DPR_1 Understanding State Rights

Posted on Posted in Constitutional Studies, DallyPost Media, DallyPost Radio

James Madison
James Madison.

In future episodes, we are going to tackle current events and apply the Constitution, hopefully in a way that will please God and our Founding Fathers. Before we do that, it seems appropriate to nail down a few constitutional foundations. These are principles that will hopefully become our foundation for future constitutional understanding. So, lets jump in.

Principle 1: Deity

The Constitution begins with, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union”. Have you ever wondered why they chose the word “perfect”? Words are powerful and I think it is right and proper for us carefully consider every word in this great document because those who labored to create it struggled for a very long time and under trying circumstances to bring it forth. They had one thing in common with each other, their faith. The Founding Fathers, as a whole, were men of abiding faith. They recognized perfection only in one place, in the person of Jesus Christ. Now I think I know why the chose the word, “perfect”.

The Declaration of Independence states that government gets it “just powers from the consent of the governed”. In other words, the governed have dominion over government. This seems contradictory to the way things are today when government seems to lord over us. It is they that exercise dominion unrighteously.

What does this have to do with deity? The preamble to the Bible, the book of Genesis, provides the answer. We read that God created man in his image, after his likeness and gave him dominion over…everything. What manner of dominion are we to exercise in our lives and in our government? The answer is given; in the likeness and image of God. The founders could have written, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more Christ-like Union, or a more God-like Union, or a Union in the likeness and image of God. Each one of these, I believe, would have meant the same thing to these men.

The Bible and the founding documents fit because a more perfect union is a more Christ-like union.  The bible and the founding documents fit because man’s dominion over everything includes man’s dominion over government.

There it is! The first principles of our nation and the first principles of God are in harmony.

Principle 2: Creation

The creator is always greater than the creation. Can you think of a single example where this principle is not true? I can’t. God created man. Do we possess all of his infinite Godly power or were we endowed with something less? The answer is obvious. The same was true when the people created the states which were originally the first thirteen colonies. The same was equally true when the states sent delegates to Philadelphia to create the federal government by writing and eventually ratifying of the Constitution.

In our relationship with God, he is the sovereign and we are in subjection. In our relationship with the States, we are the sovereign and the state is in subjection. In the relationship between the States and the federal government, the States are the sovereign and the federal government is in subjection.

Let that sink in. This true paradigm identifies the federal government as the smallest, the weakest and the most limited. At the top, we find the people, second only to God himself. It is a tragedy that our parents, our schools and our churches have failed to preserve and teach this essential truth.

Principle 3: Delegation

If you wanted to, can you give me a million dollars today? Doubtful because you cannot give what you do not have. However, can you give me a dollar today? You can give what you have but you cannot give what you do not have.

Delegation is as simple as that but with a twist. Before the people can give a power to the government, that power must be inherent in all the people. Recently, I was in a Pocatello city council meeting where I watched a woman beg for permission to start a small business. The city council was resistant. The police department was resistant.

When we apply the principle of delegation, serious questions spring to mind. Do this woman’s neighbors, next door, across the street, around the corner or even on the other side of town, have the power to stop her from starting a business? The neighbors have no such power and may not delegate what they do not have. So, where did the city council and the police department get this power? They created it out of thin air, they made something from nothing, it is all smoke and mirrors. In other words, the city council and the police department in Pocatello, Idaho have no such power. The only conclusion is that the Mayor, the City Council and the Chief of Police have all committed a crime against the natural rights of this woman.


The alien and sedition acts signed into law by President John Adams included many sections that were repugnant to the Constitution. Key among these was the requirement that any who speak against the President would be subject to fines and prison. With this law, a dagger was plunged through the heart of the first amendment.

Where federal laws are concerned, we have another aid that can help us understand if powers exercised were properly delegated. This aid is the Constitution of the United State, primarily Article 1, Section 8. A scan of those powers quickly prove that the no delegated power remotely authorizes the federal government to create such a law.

This constitutionally repugnant law led to an interesting series of events.

During debates on the Sedition Act, Representative Matthew Lyon, of the United States Congress, predicted that he would be among its first to be targeted by this act. He was right. He was indicted for writing and publishing a letter allegedly defaming President Adams. Lyon plead not guilty but was sentenced to four months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. While in jail, he ran his campaign for reelection.

