Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Addendum to the Revolution: An Open Letter to Ron Paul Supporters

The disastrous presidency of George W. Bush is to the cause of government reform what the sinking of the Titanic must have been to lifeboat manufacturers: a colossal case-in-point. But as much as Bush, Cheney, and the whole motley executive branch crew have rankled our sensibilities, I think we give them too much credit.

The truth of the matter is that Congress bears far more responsibility for the overthrow of our constitutional Republic than George W. Bush, or even the worst of our former presidents. It is Congress that has passed the laws and created the meddlesome agencies that the friends of freedom so despise. Congress gave us the Federal Reserve, the 16th Amendment and the IRS, the Department of Education, the PATRIOT ACT, the REAL ID Act, the Military Commissions Act, and so forth. It is Congress that has steadily built our national debt into a financial Tower of Babel. It is Congress that has allowed George W. Bush to get away with waging undeclared wars, ignoring the laws, and trampling the Constitution, just as it has allowed past presidents to get away with various acts of usurpation (bear in mind that George W. Bush is basing his actions on the examples of men like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt). Congress also approved the Supreme Court and lower federal court judges that are providing the pseudo-constitutional authority for these excesses and abuses of power.

Presidents have considerable power and influence, and sending Ron Paul to the Oval Office could certainly do much to put the brakes on our runaway federal system; but make no mistake: there will be no real or lasting revolution unless we send the authoritarian establishment in Congress on a permanent vacation. For one thing, they've richly earned their pink slips (I'm being overly polite here - actually they've earned a one-way trip into deep space); for another, they could, and I believe would, present an enormous obstruction to Ron Paul's agenda. President Paul will be able to accomplish much, I'm sure, especially during his first 100 days, and by virtue of the powerful statement that his election will send; but big government Democrats and Republicans, ably assisted by powerful media and special interest friends, are not going to stand idly by while he tears down their treehouse. They understand that the American public is fickle, and they are nothing if not masters of the political dark arts. Like wounded animals, they will bide their time in the aftermath of a Ron Paul victory, but rest assured that they will do their best to hamstring and humiliate him at the first available opportunity. And after that first round, it will be open season on the Paul Administration and the ideals it champions.

This may sound rather doom-and-gloomy in these heady days where America is discovering Ron Paul and re-discovering the traditional ideals for which he stands; but if we are serious in our intention to turn America around, we are going to have to take on the legislative branch in addition to the executive. We are going to have to give Ron Paul a Congress that he can work with. And with both the legislative and executive branches in our corner, we will be able to reform the judiciary as well (via impeachment, if by no other means).

In short, throw the bums out!

Let the word go out through the Ron Paul revolution camp: vote for no congressman or senator who has supported the neo-conservative big government, police-state agenda. Support only those candidates who will pledge (in writing, preferably) to support constitutional liberty at home and non-intervention abroad. And if there are no suitable candidates currently running in your area, work with other Ron Paul revolutionaries to recruit them. We can help one another with filing fees and publicity, just as surely as we have helped the Paul campaign to raise millions of dollars and to get the word out, and we don't have to hurt the Paul campaign in the process. Also, bear in mind that, while it would be ideal to see all of the bums thrown out, we don't necessarily have to achieve that in order to be effective. Even a few congressmen or one or two senators could block the passage of harmful legislation, or help ensure the passage of helpful legislation.

At the very least we could bring the sort of pressure to bear on Congress that we have been so effectively exerting against those who have been ridiculing Ron Paul and trying to exclude him from the process. A good place to start with this would be pressuring the United States Senate to reject the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (S. 1959), which, if passed, will pave the way for the federal government to intimidate and ultimately silence pro-freedom organizations. Let's not let that happen. Let's band together to defeat this legislation, to repeal the PATRIOT ACT and other harmful laws that have already been passed, and to rein in George W. Bush before he starts posing for the cameras with his hand in his shirt. Let's bring the full weight of this movement's energy to bear on the enemies of freedom. If we can do this, we can not only begin to halt the march toward fascism, but we can convince many fence-sitters that Ron Paul and his revolution are for real, that we are not going away, that we are a force to be reckoned with, that we will not surrender our Republic without a struggle, and that we can win this election.

It's a great day to be a Ron Paul revolutionary, and there's nothing wrong with celebrating the successes we've seen lately. But let's not overlook the larger picture. Putting a good president in the White House is not enough to restore the Republic. Firing the captain of a mutinous ship is not going to turn it around if the crew is as mutinous as the captain. We need both a new captain and a new crew if we're going to plot a new course.

Let's not settle for a partial victory next November. Let's take this revolution all the way, starting now.

Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his blog. He lives in South Carolina with his family, and is working on a career as a freelance writer.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Dream that was America -- or -- Moscow on the Potomac

In Ridley Scott's film Gladiator, the ailing Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (portrayed by the late Richard Harris) travels from the comforts of Rome to the muddy battlefields of second century Germania on a mission. The Roman army, fighting under the capable leadership of General Maximus (Russell Crowe), has finally defeated the Germanic tribesmen, and Aurelius now longs to turn his attention from the maintenance of an empire to the restoration of a republic. The chief obstacle that stands in his way is his own failing health. Rome needs a young, strong and vigorous leader to take it down the path that Aurelius envisions. His son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) is weak and spoiled, full of base ambition, not at all the man for the job of relinquishing power. Maximus is the man Aurelius wishes to succeed him to the imperial seat, but Maximus is tired of war and strife, and more than anything else he simply wants to return home. In the following lines of dialogue, Aurelius struggles to convince Maximus that Rome still needs its finest soldier:

MAXIMUS: "5,000 of my men are out there in the freezing mud. 3,000 are cleaved and bloodied. 2,000 will never leave this place. I will not believe they fought and died for nothing."
AURELIUS: "And what would you believe?"
MAXIMUS: "They fought for you and for Rome."
AURELIUS: "And what is Rome, Maximus?"
MAXIMUS: "I have seen much of the rest of the world. It is brutal and cruel and dark. Rome is the light."
AURELIUS: "Yet you have never been there. You have not seen what it has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end he wants to know that there has been some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher, the warrior, the tyrant? Or will I be remembered as the Emperor who gave Rome back her true self? There was once a dream that was Rome, you could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter."

Most of you probably know the story. Commodus learns of his father's intentions, kills Aurelius and tries to do the same to Maximus, who barely escapes with his life. Maximus is sold into slavery, becomes a gladiator, and eventually fights in the Colosseum under the eye of Commodus. At one point in the film, Maximus points toward the bloodthirsty crowd awaiting him and exclaims, "Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome... And this is not it. This is not it!"

Say whatever derogatory thing you will about Hollyweird; chances are, I'll see your insult and raise you a little righteous indignation. But every once in awhile a film comes along with a message that rings true in a powerful way. Braveheart was such a film. And while Gladiator isn't quite on the same level (the story it depicts is fictional), it carries its own impact. The struggle it portrays, that of a good man battling against evil in high places, has universal appeal. The ideals behind the story rise above its historical setting.

