SECESSION: Both a RIGHT and a REMEDY

SECESSION - constitution ripped in half

by Diane Rufino, September 23, 2018

Gene Kizer Jr. is a brilliant historian. He has written an excellent account of the causes of the War of Northern Aggression (aka, the War to Prevent Southern Independence; aka, the War Between the States; aka, the Civil War), in his book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, and he has written some excellent articles as well, including on the right of secession. In his book and in his articles, he makes the case (most effectively) that secession was a reserved right of the states and that it was, in fact, exercised legitimately.

At the heart of the “Civil War” (which is, by the way, a most incorrect term for the conflict) was the right of the southern states to secede from the Union. That is, the lens through which we should look at, and assess, the war is whether Abraham Lincoln and his administration pursued a legal war by asserting that the eleven southern states that seceded from the Union had no constitutional right to do so.

The answer is that the southern states absolutely had the right to dissolve their union with the northern and more western states and their political bond to the federal government. Every state had and continues to have that fundamental right. Acknowledging this and therefore acknowledging that Lincoln incorrectly assessed the situation, he unconstitutionally assumed powers that were not granted to him, nor to the federal government in general.

Secession is a viable option to each state under three essential theories, and perhaps even others:

(1)  Each state has an essential right to determine its own form of government, under the natural right of self-determination. This natural right is articulated clearly in the second paragraph of 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…”), and in fact, forms the basis for the decision of the thirteen American states to secede from Great Britain. The first paragraph of the Declaration makes this point quite clear:

       When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and 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 them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The Constitution does not prohibit nor limit the natural right of secession, even in Article I, Section 9 which is the provision that puts limits on the sovereign power of the states, but rather includes the very powerful and declaratory Tenth Amendment which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, because the Constitution did not expressly prohibit the right of secession, that right is reserved (continues to be reserved) to the states. And to make it absolutely clear that the right of secession is a state right, the states demanded that the Tenth Amendment be added to the Constitution as a restatement of that fact.

So, the states have the RIGHT to secede.

(2)  Secession is also a REMEDY, reserved to the states by the very nature of the Constitution. The Constitution is a social compact, which essentially is a contract, or an agreement, among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, such as mutual protection and to regulate relations among members. For example, a typical social compact calls for the sacrificing of some individual freedom for state protection and other public services. Social Compact was a theory articulated in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries by philosophers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as a means of explaining the origin of government and how an organized society is thus brought into being.

As we all know, every contract and every agreement can be broken. There may be consequences, usually monetary, but no contract is absolutely unbreakable. A contract or agreement can be broken by a breach of obligations (for example, a person doesn’t make his obligatory mortgage payments; the lending bank can then foreclose under a breach of contract) which is an affirmative breach, it can be broken because the purpose for the contract has been eliminated (for example, an entertainer is contracted to perform once monthly at a Las Vegas casino but the casino is destroyed in a fire), or it can be broken simply because a party wants out. Contract remedies are essentially designed to put the non-breaching party in a position had the breach not occurred  (for example, a contractor quits a job in the middle of building an extension on a house; the contractor must pay to have the job finished, by another contractor) and they usually involve monetary damages. Sometimes, however, money cannot make the non-breaching party “whole” (put them back into a position had the breach not occurred) and a court will order “specific performance,” which means that the breaching party will be compelled to perform some service by the court.

When the states were debating the Constitution in their Ratifying Conventions, three states (Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island) included “Resumption Clauses” as specific conditions upon their ratification – clauses asserting the right to secede from the Union at a future time.

Virginia’s Ratification document (June 26, 1788) included this Resumption Clause: “The People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

New York’s Ratification document (July 26, 1788) included this Resumption Clause: “That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

Rhode Island’s Ratification document (May 29, 1790) included this Resumption Clause: “That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

Essentially, these clauses reserved the right of the state to leave the Union and resume all their sovereign powers and rights. With these clauses, the states simply put into writing a right they thought naturally belonged to their respective states. In fact, the right of secession was understood and agreed to by the other states, including George Washington who presided over the Constitutional Convention and served as a delegate from Virginia.

These clauses, because they were included in the ratification, and because they were accepted when the states formed into the Union, became applicable to every state that joined the Union. The fact that the states expressly reserved the right to secede (for no specific reason other than it may be “necessary to their happiness…”) shatters the notion and the argument by Abraham Lincoln in 1860 that the Union was intended to be perpetual and no state could secede.

