Principles of '98

The blog of Derek J. Sheriff. History and current events through the lens of 1798.

Archive for the ‘usurpation’ Category

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Written by Derek Sheriff

October 10, 2010 at 2:21 am

Usurpation: The Weapon By Which Free Governments Are Destroyed

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The Usurper-In-Chief

What is Usurpation?

If there is a word that I wish would become a household word to be used again by every American in their daily political discussions, it would be the word “usurpation”. Yes, I would love it even more if average Americans would add to that list the words: “Nullification”, “interposition” and the phrase, “The Principles of ’98”. However, in order to understand the meaning of those words in their political context, you have to understand usurpation. Before you can discover a solution, you have to correctly understand the problem.

Usurpation is the unlawful exercise of power by a person or branch of government that does not properly belong to them. Our Constitution created a federal government of strictly limited, enumerated powers when it was ratified by the people of the several states in their respective state conventions. The states were not created by the Constitution, they already existed.

Whenever the people who make up the federal government, individually or as departments or even as branches, exercise power not expressly delegated to them by the Constitution, they are usurping the authority of either the states or the people. Why? Because as the 10th Amendment makes it clear:

“All powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution,
nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the
people.”

The Bane of Free Governments

George Washington warned against the dangers of usurpation. He called it the weapon by which free governments are destroyed.  He urged Americans to guard against it and reject it for the evil that it is. In his farewell address, he wrote:

“If in the opinion of the People the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

As Obama likes to say, “Let me be clear”. When the federal government steps beyond the boundaries that are specifically drawn around it by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it isn’t abusing powers that it does have, it’s usurping powers that it doesn’t have.

Question: What should the people of the several states’ reaction be to federal usurpation be?

Answer: Swift and resolute action in the form of nullification and/or interposition by, with and through our state governments and their county and local subordinates.

In such cases, we must not exercise patience and wait to “Vote the bums out” in 2012 or even as soon as 2010! We should do that when the time comes, yes. But in the meantime, to allow our state governments to wait until the usurpers are removed from office through elections would be to condone a dangerous dereliction of their duty to protect our constitutional rights.

What is Nullification?

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Kentucky Resolutions in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, which was one of the federal government’s earliest acts of usurpation. An early draft of it began:

“The several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government”

and

“where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy: that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact, to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them”

Nullification is a state’s decision to render a particular federal law that it deems unconstitutional void and inoperative, or non-effective, within the boundaries of that state.

Let there be no change by usurpation! Instead, let us work with our elected state officials to nullify acts of federal usurpation and reclaim the sovereignty that is the birth right of each and every American.