EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Michael Boldin’s “Tenther Rant” at the end of Episode 21 of TRX: Tenther Radio, which airs live online every Wednesday at 5pm Pacific Time here.
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213 years ago, on November 10th, something really important happened. In fact, it was so important that if there ARE going to be federal holidays at all, this should definitely be one. But it’s not.
We’ve already got loads of federal holidays to choose from. Some of them are worthy of our attention, and some of them not. On July 4th, there’s independence from King George’s England. On the first Monday in September, there’s a holiday that was dedicated to the “social and economic achievements of American workers.” We celebrate all American presidents, give thanks for the autumn harvest, and more.
When there’s no federally-sanctioned holiday to call upon, people around the country celebrate all kinds of other stuff. And activists across the political spectrum often pick “important” dates to schedule events to bring attention to their cause. We’ve seen protests on Tax Day, May Day, Earth Day, the 5th of November, and more.
But nowhere to be found on these great lists of “federal holidays” or “protest days” is a celebration of one of the greatest political maxims in American history – that when the federal government does things it’s not supposed to do, you are not bound to obey them.
Most Americans know that Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of “The Declaration of Independence.” Yet few of them have ever even heard of another document that I would say might be the second most important one he ever wrote – The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which were adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly on November 10, 1798.
Jefferson drafted these resolutions – in secret – while he was serving as vice president. It was written in response to the hated Alien and Sedition Acts which were passed under the John Adams administration.
The acts authorized the president to deport any resident alien considered “dangerous to the peace and safety” of the United States, to apprehend and deport resident aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States, and criminalized any speech which might “defame” Congress, the President, or bring either of them into “contempt or disrepute.”
Interestingly enough, while it was illegal to, in essence, speak out against the president, congress and the federal government in general, it was not illegal to do so towards the opposition, in this case the sitting vice-president, a Mr. Thomas Jefferson.
In response, Jefferson invoked what he considered the bedrock of the constitution, the 10th Amendment – and its strict rule that the federal government was one of limited, delegated powers – and nothing more. Essentially, he argued that by passing and enforcing the Alien and Sedition Acts, the federal government had overstepped its bounds and was exercising powers which were never delegated to it in the Constitution.
In other words, he considered the Alien and Sedition Acts to be acts of usurpation.
VOID AND OF NO FORCE
What did Jefferson have to say? Here’s a few snippets that, in my opinion, sum up his views quite well:
the several states composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government
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
whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force
Jefferson argued that if the federal government were allowed to hold a monopoly on determining what its own powers were, we would have no right to be surprised when it kept discovering new ones – as it does so often today.
Want to know where the feds get the power they do? They get it from themselves, not the Constitution. And they’ve been doing this for a long long time.
When FDR told starving farmers they couldn’t grow more wheat to consume on their own property, the federal government was assuming undelegated powers. When Richard Nixon founded the EPA with an unconstitutional executive order, he was doing the same. When Ronald Reagan ramped up the war on drugs, this was also an exercise of powers that didn’t belong in Washington DC – they are powers that, according to the 10th Amendment, belong to the states.
George Bush gave us the biggest increase of federal control over healthcare in decades, no child left behind, the patriot act, and more. Barack Obama has given us an extension of the Patriot Act, a nationwide health insurance mandate, raids on milk producers – and he has continued the Bush foreign policy agenda, waging war on his own decision, without a congressional declaration of war.
None of these things – none of them – are powers that have been delegated to the federal government in the constitution. That means every single one of these acts should be “unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”
NO MEANS NO!
If Congress passes a law and no one obeys it, it is really a law at all?
These politicians only get away with this stuff as long as people let them, and they will continue to get away with it as long as people don’t say NO. But when enough individual people take a stand and say no, there’s not much that the federal government can do to force their unconstitutional acts, regulations and mandates down our throats.
So today, in celebration of the adoption of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, I rise in solidarity with all you brave individuals who quietly, or publicly, refuse to comply – with something, with anything. In this time of massive federal power, it takes courage and I honor your courage to resist. Whether you know it or not, you are our generation’s greatest heroes of liberty.
Whether it’s the person who transports and consumes raw milk in defiance of the FDA, or the cancer patient who uses marijuana in defiance of the DEA, I salute you. Whether you say no to federally-mandated lightbulbs or health insurance plans, whether you grow hemp without permission from DC or refuse to serve in an unconstitutional war – you are doing what’s right.
You are carrying out Jefferson’s advice and standing up for liberty by refusing in your own way. Your acts of defiance to tyrants are the core of what will someday reduce these many unconstitutional federal acts to what they must become – “unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”