The following is based on a speech at the first annual Tenth Amendment Summit in Atlanta, GA on February 26, 2010.
How can a “crazy” Californian and a “conservative” Georgian be friends? It’s simple – through the principles of ’98. In 1798, the John Adams administration signed into law that Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials. In practice, it was used to quell the freedom of speech in dissent against the sitting administration.
In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson responded:
“the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government”
But wait – that’s not all. He went on to say that all undelegated powers exercised by the federal government are “unathoritative, void and of no force.” And, that a “nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.”
There’s been plenty of people talking about nullification lately, but many people don’t know what it really means.
John Adams, who as we can see from his signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts, was no saint, did give us a great warning on the growth of government power. In 1775 he wrote, “liberty once lost, is lost forever.” He went on to explain that when the People allow government to gain power and restrict liberty, it will never voluntarily give that power back. Liberty given up to government power will never be returned to the people without a long and difficult struggle.
If we fast-forward to present times, we can see this principle at work.