right now, at least a hundred thousand federal employees together owe a billion dollars in back taxes, and the Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, himself is one of them. There is no reason why the person who runs the IRS, the congressmen who writes our tax code, including repeat tax cheat Charlie Rengal, or the CEO who has friends in the White House, should get a free pass when you and I must pay taxes and pay the consequences of our decisions not to do so.”

John Adams once said: “We are a government of laws, not men.”  Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost this fundamental truth.

Also, somewhere along the way, the government has gotten off track in its goal of enlarging its powers and responsibilities. Of course, government couldn’t grow without the financial resources to do so. First it created the Federal Reserve to print the money and provide the loans it needed and then came the unlimited ability to tax citizens.  There is a fine line between taxation and plunder. What isn’t such a fine line is that which is constitutional and what is unconstitutional. The Founders wrote our Constitution for the common man to understand.  The average citizen was meant to read the Constitution and easily understand the bounds of government and its extent in his life. Again, transparency and simplicity are what is expected in a free society. Our Founders never expected the Constitution to be interpreted according to the whims and views of nine justices who too often have rejected the principles on which the nation was founded and have lost the ability “to see the forest for the trees” (meaning, they’ve lost the ability to see the most relevant points because they’re too busy focusing on smaller issues that take their eye off the big picture). The pressure of necessity (the need for government to take control of matters) has often clouded their view of what government was instituted for.

Our government is bloated because it is funding too projects not authorized by the Constitution. In addition to its constitutional responsibilities, Congress is taxing for unconstitutional purposes as well. State grants (to coerce financially what it can’t require constitutionally) is an example. And this brings us to the current state of taxation, which amounts to plunder – legal plunder.

Frederic Bestiat (1801-1850), the French economist who championed private property, free markets, and limited government, defined legal plunder: “Legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways.  We have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole – with their common aim of legal plunder – constitute socialism.” 

We know our federal government was able to sell its plan of progressive income taxation – its plan of legal plunder – on its promise to “soak the wealthy.” After all, who doesn’t look at the very wealthy and conclude that they have more than enough and that they won’t miss millions of their dollars. The current administration continues to sell this plan as a “patriotic duty” and a “fairness” thing.  Bestiat explained why legalized plunder is such an attractive plan by explaining the human nature behind its mentality: “Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain – and since labor is pain in itself – it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it….   It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.”

Socialism recognizes that there are some people who, by their human nature and ability to develop their gifts, will be producers and there are those who will reject the opportunities to invest in themselves  and resist the need to become producers. And so, for the common good comes the policy that states: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”  (the slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program). In other words, only in the situation where the government organizes and arranges for the abundance of goods and services will there be enough to satisfy everyone’s needs. That’s the Marxist view.  But this is the United States. We don’t think like that. That’s not in the lifeblood that courses through our veins. We are not Russia or Germany or any other nation that looks at people only in the collective sense. People are individuals first, with individual God-given rights to be individuals.

Bestiat warned those who value freedom to be ever vigilante for legislation that “takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong… That benefits one citizen at the expense of another by giving to that person what he has the ability to provide for himself.” He explains how essential it is that such legislation be rooted out.  “The tool of socialists is legal plunder. To prevent this, you must exclude socialism from entering into the making of laws. You must prevent socialists from entering the Legislative Palace.  If you do not succeed, legal plunder will continue to be the main business of the legislature…. Socialism is the state whereby everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else. When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

That’s why the time has come for the legalized plunder to stop and for the innovative, liberty-minded people of the United States to come up with a viable solution for government revenue that doesn’t imperil individual freedom and prosperity.  The Fair Tax – a national consumption tax – is one such plan.

As it is so true about history, the past holds the answers to the future. That’s why we have the saying: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  Frederic Bestiat (1801-1850), who, like our Founders, saw the wisdom and inherent freedom in a government that was: (i) designed primarily to protect the lives, liberty, and private property of citizens from theft or aggression and the designs of evil-intentioned individuals (and from government itself) and (ii) sufficiently limited in its ability to coerce the People in their exercise of freedom as well as in their economic pursuits, wrote that men will naturally rebel against an injustice when they find that they have sufficiently become its victims. It is also human nature, he explained. This was the case of the Boston Tea Party, various other displays of civil disobedience, and eventually, the American Revolution itself.  (He also suggested a second course – instead of a rebellion against the plunder, men will capitulate on a large scale, refuse to work, invent, educate, etc and demand government provide for everyone).

Bestiat wrote that burdensome government restrictions, legalized plunder, indentured servitude, and slavery find defenders only among those who profit from them. Unfortunately, as almost 100 years of American history has shown, defenders will also be found among those who suffer from them. The question is whether the time has come for another simple act of civil disobedience — the petition and protest of honest, hard-working Americans against our current unfair system of taxation.

