In this 1830 response to Edward Everett of Massachusetts James Madison maintains that a state does not possess the authority to strike down as unconstitutional an act of the federal government. If you find the essay long-winded, you are correct in this assessment. It is long-winded because James Madison was a hypocrite on the issue of nullification, supporting the notion when it suited him, and rejecting it when it did not. You may learn from this episode an important lesson about human nature. The greatest of founding fathers does not always make a great secretary of state, a great president, or a great elder-statesman. James Madison (and Thomas Jefferson) were no exceptions to this insight. Read more
In this 1830 response to Massachusetts statesman Edward Everett, Madison maintains that a state does not possess the authority to strike down as unconstitutional an act of the federal government. The contrary doctrine, known as nullification, would take on later significance.
August 28, 1830
I have duly received your letter in which you refer to the “nullifying doctrine,” advocated as a constitutional right by some of our distinguished fellow citizens; and to the proceedings of the Virginia Legislature in 98 and 99, as appealed to in behalf of that doctrine; and you express a wish for my ideas on those subjects. Read more