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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legally & Historically Accurate Masterpiece, August 4, 2005
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This review is from: Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virgina Resolutions and their Legacy (Hardcover)
It's difficult in the modern era, even with the internet and all the literature available, to gain an accurate and honest understanding of the early history of what would become the American Republic. As a product of the public school system, I had to work extra hard to unlearn all the nonsense I'd been taught in what I now see as government run indoctrination camps(the schools "teach" enough info to the kids to prevent them from someday thinking critically about the structure of their government).

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America (1776) essentially declared (aside from the slavery issue) that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. People have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the people can throw off governments which become destructive of these ends and form new governments based on these principles. Essentially, the people are the "ultimate sovereigns" (in the words of Watkins), and elected respesentatives hold only legislative sovereignty. THESE ARE THE CORE PRINCIPLES OF SELF-GOVERNMENT.

The Principles of the Resolutions essentially answer a question which I believe is more relevant today than ever... what defense do the people have against a central government which doesn't abide by it's rules or by restraints and limitations on it's powers? The Answer, according to Jefferson primarily, was for the State houses to interpose between the Federal government and citizens and to declare Federal usurpations of power which overstep the enumerated powers outlined in Article I Section VIII as void and of no force (nullification).

Watkins does a remarkable job of clearly explaining the events of the period, explaining the principles of the resolutions, providing detailed citations for every source of information (so you can check them yourself), explaining the motives behind the words and actions of people like Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton, explaining how the structure of American Federalism became corrupted, and what can be done to bring the Constitution back to life... and the answers can be found in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.

My ONLY complaint is that Watkins, during his discussion of Judicial usurpations, only briefly mentions how the Bill of Rights (a shield erected by the States against the Federal government) became a weapon the Federal Courts would use against the States and the principles of Self-Government. He only mentions the "incorporation doctrine" once, but Watkins does include a quotation in this brief analysis which acknowledges that the incorporation of the Bill of Rights was the most egregious act of usurpation in the court's history, where the court essentially rewrote the meaning of the Bill of Rights. I just wish Watkins had gone into more detail on this topic, but at least he did mention Barron v. City of Baltimore (1833) where John Marshall briefly states in a concise opinion the meaning of the First 10 Amendments of the Constitution and how they can only be applied against actions of the Federal Governemnt.

Kudos to William Watkins Jr. and his masterpiece. It's a crime that this text has received next to no publicity that I'm aware of.
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