Few things concern American citizens more than the steady encroachment of the federal government on our constitutionally protected liberty. WB Yeats’ words aptly describe the way millions of Americans feel about their own government: “The falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The federal government seems to have no mechanism of self-restraint. We feel suffocated by its excesses.
It is appropriate in this context to celebrate the passage of SCR 21, Senator Stewart Cathey’s Joint Concurrent Resolution. SCR 21, passed in both chambers this yesterday, affirms Louisiana’s sovereign constitutional right “to nullify unconstitutional acts of the federal government.” The Resolution rests on the foundational writings of the men who ratified the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the guarantees made to the 13 free and independent States who formed our Constitution, and US Supreme Court precedent going back two centuries.
In the 1798 Kentucky Resolutions, which nullified the federal Alien and Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the States who agreed to ratify the Constitution are “sovereign and independent” within their sphere, and that whenever the federal government acts without constitutional authority, “nullification is the rightful remedy.” Indeed, neither the Constitution nor the revolutionary experiment in liberty it secured would have been possible had there been any question about the States’ right to nullify federal acts that violate state sovereignty. It was an express condition of entering into the constitutional compact. Alexander Hamilton, who believed in a strong central government, nonetheless said in Federalist 33 that any law passed by Congress that was not enacted “pursuant to its constituted powers will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such.” (Emphasis added).
SCR 21 is a shot across the bow, a compelling, constitutionally grounded declaration by the Louisiana Legislature that states need no longer bow the knee to the steady erosion of their sovereignty by a monolithic federal government. Both Senator Stewart Cathey and co-author Representative Ray Garofalo, as well as Representative Alan Seabaugh, who carried the Resolution on the House floor, deserve praise for their efforts.
To paraphrase Felix Adler, the statesman is the one who sets blazing torches of liberty in the dark streets of tyranny so that others may see. SCR 21 is just such a torch, lit by Cathey, Garofalo and Seabaugh, as well as the legislators who supported it to final passage. May states around the Country be emboldened to follow suit.
Louisiana Citizen Advocacy Group