“In our time, many seem to think ‘the Declaration’ was penned to proclaim eternal verities about the human condition — a poetic tribute to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ — as if it were a collection of fine words about high-minded ideals. No!  It was a rebellion against bad governance, against political arrogance, against oppressive laws, against restriction, constraint, and imposition without representation.” (Scott Ott, of PJ Media) We call it ‘The Declaration,’ as if it merely declares our moral purpose.  But that’s not the object. Its purpose is to provide the blueprint for true and everlasting human liberty… for true ‘Independence.’  ”The members of the Second Continental Congress did not expect to forfeit their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for stating the obvious about the ‘laws of nature and of nature’s God.’  Their necks ripened for the noose because they altered, abolished, and threw off the yoke of their government.” (Ott)  They desired to be absolved of any allegiance to a government that did not respect their rights.  They counted all as loss to obtain freedom; to be absolved of allegiance to their government, to dissolve all political connections between themselves and the state which they had always referred to as their own.

The Declaration of Independence offers a daily reminder of the exhaustive reasons for holding government accountable and rejecting it when it becomes corrupt, abusive, and oppressive…   to preserve Liberty.

The Declaration would clearly instruct us to move (peacefully) to abolish the federal income tax and to do away with the IRS.

IRS Scandal #2

 

RESOLUTION TO ABOLISH THE INCOME TAX and THE IRS

T. Coleman Andrews served as commissioner of IRS for nearly 3 years during the early 1950s. Following his resignation, he made the following statement:

“Congress, in implementing the Sixteenth Amendment, went beyond merely enacting an income tax law and repealed Article IV of the Bill of Rights, by empowering the tax collector to do the very things from which that article says we were to be secure. It opened up our homes, our papers and our effects to the prying eyes of government agents and set the stage for searches of our books and vaults and for inquiries into our private affairs whenever the tax men might decide, even though there might not be any justification beyond mere cynical suspicion.

      The income tax is bad because it has robbed you and me of the guarantee of privacy and the respect for our property that were given to us in Article IV of the Bill of Rights. This invasion is absolute and complete as far as the amount of tax that can be assessed is concerned. Please remember that under the Sixteenth Amendment, Congress can take 100% of our income anytime it wants to. As a matter of fact, right now it is imposing a tax as high as 91%. This is downright confiscation and cannot be defended on any other grounds 

      The income tax is bad because it was conceived in class hatred, is an instrument of vengeance and plays right into the hands of the communists. It employs the vicious communist principle of taking from each according to his accumulation of the fruits of his labor and giving to others according to their needs, regardless of whether those needs are the result of indolence or lack of pride, self-respect, personal dignity or other attributes of men 

      The income tax is fulfilling the Marxist prophecy that the surest way to destroy a capitalist society is by steeply graduated taxes on income and heavy levies upon the estates of people when they die.

[As matters now stand, if our children make the most of their capabilities and training, they will have to give most of it to the tax collector and so become slaves of the government. People cannot pull themselves up by the bootstraps anymore because the tax collector gets the boots and the straps as well.]

The income tax is bad because it is oppressive to all and discriminates particularly against those people who prove themselves most adept at keeping the wheels of business turning and creating maximum employment and a high standard of living for their fellow men.

      I believe that a better way to raise revenue not only can be found but must be found because I am convinced that the present system is leading us right back to the very tyranny from which those, who established this land of freedom, risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to forever free themselves…”

The progressive income tax was imposed on the American people in 1913 following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, which states: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” It was never intended to be a primary source of funding for government. It was merely intended to make up for revenue losses from tariffs, which were the primary source of funding for the constitutional.

Whereas, the current U.S. tax system is huge convoluted mess. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has six federal income tax brackets ranging from 10% to 35%, depending on “income.” This progressive tax system punishes the most productive members of society with a higher tax rate yet turns around and gives a tax credit to lower income earners that often amounts to a tax refund larger than the amount of tax paid in through withholding. The current tax system is riddled with loopholes and biases that hurt individuals who save money for the future. Not only does our tax code treat citizens differently but it is so hopelessly complicated that it frightens most taxpayers. It is far too complex, intrusive, and long; and

Whereas, once government undertakes to tax income, it acquires even more power through its authority to define “income,” “taxable income,” subsidiary terms, and the rules of exemption. The potential for abuse, capriciousness (arbitrary treatment), harassment, and corruption is great; and

Whereas, there is credible evidence to show that there were significant ratification discrepancies which call into question the legality of the Sixteenth Amendment; the evidence supports the conclusion that the Sixteenth Amendment was not properly and legally ratified by 3/4 of the states of the Union in 1913, as per Article V of the US Constitution; and

Whereas, the progressive income tax has become an instrument of government plunder of American income and property, in total disregard of our founding principle which states that property is as essential to a free man as his Life and Liberty. Rather, a heavy progressive income tax (as we have) is the second plank of the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1948; and

Whereas, the current tax code is 73,954 pages of legalese (over 3 million words; taller than a giraffe and weighs 145 pounds), which the ordinary person living in the United States has no time to read or is capable of understanding, and it continues to grow and become more convoluted. (To emphasize this point, consider this: the average person can read 250 words per minute.  Assuming the average reader took no breaks, it would take 15,200 minutes, 253 hours, or 10.5 days (without a single break) to read the tax code. Ayn Rand’s famous book Atlas Shrugged has 645,000 words.  The tax code has 5.9 times that amount); and

