The Civil War settled the issue that the federal government is supreme and the states have no power, right? The Civil War settled the issue that nullification is improper, right?
Might does not make right. Nor does it invalidate proper reasoning about the meaning of the Constitution or the intent of the framers.
The War Between the States was fought mostly over secession. Constitutional enforcement is a different doctrine than secession. Both secession and constitutional enforcement rest on the sovereignty of the states and the enumerated powers of the federal government in the Constitution. But secession dissolves the union, while constitutional enforcement preserves it. Neither secession nor constitutional enforcement is prohibited to the states in the Constitution, so by the logic of the Tenth Amendment, the states individually retain those powers.
Constitutional enforcement is a doctrine whereby the states use the powers not delegated to the federal government (and thus reserved to them) to stop unconstitutional federal acts.
South Carolina complained in its secession declaration that one of the reasons it was seceding was because northern states like Wisconsin were resisting the unconstitutional Fugitive Slave Act that denied due process to those accused of being runaway slaves. So, if the North won, and might does make right, then constitutional enforcement, sometimes also called nullification and interposition, was vindicated by the Union’s victory over South Carolina!
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