Reserving the right to secede is an express reservation of the part of each state to un-make its agreement to join the Union. It is an express right to terminate its association with the compact (the Constitution), and thereby no longer be a party to the Union. Put simply, it is an express right of termination.

In contract law, the express right of termination is referred to as a Right of Rescission. Since it is a right to un-do the contract (to get out of the contract), it is a contract remedy.

Thus, the states have reserved secession as a REMEDY. (As a remedy to leave the Union, or secede from the Union) at some point when they deem it necessary for their happiness.

Rescission is defined as the unmaking of a contract between parties or the unwinding of a transaction. As mentioned above, it applies where a party to a contract exercises a Right of Termination that he or she had expressly included, or reserved, in that contract. In contract law, it is sometimes said that the party has included (or exercised) a right to rescind the contract. It is exercised in order to bring the party, as far as possible, back to the position in which it was before entering into the particular contract (the status quo ante). If the contract is between two parties, then both parties go back to the position they enjoyed before entering into the contract. If the contract – or compact – is between many parties, then technically only the party exercising the right of rescission is relieved from the compact; the others are free to retain the force of contract/compact.

If there is any doubt as to the intent of Virginia, for example, to take its Resumption Clause seriously, look at the language it used in its Ordinance of Secession, which it adopted in Convention on April 17, 1861 to secede from the Union:

AN ORDINANCE to Repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution:

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention, on the 25th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight-eight, having declared that the powers granted them under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States.

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United State of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This Ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia

(3)  Secession, or the termination of the agreement to remain in the Union, is a viable contract/compact remedy under breach theory.  When one signing member to the agreement violates or breaches its obligations, then the other signing member (or any of a number of other signing members) are relieved of their obligations under the agreement. In other words, the breach by one party, especially if material in nature (that is, if it is enough to fundamentally alter the relationship of the states in relation to one another or to affect the ability of the federal/common government to serve all states in a fair, equal, and impartial manner) is enough to invalidate the entire agreement altogether, thus allowing the other party, or other parties, to walk away and also allowing remaining members to continue to enforce the agreement if they so desire.

In the case of the Southern states, they seceded over several material breaches of the compact – several violations by the Northern states of their obligations under the Constitution:

(a)  They believed the Protective Tariff was an unfair and confiscatory tax on the South, almost completely discriminatory in nature and punitive as well. It was no secret that the North had a great disdain for the South and its values and its “simple” agricultural lifestyle (and even its use of slavery). According to the Southern states (John C. Calhoun of South Carolina articulated it probably better than most), the federal government was a common government that was created and intended to serve each state equally. The North knew full well that the protective tariffs (1828 and 1832) were born almost exclusively and to their detriment, by the southern states. But the Northern states, and particularly northern businesses, benefitted far too greatly from the confiscation of those tariff revenues (more than half of the revenue was funneled almost directly from the South to the North) to ever consider giving them up. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln ran on a platform of increasing and the protective tariff to its highest level ever. That platform issue, together with his promise to prohibit the spread of slavery into new territories and future states, were enough for all of the Southern states to refuse to even put his name on the ballot.  In fact, the Morrill Tariff was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President James Buchanan in 1861, just two days before he left office and Lincoln was inaugurated. Lincoln kept his promise to enforce that tariff.

If the federal government was not serving the states equally, and if it had merely become a vehicle hijacked by one region of the country to serve its own interests (at the great expense of the other region), then the states of the North had breached their obligations and the very purpose of establishing the Union had become frustrated. The South believed the tariff issue constituted a material breach and thus gave them ample reason (under 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…”) to leave the Union.

(b)  Lincoln’s inauguration as a purely sectarian president was of great concern to the South. His interests and agenda were solely to further those of the North.  His promise to prohibit the spread of slavery to any new territory and any new state was a violation of the US Constitution.  Article IV guarantees every new state to the Union the right to be admitted on the same footing as every other state. Slavery, unfortunately, was protected under the Constitution, and therefore, every new state added to the Union would be subject to its same terms and conditions. The Southern states believed that Lincoln’s government was acting in abuse of the Constitution and because the North supported his agenda, those states, again, breached the terms of the compact and thus gave the states of the South reason to dissolve their bonds with the Union.

