28 Jun 2010


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Here is my Amazon review of Tom Woods’ new book, which officially launches today:

Full disclosure: I am a personal friend of Tom Woods. Even so, I like some of his books more than others, but _Nullification_ is definitely one of his gems. Until I read this book, I had no idea that the concept of nullification was NOT invented in, say, 1858 by the legislatures of southern states.

On the contrary, Woods shows that this was an idea championed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and flowed seamlessly from the “compact theory of the Union.” Nullification was not an ad hoc principle dreamed up in a particular battle over states’ rights, but instead was an integral part of Jefferson’s philosophy of a federation in which the central government only received enumerated (and strictly limited) powers from the states who constituted the Union.

This book is a great read for anyone who loves colonial and early US history. Woods sketches a vision of early America that we didn’t learn in grade school. For example, the handbill announcing the “Anti-Slave-Catchers’ Mass Convention” (p. 82) is amazing–outraged citizens in Wisconsin didn’t want to hand over an escaped slave as the feds dictated (under the Fugitive Slave Act). This episode is but one example that Woods provides, to prove that very often “states’ rights” were used to *protect* liberty. Is that really so hard to understand–that sometimes the *federal* government is the bad guy?

A surprise in this book is Chapter 4, “What Is (or Are) the United States, Anyway?” Here Woods makes a compelling argument for the compact theory of the Union, which is the view that the federal government was created by the individual States when they ratified the Constitution. (A nationalist view holds that “the people of the United States” collectively formed the central government, and that therefore the individual state governments are subordinate to it.)

Much of Woods’ evidence I had read before, but a new one was his focus on the Declaration of Independence itself, which says:

“…That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do” (qtd p. 97).

Woods points out that if the individual States, upon their declaration of independence, retained the rights to *start wars and contract alliances*, then surely they were sovereign political entities, in the way that France and Great Britain were separate States. It is then an easy matter to show that at no point, whether with the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution (which after all was ratified NOT by the American public but by the individual states), did these initially sovereign states cede all of their powers to the U.S. government.

All in all, an excellent book that provides a new look at American history, but also draws lessons that are very relevant in today’s political battles.

Incidentally, if you know you will at some point buy Tom’s book, it’s better to do it within the next day or two, rather than at some indefinite point in the future. They do the NYT book rankings etc. based on sales in the first week, so it’s good to concentrate our firepower right now:

Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century


Of course, if you want a signed copy of Tom’s book, you’ll have to come to Nashville on July 16.

2 Responses to “Nullify!”

  1. Bob Roddis says:

    It must be a real good book (I pre-ordered through Amazon weeks ago). If the media is ignoring it, it must be definitive. If it had obvious errors, the media would probably be trumpeting those to the world.

  2. Tom Glass says:

    Thanks, Rob. I believe that this book and this concept is THE issue of 2010 and beyond. Nullification is the most effective tool we have to fight back against the onslaught the feds are throwing at the American people right now.

    The beauty of nullification is the realization that we no longer have to wait on the climate of legal opinion to change and there to be 5 liberty oriented US Supreme Court justices who will strike down all the laws and regs the feds have passed that go beyond that allowed by Article I, Section 8. Now, a governor who values liberty and the Constitution can lead his or her state to resist the feds on Constitutional grounds.

    After all, every actor in the system, including governors, state legislators, sheriffs, attorneys, military men, and law enforcement officers swear to uphold the Constitution. Each actor is responsible for using independent judgment to determine whether a federal edict is authorized by the Constitution or is null and void.

    Just because the feds say they have the power under the Constitution to do something doesn’t mean they are right. The first principle of any system of controls is never to allow one group to do its own oversite or to define their own powers. The Constitution’s supremecy clause says that only laws “in pursuance” of the Constitution are supreme. And the Constitution does not say who decides what laws are pursuant.