How powerful is a state? How powerful should it be? These questions have been debated since the American Revolution. Under the Articles of
Confederation, we saw states with significantly higher power than the national government; we then witnessed an attempt at more balance with the
Constitution. Yet the debate over the power of each level of government continued, and this debate formed some of the reasoning behind having a Bill of
Rights, led to the formation of our two political parties, and formed the basis of many of our conflicts in American history.
In the Federalist Era, we saw James Madison write the “Virginia Resolution” and Thomas Jefferson write the “Kentucky Resolution” which outlined opposition
to the Alien and Sedition Acts as they related to states’ rights. And in the Age of Jackson, we see the issue arise again in relation to the tariffs. In both cases,
the debate over the power of the national government raised important questions on whether or not a state could nullify (or not enforce) a national law. In
this essay, you will explore the arguments made in the late 1700s and early 1800s about nullification.
U.S. Constitution and Amendments (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 and Tenth Amendment)
“The Kentucky Resolution” (1798)
“The Massachusetts Counter Resolution” (1799)
“South Carolina Exposition and Protest” (1828)
“Nullification Proclamation” (1832)
After reviewing the above sources, you should write an essay in which you do the following:
Address the basic argument of state powers versus national powers as laid out in the Constitution.
Provide a brief summary the context of the opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts and the Tariff of 1828 making sure you consider political changes as
well as relevant Supreme Court decisions relating to the constitutionality of laws.
Explain the arguments in favor of nullification (including any similarities and differences between the documents).
Explain the arguments in opposition to nullification (including any similarities and differences between the documents).
As you explore the documents and complete the above tasks, you should reflect on whether or not you believe a state should have the ability to nullify a
national law. If you think yes, you should be able to explain under what circumstances a state should have the right to nullify a national law. If you think no,
you should be able to explain why not. In thinking about nullification, and its use, you should use the primary sources to inform your conclusion and think
about how it would work in practice (either historically or in the present).
In your introduction, lay out the basic argument on state and national powers and state your thesis (i.e. state whether you believe a state should have the
ability to nullify a national law). In your body paragraphs tackle the other bullet points above making sure to use evidence from the documents. In your
conclusion reiterate your thesis and provide an explanation that draws on the primary sources discussed in your essay.
Expectations and Criteria for Success
Your essay should be at least 1,000 words and contain more than one paragraph using the information under Tasks as a guide for your structure. It should be
typed in 11-point or 12-point simple, clean font such as Times New Roman or Arial. Font type and size is less important than font consistency throughout the
paper. Use 1-inch margins on all sides and double-space the body of your paper. Place your name, date, and assignment name (i.e., Unit 6 Essay) in the top
left-hand corner of your paper. Center the title of your paper before the introduction. Your title should be unique to you and represent the content of your
essay. In other words, Unit 6 Essay should not be the title.
Successful essays should be carefully organized, with strong thesis statements and specific evidentiary support. Unless you have a good reason not to, treat
the information in chronological order. Be sure to revise and edit carefully. You can reference the Guidelines for Essays from the Start Here Module of the
course for more writing pointers.
You should base your essay on the course content mentioned above or other information contained in Unit 5 and 6. DO NOT use outside sources. Be sure to
keep track of where you find your information so you can provide in-text citations in your final essay as well as a works cited page at the end of your essay.
Quotations should make up no more than 10 to 15 percent of the body of your essay. The best quotations come from primary sources not secondary
sources. The content of your quoted passages should be so unique that paraphrasing the ideas would take away from their meaning or impact. And
remember, you should cite all quotations and paraphrases. Information you look up in a source, including the textbook, is not common knowledge and should