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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Limit Government or Limit Freedom?

by Alex Wallenwein

That really is the question.

To increase the one, you have to limit the other. There’s no two ways about it.

If confronted with that choice, which one will you increase??

Naturally, there is only one sane answer. Yet, good, well-meaning, but horribly deceived and misled Americans are constantly choosing government over freedom and prosperity by their daily actions, behaviors – and voting patterns.

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The Constitution or Liberty

by Sheldon Richman, Foundation for Economic Education

“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

We might think those words—or words to the same effect—are in the U.S. Constitution. But they are not. They are from Article II of the Articles of Confederation, America’s first constitution. They could have been placed in the U.S. Constitution but were deliberately left out in 1787.

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HJR108: State Sovereignty for Tennessee

by Susan Lynn, 57th District Rep., Tennessee

State sovereignty is a big deal to state legislators; hopefully, it is to you as well. It is what keeps the federal government from over stepping its constitutional bounds.

Today many state legislators, including some in Tennessee, have decided it is time to affirm state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and demand the federal government halt its practice of assuming powers and of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution.

The history of the formation of our federal government is long and complex but what the framers sought was a government that protected man’s natural rights; declared by the Declaration of Independence to be the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; better interpreted to mean that all men, by nature are equally free and independent with the right to work, acquire property and pursue their own individual happiness.

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The Powers not Delegated

by Robert Romano, Americans for Limited Government

Often, talk of the nation’s founding principles is discarded as an irrelevancy in public discourse. But in truth they are more salient than ever as power in Washington grows to untold heights. And those who still value liberty must take note of this unprecedented rise and take action if this nation is to ever take steps back toward constitutionally limited government.

In an effort to cast off the shackles of never-ending federal mandates from Washington, Michigan State Representative Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt) has offered “House Concurrent Resolution No. 4” to “affirm Michigan’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and to urge the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States.”

It is an example to be emulated by states across the Union, and one on which a new emphasis by states upon their sovereignty ought to be built. The first step, of course, proceeds from the statement of a single principle: The states are sovereign entities.

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Is it Possible to Restore Constitutionalism?

by Gary S. Lawson, Heritage Foundation

When the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification in 1787, many citizens worried that the new national government proposed by the document was a Leviathan in waiting. During the crucial New York ratification debate, James Madison, writing as Publius, sought to allay these fears in the 45th Federalist Paper by emphasizing that adoption of the Constitution would create a government of enumerated, and therefore strictly limited, powers. Madison said: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined… [and] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce….”[1] Federal tax collectors, Madison assured everyone, “will be principally on the seacoast, and not very numerous.”[2] Exactly six months after publication of this essay, New York became the 11th state to ratify the Constitution.

Once the national government was up and running, disputes naturally arose about the proper scope of its “few and defined” powers and about the proper institutional form for the exercise of those powers. It is helpful to examine just a few of those early disputes to get a sense of the frontiers of constitutional argument in the Founding era–that is, to gauge the kinds of claims regarding federal power that generated serious discussion. Those examples provide an interesting basis for comparison with modern law.

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The Future of Limited Government

by Jeff Wartman

If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.Jacob Hornberger.

Every four years, voters in the United States are given a choice between two major party candidates in the Presidential election.  We are often told that either of these candidates are the “mainstream” candidates and if you want your vote to count, you need to choose between either one of the two major party candidates who have a “chance” at “winning”.

However, for true supporters of limited government and personal liberty, this is often a choice made in vain.  If you truly believe in a limited, decentralized government which protects both economic and personal liberties and rights, during most elections there isn’t a major party candidate that will generally fit your values.  You have a choice between the Democratic Party, of which too many members wish to violate your economic rights and liberties, and the Republican Party, of which too many members wish to violate your personal rights and liberties.  This is not a judgment of individuals in either party.  Most individual members are doing what they think is right.  This is a judgment on those than run the major parties.

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Unlimited Government

By Jeffrey R. Snyder, Fee.org

The federal government was supposed to be limited to a few defined powers. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution- “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” -confirms it.

The federal government, of course, does not at present respect its constitutional limits. The chief culprit, in this regard, is the massive social legislation and regulatory apparatus enacted under Congress’s constitutional authority “to regulate Commerce . . . among the several states” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3).

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Respecting the Constitution Only When it’s Convenient

by Jacob Sullum

The Republican platform unveiled last week notes in passing that “the Constitution assigns the federal government no role in local education.” Yet the same document offers opinions on all manner of local educational issues, including the virtues of phonics, the evils of sex education, the wisdom of merit pay for teachers, and the folly of social promotion.

That contradiction illustrates the hollowness of the Republican commitment to “constrain the federal government to its legitimate constitutional functions.” The Republicans (like the Democrats) respect the Constitution only when it’s convenient.

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For The General Welfare Of The Country

by JR Dieckmann, Great American Journal

For far too long, Congress has been violating the Constitution by passing legislation that gives them powers that were never authorized by the Constitution. In every case, those powers represent rights that were intended to be reserved to the states and to the people.

How has Congress committed these grievous violations and gotten away with it? By claiming that “to provide for the common defense and general welfare” is an enumerated power granted to Congress under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. It is not. It is a general statement describing the section content and justifying the need to levy taxes.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

If “[to] provide for the general welfare” were intended to be an enumerated power, just that one statement alone would render the rest of the article unnecessary. It would allow Congress to do whatever it wanted, so long as it could be explained as being for the general welfare of the country. The framers’ intent in writing the Constitution was to limit the power of government, not to grant it unlimited power.

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What Ever Happened to the Tenth Amendment?

by Dr. Ron Gleason

There are few people today who pound the drum about the Tenth Amendment and still fewer who have any idea what is says. In fact, in general few Americans get exercised about our Constitution at all. Precious few have read it and politicians increasingly avoid it like the plague. With all the excitement that TV offers these days, who has the time or inclination to read the Constitution or The Federalist Papers. We are an uninformed nation and most of that is our fault.

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