Whereas, the progressive income tax scheme (the Tax Code) imposes a heavy burden on all American taxpayers, with respect to both money and time. Saving and collecting records and receipts is time-consuming, a hassle, and a big headache. According to the IRS, the average taxpayer spends 26.5 hours preparing and sending in their taxes. Just complying with our voluminous and complicated federal tax system costs Americans about $431 billion a year, according to economist Arthur Laffer (although other estimates go as high as $600 billion). American taxpaying families often have to hire a CPA. Furthermore, another $1000 to $2000 in embedded costs are passed on to the average consumer each year by businesses who have to add the cost of tax compliance to their “cost of doing business” and therefore to the cost of their products and services (for every dollar sent to the IRS, it costs 30 cents in compliance); and

Whereas, the progressive income tax allows the federal government to pry into the private records, private accounts, private business, and personal affairs of individual citizens in order to find out what income and property it considers to be “taxable income”; and

Whereas, with the IRS able to look at the financial records of Americans, it gives the government power to make decisions as to when certain citizens “have enough already,” and then wage war on their “excess”; an

Whereas, the average working American, poor, rich, or in-between, hates, and fears the IRS for good reason. It is able to seize one’s bank account or house without a court order, able to shut down one’s business overnight, and subject one to fines for failure to report income correctly, even when it is done innocently. In the eyes of the average American taxpayer, the tax code is unfair, overly complex, arbitrary in its requirements and exemptions, horribly politicized, harmful to individuals and the economy, helpful to the forces of Big Government, and impossible to understand without a CPA; and

Whereas, the harmful effects of the income tax are obvious. First and foremost, it has enabled government to expand far beyond its proper constitutional limits, regulating virtually every aspect of our lives. It has given government a claim on our lives and work, has created class warfare (taxpayers v. non-taxpayers), and it has destroying our privacy in the process. It takes billions of dollars out of the legitimate private economy, with most Americans giving more than a third of everything they make to the federal government. This economic drain destroys jobs and penalizes productive behavior. It has created class warfare (taxpayers v. non-taxpayers; producers v. non-producers; contributors v. takers) and in many cases, it has destroyed the incentive to work, to become more successful, and to accumulate wealth and property. The ridiculous complexity of the tax laws makes compliance a nightmare for both individuals and businesses. All things considered, our Founders would be dismayed by the income tax mess and the tragic loss of liberty which has resulted; and

Whereas, the progressive income tax is inherently corruptible and subject to arbitrary rules and application. The tendency is for government to create exemptions in return for political favors or to coerce a political agenda. The language providing guidelines for such exemptions is invariably vague, which means the IRS has room to “interpret” and decide who qualifies and who doesn’t qualify for a particular exemption. The line between vigilance and harassment is not bright and the potential for abuse is great. This power, which is inherently arbitrary, ill suits a society that sees itself as free.  Furthermore, where possible, people will naturally strive for tax exemption and will push the boundaries of tax guidelines. Such a tax scheme, therefore, encourages dishonesty and corruption; and

Whereas, the progressive income tax relieves some people from a shared responsibility to contribute to a government that serves them. Philosophically, no person or business should be exempt from a general taxation scheme. The current tax code imposes a tax burden on approximately half the US population while half are excused or exempted. The common government protects everyone equally (except under the taxation scheme) yet serves some more extensively than others. The tax code is progressive in tax burden but not progressive in services/benefits enjoyed.  The current tax scheme – the progressive income tax created by the 16th Amendment – should be replaced by a Fair Tax (a national sales tax of about 23%) so that every American does his patriotic duty, has skin in the game, and has an interest in fiscal responsibility by their government. At the very least, the progressive income tax should be replaced by a low, flat-rate income tax (Flat Tax), 10% or lower, to be applied to all wage earners; and

Whereas, the federal income tax has become a wealth distribution scheme. Taxes that are soaked from the middle and upper classes are used to fund social programs that they are not entitled to and which go towards relieving a huge segment of society of their lower economic status.  The object of federal taxation was not to leave men with equal incomes after they’ve been taxed”; and

Whereas, the IRS puts the government tax collector in a position of extraordinary power over fellow citizens (the “gorilla” role); he has the power to intimidate citizens who are unlucky enough to be audited by making them feel that they somehow “cheated” the government (rather than the most likely scenario – that they are merely “victims” of an unfair system); and

Whereas, the IRS often finds it difficult to avoid the attitude that each taxpayer is a cheat, even a criminal, who must somehow be cornered and caught. This has brought the nature of the entire income tax collection process into question; and

Whereas, thousands of complaints have poured into the IRS concerning the tactics used by some of its agents. Citizens feel they are treated as criminals rather than suspects who are innocent until proven guilty; and

