The Phaserl


Absolute Federal Supremacy: A Crackpot Post-Antebellum Theory

by Mike Maharrey,

If James Madison and Thomas Jefferson strolled down the streets of Washington D.C. today, listening in on current political discourse, they would likely declare conventional wisdom holding the federal government supreme in all it does a “crackpot post-antebellum legal theory.”

Even Alexander Hamilton would undoubtedly express shock. After all, he was one of the first defenders of the Constitution to point out the limits of supremacy in Federalist 33.

“But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the large society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such.”

Thirteen independent sovereign political societies came together to form the United States, and they delegated specific powers to a general government. All other powers remained with the states and the people. There was no debate on that matter. Both supporters and opponents of the Constitution agreed the federal government was to remain limited. The ratification debate revolved around one question: would the Constitution actually create the limited government intended?

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