Jefferson’s Arguments for Nullification and Limited Government

by Gennady Stolyarov II

The doctrine of nullification, i.e., the idea that states have the right to unilaterally render void an act of the federal government that they perceive to be contrary to the Constitution, finds its origins in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, most notably his 1798 Kentucky Resolutions, written to protest the Federalist Congress’s passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions claim that the U. S. Constitution was a compact among the several states-whereby the states delegated certain limited powers to the U.S. government; any undelegated power exercised by the U. S. government is thus void.

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Kentucky Resolutions Redux

On 02/24/09, Kentucky State Representative, John Will Stacy (D) intrduced House Concurrent Resolution 168, which reads:

“A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION claiming sovereignty over powers not granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution; serving notice to the federal government to cease mandates beyond its authority; and stating Kentucky’s position that federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of loss of federal funding should be prohibited or repealed.”

For those history buffs out there, Kentucky was at the forefront in asserting the principles of State Sovereignty in the early days of the Republic.   The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 took what some consider to be the strongest position on this issue in our history.

Here’s an excerpt:

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