Whereas, the IRS has been guilty of many transgressions and has cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars. For example, one of the things the IRS is well known for is giving incarcerated criminals who prepare fraudulent returns tens of millions of dollars in refunds they’re not entitled to. The figure actually increases annually, which means the IRS continues to do so. According to a federal audit, the latest count is that the IRS has doled out more than $35 million to criminals. A few years ago the IRS came under fire for allowing 1 million foreigners, many in the U.S. illegally, to improperly claim close to $9 billion in tax credits even though they did not provide valid Social Security numbers on their return.  Not long after that, the tax agency got in trouble for handing out $33 million in bogus electric car credits. As recently as April 2013, two dozen IRS employees were charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, including food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers. The scheme fleeced U.S. taxpayers out of at least a quarter of a million dollars, according to federal prosecutors; and

Whereas, the IRS chills the First Amendment rights of churches and nonprofit organizations which now hesitate to use them for fear of losing tax-exempt status; and

Whereas, the most damaging aspect of the Sixteenth Amendment is the fact that it violates the unalienable rights provided in the 4th Amendment. This is the amendment which protects privacy–privacy of the home, business, personal papers and personal affairs of the private citizen. None of these are disturbed by a poll (head or capitation) tax because it is so much per person regardless of the circumstances, but when the tax is based on income, the IRS is assigned the most unpleasant task of making certain that everyone pays his fair share. This task is physically impossible without prying into the private papers, private business and personal affairs of the individual citizens. By any standard, it is a miserable assignment. Furthermore, it is impossible to run audits and surveys of all taxpayers and so the audits seldom check more than 2% of them;  and

Whereas, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the closest thing to the Gestapo that the United States has ever had; administrations have used its awesome power to audit tax returns as an effective means to silence and intimidate political opponents; and

Whereas, the IRS has gotten out of control:

– The IRS has admitted to intentionally and deliberately targeting conservative groups (especially those containing the terms “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names) since at least 2011. In some cases, conservative individuals have been targeted. The targeting was done with malicious intent;

– The IRS has admitted that it has deliberately harassed said conservative political organizations claiming tax exempt status by singling them out for additional scrutiny and investigation;

–  Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax exempt groups, has admitted that at least 75 organizations were singled out because they included the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax exempt status. She acknowledged that actions were clearly violations of IRS policies;

–  The IRS’ inappropriate and intimidating investigation tactics included probing questions about organizations’ board members, officers, employees, and their families. There were also demands for extraordinary detail on employee training, vending, and advertising. Among other IRS demands, they required lists of “all issues important to your organization” with requests to “indicate your position regarding each issue”;

–  The IRS intentionally and maliciously leaked confidential taxpayer information of said conservative groups to Leftist allies;

–  The IRS has admitted that it engaged in political profiling while processing applications for tax-exempt status. It searched tax applications for words like “Tea Party” and even “patriot.” Once it found those groups, it made intrusive and unconstitutional inquiries, demanding answers “upon penalty of perjury.”  [In this case it was against organizations with “tea-party” or “patriot ” in their names and other right-wing groups. Next time it could be libertarian or left-wing antiwar and pro-civil-liberties groups. No dissenter can ever rest assured he is safe from the arbitrary power of the IRS];

–  The IRS targeted conservative groups in swing states before the 2012 election. The chilling effect on such organizations because of said targeting together with alleged instances of voter fraud (showing higher than expected voter turn-out for Democrats) in the same areas calls into question the results of the election;

–  This ongoing IRS abuse continues today, as the ACLJ represents dozens of these targeted groups;

– IRS officials threw lavish parties for themselves, spending millions of dollars even as Americans struggled to keep their jobs and pay their taxes;

– Pro-life and Christian groups report extreme and intrusive demands, including one reported demand that a pro-life group promise not to picket Planned Parenthood. The intent was to chill and even shut down their First Amendment rights of free speech expression and of conscience;

– The IRS conducted mass-scale audits of adoptive families, auditing 100,000 in 2011 alone – simply because they adopted a child.

In consideration of all of the above, the ________________________  (group name) concludes that –

Taxation, other than sales tax (which is tied to contract law and includes an element of consent), is nothing less than confiscation under threat of force of the property and/or income of individuals. Progressive taxation is government plunder of the wealthy, offensive to our notions of equal treatment and equal protection under the law; and

The progressive income tax is the targeted confiscation of the fruits earned by creative, industrious, and productive individuals; it punishes success, productivity, creativity, ingenuity, hard work, investment, and risk-taking and is inconsistent with a nation committed to the freedom to “pursue happiness;  and

The progressive income tax has no place in a free society. It amounts to the plunder of property and the frustrates the Pursuit of Happiness;

Elimination of an income tax will do more than anything else to return political and government power from Washington DC back to the People; and

The IRS targeting of political opponents represents some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th century American history. A government organization like the IRS discriminating against political organizations is an outrageous abuse of power, and the American people have every right to demand answers and accountability; and

As recent testimony has made clear, the IRS is institutionally incapable of governing itself (let alone that it has no constitutional authority) and departments such as the legislative and executive branches are incapable of managing it, providing oversight, or providing transparency to the American people in its regard; and

The Internal Revenue Service cannot be used as a weapon against political enemies. There must be a thorough investigation of IRS abuse (as well as abuse at the hands of other government agencies), and those responsible must be punished. There is no excuse for turning the full power of the IRS – and the federal government in general – on American citizens; and

