by Diane Rufino, February 21, 2019
I wrote the following Model Resolution in support of the various grassroots organizations I volunteer with, in support of the Tenth Amendment Center and its work, and in support of the doctrines of Nullification and Interposition which are the true rightful remedies to push back against over-reach and abuse of power by the federal government.
I shared this Resolution with my state representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly, several of whom know their history and support Nullification, and I know they will continue to introduce bills that reject federal intrusion on the state’s Tenth Amendment reserved powers. In submitting this Resolution to them, I explained: “As the 7th most populous state in the country, we don’t need to, and should not, ignore any action of the government that exceeds the powers delegated under the Constitution. If we intend to set our country right, the focus must be on challenging its constant and historical abuse of power, divesting it of power that it has usurped over the years from the states and the people, pushing it back within the confines of the US Constitution, and re-establishing the essential balance of power between the States and federal government that is so critical for the preservation of liberty.
I hope other states will consider re-asserting their sovereignty and adopting Nullification bills. As US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 2012 Healthcare opinion, NFIB v. Sebelius: “The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.”
RESOLUTION TO SUPPORT & ENCOURAGE NULLIFICATION BILLS
This Resolution is introduced out of respect and in deep affection to the state of North Carolina, which holds a distinguished place in American history for being a leading force for freedom and liberty and the ideals upon which the independent united States were established.
The Declaration of Dependence set forth the ideals upon which our newly-free and independent States were established and upon which our newly-free and independent nation came into existence. It reads, in paragraph two:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….. “
This Resolution is intended to put checks in place, in the rightful depository, which is the State government, in order to make sure the federal government doesn’t abridge the rights of the individual and to help prevent it from “becoming destructive” of its ends so that the People will not feel the need to alter or abolish it. North Carolina, and indeed every other state, should always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the State governments.
Finally, this Resolution intends to re-affirm North Carolina’s commitment to freedom and liberty, as envisioned at our Founding.
Whereas, the Union was established by a social compact, which is a specific type of agreement (or contract) established by people in deciding their form of government;
Whereas, as such, a social compact has rights. responsibilities, benefits, obligations, and remedies just like any other contract;
And whereas, as such, a social compact, like any other agreement or contract, retains the meaning and intent at the time it was entered into – until such time it is legally amended; in other words, a social compact, like any other agreement or contract, is interpreted according to the plain meaning and understanding of its terms and provisions at the time it was entered into, as well as the intent of those words and provisions and the intent of the compact in general);
And whereas, a compact, like any other agreement or contract, is never considered a “living, breathing document” such that its terms and provisions can be altered, broadened, manipulated, ignored, or given new meaning with successive generations by a judge or a court, or even by one of the parties to that agreement/contract;
Whereas, the social compact that created the Union (the united States, later the United States) was the US Constitution; the US Constitution was, and is, a compact between and among the states, on behalf of its People, creating a general government to provide for the common defense and a regular and free trade zone among the states, with limitations on its powers that are defined, consistent, and predictable, for the free exercise of individual freedoms (which is the definition of liberty). The general government created by the compact is not a party to the compact but a “creature.” As such, and aside from the federal courts’ duty to offer an “opinion” to the other branches on the constitutionality of bills, the States, as parties to the compact, have an equal right to judge for themselves the administration or maladministration of the government’s delegated powers or its assumption of powers not specifically delegated and thus usurped;
Whereas, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Butler, established the proper inquiry to be made in interpreting the powers delegated to the federal government under the Constitution: “The question is not what power the Federal Government ought to have but what powers in fact have been given by the people.” [United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 63 (1936)];
Whereas, a constitution is the act of a people constituting a government and assigning it delineated authority to govern; a government without a constitution is power without a right, and a government that enacts legislation without express authority to do has enacted a nullity, having no legal force or effect on the people;
Whereas, Chief Justice John Marshall, in writing the opinion for the Supreme Court in Cohens v. Virginia, acknowledged: “The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their own will, and lives only by their will.” [Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheaton) 264 (1821)];
Whereas, the Constitution is an exercise of Individual Sovereignty; it is People’s Law; it is an instrument by the People and for the People, to restrain the government and especially to restrain the government as it touches on the lives of the People and their Property;
Whereas, the purpose of a written constitution is to bind the several branches of government by boundaries, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities [Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782];
Whereas, every act of the federal government that exceeds the power and authority granted to it is immediately null and void, a nullity, and unenforceable (this includes an act of Congress, an executive order, rules and regulations promulgated by a regulatory agency, a federal policy, and even a court opinion);
And whereas, any federal law, policy, executive order, action, or federal court opinion that exceeds any power delegated to the branches of the federal government by the US Constitution is an abuse of power and an act of government tyranny;
And whereas, a federal law, policy, executive order, court opinion, etc without a foundation in legal authority is unconstitutional and therefore, null and void and unenforceable;