(c)  The Northern states routinely refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws, which were laws enacted pursuant to the Fugitive Slave Clause of the US Constitution (Article IV, Section 2, clause 3). To the South, the Fugitive Slave Clause was a valued provision in the Constitution.  The laws were widely ignored or frustrated (were “nullified”) by states, localities, and even by individuals (such as those who organized into mobs in order to free runaway slaves from local prisons).  The states of the South took notice and in fact, in some of the ordinances of secession, they cited the refusal of the North to comply with the Fugitive Slave Laws, as well as its support of violence to stir slaves to revolt (such as the John Brown massacre; Brown was vaulted to martyr status by Northern members of Congress).

The Fugitive Slave Clause of the US Constitution (aka, the Slave Clause or the Fugitives From Labor Clause) required that a “person held to service or labour” (usually a slave, apprentice, or indentured servant) who flees to another state to be returned to the owner in the state from which that person escaped. The provision was rendered moot with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. The exact text of the Fugitive Slave Clause read: “No person held to service or labour 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 labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.”  The North refused to help enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws, claiming that it has no obligation as a state, to do so. The Laws were federal laws and if the federal government intended for them to be enforced, it was going to have to do so itself – with its own agents, its own courts, and its own prisons. The states and localities refused to assist – they would not use their officers, their prisons, any state personnel, or even any state court to uphold the laws and return runaway slaves back to their owners.

The states of the South believed the states of the North had a compact (constitutional) obligation to honor its provisions, including those it didn’t approve of.  Because the North refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws and frustrated the Fugitive Slave Clause of Article IV, which was included for the benefit of the South, the Southern states concluded that the Northern states committed a material breach of the terms of the compact and hence, they were justified in leaving the Union.

One should read Gene Kizer Jr’s article “The Right of Secession” (link provided below). It provides an excellent overview of the legality of secession, in particular, as a right endowed and reserved to each state. Then one should read his most excellent book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States.

 

References:

Stephen C. Neff, “Secession and Breach of Compact: The Law of Nature Meets the United States Constitution,” Akron Law Review: Vol. 45: Issue 2, Article 4 (June 2015).  Referenced at:  https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1067&context=akronlawreview

Virginia’s Ordinance of Virginia (April 17, 1861) – http://www.nellaware.com/blog/virginia-ordinance-of-secession.html\

Gene Kizer Jr, “The Right of Secession,” Bonnie Blue Publishing.  Referenced at:  http://www.bonniebluepublishing.com/The%20Right%20of%20Secession-FULL%20PAGE%20FORMAT-USE.htm

Gene Kizer Jr., Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States;  Charleston Athenaeum Press (November 1, 2014).

Gene Kizer Jr., “Barbarians At the Gate,” Abbeville Institute, March 8, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/the-barbarians-at-the-gates/

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NULLIFICATION: The Power to Right Constitutional Wrongs

NULLIFICATION - John Greenleaf Whittier (Abolitionist and Nullifier)    by Diane Rufino, July 9, 2015

THOMAS JEFFERSON wondered how the country would respond in the case its government passed a law that was clearly unconstitutional. As Secretary of State under our first president, George Washington, he already witnessed the wheels of government try to enlarge provisions in the Constitution to give the administration unchecked powers to tax and spend. Washington would establish the first National Bank. Jefferson knew the trend would continue. And it did.  Our second president, John Adams, signed the Alien & Sedition Acts into law, which were laws addressing the Quasi War (undeclared) with France at the time. The French Revolution just killed off the monarch and his family and tensions flared up between the new French republic and its old rival, England. There was an influx of French immigrants and Americans were split in their support of the old French system or the new republic. Although the Alien Acts (3 of them) were offensive, it was the Sedition Act that was most glaringly so. The Sedition Act made it a crime (fines and jail sentences) should any person “write, print, utter, or publish, OR cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, OR assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States….”   The Constitutional red flags went up at once.  The immediate violations jumped out to men like Jefferson and Madison, and many others. While the Alien Acts violated the 10th Amendment and the Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment, the Sedition Act was a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment and its guarantee of Free Speech (most importantly, political speech!)  John Adams, a Federalist, saw nothing wrong with any of the laws.  Neither did his Federalist co-members of government or his Federalist judges.  Thomas Jefferson, the Vice President at the time (since he got the second highest votes in the election of 1796) wasn’t a Federalist. He was a Republican-Democrat (a party he founded).  [Notice that the Sedition Act protected everyone from slander EXCEPT the VP !!].  The Checks and Balances didn’t work. Political power was more important than the rights the government was created to protect!