And every time I hear Richard Harris speaking as Marcus Aurelius I can't help but think: there was once a dream that was America too, and I fear that it may not survive the next election.

For a moment, set aside your party affiliation and whatever special interest you might have and travel back in time with me. We won't need to go far; the seventies and eighties will do just fine. This was the era in which I grew up.

It was also the latter part of the Cold War. The Soviet Union was our great enemy. Why? Because the Soviets were communists, and communists were the sworn enemies of freedom. They were not merely authoritarians but totalitarians. The Soviets believed in absolute state control over every aspect of an individual's life, and they were intent on spreading their system throughout the world.

I clearly remember being taught that, in the Soviet Union, fear ruled with an iron fist. Government spies were everywhere. The secret police could listen in on your phone calls at any time. They could read your mail. They could search your home and other property and seize whatever they liked. You could never be certain that you weren't being watched, no matter where you were. You had to carry identification papers everywhere you went, and many times you had to have permission to travel very far at all. And it wasn't just government agents that you had to be concerned about; you also had to live with the fear that your own friends, co-workers or family members might report you for "suspicious activities" or "politically questionable statements," sometimes for no other reason than to endear themselves to the communist party bosses. You had no enforceable rights where the state was concerned. Government agents could kick your door down in the middle of the night, drag you away to a state prison, torture you and even execute you. Your family would never know where you were. More than likely, you would not have legal council or ever see the inside of a courtroom. You were the property of the state, which was free to do whatever it liked with you.

We called this oppressive, militaristic mega-state "the Evil Empire," and we prided ourselves on being everything that the Soviets were not.

In America, the common man had enforceable rights, even where the government was concerned. Americans were not the property of the state. You could travel where you wished, and most of the time the government didn't care about what you were doing. Americans could say what they wished, engage in whatever peaceful political activities they wished, with no fear of violent reprisal. Americans did not disappear into gulags. If the government accused you of illegal activities, it had to give you a day in court and prove its case before a jury of your peers. Sure, America had its problems; virtually everyone admitted that. But we were still the "land of the free," and our institutions and daily lives backed that claim to a high degree, certainly in comparison to the Soviet Union.

This is the dream that was America versus the nightmare that was the Soviet Union.

Now, fast-forward in time. As I write this, fewer than twenty years have passed since the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War specter lifted. The Soviet Union is gone, and America...well, if you had told us in the 1970s or 1980s what America would be like today, and where it seems to be heading, I don't think we would have believed you.

You see, today the American government tells us that it can spy on us whenever and however it likes. It can read our e-mail and postal mail, track our financial records, pry into our medical histories, force libraries to turn over lists of the books we read, force internet service providers to turn over records of our surfing habits, and tap our phones and record our calls. It can deny us the right to travel without certain government approved "papers". It can send its agents into our homes without warrant and remove whatever it wishes, without ever notifying us. The president claims that he can seize anyone, including American citizens, and turn them into non-persons. The government – the American government – can arrest you without warrant, put you into prison without charge, and hold you for as long as it pleases. It can deny you legal council and try you before a military court, where none of the regular rules of evidence and reasonable person standards apply, and where your guilt will be assumed. It can subject to you "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture, by any other name – “Ve hev vays of making you talk"), and you will have no recourse. Your family may not be permitted to know where you are. President George W. Bush (a member of the party that once prided itself on being the "party of limited government," and that even now prides itself on being the party that brought down the Evil Empire) has decided that he can ignore whatever laws he chooses. He in fact is the law, in his own opinion. Further, he tells us that what he and the members of his administration do is not open to public scrutiny for "national security" reasons, that they are not accountable to anyone. In fact, they bristle if you question them at all, and suggest that maybe you don't have the best interests of the country in mind.

This is America, 2007; not the Soviet Union, circa 1980. Like it or not, we are, by degrees, becoming like the very thing we once hated. And we are becoming more like it all the time.

Some will call this unpatriotic nonsense. "We're nothing like the Soviets," they claim. "We're just changing to meet the changing threats of our time, and if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about."


So, we can do the same types of things that the Soviets did but not be like them? We can adopt their police state tactics, spy on people like they did, hold secret courts like they did, kick down doors and haul people away like they did, throw people into secret prisons like they did, torture people like they did, refuse to answer questions like they did, ignore the laws like they did, and criticize the opposition as being disloyal like they did...and yet be nothing like them? Notice that I'm not saying that we're the same as the Soviets; I'm saying that we're becoming progressively more like they were, that we're on a slippery slope here, and that we're desperately trying to rationalize our way out of confronting the obvious (torture isn't torture as long as we don't call it that, etc).

Tell me, how much evil do you have to do before you yourself become evil? Is there a certain magic number of people that we need to have in prison without charge before it becomes wrong? How many do we have to waterboard and stuff into cramped, freezing cells before it becomes un-American?

And as for not having anything to worry about as long as you haven't done anything wrong – please, don't tell me you've fallen for this! This argument assumes two things: 1) that the government is accountable to someone for what it does with you, and 2) that it has to prove that you've done something wrong before anything bad can happen to you. Neither one of these is necessarily true anymore. All the government has to do is classify you as a suspected "terrorist" and the legal niceties that we used to call "rights" suddenly vanish, along with all of their guarantees. If the president and his subordinates have the authority to ignore the laws of the land, then whether or not you've done anything illegal is a moot question by default, because the law no longer exists as far as you are concerned! You are no longer being judged by that standard; you are being judged by the whims of the powerful, whose motives and actions are not being judged by anyone. You cannot tie the hands of the law and then expect it to protect you.

Our Founding Fathers understood this. This is why they required an oath to support the Constitution on the part of our government officials, because they knew that the only way the common people can be safe from tyranny is if their government is restrained by the law. The Constitution isn't there to hinder us, it's there to protect us – because freedom is fragile. It must be guarded, handled delicately, cared for like the precious thing that it is.

Some will argue with the comparisons I've made to the old Soviet Union, because, like General Maximus, they refuse to believe that our country is caught up in corruption, that our leaders have anything but pure motives, and that our men and women in uniform are dying for nothing but the most honorable of causes. They too have seen much of the rest of the world, if only by way of CNN or Fox News, and they find it brutal and cruel and dark. America is their light in that darkness, and as long as it remains a bit brighter than what they see around them, they seem willing to overlook the fact that our "city on a hill" doesn't shine as brightly as it once did. Cruelty, brutality and darkness are creeping in here, but as long as we're not as bad as someone else, we're generally content with our illusions of safety and superiority. We find no contradiction, no hypocrisy in speaking the tyrannical language of the Soviet state with an American accent.