Whereas, Thomas Paine articulated this foundational legal doctrine in his pamphlet “Constitutions, Governments, and Charters (1805) when he wrote: “A constitution defines and limits the powers of the government it creates. It therefore follows, as a natural and also a logical result, that the governmental exercise of any power not authorized by the constitution is an assumed power, and therefore illegal”;
And whereas, Alexander Hamilton further articulated this doctrine in his essay, Federalist No. 78: “Every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid”;
And whereas, as Chief Justice John Marshall reaffirmed the same in the landmark case Marbury v. Madison (1803): “The particular phraseology of the Constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the Constitution is void that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.” [Marbury vs. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)];
Whereas, the question becomes this: When the federal government oversteps its authority and assumes powers not expressly delegated to it, how is the usurpation to be addressed so that its unconstitutional law, policy, executive order, court opinion, etc is not enforced on We the People who are entitled to be protected by the Constitution? A constitution is, after all, only a piece of paper. It cannot enforce itself. Checks and balances among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, a prominent feature of the Constitution, provide little guarantee of limited government, since these three federal branches can simply unite against the independence of the states and the reserved rights of the people;
Whereas, we know the federal government will never police itself or deny itself any power it believes it should have (heck, most representatives don’t know the Constitution) and we can’t trust the federal courts to address the abuse by an honest interpretation of the Constitution (That is precisely what Jefferson warned William Branch Giles was already happening in 1825: “It is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of [the Federal government] are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities, of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic.”);
Whereas, Thomas Woods, author of the book Nullification: The Rightful Remedy, wrote: “If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, warned the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions’ authors (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, respectively), it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on government power”;
Whereas, according to our Founders and Framers of our Constitution, the states (state legislatures) are the proper parties to check the power of the federal government. Only the states are powerful enough (state sovereignty; dual sovereignty, Tenth Amendment) to prevent the federal government from holding a monopoly on Constitutional interpretation;
Whereas, the federal nature of our government system provides the most powerful of checks and balances on the tendency of the federal government to concentrate and expand its powers;
Whereas, by its very words and intention, the US Constitution represents a federal system whereby the sovereign powers of government are split between the States and the federal government. With respect to the express and limited responsibilities listed in the US Constitution, the federal government is sovereign and supreme, and in all other respects, the States and the People are sovereign. This critical balance provides the foundation of the Constitution, is the most important of our Checks and Balances, and essential for the preservation and security of individual liberty;
Whereas, Alexander Hamilton made this point clearly in his essay Federalist No. 26: “The State legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers, and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but, if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”;
Whereas, Thomas Jefferson pointed out the same in a letter he penned in 1811: “The true barriers of our liberty are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed.” [Letter to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811];
Whereas, North Carolina’s own James Iredell, as a justice on the first Supreme Court, discussed federalism his opinion in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia, (1793), which law schools teach is the first important reconsideration of the meaning of the federal system. Iredell noted: “Every state in the Union in every instance where its sovereignty has not been delegated to the United States, I consider to be as completely sovereign;…each state in the Union is sovereign as to all the powers reserved.” [Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1973)]
Whereas, even as recently as 2012, the Supreme Court acknowledged this important and critical relationship: in the Healthcare opinion, NFIB v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.” [NFIB vs. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519 (2012)];
Whereas, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in 2011, explained why federalism is so critical to maintaining the precious balance of power between the federal government and the States: “Federalism is more than an exercise in setting the boundary between different institutions of government for their own integrity. By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power.” [US v. Bond, 564 U.S. 211 (2011)];
Whereas, the Tenth Amendment was added as a “further declaration” of the federal nature of the government and a “further restrictive clause” and ensure that the federal government would be limited to the objects expressly delegated to it. The Tenth Amendment reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”;
Whereas, our Founders warned of the tendency of governments to become ambitious, to consolidate their powers, and in doing so, to burden the liberty rights of their citizens, and they advised and tasked the States to be eternally vigilante with respect to the actions of the federal government, to call out every abuse and infraction of its powers and demand redress, and to be eternally protective of their reserved sovereign powers;
Whereas, Thomas Jefferson, in addressing the first glaringly unconstitutional acts of the federal government (the Alien & Sedition Acts, most obviously the Sedition Act), drafted the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 to articulate the doctrine of NULLIFICATION as the proper remedy to address the usurpation. He wrote: “That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress…..”;
Whereas, James Madison, in a companion set of resolutions known as the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 articulated essentially the same: “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.”;
