By Haylia Karen Brown
(Edited by Nathan and Amy Brown)
“Thus the right of nullification meant by Mr. Jefferson is the natural right, which all admit to be a remedy against insupportable oppression.” – John Madison’s Notes on Nullification, Dec. 1834
America is in trouble. The trouble is obvious. The only question is how to get out of the trouble? More than ever, the Constitution needs to be enforced not changed. However, there is a growing agenda in America that feels differently. This agenda is calling for an Article 5 Convention to add to, and transform the US Constitution, with the promise that this will put the government back in line. This agenda is not only dangerous, but wrong.
This essay is presented as a concise look at how we need to return to the principles of the Constitution, not change and drift further away. The Constitutional Convention has different names to confuse people. The people who want it say, (and I agree) that there is a problem, because people are starting to have less respect for the Constitution including the Federal Government’s overreach. And they say, (and here’s where I disagree) that the solution is to change the Constitution. But if the Constitution is not being enforced, upheld and followed, then the Constitution is not what needs to be changed! It’s the hearts, minds, and views of the people that don’t have respect for the Constitution, that need to be changed, not the Constitution. The Almighty God said that the Constitution is of Heaven, and He directed the writing of it. He also said that whatever is more or less than the Constitution comes of evil. (1) A major concern to a Constitutional Convention is that it may lead to a full rewrite of the American Constitution. Evidence of this is seen from CNN, and private citizens. Their articles have titles such as, “SOME LIBERALS AND CONSERVITAVES ARE TEAMING UP IN AN EFFORT TO REWRITE THE CONSTITUTION”, (2) and “REWRITE THE CONSTITUTION? HERE’S HOW A CONVENTION COULD DO IT”, (3). Rewriting our Constitution because it is not being followed would be like rewriting the 10 Commandments if they were not being followed. Of course neither one of those makes sense. The real solution is to enforce the constitution. Some of the people behind this Convention are men who think our great Founders, were selfish and unduly privileged men who should be dishonored and treated like villains. Are those really the kind of men that we want changing our Constitution? Which of us today would be willing to give the same sacrifice that our Founders gave?
The idea of “what’s in it for me” has no place public service, yet the former President of the Convention of the States, Ken Ivory (who is my State Representative from West Jordan, UT) is paid to be involved in the Convention. Being paid is not a sacrifice, it simply shows how men like Ivory have been seduced to sell their birthright for a pot of pottage (4). And further, during this “simulation” the Convention of States acting delegates came up with 6 proposed amendments, and almost all 6 would expand the Federal power, because they simply do not know their constitution.(5) Representative Ivory has also blocked constituents, and has been known to misquote Thomas Jefferson, (making it sound as if he was against Nullification). After a “simulation” of the Convention of States, the quote Ivory sent to those who participated read: “Then it is important to strengthen the state governments: and as this cannot be done by any change in the federal constitution, (for the preservation of that is all we need contend for,) it must be done by the states themselves, erecting such barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the general government.” – From Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 23 December 1791
He left out a sentence that I have place in italics, which clearly shows Jefferson’s stance to NOT change the Federal Constitution. When a Constitutional Scholar saw this, and let Ivory know, he insisted on the misquotation even when he was caught. This is the case with many that will form an argument to make people think that a constitutional convention is a solution that the Founders have planned to fix government overreach when really it was for the Amendments of errors only. When my family, myself and other concerned citizens in Ivory’s district called him to ask him to stop going forward with the Convention, he dismissed our concerns, and when we pushed for further understanding he didn’t answer back. Do we really want to have a Convention led by a man who does not answer to the pleas of members of his district? This is an obvious clue that the delegates of the Convention probably won’t listen to what the people of America want if they can’t even listen to their own Districts. In a letter to George Tuberville on November 2, 1788, James Madison said, “You wish to know my sentiments on the project of another general Convention as suggested by New York. I shall give them to you with great frankness . . . If a General Convention were to take place for the avowed and sole purpose of revising the Constitution, it would naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress appointed to administer and support as well as to amend the system; it would consequently give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partisans on both sides; … Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second, meeting in the present temper of America, and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned.” If James Madison and others did not wish to have another Article 5 Convention, then why did the Founders put article in the Constitution at all? James Madison said that Article 5 was for “the Amendment of errors” (6) not the revising of the entire document. There are two major ways that the Conservatives who want the convention try to get others to support a con-con. First, they propose seemingly good amendments such as balancing the budget and term