Chapter

The Supreme Law of the Land

in Lincoln's Constitution

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780226237930
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226237954 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226237954.003.0004
The Supreme Law of the Land

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The vague theoretical underpinnings of the Constitution, with its uncertain assignment of sovereignty, provided an attractive opening. The compact theory might provide a basis for limiting federal powers in order to maintain the sovereignty of the states. The Constitution was a compact between the states at least in the last sense. It clearly allows legislatures to communicate with each other for other purposes: to call for a constitutional convention or to negotiate over interstate compacts. National power was secured by the supremacy clause and the extension of the judicial power to all cases arising under federal law. The checks against abuse of federal power are structural: the responsibility of members of Congress to their home state legislatures and electorates, and the impeachment power vested in Congress. Nullification also upsets the balance of power between any given state, the federal government, and its fellow states.

Keywords: nullification; sovereignty; judicial power; law; compact theory

Chapter.  10679 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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