Use of the IRS as a harassment, intimidation, and bullying arm of the President’s administration has set a dangerous precedent (we’ve also seen it use Homeland Security for the same purpose); and

The IRS has successfully chilled the fundamental rights that Americans are entitled to under the US Constitution (and specifically, the Bill of Rights); and

When government goes after political opponents, that is the very definition of tyranny; and

Americans have a rightful expectation to have trust in their government. Trust in government is a hallmark of a free society.  The current IRS scandal has destroyed that trust; and

Because trust in government has been destroyed and because it appears that the IRS has become a Gestapo agency, the American people cannot be expected to allow it  to be the enforcement arm of Obamacare – the healthcare program the government has forced them to comply with; and

Therefore, be it –

Resolved, that the American people can no longer trust the IRS to enforce Obamacare, apply tax laws fairly, evenly, and without bias, and to be respectful of the information shared in healthcare records, tax records, and even private, personal information to be mined through Common Core; and

Resolved, that the  progressive federal income tax has become arbitrary, unfair, overly convoluted, and an exercise of government plunder, and the IRS has become an agency used by government for the improper scrutiny of American citizens; and

 Resolved, that the ________________________  (group name) believes the time has come to reform the tax code and by extension, abolish the Internal Revenue Service.

 

References:

The US Constitution

The Fair Tax –  http://www.fairtax.org

Congressional Record-House, July 12, 1909, p.4404

Congressional Record-House, July 12, 1909, p.439

Pollock v. Farmers Loan & Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429 (1895)

Federalist No. 10.  http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

“The Income Tax Arrives,” Tax History.  http://www.taxhistory.org/www/website.nsf/Web/THM1901

“How Some States Did Not Legally Ratify the Sixteenth Amendment”  –http://www.givemeliberty.org/features/taxes/notratified.htm

Jack Kenny and John Larabell, “100 Years Ago: Instituting the Income Tax,” The New American, February 4, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/history/item/14410-100-years-ago-instituting-the-income-tax

Sheldon D. Pollack, “Origins of the Modern Income Tax,” Tax Lawyer Winter, Vol. 66, No. 2, Winter 2013.  (Very detailed history of the Modern Income Tax).   Referenced at:  https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CFsQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.buec.udel.edu%2Fpollacks%2FDownloaded%2520SDP%2520articles%2C%2520etc%2Facademic%2520articles%2FOrigins%2520of%2520the%2520Modern%2520Income%2520Tax%2520in%2520Tax%2520Lawyer%2520Winter%25202013.pdf&ei=-67IUZLPM9On4AOuoYDAAg&usg=AFQjCNELWbU-x8YvwgSiReYZAXs18HA36A&sig2=znteVrEa3AsercrlR6YVCA

W. Cleon Skousen, “History of the 16th Amendment,” Latter Day Conservative.  Referenced at: http://www.latterdayconservative.com/articles/history-of-the-16th-amendment/

Burton Fulsom, “The Progressive Income Tax in US History,” The Freeman, May 1, 2003.  Referenced at: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/the-progressive-income-tax-in-us-history

“History of Federal Individual Income Bottom and Top Bracket Rates,” National Taxpayers Union.  Referenced at:  http://www.ntu.org/tax-basics/history-of-federal-individual-1.html

Diane Schrader, “The Top 7 Reasons (and One Promising Way) to Abolish the IRS For Good,” News Real Blog, February 2, 2011.  Referenced at: http://www.newsrealblog.com/2011/02/02/the-top-7-reasons-and-one-promising-way-to-abolish-the-irs-for-good-1/ 

Frederic Bestiat (1801-1850) –  http://mises.org/page/1447/Biography-of-Frederic-Bastiat-18011850

“Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 12, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=1258

Gail Russell Chaddock, “Playing the IRS Card: Six Presidents Who Used the IRS to Bash Political Foes,”The Christian Science Monitor, May 17, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/2013/0517/Playing-the-IRS-card-Six-presidents-who-used-the-IRS-to-bash-political-foes/President-John-Kennedy-D

“IRS Conservative Witch Hunt is Just Latest of Many Offenses,” Judicial Watch, May 17, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2013/05/irs-conservative-witch-hunt-just-latest-of-many-offenses/

 

APPENDIX:

I.   HOW SOME STATES DID NOT LEGALLY RATIFY THE 16TH AMENDMENT

http://www.givemeliberty.org/features/taxes/notratified.htm

Bill Benson’s findings, published in “The Law That Never Was,” make a convincing case that the 16th amendment was not legally ratified and that Secretary of State Philander Knox was not merely in error, but committed fraud when he declared it ratified in February 1913. What follows is a summary of some of the major findings for many of the states, showing that their ratifications were not legal and should not have been counted.

The 16th amendment had been sent out in 1909 to the state governors for ratification by the state legislatures after having been passed by Congress. There were 48 states at that time, and three-fourths, or 36, of them were required to give their approval in order for it to be ratified. The process took almost the whole term of the Taft administration, from 1909 to 1913.

