Resistance Is NOT Futile: Forgotten Lessons from the Nullification Crisis

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Even as calls
for nullification of proposed federal health care mandates have
intensified on the state level, an almost hysterical effort has
arisen to discredit such measures, and paint them as part of an
obsolete theory with no bearing on modern politics.

of its logical descent from our most basic founding principle, that
governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,
nullification simply doesn’t work, critics say.

Or does it?

While it’s
true that our system of checks and balances has been weakened substantially
over the years, federalism itself has not. Divided sovereignty remains
as viable a structure of government as it was the day our Constitution
was ratified. Perhaps a better question is: Can nullification succeed

Of course!
It already has. For proof, one need look no further than the truth
behind a favorite parable of establishment statists, the Nullification
Crisis of 1832–33.

Over the years,
that crucial victory for the sovereign states has been converted
into a cautionary tale by those who wish to discourage taxpayers
from ever questioning their federal masters. So distorted is the
history that a recent article on modern nullification efforts in
the Nashville City Paper declared.

In the Nullification
Crisis of the 1830s, South Carolina passed a law nullifying federal
tariffs, but the state backed down after President Andrew Jackson
sent Navy warships to the Charleston harbor.

The only problem
with that story is it never happened.

After nullifying
the so-called Tariff of Abominations in late 1832, the citizens
of South Carolina began making serious preparations to defend themselves
with deadly force against any attempt by federal agents to collect
the hated tax. What followed was a tense standoff between President
Jackson and a relatively small group of determined citizens, that
could easily have resulted in secession or war.

But those citizens
refused to be intimidated by Jackson’s repeated threats of
violence, and they certainly didn’t surrender to warships in
Charleston Harbor.

As Wikipedia
admits, it was not until the end of February 1833, when “both
a Force Bill, authorizing the President to use military force against
South Carolina, and a new negotiated tariff satisfactory to South
Carolina [emphasis added] were passed by Congress,” that “the
South Carolina convention reconvened and repealed its Nullification
Ordinance.” From that point on, right up until the War Between
the States, the tariff rate declined steadily.

the rest of the article

9, 2010

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