Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America, was an architect, a philosopher, a Deist and an impeccable prose stylist. His passionate appeal to dissolve ties with England—the Declaration of Independence—led the early colonies to war and ultimately freedom. As president, he earned respect for his sound principles and industrious nature, though his private life has been subjected to intense scrutiny.

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Nullification: The Jeffersonian Brake on Government

by Thomas E. Woods, The Freeman

Thinkers in the classical-liberal tradition, to the extent that they support a coercive state at all, speak routinely of the importance of keeping government strictly limited. To that end, the United States has a written Constitution, which enumerates the relatively brief list of tasks entrusted to the federal government and whose Tenth Amendment makes clear that any power not granted to the federal government resides in the states, the authors of the federal compact.

That is all well and good, but how does a theoretically limited government remain so? Some have argued that it is impossible to restrain a government over time. The framers of the Constitution, for their part, were well aware of the tendency for power to concentrate and expand. Thomas Jefferson spoke of the calamity that would result if all power were vested in the federal government.

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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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