Lyon was successful and, as far as I can determine, is the only person to run for and win a seat in Congress while incarcerated.

In 1840, Congress granted Lyon’s heirs reimbursement for his fine with interest.

When the alien and sedition acts were signed into law, Thomas Jefferson led his state legislature in producing the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and follow up resolutions in 1799. Simultaneously, James Madison, with the Virginia Legislature, published the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and the Madison Report on the Virginia Resolutions in 1799. All four are available in the DallyPost Library, but today, we will focus our attention on the Madison Report. From this report we read,

The states, then, being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there can be no tribunal, above their authority, to decide, in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and consequently, that, as the parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.

Now, apply the principle of creation, focusing on the fact that the States created the federal government. Isn’t that interesting, no tribunal can be above the authority of the States when determining if the Constitution has been violated. That is how is should be. If the federal government can dominate the States, then the dominion given by God in Genesis and defended by the Declaration if Independence is lost. Certainly, the Supreme Court is a tribunal and evidently, it has no authority in such matters.

What is meant by the term if interposition? For that answer we turn to the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. There we find a discussion of state rights when the federal government undertakes to expand their delegated authority and exercise powers never granted. We read that the States,

have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil.

The states have a right and a duty to simply say no. The States must boldly declare that certain laws are repugnant to the Constitution and as such will not be enforced inside the boundaries of the State and that any who attempt to enforce the said law will be arrested and charged for illegal activities.

The Kentucky Resolutions described it differently but the result was identical. They stated that unconstitutional laws are void and that the States can nullify them.

Many will say that nullification is a nice idea but that it will never work. I will tell you that it does work and is working. There are unconstitutional federal laws on the books regarding the possession of marijuana. Yet, Washington State and Colorado have decided for themselves. California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine have recently joined them. They can do so because the powers delegated by the Constitution do not allow federal drug laws of any sort.

The good news is that these states have proven the validity and effectiveness of nullification. The bad news is that there are so many issues that are much more palpable and dangerous and much more demanding of state’s attention.

The trend today is to leave the resolution of all constitutional matters to Supreme Court. That is how most people see it; the founders had a much different view. They held that the Supreme Court was equally capable of committing dangerous violations against the Constitution and the People.

The resolution supposes that dangerous powers, not delegated, may not only be usurped and executed by the other departments[1], but that the judicial department, also, may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution.

Madison also held that the supreme court authority was the final word over all Constitutional controversies arising in relation to the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. But over the individual States, he said, Supreme Court authority is non-existent,

…not in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial, as well as the other departments, hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power would annul the authority delegating it; and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers, might subvert forever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy,[2] the very Constitution which all were instituted to preserve.

The point is clear, if the judicial branch, or any branch of the federal government has the final word, there will be no rightful remedy and therefore, no power to preserve the sovereignty of the states.

The Madison Report is amazing instruction regarding the United States Constitution and its proper execution. We have barely scratched the surface. To truly do it justice would take weeks or months. Sadly, we haven’t the time in this episode.

2 thoughts on “DPR_1 Understanding State Rights

    1. HI Sheryl, thanks for asking.

      I identified the James Madison, Report on the Virginia Resolutions early in the text above and then referred to it as the Madison Report after the that. All references to this document are linked in the text above.

      Virginia Legislature, led by James Madison wrote the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. These resolutions were in opposition to our nation’s first serious constitutional challenge, the Alien and Sedition Acts, signed into law by President Adams. These resolutions were sent to the legislatures of the other states.

      Madison was shocked when some of the states showed how little they understood of our form of representative government by resisting the Virginia Resolutions. Madison responded by writing, again with the aid of the Virginia Legislature, the James Madison, Report on the Virginia Resolutions. In this document, Madison tried to educate the legislatures of the several states regarding their sacred duty to defend states rights and the rights of the people therein.

      Again, every reference to “James Madison, Report on the Virginia Resolutions” or “Madison’s Report” are pointing to the same document and are linked above. I suggest that you follow the links and have a look at the report. You may want to pay particular attention to the footnotes provided on that page.

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