God forgive us. The men who froze at Valley Forge, who crawled up the beaches of Normandy into the murderous teeth of Nazi machine gun fire, who faced undreamed of horrors in steamy jungles thousands of miles from the comforts of home, did not fight so that we could let our country slip into the hands of those who would re-make us in the image of our enemies. Whether you agree with every cause that Americans have spilled their blood for or not, we can acknowledge that most of them believed that they were fighting for freedom, to protect the whisper-fragile American dream. They didn't sacrifice to give us Moscow on the Potomac. We owe them, ourselves, and the future generations who must live with the world we give them, more, much more, than to let this happen with so little struggle.

There was once a dream that was America. And friends, this is not it. This is not it.

Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his blog: He lives in South Carolina with his family.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Christians regarding Decision 2008

Fellow Christians,

Our country stands at a crossroads. We have faced many difficult times, made many important decisions, in our history; but not since the 1860s have we seen such a struggle as is now underway to define this Republic, to chart its course into the future and to define its place among the nations of the world.

Many voices clamor for our attention. They offer different ideas, born of different values; but for all of the ways in which they differ, there is one element that most of them have in common: they plan to rule. They intend to force their ideals upon all of us, to use our hard-earned tax dollars to further their partisan agendas, to compete with us for the education and moral rearing of our children, to subordinate our freedoms to their pursuit of power, and to put our lives and those of our loved ones at risk for their global ambitions. They will see to it that we the people become servants of the government that was originally established to serve us. They will unapologetically undermine the values that we as Christians hold dearest: the sanctity of life, the rule of law, the sanctity of the home, the sovereignty of our country, the right to raise our children as we see fit, and the freedom to rise to the heights of our God-given potential.

Fortunately, there is one candidate who stands apart from the crowd.

Congressman Ron Paul stands alone among the current presidential contenders in opposition to the authoritarian agenda. Where so many other politicans have paid lip-service to Christian, liberty-friendly values while on the campaign trail, only to betray those ideals once elected, Congressman Paul has established a firm reputation as a statesman and a man of the highest personal integrity, one who refuses to compromise our liberties and the Constitution that enshrines them, and who actually lives by the values he claims to cherish. Not since Ronald Reagan have we been presented with a candidate for president who would restore respect for constitutional rule in Washington and would protect the values that Christians hold dearest.

The following are some of the ways that Congressman Paul, who is a professing Christian and faithful church-attender, has proven his liberty-friendly, Christian values. Click on the links to read his remarks and to view video from some of his speeches:


- As an OB-GYN who has delivered over 4,000 babies in a medical career spanning forty years, Ron Paul stands firm against abortion. He has voted to prohibit federal funding of abortions, voted to ban partial-birth abortions, voted against federal funding of fetal stem-cell research, and has authored a bill entitled the Sanctity of Life Act (twice introduced in Congress), which would define life as beginning at conception, and which would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade by removing the issue of abortion from the appellate jurisdiction of the federal courts. "A pro-life culture can be built only from the ground up, person by person," says Congressman Paul. "For too long we have viewed the battle as purely political, but no political victory can change a degraded society. No Supreme Court ruling by itself can instill greater respect for life. And no Supreme Court justice can save our freedoms if we don't fight for them ourselves."


- Ron Paul believes in the traditional definition of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. He spoke in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states; and in 2005, he authored the We the People Act, which would give states the freedom to pass laws regulating marriage and sexuality without risking intervention from the federal courts. Speaking in Congress on October 1, 2004, Congressman Paul stated: "I am unwilling either to cede to federal courts the authority to redefine marriage, or to deny a state’s ability to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. Instead, I believe it is time for Congress and state legislatures to reassert their authority by refusing to enforce judicial usurpations of power." Unlike many prominent so-called "family values" politicians, Congressman Paul walks the talk. He is a devoted family man and has been married to the same woman for fifty years.


- Ron Paul favors abolishing the unconstitutional Department of Education, and is committed to ensuring that "home schooling remains a practical alternative for American families". In 2001, Congressman Paul introduced the
Family Education Freedom Act in Congress. Had it passed, this bill would have provided tax credits of up to $3,000 for parents who wished to pursue private education or homeschooling alternatives. In his bill, Congressman Paul underscored the importance of giving parents primary control over the education of their children: "Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, this bill is about freedom. Parental control of child rearing, especially education, is one of the bulwarks of liberty. No nation can remain free when the state has greater influence over the knowledge and values transmitted to children than the family."

Children and Health Considerations:

- Ron Paul believes that parents, not government, should be in charge of making decisions regarding the health and general well-being of children. In 2007, Congressman Paul introduced H.R. 2387, the Parental Consent Act, a bill that would have forbidden the use of federal funds to pay for universal mental health screening. The bill would also have blocked federal funding for any local education entity or government agency that brought charges of child-abuse or neglect against parents who did not consent to the mental health screening of their children. Among his reasons for opposing mandatory mental health screening, Congressman Paul
states: "Forced mental health screening simply has no place in a free or decent society. The government does not own you or your kids, and it has no legitimate authority to interfere in your family’s intimate health matters...The bottom line is that mental health issues are a matter for parents, children, and their doctors, not government." Additionally, Congressman Paul fears that, "Screening programs will be influenced by politics. Children of religious parents, for example, risk being labeled 'homophobic'."

The Culture War:

- In a
2003 article on the controversy surrounding Christmas celebrations, Congressman Paul stated that what was being called an effort for tolerance was actually "a war against religion". He wrote: "The justification is always that someone, somewhere, might possibly be offended or feel uncomfortable living in the midst of a largely Christian society, so all must yield to the fragile sensibilities of the few. The ultimate goal of the anti-religious elites is to transform America into a completely secular nation, a nation that is legally and culturally biased against Christianity." Congressman Paul has acted to protect our religious freedoms in the halls of Congress. In 1997, he supported a constitutional amendment that would have protected the right to "acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience" on public property, including the right of children to pray in school.

Taxes and Government Accountability:

Ron Paul has never "voted to raise taxes, never voted for an unblanced budget, never voted to raise congressional pay, has never taken a government-paid junket, and does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program." He has never voted in favor of wasteful spending and "returns a portion of his congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year." Indeed, he has earned the nickname "Dr. No" in Washington because he refuses to vote for any measure that is not specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution. Congressman Paul opposes the unconstitutional Federal Reserve, would take steps to abolish the I.R.S., and favors returning America to a sound currency standard. "Tax relief is important," the Congressman tells us, "but members of Congress need to back up tax cuts with spending cuts – and they need to vote NO on every wasteful appropriations bill until we start over with the federal budget. True fiscal conservatism combines both low taxes and low spending."

American Sovereignty:

- Congressman Paul opposes all attempts to override American sovereignty, including the idea of
forming a North American Union by joining the United States, Mexico and Canada under a common government and currency. He supports securing our borders against the current tide of illegal immigrants, particularly by denying illegal aliens access to welfare, and stands against attempts to grant amnesty to illegals currently in the United States. In 2003, he authored the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which would have removed the United States from the United Nations and protected Americans against attempts to bring this country under international control. Commenting on the globalist threat, Congressman Paul states: "Perhaps the most seriously damaged victim of this approach is our own constitutional republic, because globalism undermines both the republican and democratic traditions of this nation. Not only does it make a mockery of the self-rule upon which our republic is based, it also erodes the very institutions of our republic and replaces them with international institutions that are often incompatible with our way of life."

