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by Mike Maharrey
State nullification of unconstitutional acts presents one of the most contentious issues in modern American politics.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison first formalized the principles in 1798, but opponents use a later document penned by Madison to assert he never supported the idea, and in fact, opposed state nullification. Progressives and conservatives alike point to Madison’s Notes on Nullification in an attempt to delegitimize the principles.
In Smashing Myths: Understanding Madison’s Notes on Nullification, Michael Maharrey digs deep into Madison’s 1835 exposition on nullification and reveals that the “Father of the Constitution” was not denying the legitimacy of nullification as understood in 1798 at all, but in fact, affirmed the principles.
Maharrey analyzes Madison’s Notes on Nullification paying careful attention to context. He examines passages used by nullification opponents in light of historical context, their placement within the document itself and Madison’s other work to show that opponents misconstrue their meaning by trying to force them to stand alone. He goes on to show that while opposing a form of nullification invented by John Calhoun and other South Carolina statesmen, Madison continued to affirm Jeffersonian nullification as articulated in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798.
Drawing on both his experience as a journalist and knowledge gained from years studying the historical, philosophical and constitutional roots of nullification, Maharrey provides an in depth exegesis of the Notes and presents it in an easy to read, logical format. It is accessible to the layperson, but will challenge the academic.
Smashing Myths: Understanding Madison’s Notes on Nullification is a must read for anybody interested in the principles of nullification and their constitutional legitimacy
eBook: 50 pages
Publisher: Tenth Amendment Center (November 18, 2013)