Secretary Knox had received responses from 42 states when he declared the 16th amendment ratified on February 25, 1913, just a few days before leaving office to make way for the administration of Woodrow Wilson. Knox acknowledged that four of those states (Utah, Conn, R.I. and N.H.) had rejected it, and he counted 38 states as having approved it. We will now examine some of the key evidence Bill Benson found regarding the approval of the amendment in many of those states.

In Kentucky, the legislature acted on the amendment without even having received it from the governor (the governor of each state was to transmit the proposed amendment to the state legislature). The version of the amendment that the Kentucky legislature made up and acted upon omitted the words “on income” from the text, so they weren’t even voting on an income tax! When they straightened that out (with the help of the governor), the Kentucky senate rejected the amendment. Yet Philander Knox counted Kentucky as approving it!

In Oklahoma, the legislature changed the wording of the amendment so that its meaning was virtually the opposite of what was intended by Congress, and this was the version they sent back to Knox. Yet Knox counted Oklahoma as approving it, despite a memo from his chief legal counsel, Reuben Clark, that states were not allowed to change it in any way.

Attorneys who have studied the subject have agreed that Kentucky and Oklahoma should not have been counted as approvals by Philander Knox, and, moreover, if any state could be shown to have violated its own state constitution or laws in its approval process, then that state’s approval would have to be thrown out. That gets us past the “presumptive conclusion” argument, which says that the actions of an executive official cannot be judged by a court, and admits that Knox could be wrong.

If we subtract Kentucky and Oklahoma from the 38 approvals above, the count of valid approvals falls to 36, the exact number needed for ratification. If any more states can be shown to have had invalid approvals, the 16th amendment must be regarded as null and void.

The state constitution of Tennessee prohibited the state legislature from acting on any proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution sent by Congress until after the next election of state legislators. The intent, of course, is to give the proposed amendment a chance to become an issue in the state legislative elections so that the people can have a voice in determining the outcome. It also provides a cooling off period to reduce the tendency to approve an idea just because it happens to be the moment’s trend. You’ve probably already guessed that the Tennessee legislature did not hold off on voting for the amendment until after the next election, and you’d be right – they didn’t; hence, they acted upon it illegally before they were authorized to do so. They also violated their own state constitution by failing to read the resolution on three different days as prescribed by Article II, Section 18. These state constitutional violations make their approval of the amendment null and void. Their approval is and was invalid, and it brings the number of approving states down to 35, one less than required for ratification.

Texas and Louisiana violated provisions in their state constitutions prohibiting the legislatures from empowering the federal government with any additional taxing authority. Now the number is down to 33.

Twelve other states, besides Tennessee, violated provisions in their constitutions requiring that a bill be read on three different days before voting on it. This is not a trivial requirement. It allows for a cooling off period; it enables members who may be absent one day to be present on another; it allows for a better familiarity with, and understanding of, the measure under consideration, since some members may not always read a bill or resolution before voting on it (believe it or not!). States violating this procedure were: Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, West Virginia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Colorado, and Illinois. Now the number is reduced to 21 states legally ratifying the amendment.

When Secretary Knox transmitted the proposed amendment to the states, official certified and sealed copies were sent. Likewise, when state results were returned to Knox, it was required that the documents, including the resolution that was actually approved, be properly certified, signed, and sealed by the appropriate official(s). This is no more than any ordinary citizen has to do in filing any legal document, so that it’s authenticity is assured; otherwise it is not acceptable and is meaningless. How much more important it is to authenticate a constitutional amendment! Yet a number of states did not do this, returning uncertified, unsigned, and/or unsealed copies, and did not rectify their negligence even after being reminded and warned by Knox. The most egregious offenders were Ohio, California, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Minnesota – which did not send any copy at all, so Knox could not have known what they even voted on! Since four of these states were already disqualified above, California is now subtracted from the list of valid approvals, reducing it to 20.

These last five states, along with Kentucky and Oklahoma, have particularly strong implications with regard to the fraud charge against Knox, in that he cannot be excused for not knowing they shouldn’t have been counted. Why was he in such a hurry? Why did he not demand that they send proper documentation? They never did.

Further review would make the list dwindle down much more, but with the number down to 20, sixteen fewer than required, this is a suitable place to rest, without getting into the matter of several states whose constitutions limited the taxing authority of their legislatures, which could not give to the federal govern authority they did not have.

The results from the six states Knox had not heard from at the time he made his proclamation do not affect the conclusion that the amendment was not legally ratified. Of those six: two (Virginia and Pennsylvania) he never did hear from, because they ignored the proposed amendment; Florida rejected it; two others (Vermont and Massachusetts) had rejected it much earlier by recorded votes, but, strangely, submitted to the Secretary within a few days of his ratification proclamation that they had passed it (without recorded votes); West Virginia had purportedly approved it at the end of January 1913, but its notification had not yet been received (remember that West Virginia had violated its own constitution, as noted above).