Freedom and Privacy:

- "It is incumbent on a great nation to remain confident, if it wishes to remain free,"
writes Congressman Paul. "We need not be ignorant of real threats to our safety, against which we must remain vigilant. We need only to banish to the ash heap of history the notion that we ought to be ruled by our fears and those who use them to enhance their own power." Congressman Paul has been outspoken in his opposition to such recent federal measures as the Patriot Act and the REAL ID Act, on the basis that they are unconstitutional and unnecessary usurpations of our liberties. He argues that they actually make us less safe because they remove the protections our Founding Fathers provided in order to guard us from tyranny, and detract from efforts to identify and neutralize true terrorists. He believes that freedom is the best security, that the Constitution should be our guideline in both foreign and domestic affairs, and that no one, including the President of the United States, should be above the law. To that end, he would end illegal wire-taping and other domestic spying programs and re-instate the rule of law. "Most governments, including our own, tend to do what they can get away with rather than what the law allows them to do," he writes. "All governments seek to increase their power over the people they govern, whether we want to recognize it or not. The Patriot Act is a vivid example of this. Constitutions and laws don’t keep government power in check; only a vigilant populace can do that."

War and the Terrorist Threat:

- Congressman Paul strongly believes that our military should be used only to defend our national interests, not to enforce U.N. policy or to engage in nation-building campaigns. Ron Paul voted against the Iraq war on the basis that Iraq was not a threat to us and had nothing to do with the events of September 11, 2001. He believed that, in attacking Iraq for the purpose of enforcing U.N. resolutions, we were deviating from the historical Christian concept that the only just war is a defensive war, and that we should have concentrated on tracking down those who were directly responsible for 9-11. He maintains,
in conjunction with government findings such as those of the 9-11 Commission, that our current interventionist foreign policy was largely responsible for provoking the 9-11 attacks, and that our on-going occupation of Iraq is intensifying anti-U.S. sentiment across the globe and endangering our national security more than ever. Congressman Paul also has concerns regarding how the Iraq war is affecting Christians in Iraq: "The sad fact is that even under the despicable rule of Saddam Hussein, Christians were safer in Iraq than they are today. Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister was a practicing Christian. Today thousands of Christians have fled Iraq following our occupation...many Muslims see all that we do as a reflection of Western Christianity, which to them includes Europe and America. They see everything in terms of religion. When our bombs and sanctions kill hundreds of thousands of their citizens, they see it as an attack on their religion by Christians."

In response to criticism of his foreign policy ideals, including charges of "isolationism", Congressman Paul recently
stated: "A Paul administration would see Americans engaged overseas like never before, in business and cultural activities. But a Paul administration would never attempt to export democracy or other values at the barrel of a gun, as we have seen over and over again that this is a counterproductive approach that actually leads the United States to be resented and more isolated in the world." Ron Paul believes that it is time to bring our troops home. Saddam Hussein is gone, Iraq has a new government that is capable of taking over and maintaining order, al Qaeda is using our presence on Muslim soil as a recruiting tool, and U.S. government posturing is threatening to renew and expand conflict in the region. It is also interesting to note that, to date, Congressman Paul has received a greater percentage of campaign contributions from active-duty military than any other presidential contender, Republican or Democrat. Clearly, a large portion of our men and women in uniform agree with his foreign policy stance. See the following link for an in-depth debate of the U.S. foreign policy issue:

Fellow Christians, our government is out of control. It has taken on a mind and will of its own, far different from that which our Founders intended. Our highest elected officials no longer recognize the supreme authority of the Constitution that each of them swore to uphold upon entering office. As far as they are concerned, they are the law. The liberties with which we have been so blessed are being taken from us at an accelerated rate. Bureaucrats and judges are becoming more intrusive in the way we raise and educate our children. Some would even like to take away our ability to speak freely, particularly where biblical teachings offend certain special interest groups.

If America is to remain "the land of the free", if we are to honor the sacrifices of our patriotic forebearers, if we are to preserve the country and ideals that we love for future generations, we must remind our elected representatives that they are servants, not masters. We must re-instate the rule of law and respect for the limited, constitutional government that our Founders gave us. While being ever ready to act in our own defense, we must endeavor to live in peace with the nations of the world, holding forth our ideals, not by force, but by example as that "shining city on a hill" that President Ronald Reagan once challenged us to envision.

As Election 2008 heats up, only one man running for the White House has the courage, the principles, and the proven track-record to return this country to constitutionalism, freedom, and the Christian values of liberty, integrity, and the rule of law. His name is Ron Paul, and I urge you to carefully, prayerfully consider giving him your full support.

Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation, Indivisible, A Study of Secession and the Constitution. His articles are achived at He lives in South Carolina with his family.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Review of "When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession," by Charles Adams

Book review: When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, by Charles Adams.

"You must not tell the truth if it hurts a national hero." - Anonymous commentator, cited in The Last Place on Earth, by Roland Huntford.

Did you know...

- That Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, stated his support for the Corwin Amendment, which had just passed Congress, and which would have guaranteed the existence of slavery in perpetuity as an 'unamendable amendment' to the United States Constitution?

- That, at the start of the war in 1861, Congress passed a resolution stating that the war "is not waged on our part...for interfering with the rights, or established institutions of these [the Confederate] States"...meaning slavery?

- That Abraham Lincoln actually countermanded emancipation orders issued by Union General Fremont in Missouri early in the war on the basis that "It was a war for a great national idea, the Union" and that "General Fremont should not have dragged the Negro into it"?

- That Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley (a prominent abolitionist and editor of the New York Tribune) stating that, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it"?

- That Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed only those slaves in areas of the Confederate States that were not controlled by Union armies, but left those in occupied territory and border states in slavery?

- That Congress, devoid of any representatives from the Confederate States, did not pass an amendment to outlaw slavery until December of 1865, months after Lincoln was dead and the war was over?

All of the above are facts, and yet few Americans are aware of them. Why? For that simple reason that, since the end of the war in 1865, a concerted effort has been made to present Abraham Lincoln and his comrades in Union blue as humanitarian crusaders bent on achieving the equality referenced in the Declaration of Independence.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lincoln himself stated many times that he was not in favor of equality between the races, a fact underscored by his participation in the American Colonization Society: an organization dedicated to relocating American blacks to such places as Africa and South America - anywhere but the United States. Had Lincoln and his Republican colleagues pushed for racial equality, the GOP would have died in its infancy. Lincoln himself admitted in 1858 that the vast majority of Americans (including himself) strongly opposed the idea.

