Digging-Own-Grave-300x336Philadelphia and Boston have often traded licks over which was the real Cradle of Liberty. Boston, home to such notable rebels as Sam Adams and Paul Revere, takes credit for the Boston Tea Party and terrorizing British regulars sent to quell insurrection. Philadelphia retorts that it birthed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the real meat and potatoes of our new Republic. Of late, however, endorsers of either view are contending with a new, embarrassing contest: which city will kill liberty first?

Boston took an early lead, at least in the Police State category, as evidenced by the quick and efficient militarization of that city in pursuit of a Chechen teenager. Philadelphia, not to be outdone, gave us State Senator Anthony Williams, who on Monday attempted to douse the flame of liberty with the foul water of unlimited central government.

In response to the growing support for Pennsylvania House Bill 357, a bill intended to nullify new federal firearms laws, Sen. Williams circulated a garbled letter to the members of the General Assembly that patched together an ahistorical (that means ‘not historical’, Anthony) attack against state nullification. Or as the senator rather uniquely put it, “the rising, and disturbing, national cognitive capture of nullification.”

Williams’ letter begins with a head-scratching dichotomy.

The history and heritage of this great nation long has included a constant and vigilant dance between preserving individual freedoms and advancing social harmony.

After staring at a blank wall for some minutes, I could not think of one individual freedom, which, if curtailed, would actually advance social harmony. Try this at home: what violation of the non-aggression principle would result in greater social harmony? If you think of an example, post it below.

To Williams’ credit, except for the resulting non sequitur, he is on firm ground in his second paragraph.

My hometown birthed the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and U.S. Constitution, including the sacred Bill of Rights…especially the Second Amendment… We hold this sacrosanct.

And then he completely loses it.

The language and spirit used [in HB 357] hearken not toward the brighter paths of Revolutionary America, but the darker shades of Antebellum America.

I invite you to read the full text of HB 357 here. First, let’s consider Williams’ “brighter paths.” The historical record would strongly suggest that the colonists – at least those who fomented revolution – weren’t big fans of taxes and centralized government. HB 357 is a push back against the unconstitutional overreach of federal firearms laws. Williams has it backwards. Next Williams absurdly attempts to tar HB 357 with the “darker shades of Antebellum America.” By “darker shades”, I presume Williams means slavery. I re-read HB 357 for the 357th time and, as you may have guessed, it has exactly zero to do with putting folks back into slavery. Perhaps Williams’ rhetoric is an attempt to associate state nullification with slavery. Again, the historical record is crystal clear, but not the way Williams wants you to believe. State nullification, in Pennsylvania and other states, was a successful tool used by abolitionists against the federal Fugitive Slaves Acts, and as regular readers of TAC know, was one of the main reasons slave-owning states wanted to bolt from the Union.

After Williams is finished making up fake histories of the United States in an attempt to discredit state nullification, he devolves into wild accusation.

It’s also why it’s ludicrous, if not embarrassing, that we are advancing any of sort of legislation that seeks to erode our allegiance to our nation and its operation.

In other words, fellow citizen, shame on you for putting your gun rights over the prerogatives of government bureaucrats. Because, you know, blind allegiance to government is what makes us free. Not.

Williams then presents a nonsensical and ahistorical view of the supremacy clause.

Being part of the United States of America means we agree to being bound by federal laws set forth, whether our ideals are aligned with or repudiated by said laws. This is the essence of supremacy clause. … When the socially disgruntled of the past have promoted “nullification” as a viable means of refuting and flouting the law of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, the final arbiter of constitutionality, has roundly rejected time and time again this assertion.

The supremacy clause is the last refuge of the federal supremacist. But to make it work for their arguments, they have to willfully misread it. Only laws “which shall be made in Pursuance thereof” are supreme, not any old laws passed by Congress. As Alexander Hamilton noted in Federalist #33: “Hence we perceive that the clause which declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union, like the one we have just before considered, only declares a truth, which flows immediately and necessarily from the institution of a federal government. It will not, I presume, have escaped observation, that it expressly confines this supremacy to laws made pursuant to the Constitution.”

And nowhere in the Constitution is the federal Supreme Court given power to nullify unconstitutional laws, not laws of its own government or laws of the states. In fact, the dude who wrote the Constitution, James Madison, had a much different take on who was the “final arbiter of constitutionality”:

The states, then, being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity, that there can be no tribunal above their authority, to decide in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and, consequently, that, as the parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.     (Virginia Report of 1799-1800)

Williams concludes his polemic by calling nullification a “Pandora’s Box” that threatens to drag Pennsylvania backward. If backward means restoring individual rights that are under constant assault from federal supremacists like Williams, then backwards I be. Or you can go follow Williams, straight into liberty’s grave.

ACTION ITEMS for Pennsylvania:

1. Please contact your state representative.  First check the link for the following representatives who are co-sponsors to the bill. The most updated list of cosponsors are on the website to House Bill 357 can be found here. If your representative is not listed, please contact them and ask them to cosponsor HB357.   If they are, thank them for supporting the bill and encourage them to stand strong.

Contact information here:

2. Encourage your local community to take action as well.  Present the2nd Amendment Preservation Act to your city county, your town council, or your county commissioners.  Various local governments around the country are already passing similar resolutions and ordinances.  Local legislative action is a great way to strengthen a statewide campaign against 2nd Amendment violations

model legislation here:

3. Get connected to what is happening in Pennsylvania on Facebook. Like and get active on the Pennsylvania Tenth Amendment Center Facebook page. Also join the Second Amendment Preservation Act of Pennsylvania Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/2ndAmendmentPA/

4.  Share this information widely.  Please pass this along to your friends and family.  Also share it with any and all grassroots groups you’re in contact with around the state.  Please encourage them to email this information to their members and supporters

Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams Sends Letter to Colleagues Attacking Nullification Efforts by Tenth Amendment Center

Benjamin Gross
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