is based on a speech at the first annual Tenth Amendment Summit
in Atlanta, GA on February 26, 2010.
How can a “crazy”
Californian and a “conservative” Georgian be friends?
It’s simple – through the principles of ’98. In 1798,
the John Adams administration signed into law that Alien and Sedition
Acts, which made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous,
and malicious writing” against the government or its officials.
In practice, it was used to quell the freedom of speech in dissent
against the sitting administration.
In the Kentucky
Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson responded:
several States composing the United States of America, are not
united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General
But wait –
that’s not all. He went on to say that all undelegated powers
exercised by the federal government are “unathoritative, void
and of no force.” And, that a “nullification of the act
is the rightful remedy.”
been plenty of people talking about nullification lately, but many
people don’t know what it really means. I can think of no better
way to define it than how my friend Derek Sheriff from the Arizona
Tenth Amendment Center has done:
is not secession or insurrection, but neither is it unconditional
or unlimited submission. Nullification is not something that requires
any decision, statement or action from any branch of the federal
government. Nullification is not the result of obtaining a favorable
court ruling. Nullification is not the petitioning of the federal
government to start doing or to stop doing anything. Nullification
doesn’t depend on any federal law being repealed. Nullification
does not require permission from any person or institution outside
of one’s own state.
is something that’s already happening around the country –
and Derek explains the process:
begins with a decision made in your state legislature to resist
a federal law deemed to be unconstitutional. It usually involves
a bill, which is passed by both houses and is signed by your governor.
In some cases, it might be approved by the voters of your state
directly, in a referendum. It may change your state’s statutory
law or it might even amend your state constitution. It is a refusal
on the part of your state government to cooperate with, or enforce
any federal law it deems to be unconstitutional.
At its very
core, nullification is mass civil-disobedience to the federal government
with the support of the state apparatus. It’s about “We
the People” exercising our rights whether the politicians or
judges in Washington D.C. want to give us “permission”
to exercise those rights or not.
Great Depression, while millions of people were out of work or starving,
the FDR administration required American farmers to restrict production
of wheat in order to raise prices.
As a farmer,
Roscoe Filburn was told he could plant a little over 10 acres of
wheat, which he did grow and sell on the market. He also decided
that it was in his best interest – possibly because he had
less revenue due to the production limitations – to plant another
10 or so acres. But, the “excess” wheat grown was used
at home to feed his livestock, among other things. He never sold
it, so he saw this as being outside the scope of Congressional power
to regulate “interstate commerce.”
What did the
federal government do? The expected – they ordered Roscoe to
destroy his crops and pay a fine. Think about that for a moment
and you’ll really understand the evil of having too much power
in too few hands. At a time when large numbers of people were starving,
these thugs in government forced people to reduce production for
the sake of raising prices. From this, it seems clear to me that
corporate bailouts have been going on a long, long time in America.
and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In Wickard
v Filburn, the Court ruled against him and the result was that
the Federal Government assumed a power that was new in the history
of this country. It now had the power to control the growing and
consuming of something that never left one’s back yard.
who as we can see from his signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts,
was no saint, did give us a great warning on the growth of government
power. In 1775 he wrote, “liberty once lost, is lost forever.”
He went on to explain that when the People allow government to gain
power and restrict liberty, it will never voluntarily give that
power back. Liberty given up to government power will never be returned
to the people without a long and difficult struggle.
If we fast-forward
to present times, we can see this principle at work.
In the 1990s,
the People of California voted to legalize consumption of marijuana
for medicinal purposes. Angel Raich, who has a huge cancerous tumor
in her brain was told by her doctor and California law that using
marijuana to relieve some of the pain associated with her cancer
The Feds don’t
take too kindly to states passing laws in direct contravention to
theirs. Marijuana, for example, is illegal on a federal level in
all circumstances, and federal agencies have consistently said they
don’t recognize state laws. You can probably guess what happened,
destroyed Angel’s homegrown marijuana plants without much resistance.
Like Roscoe before her, Angel sued, and the case went all the way
to the Supreme Court. In 2005, the Supreme Court once again ruled
that growing and consuming a plant in one’s own back yard qualified
as “interstate commerce.” And, because of that, the federal
government was then authorized to control, regulate, or outright
ban such activities under the threat of fine or prison.
in his famous dissent, got it right when he wrote, “If the
majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now
regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout
the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance
to the people of New York that the “powers delegated”
to the Federal Government are “few and defined,” while
those of the States are “numerous and indefinite.”
The main problem
we face is that much of the support for the 10th Amendment is little
more than partisanship. For many years, conservatives have rightly
railed against policies such as the ones that FDR used against Roscoe
Filburn. But, at the same time, they’ve turned a blind eye
to those same policies when used against Angel Raich and her use
of marijuana. And on the other hand, liberals have done just the
line, though, is this. When you allow politicians to bend the rules
of the Constitution – even for things you may support –
over a long period of time, sooner or later you’re going to
end up with politicians who feel that the rules don’t apply
at all. And, if we’re not there right now, we’re pretty
why we at the Tenth Amendment Center demand adherence to the Constitution
– Every Issue. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses. That
means that much of what the federal government does is unconstitutional,
of Education, The Patriot Act, Federal Gun Laws and Regulations,
National Health Care Mandates, and something that’s been going
on since 1941, wars without a Congressional declaration of war from
From this we
can see that the Tenth Amendment is not about political parties.
It’s not about political ideologies. It’s not even about
political candidates. It’s about liberty. It was designed to
promote your liberty by strictly limiting the powers of the federal
Over the past
year or so, I’ve been interviewed by mainstream media sources
literally dozens of times. And whether it’s Fox News, or CNN,
or the New York Times, the reporters invariably ask the same
question, “What political party do you support?” Each
time, I give them the same answer, “The Tenth Amendment Center
is a non-partisan think tank that supports the principles of strictly
limited constitutional government.”
have virtually the same follow up question too – “what
about you? As the founder of the Center, what’s your political
background, what political party do you support?”
I tell them. I don’t know if they believe me, but it’s
conservative, and I’m no liberal. I’m not a Democrat or
a Republican. And I’m not a green or a libertarian, or a socialist
or an anarchist. I’m not even an independent.
All I am is
me, and all I want is to live free.
reprinted from the Tenth