Nevertheless, the modern image of Lincoln as a 19th Moses leading slaves out of bondage should not surprise us. All throughout human history, the factions that have won wars have done their best to present themselves in the best light possible, while simultaneously denigrating their enemies. They do this for two primary reasons: 1) to morally justify the enormous loss of life and destruction that wars cause, and 2) so that future generations will embrace them as heroes and accept their vision of the world. Sometimes, what they have to say is true; sometimes it is not. It is up to us to look back into the past, weigh the facts for ourselves, and decide where the virtue and blame truly lie in the history of any given conflict.

For those interested in the American war of 1861-1865, Charles Adams' book When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession should, along with the works of men such as Thomas DiLorenzo and Clyde Wilson, be considered 'equal time for the other side'. As such, I believe it is well worth your time and careful consideration.

"The thesis that the solid South seceded to protect slavery just does not make sense," writes Adams:
"The institution of slavery had never been more secure for the slave owners, with the Supreme Court in their back pocket; with the Constitution itself expressly protecting slavery and mandating the return of fugitive slaves everywhere -- a mandate Lincoln said he would enforce; with Lincoln also declaring that he had no right to interfere with slavery and no personal inclination to do so; with Lincoln personally supporting a new constitutional amendment protecting slavery forever -- an amendment expressly made irrevocable."
Indeed, rather than slavery, Adams argues that the war between North and South had more to do with taxation and competing economic interests; and he supports this assertion with an impressive variety of facts. Of particular interest here is that Adams quotes extensively from European sources, including newspaper accounts and the perspectives of such well-known figures as Charles Dickens and Karl Marx. Of all the books I have read on this subject, none weigh the international opinion so frankly and heavily as Adams does for us here. He also takes time to investigate the history of secession and to compare and contrast the ideology of the American Revolution with that of Lincoln and his Northern war partners. Again, the European perspective is evaluated, and we are treated to such thought-provoking quotes as the following from England's Cornhill Magazine: "With what pretence of fairness, it is said, can you Americans object to the secession of the Southern States when your nation was founded on secession from the British Empire?"

The only real words of criticism that I have for Adams is that I believe he downplays the role of slavery too much when he evaluates the causes of secession. He is absolutely correct in maintaining that the war was not fought over the question of slavery, but that does not mean that it played no role whatsoever in the events leading up to the war. There are prominent references to slavery in several of the secession ordinances of the Southern states; and while Adams would maintain that those references represent so much political posturing, I disagree. Although few Southerners actually owned slaves, slavery itself was an essential element of the Deep South economy, and an important aspect of the overall social fabric of 19th Century America (even many in the Northern states had no desire to see slavery end, as it might mean that freed blacks could move north). Thus, there were very real concerns regarding the institution and how Lincoln and his "Black Republicans" might interfere with it. Adams points out that Lincoln had promised not to interfere with it, but he forgets that Southerners trusted Lincoln about as far as they could throw him. I think Adams might have tackled the issue more successfully had he focused on the fact that, while several Southern states did mention slavery prominently in their ordinances of secession, the majority of their comments on the issue focused on sectional feeling (the "sectional, anti-slavery party in Washington," as South Carolina put it) and slavery's economic importance to the South (see Mississippi's ordinance). These factors tie back into his main thesis, while acknowledging that slavery did play a role in the secessions of the first seven Southern states to leave the Union (the latter four states seceded because of Lincoln's call for troops to be used against the first seven seceded states). Southerners simply had no desire to be dictated to, not on any issue; and they seceded when they became convinced that Northern interests had taken over the federal government, and that their best hope for protecting their interests lay outside the Union.

The 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth will be upon us in less than two years, and between now and then we will undoubtedly be subjected to a barrage of the usual Abe Lincoln-as-messiah-and-patriot-extraordinaire mythology. Swallow it if you will; but for those of you who are interested in the candid, and often downright ugly, truth about America's 16th president and its most disastrous conflict, I cannot recommend "When in the Course of Human Events" highly enough. My quibbles with him aside, Adams presents his evidence and conclusions in such a even-handed, scholarly and compelling manner that only the most ardent Lincoln admirers will be able to put the book down and walk away unaffected by it.

Also recommended in the 'equal time' department: The Real Lincoln and Lincoln Unmasked, both by Thomas DiLorenzo; Is Davis a Traitor? by Albert Taylor Bledsoe; The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, by Jefferson Davis; From Union to Empire: Essays in the Jeffersonian Tradition, by Clyde Wilson and Joseph Stromberg; A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, by Alexander H. Stephens; and One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, by yours-truly.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Nullification Revisited

(Originally published in two parts during the month of March, 2007 - I'm posting past articles before adding new material)
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. - James Madison, Federalist 45

Recent debates over sweeping new federal laws have re-ignited old quarrels concerning the proper constitutional role of the federal government and the rights and reserved powers of the states. As a case-in-point, on February 1, 2007, the Montana State House of Representatives unanimously passed two bills condemning the federal REAL ID Act as an improper use of federal legislative power. Both bills were designed to exempt Montana from the Act; however, the bill introduced by Representative Diane Rice of Harrison, Montana, went a step further, stipulating that, "the legislature of the state of Montana hereby nullifies the REAL ID Act of 2005, as it would apply in this state".

Read that again: "The legislature of the state of Montana hereby nullifies the REAL ID Act". Nullifies. Hmmm, there's a word we haven't seen in awhile, and with good reason. You see, the word "nullify” – like its conceptual kissing cousins "secession," "states rights," "delegated powers," and sometimes even "Constitution" – belongs to a special class of political four-letter words, so called for the reason that they are verboten in polite conversation amongst the political mainstream. In that parlance, they are akin to the type of words that self-conscious adults tend to spell-out in front of small children so as to avoid embarrassment, and are allowed to be spoken only in a historical context, and only when accompanied by an obviously derisive tone of voice.

For this reason it's understandable that the use of this little three-syllable word "nullify" will make some people skittish. Like a hand-grenade, the word is small but loaded with explosive potential, enough even to cow some otherwise hardy and ruggedly individualistic Montanans. According to, Hal Harper, an advisor to Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, downplayed the significance of the word 'nullify' when commenting on Diane Rice's bill, stating that it "is simply a synonym for 'repeal' and carries little significance beyond demanding that the federal government reverse its law." Technically, what Harper says is true; the word "nullify" can be used as a synonym for "repeal," although that is not its primary meaning, and its use in this context is rather dubious. To see what I mean, try using 'repeals' in place of 'nullifies' in the sentence that I quoted from Ms. Rice's bill. When you do this, you get: "the legislature of the state of Montana hereby repeals the REAL ID Act of 2005." Nope, I'm sorry, Hal, but this doesn't work. Montana didn't pass the REAL ID Act, so it can't very well repeal it; and nowhere in Ms. Rice's bill do I see any call for the federal government to "reverse its law". The bill simply states that the REAL ID Act "is inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Montana, will cause unneeded expense and inconvenience to those people, and was adopted by the U.S. congress in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the 10th amendment to the U.S. constitution," and that the state "nullifies" it "as it would apply in this state."

