Nullification and the Kentucky Resolution of 1798By William J. Watkins, Jr. | November 18, 2015
Because the United States was founded as a constitutional republic -- one based on certain specific principles, not power or privilege -- Americans of all eras frequently raise concerns about federal authority that bear resemblance to debates from earlier times in our history.
A good illustration of this “echo effect” in American politics is the renewed discussion about nullification, prompted by recent headline news: Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples; “sanctuary cities” where local officials decline to cooperate with the feds in turning over illegal aliens; and Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana last month in spite of the prohibitions of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
These episodes call to mind one of the most important cases of nullification in U.S. history: the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, the topic of my book Reclaiming the American Revolution, the first to have been written about this vital episode in more than a century.
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