And so, convictions quickly followed. Journalists, publishers, and even congressmen were fined and jailed. Not a single person targeted was a Federalist. The only ones targeted were Republicans.  The men who wrote our founding documents – Jefferson and Madison – began a series of correspondences to discuss what should be done to prevent such unconstitutional laws from being enforced on people who had a rightful expectation of exercising the liberties promised in the Declaration and in the Bill of Rights. (And of course they had to be very careful lest they be convicted under the law!)  Jefferson saw that there are 3 possible remedies when a government tries to enforce unconstitutional laws..  (1) Seek an opinion from the Judiciary;  (2) Secession; or  (3) Nullification.  Jefferson advised against the first two remedies.  He said the first was unpredictable and unreliable. He believed justices were men motivated by the same passions, political motivations, thirst for power and legacy, and opinions as politicians and could not be counted on to be impartial interpreters of the Constitution. He also realized that the judiciary was only one branch of government (the least powerful at the time), and although it would render an opinion, Congress and the President were not required to abide by its ruling. Furthermore, the courts were all Federalists at the time and were part of the problem!.  Jefferson said secession was certainly a legitimate option (after all, the Declaration itself was a secessionist document), but said it was far too extreme and every effort should be made to keep the union together in a workable fashion.  The third option, he said, was “the rightful remedy.”  Nullification, he said, was the remedy inherent in the states’ ratification of the Constitution, inherent in the doctrine of federalism, a remedy grounded in law itself, and the remedy that would allow hot tempers to cool and would prevent states from threatening to leave the Union.  Madison agreed.

Nullification is the doctrine which states that any law that is made without proper legal authority is immediately null and void and therefore unenforceable. Laws have to be enforced by officials – federal and state. When the government passes a law pursuant to its powers, it is supreme and binding. Every level of enforcement recognizes the law. States are obligated to uphold it and help enforce it.  An example are the federal immigration laws.  When the government passes a law that it has no authority to make – such as the Sedition Act, which offends the 1st Amendment which is a strict prohibition on the government with respect to individual speech (political speech) – then in terms of legality, the law is null and void.  For a government to try to enforce it would be an act of tyranny. (Tyranny is defined as a government that abuses its powers and enforces unpopular laws).  Since the law is null and void, no enforcement agency should force the law on the people. Government will never admit its law is unconstitutional or unenforceable and so it is up to the states and the communities (and their enforcement agencies) to prevent such law from being enforced.  The states are the rightful parties to stand up for the people against a tyrannical act of government. When the government assumes power to legislate that it was not granted in the Constitution, it usurps (or steals it) from its rightful depository, which are either the States or the People (see the 10th and the 9th Amendments).  Every party must always jealously guard its sphere of government; it’s bundle of rights.  States have their powers of government and people have their rights of self-government (ie, control over their own lives, thoughts, actions, and property). Again, if we look at the Sedition Act, the government under John Adams passed the law by attempting to steal the rights of free speech from the People.

Well, immediately, Jefferson and Madison got out their pens and drafted the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and of 1799 (Jefferson, for the Kentucky state legislature) and the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 (Madison, for the Virginia state legislature).  Both states passed them, declaring that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable in their states.  The Virginia Resolutions were especially forceful because they announced that the state of Virginia would take every step possible to prevent the enforcement of the laws on its people.

In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Jefferson wrote:

  1. Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799, he wrote:

RESOLVED, That this commonwealth considers the federal union, upon the terms and for the purposes specified in the late compact, as conducive to the liberty and happiness of the several states: That it does now unequivocally declare its attachment to the Union, and to that compact, agreeable to its obvious and real intention, and will be among the last to seek its dissolution: That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction contended for by sundry of 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 anullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy……

In the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, James Madison wrote:

RESOLVED……. 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 are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in 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.

The government hates the doctrine of Nullification and has used every opportunity to discredit it.  And it makes sense.  And doctrine that gives power to the States is offensive to the federal government. It makes them harder to control. We all know how angry the government gets when any state criticizes or attempts to frustrate the government’s laws, policies, and agenda.  Nullification, like secession, is a fundamental sovereign power reserved to each state. Since the states did not form the Union by unlimited submission to the common government they created, certain powers remain vested in them.  Despite what Lincoln and Obama may claim, the states did NOT create, or attempt to create, or even envision creating a “perpetual” Union by ratifying the Constitution.  Those words are merely wishful thinking by despots and revisionists.