This language seems pretty clear to me. Ms. Rice's bill says that Montana doesn't like the REAL ID Act, doesn't think it's constitutionally sound, and won't have anything to do with it. End of story.

But a state can't do that...can it?

Most of us have been taught the idea that nullification, like secession, is unconstitutional; and further, that it is a discredited political doctrine. The federal government is absolutely supreme, thus the states are subordinate entities that must obey federal edicts – this is the reigning dogma in American politics, and one of the pernicious ideas that the elites are laboring to teach to school children. If you ask for proof, the supporters of this dogma (generally federal officials and those who benefit from the favor of same - surprise, surprise) will usually throw a quote from Abe Lincoln at you and tell you that ideas like nullification and secession died at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865. Why? Well, because that's the place where Lincoln and those who supported his authoritarian ideals finally wore down those who disagreed, and forced their surrender on the battlefield. Thus, nullification and secession are 'discredited' political doctrines largely for the same reason that your claim to your wallet can be 'discredited' by a mugger in an alley. Ask Rush Limbaugh if you don't believe me. "Might makes right" is the most sophisticated reason an authoritarian needs to do anything, although the idea tends to sell better if he wraps it in Old Glory and calls it "patriotism," while simultaneously demonizing his opposition as "anarchists" and/or "anti-American."
However, others of a less philosophically rigid sort understand that physical force cannot discredit an idea, and it is for their benefit that I offer the following discussion:

What is Nullification?

From the Random House Unabridged Dictionary:

Nullify - (verb)
1. to render or declare legally void or inoperative: to nullify a contract.
2. to deprive (something) of value or effectiveness; make futile or of no consequence.

Thus, when a state 'nullifies' a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or 'non-effective', within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.

A Short History of Nullification

Nullification has a long and interesting history in American politics, and originates in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. These resolutions, secretly authored by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, asserted that states, as sovereign entities, could judge for themselves whether the federal government had overstepped its constitutional bounds, to the point of ignoring federal laws. Virginia and Kentucky passed the resolutions in response to the federal Alien and Sedition Acts, which provided, in part, for the prosecution of anyone who criticized Congress or the President of the United States. Other instances followed, most famously in 1833, when South Carolina nullified the federal Tariff of 1828, which it deemed to be unconstitutional because it was specifically a protective tariff, not a revenue tariff. This act of nullification created a conflict between South Carolina and President Andrew Jackson, and nearly led to war before a compromise tariff was adopted. And lest it be assumed that nullification and state sovereignty were political doctrines unique to the Southern states, it should also be noted that there were times when the Northern states also asserted them (in particular, see the Hartford Convention of 1814 and the various "personal liberty laws" that Northerners enacted in defiance of federal fugitive slave laws).
And now, with that short introduction out of the way, let's get to the meat of the issue.

Is Nullification Constitutional? Compact Theorists versus Nationalists

In his opposition to South Carolina's decision to nullify the Tariff of 1828, Andrew Jackson denounced the idea that a state could "annul a law of the United States," arguing that nullification was "incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed." Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts agreed with Jackson in 1833, as did Abraham Lincoln in 1861. These men were nationalists. They believed that the Constitution of the United States had formed a consolidated nation-state, not a confederation, and thus they held to the idea that the Union was sovereign over the states. They also believed that the Constitution had been established among the "people of the United States" in the aggregate sense, not amongst the states themselves, and thus it was not a compact (or agreement) as the Jeffersonians contended.

As you can see, there are some intricate issues involved here, and I cannot possibly use the short space available in this article to do them all proper justice; however, I will do my best to summarize the main points in contention and provide some clear answers. I will do so by addressing the main points of those who oppose nullification and what is called the Compact Theory of the Constitution in favor of the consolidated nation-state idea. Those who are interested in a more thorough treatment of these issues (and the issues in contention during the war of 1861-1865) may wish to refer to my book, One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, among other works such as: When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, by Charles Adams; Was Jefferson Davis Right? by Ronald and Walter Kennedy; and The Real Lincoln and Lincoln Unmasked, by Thomas DiLorenzo.

Is the Union a Consolidated Nation-state, or a Confederation of States?

Those who favor the consolidated nation-state school have some serious problems to overcome, problems that go all the way back to the colonial era. To begin with, in spite of certain claims made by men like Webster and Lincoln to the effect that the American Union actually began in colonial times, the thirteen British colonies that eventually became the American states were always separate political entities. Certain attempts were made to institute a common government over them, but these plans were defeated by differences arising between the colonies and, further, by interference from Great Britain. Their strongest, pre-independence connection was their status as British subjects, and thus their mutual allegiance to the British crown. Nor did the Declaration of Independence create an American nation. Indeed, the Declaration merely established that "these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states." The colonists made no declaration establishing a Union of any type amongst themselves; they merely announced that they were united in their determination to be free of the British crown. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegate Luther Martin spoke to the truth of this when he said: "At the separation from the British Empire, the people of America preferred the establishment of themselves into thirteen separate sovereignties, instead of incorporating themselves into one."

Following the Declaration, the new American states began working on a plan of Union, a fact which, by itself, should establish that no such thing existed at the time. Thomas Jefferson recorded in his Autobiography that, "All men admit that a confederacy is necessary. Should the idea get abroad that there is likely to be no union among us, it will damp the minds of the people, diminish our struggle, and lessen its importance..." The plan of Union that finally emerged: the Articles of Confederation, required the agreement of every state to become effective, and so did not go into formal operation until March of 1781, when Maryland became the thirteenth state to ratify the document. Thus, the true birthday of the United States of America as a country is March 1, 1781, not July 1, 1776.

The Articles of Confederation were a political compact and established a Union of States, as even Daniel Webster later admitted. They declared outright that, "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressely delegated to the United States." Make note of the mention of sovereignty here, as being applied to the states; this will be important later in addressing nullification specifically.

In 1788, a convention called to repair defects with the Articles tossed its mandate aside and drafted a new Constitution, which was then presented to the states for ratification. Unlike the Articles, which had been ratified by the legislatures of the states (Rhode Island excepted), the Constitution was to be ratified by the people of each state via conventions called in each for that purpose. Also unlike the Articles, the Constitution was to become effective when ratified by nine states, but, as per its own language, it would be active only "between the states so ratifying the same" (see Article VII). In other words, the Constitution was to be binding only upon those states that agreed to it. As a result, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution in 1788, the Union was effectively broken up; Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island had not ratified, and thus were no longer politically united with the other nine states. James Madison testified to this fact in comments he made to Congress on June 8, 1790, concerning North Carolina and Rhode Island, neither of which had ratified the Constitution by that time: "I allude in a particular manner to those two states who have not thought fit to throw themselves into the bosom of the confederacy: it is a desirable thing, on our part as well as theirs, that a re-union should take place as soon as possible."

