“There’s not much attention paid to the Constitution in Washington. There’s not much attention paid to it by our executive branch of government. And we don’t get much protection from our courts. So one thing that might finally happen from this if the people finally feel so frustrated that they can’t get the results out of Washington — They’re going to start thinking about options. They might start thinking about nullification and a few things like that.” – Rep. Ron Paul
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of state nullification, it was the idea expressed by then sitting vice president Thomas Jefferson when he authored what came to be known as the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. The resolutions made the case that the federal government is a creature of the states, and that states have the authority to judge the constitutionality of the federal government’s laws and decrees. He also argued that states should refuse to enforce laws which they deem unconstitutional.
James Madison wrote a similar resolution for Virginia that same year, in which he asserted that whenever the federal government exceeds its constitutional limits and begins to oppress the citizens of a state, that state’s legislature is “duty bound” to interpose its power and prevent the federal government from victimizing its people. Very similar to Jefferson’s concept of nullification, Madison’s doctrine of interposition differed in some small but important ways.
These two documents together came to be known as The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (or Resolves), of 1798. Both were written in response to the dreaded Alien and Sedition Acts, and the phrase, “Principles of ’98