Archibald Maclaine and Nullification
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Archibald Maclaine and Nullification


It wasn’t just Thomas jefferson and James Madison who supported nullification During the 1788 Hillsborough Convention, delegates from North Carolina opposing ratification of the Constitution outnumbered those in favor by about 2-1. One of the greatest concerns was about the extent of powers delegated to the federal government, and the lack of a bill of rights at that time. Archibald Maclaine was a well-known attorney in the state and was a leader there in opposition to the Stamp Act years earlier. He argued in favor of ratification and suggested nullification as a response to federal overreach. He said: “If Congress should make a law beyond its powers and the spirit of the Constitution, should we not say to Congress, ‘You have no authority to make this law. There are limits beyond which you cannot go. You cannot exceed the power prescribed by the Constitution. You are amenable to us for your conduct. That act is unconstitutional. We will disregard it and punish you for the attempt.'” Although ratification initially failed, Maclaine and other supporters of the Constitution in North Carolina continued to make the case that the new general government would be limited and the state would have recourse if the feds overstepped their bounds. The state ratified a year later based largely on these arguments.

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