Like the Articles of Confederation, the new Constitution was also a compact between the ratifying states, as the language of Article VII (specifically the words, "between the states") demonstrates for us. Patrick Henry, speaking in Virginia's ratification convention, argued that it was actually a consolidated national form of government because it referred to ratification by "the people of the United States"; however, James Madison countered that idea. "Who are the parties to it?" asked Madison, "the people – but not the people as composing one great body – but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties." As evidence of this, Madison pointed to the fact that each state was ratifying the Constitution for itself, whereas, had it been a truly national endeavor, a binding ratification vote would have been taken among the American people as a whole. Those who crafted the Constitution, Madison included, had in fact considered a "national government...consisting of a supreme legislative, judiciary, and executive," but the plan had been rejected, and the word 'national' had been stricken from every resolution presented to the constitutional convention from that time forward. The founders, including that rascal Alexander Hamilton, repeatedly referred to the Constitution as a "compact" to which the states had "acceded" (agreed to join) and the new Union as a "confederacy" and a "confederate republic." The fact it was not to be a confederation along the same lines as had existed under the Articles did not diminish the fact that the new Union was still a form of confederation. As Hamilton stated during the constitutional convention: "Different confederacies have different powers, and exercise them in different ways...great latitude, therefore, must be given to the signification of the term."

Sovereignty and State Powers within the Union

Those who reject doctrines such as nullification and secession often point to the "Supremacy Clause" in Article VI of the Constitution, where we read: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary not withstanding." Nationalists frequently use this clause to argue that the federal government is supreme over the states in every way; however, this is an error, one that can be corrected readily enough by reading the clause again without wearing authoritarian goggles. The clause states that the Constitution and all laws made pursuant to it, are supreme, not the federal government itself or any law it passes at whim.

The powers of the federal government are, as the Constitution itself clearly states, "delegated," not inherent. In ratifying the Constitution, the states agreed to give up the exercise of certain sovereign powers (such as the power to declare war) in favor of having those powers exercised by the Union on behalf of all the states. All other rights and powers were to be retained by the states (see Amendments 9 and 10). This arrangement made the federal government a sort of agent of the states, authorizing it to act on their behalf in certain ways, while, at the same time, making it possible for the states to manage their internal affairs as they saw fit, and to peacefully interact with one another and with the nations of the world. Alexander Hamilton remarked on this state of affairs as follows in Federalists 32 and 33 respectively:
An entire consolidation of the States into one complete national sovereignty would imply an entire subordination of the parts; and whatever powers might remain in them would be altogether dependent on the general will. But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, exclusively delegated to the United States.

But it will not follow from this doctrine [the 'supremacy' provision of Article VI] that acts of the larger society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such. Hence we perceive that the clause which declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union…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...

These concepts were echoed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798:
Kentucky Resolution: "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…that to this compact each State acceded as a State…that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself… 
Virginia Resolution: "RESOLVED…That this Assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the Union of the States…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 that compact…"
A Constitutional Right to Resist

It follows logically that if a government is empowered to do only certain things, and is forbidden from doing anything else, that any attempts made by that government to reach beyond the scope of its rightful powers are illegitimate. Laws enacted on that basis are, therefore, not laws at all, but are "acts of usurpation," as Alexander Hamilton phrased it. It also follows logically that if a state has rights and powers that are reserved for its exclusive use, it must also possess the natural right to defend those rights and powers. This is the underlying justification for nullification. It is, in essence, an act of self defense on the part of a state, whereby it seeks to protect its reserved rights and powers from being overthrown by a usurper, and is, contrary to the ravings of the nationalists, both logically, morally, and constitutionally consistent. States are required to yield to federal authority only in those instances where the Constitution clearly states that such-and-such falls within the federal realm, such as the power to declare war, make treaties, etc. In all other instances (save only if the Constitution specifically forbids them from doing something) they are free to act as they please.

In light of this, Andrew Jackson's assertion that nullification is "incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed," is 180 degrees south of the truth. Nullification is entirely compatible with the existence of the Union because it finds its justification on the very foundation of the Union: the related principles of delegated authority and the separation of powers. It is not contradicted by the letter of the Constitution, in either an express or implied manner; however, federal usurpation is expressly prohibited by Amendments 9 and 10, and also by Article VI, which requires that all federal and state legislators, executives and judges pledge to uphold the Constitution (including its limited grants of power) by "oath or affirmation". It is absolutely authorized by the Constitution's "spirit," which rests in respect for the law and the separation of powers, and is perfectly consistent with every principle upon which the Constitution was founded. The "great object" for which the Union was formed was, in the words of James Madison (see Federalist 14), to serve as:
Our bulwark against foreign danger, as the conservator of peace among ourselves, as the guardian of our commerce and other common interests, as the only substitute for those military establishments which have subverted the liberties of the old world, and as the proper antidote for the diseases of faction, which have proved fatal to other popular governments...

Nullification - a state exercising its natural right to self-defense in protecting its reserved rights and powers - is not destructive of any of these things that Madison mentioned, but usurpation certainly is destructive of those ends, as we have seen illustrated time and time again throughout our history. Usurper presidents (most notably Abraham Lincoln) have killed more than half a million Americans in undeclared wars and other "police actions" and "peace-keeping missions," none of which are constitutionally authorized. Unconstitutional acts of Congress and activist courts have severely restricted our commerce and polluted our common interests with partisan, political corruption, thus exacerbating the very "diseases of faction" that Madison and others feared. And as for those "military establishments which have subverted the liberties of the old world," we are starting to see this now as well, as federal paramilitary raids increase against the civilian population (sometimes in defiance of state laws), and as the current government seems determined to employ military forces in future domestic "crisis" situations, with or without state cooperation and permission.

Responses to Two Common Objections

What about the Courts?

Some of you who read this article will inevitably ask: "What about the federal courts? Aren't they supposed to determine the constitutionality of a law or a given action?" Over time, nationalists -- thanks primarily to Chief Justice John Marshall's decisions early in the country's history -- have been very successful at planting the idea in the American mindset that our federal courts are the final arbiters of any and all constitutional issues, but there is actually no constitutional justification for this notion. Indeed, it may surprise you to learn that, in Federalist 81, Alexander Hamilton remarked that there is "not a syllable in the plan under consideration [the Constitution] which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State. I admit, however, that the Constitution ought to be the standard of construction for the laws, and that wherever there is an evident opposition, the laws ought to give place to the Constitution."

