Nullification is the legal theory that a state has the right to nullify (invalidate) any federal law that they see as unconstitutional
The state, not the federal government, intimately determines and interprets the extent of the power
At the Hartford Convention, the idea of nullification increasingly became associated with matters pertaining to slavery. The most famous statement of the theory of nullification, authored by John C. Calhoun, appeared in the South Carolina Exposition and protest of 1828.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (1798) declared that the states had the right to nullify laws of the federal government that had “overstepped boundaries”
Divided the national greatly
Some states believed in following all federal laws, no matter what
However, some states believed that they should be able to disregard (nullify) the laws as a state
The Tariffs of 1816 and 1824 divided the nation
Hurt the South greatly
Didn’t hurt the North as much
States Rights vs. Federal Rights
Been an issue since the Revolutionary War
Opposition began with the Articles of Confederation because many people felt it was too weak
States thought that they should be responsible for determining the constitutionality of laws
John Calhoun was one of the main senators that supported nullification
Laws and Decisions
Main argument: should states be able to nullify federal laws?
South Carolina decided to nullify federal laws
This infuriated Jackson
He threatened to hang John Calhoun because of this
Also threatened accusations of treason
If he had hung all nullifiers, many riots would’ve arose from anger because of people who believed in the nullification theory
Once states started to support the idea of nullification, the idea of unity in the nation quickly vanished
Laws weren’t the same throughout the country
Tariffs of 1816 and 1824
There were protectionist Tariffs
Southern States’ economy suffered
Northern States suffered no severe economic loss
This helped spark the idea of Nullification, by John C. Calhoun
Jackson was angered by this suggestion
Threatened accusation of treason
Threatened to Invade South Carolina and hang Calhoun
It was no longer a matter of preventing the Civil War after this, it was just a matter of delaying it
Many states realized that nullification wasn’t consistent between states
Didn’t earn them respect from the federal government
Led to secession
This secession of states eventually became one of the top five reasons for the Civil War
What Would We Do?
Our group would be inclined to accepting the federal laws, because municipalities that can veto the power of the combined municipalities negates the need for a combination of powers in the first place.
Nullification, and the concept surrounding it, has become a hot topic in the current session of Congress. The concept that 2/3 of states can disagree with a bill signed into law by the federal government as unconstitutional is becoming more of a reality. With the healthcare reform in dramatic debate many citizens either want to repeal the law in its entirety or change certain aspects before it goes into full effect. Usually the use of the 2/3 concept is rare and does not have enough support - yet there is potential to actually repeal the law, formally called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The current context of nullification has multiple similarities to the events leading up to the Civil War.
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