Whereas, Jefferson and Madison, in those documents and in others and especially in subsequent ones, explained in clear terms that it is the States, as parties to the compact (US Constitution), who have the right and duty to check the federal government’s powers;
Whereas, Thomas Jefferson explained, in his Kentucky Resolves of 1799, why the States had the right to judge for themselves when the federal government assumes undelegated powers: “That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction contended for by sundry of the state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism; since the discretion of those who adminster the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their powers.”;
Whereas, Jefferson then went on to explain in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799 what action the States should take: “: That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a NULLIFICATION, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy….” [It was in this document that the word “nullification” entered our lexicon];
Whereas, Jefferson and Madison, in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and in other documents and writings, explained that NULLIFICATION is the RIGHTFUL REMEDY to address federal over-reach, abuse, and acts of tyranny. Simply put, Nullification in the American sense, is the doctrine whereby the States, as parties to the compact (US Constitution), have the right and duty to notify the federal government of its abuse of powers, to publicly announce those acts as “unconstitutional,” and then to prevent them from being enforced;
Whereas, the state of North Carolina acceded into the union of States on November 21, 1789 by ratifying the Constitution, It entered the union as an independent and sovereign state;
Whereas, with its accession, North Carolina did not enter into a position of unlimited subordination to the general government, but ceded only certain enumerated and defined powers, reserving to itself the residuary mass of rights to self-government (which was established by the limited and express delegation of powers to the federal government and then restated in the Tenth Amendment);
Whereas, in debating whether to ratify the Constitution, it first rejected it outright for its failure to include a Bill of Rights. Only when Rep. James Madison introduced a Bill of Rights to the first US Congress on June 8, 1789 and then said Congress adopted those amendments on September 25, 1789 did North Carolina finally agree to ratify the Constitution and join the union;
Whereas, a Bill of Rights was incorporated as the first ten amendments to the Constitution, with amendments one thru eight (1-8) recognizing certain liberty rights that the federal government would be bound to respect and would not be permitted to regulate (ie, to deny, abridge, burden, or chill), amendment nine recognizing that the People have other liberty rights not specifically articulated, and amendment ten re-affirming the federal nature of the government system and re-affirming that the federal government is one of limited and express powers while the States retain all others (the “reserved powers”);
Whereas, the Preamble to the US Bill of Rights explains the great importance of our first ten amendments. It states: “The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;
Whereas, the “beneficent ends” included in the Preamble refer to the intention of the States to respect their sovereignty and to preserve Liberty, the very thing they fought the Revolution for;
Whereas, time has shown that the limited language of the Constitution, and even the “further declaratory and restrictive clauses,” have failed to achieve their specified intent, which is the constraint of the federal government;
Whereas, since the ratification of the US Constitution, the federal government has been permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation; the federal courts have happily done their part to re-interpret that document and to enlarge the powers to the federal government. Since the ratification of the US Constitution, the language and intent of its various articles, sections, and clauses have been incrementally and systematically misinterpreted, reinterpreted, misconstrued, mal-applied and or simply ignored through federal executive, legislative, and judicial usurpative action (resulting in a transformation that should have been legally accomplished according to the amendment process of Article V);
Whereas, the result has been the transformation of the government in DC into one much different than what was created by the States (the parties to the compact which was the US Constitution), and one that no longer serves the States as it was intended;
Whereas, the federal government, through its consolidation of power, instrumentalities, and monopoly over the federal courts, has increasingly entrenched upon the essential balance of sovereign power among itself, the States, and the People, to the great disservice of the latter two. The balance of power has tilted too far and for too long in the direction of the federal government and it is time to restore that balance. The result has been the usurpation of sovereign power from the States and the People, including the People of North Carolina, and that usurpation has become palpable.
THEREFORE, let it be RESOLVED that North Carolina recognizes what is at stake (with respect to the enjoyment of the individual liberty that our founding generation fought and died for) when the federal government is unable or unwilling to abide by the limits of power as imposed by the Constitution and will accept its rightful role in resisting federal over-reach and unlawful usurpation and in restoring said government back to its constitutional limits. North Carolina takes the warning given by Samuel Adams very seriously: “Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former, for the sake of the latter. – Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom. It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.”
And it FURTHER be RESOLVED that in recognition of the rights and duties imputed on the States under the compact known as the US Constitution, in recognition of its right and duty to re-establish the rightful balance of power between itself and the federal government under the Tenth Amendment, in recognition of its right and duty to secure and defend the liberties of its people, the state of North Carolina asserts its right and duty to review each action of the federal government for over-reach and abuse and to determine whether said action is unconstitutional; and if said action is indeed determined to be unconstitutional and abusive of the US Constitution, North Carolina reserves its right of Nullification – to declare said action “null and void” and to ensure, in any and every way possible, that said federal action is not enforced upon the people of the state;
And it FURTHER be RESOLVED that the North Carolina Legislature will enact Nullification bills as needed to address federal over-reach and to protect its people from being subjected to them.