A LEGAL CHALLENGE?
WHEN the Supreme Court of
the United States handed
down its historic decision on
May 17, 1954, to end racial segregation in the public schools, reactions
ranged from stunned disbelief and
incensed protest to sighs of relief
and enthusiastic endorsement. One
congressman from the deep South
asserted that on that date the U. S.
Supreme Court "drove a knife into the
heart of the American Constitution."1
Another, from the great Northwest,
maintained the Court "has at long last
declared that all Americans are equal,
and that the flame of justice in America must burn as brightly in the homes
of the blacks as in the homes of the
Bitterest and most vigorous opposition, of course, has centered in the
South, where Negro population in
some states comes close to constituting
a majority, ancl where segregation has
been strictly observed and a part of
the culture since the time the black
slave first appeared on the American
scene. In other sections of the country
where the percentage of Negro population is not an important factor interest has been considerably short of the
Southern white-heat, yet continues to
Now. two years later, an over-all
look at the situation reveals a specific
pattern of stubborn resistance to the
Court's decree which is gaining support daily. The doctrine of interposition or nullification is being scrutinized with microscopic care, for on
the success or failure of this doctrine
seems to depend the outcome of two
vital issues; the retention of segregation in steites which desire it, and the
supremacy of either states' rights or
federal authority in matters of education and nurture of our youth.
"Since the coming of the present
crisis," says Circuit Judge M. M. Me-
'Itt-p. John Bill Willhuns. "Interposition, The
B;uri,-r Against Tyranny," Congressional Record,
J..mi.irv 2a. 1956, p. 112H.
-Sen. Wayne Morse, Congressional Record,
March 12. 1956, ,.. )950.
Cowan, of Jackson, Mississippi, "the
very word 'interposition' heis precipitated somewhat of a furore in the
land. A Southern governor has said
it will become a household word
throughout the country. To its advocates, it has become a symbol of liberty ancl freedom from oppression. To
its opponents, it is anathema, of near
WHAT IS INTERPOSITION?
What is interposition? Briefly, it is
a method by which a state protests or
refuses to follow a directive of the federal government, whether it be an act
of Congress, judgment of the Supreme
Court, or order of the chief executive,
until the question of who is right is
settled by constitutional processes. To
some, interposition seems to mean
merely the right of petition or protest,
ancl with this view few people find
any quarrel. The mail bags going to
Washington are full of petitions or
memorials to Congress. Rut the dispute over interposition concerns the
use of official means on the part of a
state to refute or nullify acts of the
Historically, various forms of interposition, nullification, or state-veto
have been used, almost from the time
the Constitution was adopted. In most
of these cases the protest of the steete
was sufficient to obtain the desired
result. In a few, however, drastic
changes were brought about, including new amendments to the Constitution. The right of interposition has
been invoked by Northern and Southern states alike.
In this particular ease, several states
declare that their sovereignty has been
illegally over-ridden by the Supreme
Court — that the judicial branch of the
government exceeded its constitutional authority in ruling that segregation
in the public schools of tbe nation is
unconstitutional. Many other states
ancl their representatives stand just as
-XI. XI. McGowan, "Interposition or Nullification," printed speech, p. 15.
firmly on their conviction that th*
Supreme Court used its rightful pow'1''
to rule on this highly contested iss"1'-
There has been considerable co*
fusion and disagreement about ™
words "interposition" ancl "nullifi1*
tion." Do they mean the same thin?;
Some Southern steete's. like Mississippi
Virginia, and South Carolina, ha*
adopted resolutions eif interposing]
i.e., declaring the U. S. Suprefl1'
Court to be in error and seeking
prove their point by means of a rtf
amendment to the Constitution. ("'"
states, like Georgia and Alabal"J
have eidopted thi' harsher lorn1 °,
nullification, i.e., declaring the Co^
directive to be null and void xvitl'^
their states, and refusing to folio"'
While some constitutional exports *_
a technical difference in the' two 0 ^
trines, most state that nullificationj
actually interposition fully develop^
I fere is a typical explanation of
I have heard many say that they Wj*j
iiiti-rpiisiliiin. hut an- opposed In n"''' . J
tion. This is the same thing as saying ' ^
we favor the; aiming and firmer uf out S°
hut xs-e- an- aeeainst hitting the target ^
The very purpose of interposition lS
nullify. If that is not to he tin- ParF-l
tin- art of interposition becomes merejfj
expression of disfavor ami is meanl&cr]
interposition is tin- act by which ;l * '^t
attempts to nullify. Interposition xvim t
nullification is .1 knife without an eo» '^
erun without bullets, a ear without
engine, a hoely without a life.'
STATES' RIGHT THEORY
The theory eif interposition lS
v eloped from the doctrine "' 2j
..:.A.a 1..-..1. ..a~. r - sX.o 1™
rights, which stems from the '
Amendment te> the Constitution:
The powers not delegated to tin
Stales lie- tin- Constitution or pn"
by 11 to tin- states, an- reserved "'
states respectively, or to the people- ^
Also important to the understand^
which rights belong to the- state* t
which to the federal oovi-rn'"1'''
the Ninth Amendment:
'Williams, op. til., p. 1120.
Facts Fohum News, Jut'1-'