Government 1B Week 12 Living Constitution and Nullification

Question 1: What is the idea of a living constitution? In what way could it be argued that the American Revolution was a war against the living constitution.

A living constitution it a version of a constitution passed down verbally. The British had a living constitution in the form of parliament. The expectation of a living constitution is that its allowed to change with the times, parliament could discuss and evaluate current events of the time and change their regulations accordingly. The issue with a living constitution is that corruption is drawn to it. Since there is no firm written base backing up parliaments decisions anyone looking to produce their own agenda could wriggle up into parliament and bias the national laws and restrictions. This is what the Americans were fighting to change, they wanted a written constitution that couldn’t be simply changed on a whim. They wanted a document stating clearly the unalienable rights of each US citizen, and they wanted to make sure no one could come along in the future and change these rights to support their own biased agenda.

Question 2: What is nullification? Discuss one example from US history in which the state or group of states acted in the spirit of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.

The states came first, and from them the central government was born. By this logic the states maintain control over the central government, and the states have the rights to stand up against the central government if they act unconstitutionally. Nullification is basically a state refusing to comply with the central government. If the government begins to act biased or begins implementing laws that favor their own agendas the states have the right to flat out refuse their regulations. The states have the right to label them as null and void, hence the term nullification. Virginia and Kentucky did just this, the government was interpreting the constitution in their own favor and these two states fought back and refused to comply. Another example of states declaring a federal decision to be null and void is the Tariff of 1828, nicknamed the “tariff of abominations” by southerners. Items produced domestically in the US needed to be financially protected, they needed laws in place in case the British attempted to artificially lower or raise their prices. Some protection was put in place, but New Englanders pressed congress to raise the protection measures even higher. Westerners on the other hand wanted an increase of materials, so the federal government had to choose who to accommodate. They chose the west, increasing shipments while also increasing the duties required to import certain raw materials. But while the west was accommodated the New Englanders as well as the South were less than pleased. The British began making threats to seek out other markets, and this made the Southern cotton producers very alarmed. South Carolina called for the teriff of 1828 to be pronounced null and void, and in 1833 another teriff was created as compensation calling for the gradual reduction of production rates.


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