limits. And 2nd, they say there is no other way to reign in the government. Balancing the budget means to regulate the government’s spending based on how much money they have. There are two ways to balance the budget, lowering spending or raising taxes. Balancing the budget does not automatically mean lowering spending. So, a balanced budget amendment will do nothing to stop the Unconstitutional Spending, but only require additional Unconstitutional Taxes or methods to increase the money available to spend. The Founding Father’s left term limits out of the Constitution for a reason. They had tried them and they failed. When I interviewed Robert Brown (Field Coordinator in Montana from the John Birch Society (7)) he emphasized that the Articles of Confederation proved limiting terms takes away the inducement of good behavior for a politician. If there was a Congressman who was in his final term, he would have no reason to want to please the people, because he can’t get reelected. People who claim there is no other way to reign in Government overreach ignore the available solutions such as Nullification and Article 6 (8). The Constitution is the Supreme law of the land and laws passed that violate the Constitution shouldn’t be followed. Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 33 that such unconstituional laws are “an act of usurpation and will deserve to be treated as such.” Which means that they should be treated as if they were not laws, but simply an act of over-ruling the constitution. When the Federal Government steps outside its bounds, and makes an unconstitutional law that the states must follow, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 16 told us years ago what must be done. “If the interposition (9) of the State legislatures be necessary to give effect to a measure of the Union, they have only NOT TO ACT, or TO ACT EVASIVELY, and the measure is defeated.” In the same interview with Robert Brown, he said, “In the oath of office, you must not only uphold the Constitution, but also the laws that follow it, and do not uphold the ones that don’t.” Article 6 of the US Constitution contains a clause which states that any person who holds a public office must take an oath to uphold, defend, and follow the Constitution. Article 6 also states how the Constitution should be upheld, and how to discern between what is Constitutional and what is not. Not all the laws that the Federal Government makes are valid. Only the ones that follow the Constitution are lawful, and therefor should be followed.
If you struggle to understand the principle of nullification, remember it is to be used when the Constitution is being violated and to preserve it, not just to disobey every law. Robert Brown said, “nullifying laws that violate the Constitution, that’s the key”, “Properly used, nullification is nothing more than enforcing the Constitution. Therefore, the only reason to oppose nullification is if you do not want the Constitution enforced!”
Thomas Jefferson, himself, recommended that nullification is the way to deal with the secondary laws that the Government is trying to enforce, instead of changing the Supreme Law of the Land. “That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.” (10)
A couple of things to remember regarding nullification are first, we are never going to nullify anything unless the states pull out of government funding. We must say, “stop taking our money, and we’ll stop taking yours”. Secondly, this can be used incorrectly. Madison opposed false nullification, as advocated by John Calhoun but always continued to support “Jeffersonian” nullification (11). Applied knowledge is power, I ask you to now please contact your state legislator/representative/senator, friend and/or family, to help make sure that a Convention doesn’t happen. But there is another thing that you can do to help. We need to start holding our public officials accountable. Please learn more about the Constitution, and Article 6, to make sure that all laws follow the Constitution. The way out of the trouble that we find America is in, is our God given Constitution. Our Constitution is in danger of falling apart. Forging the Constitution was not easy. And saving it won’t be ether. It will be difficult but very possible, we have the right knowledge, let’s use it. we can do this.
1. Doctrine and Covenants Section 98, versus 6-7
2. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/01/_liberals_and_conservative s_are_teaming_up_to_call_a_new_constitutional.html)
4. Genesis 25:29-34
6. Federalist 43
7. Robert Brown was brought onto the JBS staff in June of 2009 to originally be the coordinator for Montana, however he is now the regional field director. Robert went to Brigham Young University in Utah. He studied mechanical engineering. While in college he and some buddies started a bicycle design company for a few years. They received a patent for the lightest weight mountain bike wheel. Robert was also an avid mountain bike racer while in Utah and placed third in his class. He has lived in Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Montana and he says he loves Montana and plans on staying. He has nine beautiful children to accompany a beautiful wife; five sons and four daughters. He and his family live on 2 acres where they raise goats and chickens and produce eggs. Fun Fact: Robert was the midwife for three out of four of his daughters births.
8. US Constitution Article 6, section 2 and 3. – This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
9. Merriam Webster Definition – Interposition – the action of a state whereby its sovereignty is placed between its citizens and the federal government
10. Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolution of 1798 – in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 11. Thomas Jefferson, 1798 Kentucky Resolutions, written to protest the Federalist Congress’s passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.