After General Lee surrendered at Appomattox many Southerners proclaimed that the North had won the war, but the battle over states rights will continue. Things are heating up again.
A new law being readied for the Idaho legislature attempts to revive a nearly two hundred year old policy of nullification. They want to nullify President Obama’s unpopular health legislation. Several other states are looking at the bill in case the current court challenge to the bill by 27 states, including Georgia, fails.
Nullification has been tried before. Most notable was the effort by South Carolina to nullify the federal tariff act in the 1830s. Known as the tariff of abomination, this measure was intended to force Southern agricultural states to trade with Northeastern businessmen rather than England where they were offered better prices for their cotton and timber and lower prices for England’s manufactured goods.
The Supreme Court ruled against South Carolina, but the uproar was so intense that the state was able to persuade the federal government to lower the taxes to a more reasonable level.
In 1854, Wisconsin sought to nullify the federal Fugitive Slave Act that forced non-slave states to return escapees, but again, the courts ruled in favor of the federal law. This new nullification effort will probably go the way of the original, being denied by the Supreme Court.
A greater possibility is the challenge of the Obama health law in the courts. As of now 27 states have joined the suit, or have declared an interest in the suit. This is an important number because it is close to the number of states needed to force a new constitutional convention.
The Constitution list two options for amendments. Either the Congress can recommend amendments, or two-thirds of the states, that is 34, can call for a new convention to recommend amendments. Then three fourths, or thirty eight, of states would have to ratify any changes before they became law.
There is a danger in a state-called constitutional convention. Once it is seated, such a convention would be free to recommend any number of amendments, even totally rewrite the constitution if they wish. Then if enough states agree, whatever they come up with will be the law of the land.
It might be a case of “be careful what you wish for, you might get it!”
In any event, many people are now convinced that the federal government has far overstepped the limits set for it by the Constitution and are determined to do something about it. This is likely revolt number three.
We won the first revolt (American Revolution), and lost the second one (The Southern Revolt that produced the Confederacy). So it will be interesting to see how the current revolt comes out. I only hope that this one will be fought out at the ballot box, and not in the fields and streets of America.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.