THERE IS NO LAW REQUIRING ORDINARY AMERICAN EMPLOYEES TO PAY FEDERAL INCOME TAX !! –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1UCcW0RoNdc#at=282

***  Bill Benson wrote a book in 1985 – The Law That Never Was.  Summary:  The authority of the federal government to collect its income tax depends upon the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal income tax amendment, which was allegedly ratified in 1913. After a year of extensive research, Bill Benson discovered that the 16th Amendment was not ratified by the required 3/4 of the states, but nevertheless Secretary of State Philander Knox fraudulently announced ratification.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution defines the ratification process and requires three-fourths of the states to ratify any amendment proposed by Congress. There were forty-eight states in the American Union in 1913, meaning that affirmative action of thirty-six was necessary for ratification. In February 1913, Secretary of State Philander Knox proclaimed that thirty-eight had ratified the Amendment.

In 1984 Bill Benson began a research project, never before performed, to investigate the process of ratification of the 16th Amendment. After traveling to the capitols of the New England states and reviewing the journals of the state legislative bodies, he saw that many states had not ratified. He continued his research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.; it was here that Bill found his Golden Key.

This damning piece of evidence is a sixteen-page memorandum from the Solicitor of the Department of State, among whose duties is the provision of legal opinions for the Secretary of State. In this memorandum, the Solicitor lists the many errors he found in the ratification process.

These four states are among the thirty-eight from which Philander Knox claimed ratification:

  • California: The legislature never recorded any vote on any proposal to adopt the amendment proposed by Congress.
  • Kentucky: The Senate voted on the resolution, but rejected it by a vote of nine in favor and twenty-two opposed.
  • Minnesota: The State sent nothing to the Secretary of State in Washington.
  • Oklahoma: The Senate amended the language of the 16th Amendment to have a precisely opposite meaning.

When his project was finished at the end of 1984, Bill had visited the capitol of every state from 1913 and knew that not a single one had actually and legally ratified the proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-three states engaged in the unauthorized activity of altering the language of an amendment proposed by Congress, a power that the states do not possess.

Since thirty-six states were needed for ratification, the failure of thirteen to ratify was fatal to the Amendment. This occurs within the major (first three) defects tabulated in Defects in Ratification of the 16th Amendment. Even if we were to ignore defects of spelling, capitalization and punctuation, we would still have only two states which successfully ratified.

 

II.     Historical Income Tax Rates & Brackets

   

Tax Rates

 

Bottom bracket

Top bracket

Calendar Year

President

Rate
(percent)

Taxable Income Up to

Rate
(percent)

