Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back to the Present

I'm not sure how to write this. Walter E. Williams has written an article in which he argues in favor of both Succession and Nullification, two "constitutional" rights that have been been null since the 1860s. But Williams finds them still valid.
While the U.S. Constitution does not provide a specific provision for nullification, the case for nullification is found in the nature of compacts and agreements. Our Constitution represents a compact between the states and the federal government. As with any compact, one party does not have a monopoly over its interpretation, nor can one party change it without the consent of the other. Additionally, no one has a moral obligation to obey unconstitutional laws. That's not to say there is not a compelling case for obedience of unconstitutional laws. That compelling case is the brute force of the federal government to coerce obedience, possibly going as far as using its military might to lay waste to a disobedient state and its peoples.
What makes this somewhat more disturbing is the sight of Williams, a black man, arguing in favor of two principles who's historical usage was to preserve slavery (although not the most interesting position he's taken). Nullification first appeared in an attempt by South Carolina to require black seaman to be imprisoned while in port. It's most famous use was over tariffs it is true, but with one eye on what can the Federal Government impose should they decide to approach the question of slavery.

At any rate the doctrine of nullification ended in the 1830s and succession of course was put to bed in the Civil War. Seems unlikely that either doctrine will be successfully applied today, Texan political posturing notwithstanding.

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