Mandeville, LA - (Note – I was alerted to Ms Kuznicki’s post by the following from Mr. Levin’s FaceBook page(i) “Is the “Tenth Amendment Center” for real? Jen Kuznicki continues to expose this group!” I, as a speaker at TAC events, a friend to their cause and a member felt obliged as a Gentleman to respond.)
Folks, I will not allow the good people at The Tenth Amendment Center to suffer the slander that they are “Soros plants” that “undermine the Constitutional compact” with their “narrow interpretation of nullification.” Below you will find a partial rebuttal to Jen Zunicki who has claimed - -
It is important for everyone to understand that nullification for Madison and Jefferson was clearly understood, and that the Tenth Amendment Center is using a destructive, narrow definition of nullification to rally tea party members to advance the destruction of the Constituted relationship between the Federal government and State governments, which Madison described as a “compact.” Madison indeed rejected nullification by the States if the definition of nullification was “to declare null and void, or unenforceable” a federal law. That is the Tenth Amendment Center’s definition listed on their website.
Here’s a few facts. From the 1850 edition(1) of the VA Report of 1799-1800 we find in the preface, written by J.W. Randolph(2), he a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson and the 1st attorney General of the United States Edmund Randolph. “The plan of opposition to be pursued there was probably arranged by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison, though neither was a member. The plan was to resolve that the Alien and Sedition Laws were unconstitutional and merely void.” There’s more “The Virginia resolutions,submitted and ably defended by Mr. John Taylor, of Caroline, were from the pen of Mr. Madison.” And what, pray tell did that resolution contain? This for starters.
“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.”
If you wish to play word games and claim the words “no further valid” and “duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil…” mean something other than “null” or “void” go right ahead Ms Kuznicki. Then you can explain why Madison found himself lionized as the author of “nullification/interposition” forcing the infamous, 1832 retreat cited by Mr. Levin. But this is just the start our little discussion. Ms. Kuznicki is fond, one might even say a bit obsessed with the term “compact”. From reading her post I conclude that “compact” must mean an agreement where there is a Pappa Bear and a bunch of Baby Bears. The kind, benevolent Pappa Bear is portrayed by the “General Government” (18th century for “federal”) and the unruly, ill-disciplined and in need or strict orders Baby Bears are portrayed by those hapless buffoons we call States. On the Ice World of Kuznicki, the Pappa Bear barks out orders that the Baby Bears must obey without exception. That is unless they convene a meeting with their mother, Article Five Bear. In very rare instances, Article V Bear will ask Pappa Bear to tone down his rhetoric and accept an alteration to the family charter. After that, the Baby Bears go off to play, wherever the Pappa Bear tells them they can play.
But you see, folks, a “compact” requires two parties viz “between” or multiple parties viz “among.” Pappa Bear’s “compact” is “among” The Baby Bears”, this grants the Baby Bears equal authority to enforce, alter or withdraw unless prohibited by an article in the same “compact”. Here is where the real fun begins as I introduce Mr. Levin and Planet Kuznicki to Albert Taylor Bledsoe, he of “Is Davis A Traitor-Was There A Constitutional right To Secession previous to the War of 1861.” You see, Bledsoe also believed the Constitution was a “compact!” This should make Bledsoe, Levin and Kuznicki practically lovers. Alas, though, understanding “compact theory” undermines the case that beyond lame attempts to “interpose” or yet to be utilized attempts to meet with Mama Bear “Article V”, the rightfully remedy, as Jefferson explained and Ms. Kuznicki confirmed is secession. Here’s Taylor Bledsoe on the question, simply replace “Story” and Webster” with “Kuznicki” and “Levin”
“Was the constitution a compact? Was it a compact between the States, or to which the States were the parties? Was it a compact from which any State might recede at pleasure? These three questions are perfectly distinct, and all the rules of clear thinking require that they should be so held in our minds, instead of being mixed up and confounded in our discussions. Yet Mr. Justice Story, in his long chapter on the “Nature of the Constitution,” discusses these questions, not separately and distinctly, but all in one confused mass, to the no little perplexity and distraction of his own mind. He carries them all along together, and in the darkness and confusion occasioned by this mode of proceeding, he is frequently enabled to elude the force of his adversaries’ logic.
Thus, for instance, he sets out with the flat denial of the doctrine that the Constitution is a compact; and yet, when the evidences become too strong for resistance, or a cloud of witnesses rise up to confound him, he turns around, and instead of fairly admitting that the Constitution is a compact, asserts that if it is a compact it is not one between the States. When too hardly pressed on this position, replies, well, if it is a compact between the States it is not such a compact that it may be revoked at the pleasure of the parties. Thus, when he is driven from one position he falls back upon another, and finally rallies to a second, a third, and a fourth denial of the main proposition that the Constitution is a compact. Now, I intend to discuss each one of these questions distinctly and by itself; holding Mr. Justice Story to one and the same precise point, until it is either made good or else demolished. I hope, in this way, to dispel the mists and fogs he has thrown around the subject, and to bring out the truth into a clear and unmistakable light. The same confusion of thought, and arising from the same source, pervades Mr. Webster’s celebrated speech of Feb. 16, 1833; though it must be admitted, not to the same extent that it prevails in the “Commentaries” of Mr. Justice Story.”(3)
There is a 90 pages long discussion and conclusion of the Constitution as a “compact” in that work, I suggest our antagonists read it but fear they will instead hurl the words of Lincoln or the surrender at Appomattox our way. Bledsoe anticipates this behavior and, that future Levin’s will seize on Madison’s words from 1833 as proof positive that their wisdom is supported by the sage of Montpelier’s writings. Not so fast.
