Nevertheless, until the War of Northern Aggression ended in the defeat of the South, nullification was the most important theoretical alternative to the idea that the U. Supreme Court is the final arbiter of constitutional controversies.
So James Madison, in 1830, was not responding to a trivial question.
But these remarks do not appear to have been central to the ratification decision.
The Federalist Papers nowhere assert that the states have the power to nullify federal law. 33, 39, 44, and 78 explicitly state that federal laws are supreme over state laws and that only the federal courts have the power to pronounce federal legislation void as contrary to the Constitution.
The Constitution is a contract or compact among the states whereby the states delegated certain powers to the federal government, while reserving all other powers to themselves.
As parties to the compact, the states retained the inherent right to judge compliance with the compact.
The federal courts and not the states are empowered to determine whether federal laws are constitutional, with the Supreme Court having the final authority.
The concept of nullification of federal law by the states was not discussed at the Constitutional Convention, so the records of that Convention provide no support for the theory of nullification.
In any event, Jefferson and Madison secretly drafted the 1798 Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions denouncing the federal legislation and calling for nullification, though the state legislatures of both states rejected these resolutions.
Jefferson went one step further in the case of Kentucky and drafted a threat for Kentucky to secede from the Union.