The role of the federal courts and the final determination of constitutional issues in dispute is, in my opinion, the Constitution's greatest failing. Article III empowers the United States Supreme Court with legitimate authority over all "cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution," and Article VI states that the Constitution is the "supreme Law of the Land…any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary not with-standing." As a result, it follows that the Court should have authority to rule in situations where violations of some clear constitutional provision are alleged to have occurred. However, what if the question before the court is not how the Constitution applies to a given matter, but if the Constitution applies to it at all? Or what if a verdict of the court introduces some new doctrine, and thus somehow changes the fundamental relationship of the federal government to the states and individual Americans? Now the question has undergone a radical change. We are no longer considering an overt – or, as Hamilton once put it, "evident" – violation of a constitutional provision or prohibition. In this case, we are dealing with the question of what are the delegated powers of the federal government and what are the reserved powers of the states and the people, of whether the federal courts, by involving themselves in a given matter, are somehow changing the Constitution and the framework of our country by fiat. In other words, the notion of federal judicial supremacy creates a 'separation of powers' issue (in some instances) because it makes the states subservient to an arm of the federal government in the matter of their reserved rights and status. Further, it turns the idea of delegated powers on its head by giving the federal government final authority in the matter of the scope of its own powers, thus giving it the ability to re-invent itself and evolve beyond its authorized scope.

Also, consider how the steady politicization of the federal courts has affected our society at large, given the steady expansion of judicial power. This issue came to light in a particularly noteworthy way following the 2000 General Election. When the matter of recounting votes was thrown into the courts, suddenly the media was filled with stories of how "Judge so-and-so" votes, or who appointed him, and whether he was a Republican or Democrat; but, interestingly enough, what was not being discussed was the fact that we were openly admitting that our court systems have become politicized, and that Lady Justice was no longer blind but actually on the take.

The politicization of our courts is now all but openly admitted as such, and some politicians and special interest leaders take considerable pride in their efforts to tip the scales of justice in their agenda’s favor. Consider any typical Senate hearing on the appointment of a federal judge or Supreme Court justice. Senators parade before the television cameras asking candidates how they feel on various litmus test political issues. Judicial appointments come down, not to whether the judge understands the Constitution and has a history of upholding the law, but to whether he passes the political litmus test of the dominant party! Thus, our sacred liberties under the law have slowly been supplanted by the advancement of political agendas operating in the halls of justice. Due to the efforts of the nationalists, we have lost the concept of federalism and the separation of powers. Anything and everything is now subject to being read into the federal Constitution, and politics reigns supreme.
The Constitution never foresaw the development of political parties or the way partisan wrangling would play havoc with our system of government, particularly how it would corrupt the courts. As such, nullification is an important means by which states can defend themselves against partisan abuses of federal power. The Constitution is imperfect in this regard, and, I believe, should be updated to provide for Thomas Jefferson's solution to the clash of federal versus state authority and constitutional ambiguities:
But the Chief Justice [Federalist John Marshall] says, 'there must be an ultimate arbiter somewhere.' True, there must; but does that prove it is either party? The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union, assembled by their deputies in convention, at the call of Congress, or of two thirds of the States. Let them decide to which they mean to give authority claimed by two of their organs. And it has been the peculiar wisdom and felicity of our constitution, to have provided this peaceable appeal, where that of other nations is at once to force.

Wouldn't Nullification lead to Anarchy?

Ah, my favorite authoritarian bogeyman, ANARCHY. Failure to comply with authoritarian wishes will lead to chaos, blood in the streets, the rise of the undead, mattress tags being thoughtlessly torn off by the millions, and a multitude of similar horrors. Good Lord, deliver us!

The assumption here seems to be that, should nullification ever come into fashion, that states will start nullifying whatever federal laws they please and the country will fall apart. This fear hardly seems warranted though, and for a number of reasons:

First of all, it is in the best interest of the states to support the federal government in its legitimate, constitutional roles – such as providing for the common defense – and to cooperate with one another. State government officials are well aware of this fact, as are the people of the states, and neither will have any desire to unnecessarily alienate themselves from the rest of the country or bring about a crisis. As James Madison wrote in his report on the Virginia Resolution against the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1800, "It does not follow, however, that because the states as sovereign parties to their constitutional compact, must ultimately decide whether it has been violated, that such a decision ought to be interposed in a hasty manner, or on doubtful and inferior occasions." As is true of the use of any of their other rightful powers, states should exercise discretion in their use of nullification.

Second, political overlap means that, regardless of whether politicians represent state or federal interests, members of the same political party can be expected to pull in roughly the same direction. This factor lessens the potential for confrontations between Washington and the states, except in instances where opposing political parties are involved.

Third, it is in the best interests of the country overall that partisan designs do not corrupt the law or the political process; and while this can occur at both the federal and state levels, it is arguably more dangerous a menace at the federal level. This is because the effects of a bad state law or judicial edict are usually confined to the state that passes it, whereas bad federal laws and edicts affect every state. Freedom is apt to flourish more in de-centralized rather than centralized societies.

Fourth, recognition of the fact that states are likely to nullify controversial federal laws or edicts may help restrain federal politicians from attempting such actions in the first place.
Fifth, states already ignore onerous federal laws and provisions on occasion, and handle their internal affairs differently on a variety of issues every day, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse have yet to ride. Consider that not every state has adopted mandatory seatbelt or motorcycle helmet usage, in spite of federal threats to withhold highway funds – New Hampshire is one such state. Some states (like Montana) allow individuals to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, or in Alaska's case, for any reason at all (up to a certain quantity limit), and this is in direct contravention of federal policy (federal agencies continue to illegally raid and imprison persons living in such states). Arizona and Hawaii do not recognize Daylight Savings Time. Nebraska has the country's only unicameral, non-partisan legislature. And for one last example, consider that the State of Utah recently withdrew from the federal No Child Left Behind program. In spite of all these differences between the ways that states conduct their business, and others that I do not have space to mention, the country has gotten along remarkably well. The only people who are anxious about these differences are elitist authoritarians who think that it is, or should be, incumbent on everyone to act as the authoritarians believe is best.


Far from being a discredited political doctrine, nullification is, in actuality, a constitutionally consistent principle whereby sovereign states can defend their reserved rights and powers from federal acts of usurpation, most of which are motivated by partisan politics and power scheming. It is in every way consistent with the Constitution's fundamental principles, most notably the concepts of delegated powers and the separation of powers. Indeed, it should be recognized that it is not so much a state that nullifies a federal law or act, as it is the Constitution that does so, in that the Constitution limits what the federal government may rightfully do. Viewed in that light, nullification is really nothing more than a state saying to the federal government, "The Constitution does not authorize you to do this, therefore, we are not obligated to submit to you in this matter, and are choosing not to do so."

The REAL ID Act of 2005 is plainly and simply unconstitutional, and therefore an act of usurpation. The Constitution does not grant the federal government power to dictate state driver licensing requirements, nor does it allow Washington to force Americans to carry 'papers'. If the State of Montana decides to nullify this so-called 'law', it will have every right to do so. I would even go so far as to argue that it would have the duty to do so, given that Montana's elected officials are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, of which the REAL ID Act is a naked violation.

Consequently, to Hal Harper and others who may have their doubts, I would say, stand up for yourselves with pride and assert your rights. Far too often these days, the federal government forgets that it is a servant tasked with certain limited duties, not an omnipotent master; and it is high time that it was put in its place – while such is still possible. Benjamin Franklin once said, "We have given you a Republic, if you can keep it." Simply put, nullification is all about "keeping it".