“In the Biographical Memoir of Daniel Webster, prefixed to his works, Mr. Everett says: “The opinion entertained of this speech, (the speech of 1833), by the individual who, of all the people in America, was the best qualified to estimate its value may be seen from the following letter of Mr. Madison, which has never before been published:
Montpelier, March l5th, 1833. “My dear Sir:—I return my thanks for the copy of your late very powerful speech in the Senate of the United States. It crushes nullification, and must hasten an abandonment of secession.”
Now on what ground Mr. Madison could have based this opinion, at least in so far as it relates to secession, it is difficult to conceive. The fundamental premise of Mr. Webster, that “the Constitution is not a compact between sovereign States,” and which is adopted as the title of his speech, was certainly not approved by Mr. Madison; for this premise, beside being direct opposition to the doctrine of his whole life, is denied again in the very letter in which the above compliment is found. Mr. Webster has, indeed, very little to say against secession. His argument is almost exclusively directed against “nullification,” the point then in debate between himself and Mr. Calhoun. But the little he has to say against secession, is based on the idea that the Constitution is not a compact between sovereign States. Every argument, and every assertion, levelled by him against secession (and they are but few in number), have no other than this false foundation. Hence, Mr. Madison could not have approved or applauded the argument of Mr. Webster against secession, because he regarded his premise as sound; for he was most profoundly convinced that it was false. On what ground, then, could Mr. Madison have admired this argument?
If the Constitution is a compact between sovereign States, as Mr. Madison always contended it was, then Mr. Webster admits, as we have seen, that the right of secession follows. Thus, this right is conceded by Mr. Webster to flow from the premise which Mr. Madison always regarded as perfectly and unquestionably true. How, in the face of such a concession, Mr. Madison could have pronounced the opinion, that Mr. Webster’s argument “must hasten the abandonment of secession,” it is exceedingly difficult to conceive. The acknowledgement that the right of secession flows from a position too plain to be denied, would tend, as one would suppose, to hasten its adoption, rather than its abandonment. How then could Mr. Madison have said otherwise?
The truth seems to be, that Mr. Madison was more solicitous to preserve the integrity of the Union, than the coherency of his own thoughts. He commends Lycurgus for having sacrificed his life to secure the perpetuity of the institution he had taken so much pains to establish. For the same purpose, Mr. Madison sacrificed, not his life, but his logic.
Is it not truly wonderful, that Mr. Madison who, on most subjects, sees so clearly and reasons so well, should fall into such inanities about secession? From his conduct, as well as from his confession in the Federalist, it is evident, that he considered it a duty to veil the idea of this light, unless a proper occasion should arise for its assertion. But how imperfectly his arguments and opinions perform this high office of concealment! He would, no doubt, have done better, if better arguments against the right of secession could have been found or invented. As it is, the ineffable weakness of his views in opposition to the right of secession, shows how high and impregnable is the position which that right occupies.
Mr. Madison greatly feared that Virginia and New York would, in their ordinances of ratification, expressly reserve the right to secede from the Union. This apprehension is most vividly set forth in his correspondence with Mr. Hamilton, in regard to the proposed conditional ratification of New York; from which it has been most confidently inferred, that neither Virginia nor New York did reserve such right. But what Mr. Madison desired, and what those States did, are two very distinct things. If we really wish to know what those States did, we should, it seems to me look at their recorded acts, rather than at what Mr. Madison desired them to do. The conditional ratification of Virginia was in direct opposition to the wishes of Mr. Madison. His wish, then, however great his influence, could not always control the action of his own State much less that of New York.”(4)
The point being made in this essay is that Ms Kuznicki is correct, the Constitution is a “compact” and because it is, the states as willing parties, with equal power of determining the extent of the “compacts” powers can “nullify”, “interpose” or “secede” if they choose. Any other interpretation demolishes the “Constitution as compact” and leaves us as mere children under the care of an abusive Pappa Bear.
(i) See: https://www.facebook.com/marklevinshow/posts/10152117492421140
(1) The Virginia report of 1799-1800: touching the alien and sedition laws see
(2) Virginia Law Books: Essays and Bibliographies, Volume 239 p. 547
(3) Bledsoe, Albert Taylor, Is Davis A Traitor, 1866. Ch. V, p. 30,31
(4) Ibid, ch XVII, pps 189-191