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Interposition and the Heresy of Nullification: James Madison and the Exercise of Sovereign Constitutional Powers

First Principles: Foundational Concepts to Guide Politics and Policy, No. 41, pp. 1-17, February 2012

17 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2012  

Christian G. Fritz

University of New Mexico School of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Political arguments frequently use history for justification. Invariably, however, such efforts are less about taking the past on its own terms than the desire to make symbolic historical references that resonate with modern audiences in order to achieve particular political objectives, whether liberal or conservative. American politics today provides a good example of this practice, particularly in the invocation of the doctrine of nullification and secession as legitimate constitutional options supposedly sanctioned in the thought of such Federal Framers as James Madison. This essay explains why Madison emphatically rejected the attempt by a single state to nullify national laws, while still entertaining the theoretical possibility of secession — though with a crucial caveat missing from today’s advocates. Perhaps most significant, this essay recovers the doctrine of interposition as a legitimate constitutional tool in the hands of an engaged and vigilant citizenry.

Keywords: Interposition, James Madison, Nullification, Secession, Constitutionalism, Popular Sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Fritz, Christian G., Interposition and the Heresy of Nullification: James Madison and the Exercise of Sovereign Constitutional Powers (2012). First Principles: Foundational Concepts to Guide Politics and Policy, No. 41, pp. 1-17, February 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2167398

Christian G. Fritz (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico School of Law ( email )

1117 Stanford, N.E.
MSC11 6070
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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