Taxable
Income over

1913-15

Woodrow Wilson

1 20,000 7 500,000
1916

Woodrow Wilson

2 20,000 15 2,000,000
1917

Woodrow Wilson

2 2,000 67 2,000,000
1918

Woodrow Wilson

6 4,000 77 1,000,000
1919-20

Woodrow Wilson

4 4,000 73 1,000,000
1921

Warren Harding

4 4,000 73 1,000,000
1922

Warren Harding

4 4,000 56 200,000
1923

Warren Harding

3 4,000 56 200,000
1924

Calvin Coolidge

1.5 4,000 46 500,000
1925-28

Calvin Coolidge

1? 4,000 25 100,000
1929

Herbert Hoover

4? 4,000 24 100,000
1930-31

Herbert Hoover

1? 4,000 25 100,000
1932-33

Hoover, then FDR

4 4,000 63 1,000,000
1934-35

Franklin D. Roosevelt

4 4,000 63 1,000,000
1936-39

Franklin D. Roosevelt

4 4,000 79 5,000,000
1940

Franklin D. Roosevelt

4.4 4,000 81.1 5,000,000
1941

Franklin D. Roosevelt

10 2,000 81 5,000,000
1942-434

Franklin D. Roosevelt

19 2,000 88 200,000
1944-45

FDR, then Truman

23 2,000 94 200,000
1946-47

Harry S. Truman

19 2,000 86.45 200,000
1948-49

Harry S. Truman

16.6 4,000 82.13 400,000
1950

Harry S. Truman

17.4 4,000 91 400,000
1951

Harry S. Truman

20.4 4,000 91 400,000
1952

Harry S. Truman

22.2 4,000 92 400,000
1953

Dwight D. Eisenhower

22.2 4,000 92 400,000
1954-60

Dwight D. Eisenhower

20 4,000 91 400,000
1961-63

John F. Kennedy

20 4,000 91 400,000
1964

Lyndon B. Johnson

16 1,000 77 400,000
1965-67

Lyndon B. Johnson

14 1,000 70 200,000
1968

Lyndon B. Johnson

14 1,000 75.25 200,000
1969

Richard M. Nixon

14 1,000 77 200,000
1970

Richard M. Nixon

14 1,000 71.75 200,000
1971

Richard M. Nixon

14 1,000 70 200,000
1972-73

Richard M. Nixon

14 1,000 70 200,000
1974-76

Gerald R. Ford

14 1,000 70 200,000
1977-1978

Jimmy Carter

14 1,000 70 200,000
1979-80

Jimmy Carter

814 2,100 70 212,000
1981

Ronald Reagan

13.825 2,100 69.125 212,000
1982

Ronald Reagan

12 2,100 50 106,000
1983

Ronald Reagan

11 2,100 50 106,000
1984

Ronald Reagan

11 2,100 50 159,000
1985

Ronald Reagan

11 2,180 50 165,480
1986

Ronald Reagan

11 2,270 50 171,580
1987

Ronald Reagan

11 3,000 38.5 90,000
1988

Ronald Reagan

15 29,750 28 29,750
1989

George H. Bush

15 30,950 28 30,950
1990

George H. Bush

15 32,450 28 32,450
1991

George H. Bush

15 34,000 31 82,150
1992

George H. Bush

15 35,800 31 86,500
1993

Bill Clinton

15 36,900 39.6 250,000
1994

Bill Clinton

15 38,000 39.6 250,000
1995

Bill Clinton

15 39,000 39.6 256,500
1996

Bill Clinton

15 40,100 39.6 263,750
1997

Bill Clinton

15 41,200 39.6 271,050
1998

Bill Clinton

15 42,350 39.6 278,450
1999

Bill Clinton

15 43,050 39.6 283,150
2000

Bill Clinton

15 43,850 39.6 288,350
2001

George W. Bush

15 42, 200 39.1 297,350
2002

George W. Bush

10 12,000 38.6 307,050
2003

George W. Bush

10 14,000 35.0 311,950
2004

George W. Bush

10 14,300 35.0 319,100
2005

George W. Bush

10 14,600 35.0 326,450
2006

George W. Bush

10 15,100 35.0 336,550
2007

George W. Bush

10 15,650 35.0 349,700
2008

George W. Bush

10 16,050 35.0 357,700
2009

Barack Obama

10 16,700 35.0 372,950
2010

Barack Obama

10 16,700 35.0 373,650
2011

Barack Obama

10 17,000 35.0 379,150

 

 

III.    WHERE DO OUR FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS GO?

April 12, 2013, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The federal government collects taxes to finance various public services. As policymakers and citizens weigh key decisions about revenues and expenditures, it is instructive to examine what the government does with the money it collects.

In fiscal year 2012, the federal government spent $3.5 trillion, amounting to 23 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of that $3.5 trillion, nearly $2.5 trillion was financed by federal revenues. The remaining amount (about $1.1 trillion) was financed by borrowing; this deficit will ultimately be paid for by future taxpayers. As the graph on the next page shows, three major areas of spending each make up about one-fifth of the budget:

  • Defense and international security assistance: In 2012, 19 percent of the budget, or $689 billion, paid for defense and security-related international activities. The bulk of the spending in this category reflects the underlying costs of the Department of Defense. The total also includes the cost of supporting operations in Afghanistan and other related activities, described as Overseas Contingency Operations in the budget, funding for which totaled $127 billion in 2012.
  • Social Security: Another 22 percent of the budget, or $773 billion, paid for Social Security, which provided monthly retirement benefits averaging $1,262 to 36.7 million retired workers in December 2012. Social Security also provided benefits to 2.9 million spouses and children of retired workers, 6.3 million surviving children and spouses of deceased workers, and 10.9 million disabled workers and their eligible dependents in December 2012.
  • Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP: Three health insurance programs — Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — together accounted for 21 percent of the budget in 2012, or $732 billion. Nearly two-thirds of this amount, or $472 billion, went to Medicare, which provides health coverage to around 48 million people who are over the age of 65 or have disabilities. The remainder of this category funds Medicaid and CHIP, which in a typical month in 2012 provided health care or long-term care to about 60 million low-income children, parents, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Both Medicaid and CHIP require matching payments from the states.

Two other categories together account for another fifth of federal spending:

  • Safety net programs: About 12 percent of the federal budget in 2012, or $411 billion, supported programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship.  Spending on safety net programs declined in both nominal and real terms between 2011 and 2012 as the economy continued to improve.

These programs include:  the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist low- and moderate-income working families through the tax code; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.

Such programs keep millions of people out of poverty each year. A CBPP analysis shows that government safety net programs kept some 25 million people out of poverty in 2010. Without any government income assistance, either from safety net programs or other income supports like Social Security, the poverty rate would have been 28.6 percent in 2010, nearly double the actual 15.5 percent.

  • Interest on the national debt: The federal government must make regular interest payments on the money it has borrowed to finance past deficits — that is, on the national debt held by the public, which reached $11 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2012. In 2012, these interest payments claimed $220 billion, or about 6 percent of the budget.

As the chart above shows, the remaining fifth of federal spending goes to support a wide variety of other public services. These include providing health care and other benefits to veterans and retirement benefits to retired federal employees, assuring safe food and drugs, protecting the environment, and investing in education, scientific and medical research, and basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and airports. A very small slice — about 1 percent of the total budget — goes to non-security programs that operate internationally, including programs that provide humanitarian aid.

***  Estimates of spending in fiscal year 2012 were based on the most recent historical data released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). (The federal fiscal year 2012 ran from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012.)

Reference:   “Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 12, 2013.  Accessed at:  http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=1258