(L60) The Constitution, State Power & Nullification

1.) What is the idea of a “living Constitution”? In what way could it be argued that the American Revolution was a war against a “living Constitution”?

The idea of a “living, breathing Constitution” supports that the law of the Constitution must be interpreted (and changed by Judges) to suit current times. The American Revolution was a war against a “living Constitution” because the colonists were arguing that government action violating longstanding (unwritten) traditions was unconstitutional. Changing the Constitution to suit the times is a gross perversion of its original intent.

2.) What is nullification? Discuss one example from U.S. history in which the a state or group of states acted in the spirit of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.

Nullification is the act of making a political action legally void, or cancelling it out. One example of nullification in U.S. history can be found through the years of 1808-1809, when Jefferson’s embargo was imposed by the federal government stating that American cargo ships could not travel to foreign ports. In January of 1809, Massachusetts declared this act unconstitutional. Following closely after in February, the governor of Connecticut ordered state officials to be uncompliant in regards to Jefferson’s embargo. Lastly, in March, Rhode Island declared that it’s (state) government would protect any and all of it’s people against this unconstitutional exercise of power by the federal government.

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(L55) Compact Althusius & Nationalist Hobbes

1.) Describe the models of society laid out by Althusius and Hobbes.

The model of society laid out by Althusius was one consisting of many smaller authorities, each with its own rights that no other power could overturn or impede upon. The reasoning behind this being that if one authority (say, a state) became too oppressive, a person could easily move to another. The ability to leave the authority of a tyrannical state pressures all the states to remain un-oppressive.
The Hobbesian model of society, being quite opposite of Althusius’ model, stated that large states would be ruled over by one irresistible and centralized power; a government.

2.) What are the compact and nationalist theories of the Union?

The compact theory, as known as the “compact fact”, goes hand in hand with Althusius’ model of society. It holds that a union, which is a collection of states, was created by and from the states; meaning that the states were the original unit. The nationalist theory, corresponding with the Hobbesian model of society, states that the union is a single whole, and that it was the original unit. This theory holds that states exist only as parts of the union.