NULLIFICATION - When Injustice Becomes Law, Nullification Becomes a Duty

The biggest tool the government has in its arsenal to shut down the discussion of Nullification is RACISM.  According to the government’s position – as evidenced in texts, government spokespersons, liberal pundits, college professors – Nullification is a racist doctrine that was used to help the states resist integration following Brown v. Board of Education (1953). For years, the southern states were demonized and punished by the northern states for the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression) and because the North was forcibly and quickly transforming their society, there were actions that would clearly be classified as “reactive” and “lashing out.” The North, as the victors of the war, had the benefit of writing history and telling the “official” story.  Nullification was used once in the south after the Brown decision. It was used by the governor and state legislature of Arkansas to prevent integration of the schools in the state (they amended the state constitution). They believed the decision was arbitrary and unconstitutional and believed the court had no power to enforce it. After all, approximately 1/5 of the entire membership of Congress signed a statement in 1956 pretty much declaring the same thing. They also feared what would happen given the level of hostility in the state. But Little Rock continued to move forward with its plan for desegregation. Eventually, in 1958, the Little Rock School Board filed suit asking for a court order allowing them to delay desegregation. They alleged that public hostility to desegregation and opposition created by the governor and the state legislature created an intolerable and chaotic situation. The relief the plaintiffs requested was for the African-American 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 went to the Supreme Court, which declared that no state had the right to ignore any of its decisions. Citing Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, the Court emphasized that its decisions are binding on all the states and that to ignore them is to “wage war on the Constitution.” In other words, opponents of nullification assert that this case stands for the premise that states cannot nullify federal laws.

Racism invites passion. It questions motives, clouds judgment, obscures facts, and shuts down debate. Racism assumes that no party has any grievance or concern more important than that of the African-American. It assumes there is no part of history more important than slavery, abolition, and Jim Crow.  Racism never dies, according to the government.  Racism never dies, according to the irresponsible media.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that our current government is fanning the flames once again in history of racism and making sure we are once again defined as a racist nation. In this time when Nullification should be the topic everyone wants to re-address, the countering argument will always be: “Look, they’re trying to go back to the days of segregation.”

And so, I wanted to write this to emphasize the REAL story of Nullification..  and the REAL success of Nullification.  It wasn’t in light of the Alien & Sedition Acts. It wasn’t the publication of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (because, let’s be honest, most of the other states were too timid to adopt similar resolutions and so the states, in the end, didn’t stand up to the government as Jefferson and Madison had hoped. There were probably 2 reasons for this: (1) The Acts were set to expire at the end of Adams’ term, which was only 2 years away so why get their panties in a wad; and  (2) the Union was extremely fragile at this point  – rebellions all over the place over the government’s authority to tax and collect – and the states didn’t want to exacerbate the situation.  The real success story of Nullification was in the rejection of the Constitution’s Fugitive Slave Laws.

Yes, the American flag, believe it or not, was the official flag of a slave nation for 77 years (1788 – 1865).  Slavery was protected in the United States by the Constitution for those years. Although slave importation had been abolished by the time the Constitution was ratified and the Union was created, the institution itself was still constitutional. Not only was it constitutional, but slaves, as property, were required (by the Constitution) to be returned to their owner. State agents, courts, and instrumentalities were required to enforce these federal laws.  But abolitionists in the North, like Rosa Parks herself sitting on a seat in a public bus, knew that the laws were revolting and fundamentally wrong.  Through civil acts of disobedience, like Ms. Parks refusing to give up her seat, those in states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, either outright enacted laws which nullified Fugitive Slave Laws or they acted to frustrate or otherwise render useless any attempt to enforce them. Nullification was a very successful way for escaped slaves to finally realize freedom in the North. It’s pretty hard to claim Nullification is racist, like its opponents do, when it served such a public good (while the US Constitution protected something so evil).   The following video does an amazing job to educate people on the history of Nullification and to explain its power to right wrong.

https://www.facebook.com/tenthamendmentcenter/videos/10152871564545764/?fref=nf  (from the Tenth Amendment Center)