The Founders’ Word: Void

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When it comes to limits of federal power under the Constitution, the view of many Founding Fathers fits under the same theme. That is, federal acts outside of the Constitution are null and void.

Oliver Ellsworth, the Supreme Court’s third Chief Justice, put it this way during the ratification debates: “If the United States go beyond their powers, if they make a law which the Constitution does not authorize, it is void.”

In Federalist #78, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void.”

And in 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

See the pattern?

I won’t get into a laundry list of everything that ...