Letter to the Editor

State nullification being questioned

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Editor:

The doctrine of state nullification is being discussed across the United States. Liberty-minded citizens, especially newspaper reporters and editors, should be thankful for this.

The 215-year-old doctrine of nullification is regaining standing as an accepted political tool. According to a May 6, 2013, Rasmussen poll, 52 percent of mainstream voters think states should have the right to block, within their own borders, any federal laws they believe to be unconstitutional.

If public support for HB 436, the Missouri Second Amendment Preservation Act, is any indication, the Missouri numbers are even higher. Thousands of citizens weighed in and told state officials that they had a constitutional duty to pass that bill as part of their responsibility to defend the People's right to keep and bear arms.

In total disregard of the peoples' wishes, governor Nixon vetoed HB 436. Other big-government proponents have joined the governor's claims that you just can't constitutionally fight the federal government the way Thomas Jefferson did 215 years ago.

Which is it? Is state nullification an unconstitutional relic of the founding era, or is it a viable constitutional responsibility of every official who swore an oath to defend the Constitution? And why should the media, of all people, support it? Both questions can be addressed with the same answer. When our forefathers separated from England and King George III, they declared that "Governments are instituted among Men" to "secure" our God-given rights. That includes state governments. Article I Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution declares that the "principle office" (role) of government is to protect our freedoms, and when it fails to do so, it "fails in its chief design."

In 1798, two states, Kentucky and Virginia, fulfilled their "principal office" by using nullification to defend the free speech and free press rights of newspapermen. In that year, friends of President John Adams and Congress enacted the Sedition Act, which made criticizing Congress or the President punishable by fines and imprisonment. The Act was no veiled threat. Dozens of nationally prominent and lesser known newspapermen were arrested and tried under the Sedition Act for simply expressing in print their opposition to policies of President Adam's administration or, ironically, the Sedition Act, itself. Ten "patriots" were convicted and fined under this unconstitutional law for speaking out and printing their opposition to the Federal Government's actions.

The legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia couldn't help people in other states, but they passed the 1798 Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, to protect the rights of their home-state newspapermen by declaring null and void the unconstitutional Sedition Act within their own borders. Nullification is part of the heritage of the American free press.

We only need to look at the recent covert collection of the AP's phone records, without a warrant, by the Justice Department to realize that we would be wise to keep our political options open. Every freedom-minded Missouri citizen needs to contact their State Senator and State Representative and ask them to vote to over-ride Governor Nixon's veto of HB436, the Missouri Second Amendment Preservation Act, before Sept. 11, 2013.

Darrel Franson

Mount Vernon, Missouri