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VIRGINIA AND KENTUCKY
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, the expression of the opposition to the Alien and Sedition laws originated in a conference at Monticello between Thos. Jefferson and two brothers, Geo. Nicholas, of Kentucky, and Wm. C. Nicholas, of Virginia, while Madison may have been present. As a result, Jefferson drafted the Kentucky resolutions and Madison, the Virginia. Jefferson's resolutions were passed by the Kentucky legislature November 10, 1798, and Madison's, by the Virginia legislature December 21, 1798. These resolutions were forwarded to the legislatures of the several states and elicited decidedly unfavorable replies from the states north of the Potomac. In answer to these replies the Kentucky resolutions of 1799 were adopted.
Jefferson's latest biographer, John T. Morse, says the Kentucky Resolutions “ remained a foundation and sufficient precedent and authority for all the subsequent secession doctrines of the Eastern states, for the nullification proceedings of South Carolina, almost, if not quite, for the Rebellion of 1861."
The Kentucky legislature somewhat modified Jefferson's draft, striking out the nullification
clause, which, however, appeared in the final resolution in the next year, 1799.
Consult Schouler's U. S., I., 423; Bryant and Gay's U. S., IV., 130; Von Holst's Const. Hist. U.S., I., 143 ; Hildreth's U.S., V., 272; McMaster's U.S., II., 419; Morse's Jefferson, 193. The original draft of the Kentucky Resolution is in Jefferson's Works, IX., 494. The replies of the States to the Resolutions, together with Madison's Report in the replies, are in Elliot's Debates, vol. IV.
VIRGINIA RESOLUTIONS OF 1798.
VIRGINIA to wit,
IN THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES,
Friday, December 21st, 1798. Resolved, that the General Assembly of Virginia doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of this state, against every aggression, either foreign or domestic, and that they will support the government of the United States in all measures, warranted by the former.
That this Assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the union of the states, to maintain which, it pledges its powers; and that for this end, it is their duty, to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles, which constitute the only basis of that union, because a faithful observance of them, can alone secure its existence, and the public happiness.
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the Federal Government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of
the instrument constituting that compact; as no farther valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact, and that in case of a deliberate, palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.
That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret, that a spirit has, in sundry instances, been manifested by the Federal Government, to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former articles of confederation were the less liable to be misconstrued) so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration, which necessarily explains and limits the general phrases; and so as to consolidate the states by degrees into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable consequence of which would be, to transform the present republican system of the United States, into an absolute, or at best a mixed monarchy.
That the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the constitution, in the two late cases of the “Alien and Sedition acts," passed at the last session of Congress; the first of which exercises a power nowhere delegated to the Federal Government; and which by uniting legislative and judicial powers, to those of executive, subverts the general principles of free government, as well as the particular organization and positive provisions of the federal constitution: and the other of which acts, exercises in like manner a power not delegated by the constitution, but on the contrary expressly and positively forbidden by
one of the amendments thereto; a power which more than any other ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right.
That this state having, by its convention which ratified the federal constitution, expressly declared, “that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States," and from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry and ambition, having with other states recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was in due time annexed to the constitution, it would mark a reproachful inconsistency and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shewn to the most palpable violation of one of the rights thus declared and secured, and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.
That the good people of this Commonwealth having ever felt and continuing to feel the most sincere affection for their brethren of the other states, the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the union of all, and the most scrupulous fidelity to that constitution which is the pledge of mutual friendship, and the instrument of mutual happiness: the General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions of the other states, in confidence that they will concur with this commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional, and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each for coöperating with this state, in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties, reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
That the Governor be desired to transmit a copy of the
foregoing resolutions to the executive authority of each of the other states, with a request, that the same may be communicated to the legislature thereof.
And that a copy be furnished to each of the Senators and Representatives representing this state in the Congress of the United States.
Attest, JOHN STEWART, C. H. D. 1798, December the 24th. Agreed to by the Senate.
H. BROOKE, C. S.
KENTUCKY RESOLUTIONS OF 1798.
I. Resolved, that the several states composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government ; but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that Government certain definite powers, reserving each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-Government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: That to this compact each state acceded as a state, and is an integral party, its co-states forming as to itself, the other party: That the Government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the constitution, the measure of its powers; but that as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common Judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.
II. Resolved, that the Constitution of the United States having delegated to Congress a power to punish treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the