Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"These laws would be entirely annulled"

Over the weekend, I referred to a report issued by the House Judiciary Committee on January 24, 1831 endorsing a bill that would have repealed Section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789. Section 25 then authorized the United States Supreme Court to review, among other things, final judgments of state supreme courts holding federal statutes to be “invalid”. The proposal had obvious application to the then-simmering Nullification dispute.

The minority “Counter Report” was written by none other than Rep. James Buchanan of Pennsylvania. Since most people (including me) have little good to say about him, I thought I’d take a look at what seems to have been Mr. Buchanan’s finest hour.

The most interesting thing about Buchanan’s report is that it takes on nullification fairly directly. If Section 25 were repealed,
[t]he judiciary of the States might refuse to carry into effect the laws of the United States; and without that appeal to the Supreme Court which the 25th section authorizes, these laws would be entirely annulled, and could not be executed without resort to force.

In the next installment, I’ll look at “a few striking examples” that Buchanan uses to illustrate his point.

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