Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

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Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions,

in U.S. history, resolutions passed in opposition to the Alien and Sedition ActsAlien and Sedition Acts,
1798, four laws enacted by the Federalist-controlled U.S. Congress, allegedly in response to the hostile actions of the French Revolutionary government on the seas and in the councils of diplomacy (see XYZ Affair), but actually designed to destroy Thomas
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, which were enacted by the Federalists in 1798. The Jeffersonian Republicans first replied in the Kentucky Resolutions, adopted by the Kentucky legislature in Nov., 1798. Written by Thomas Jefferson himself, they were a severe attack on the Federalists' broad interpretation of the Constitution, which would have extended the powers of the national government over the states. The resolutions declared that the Constitution merely established a compact between the states and that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it under the terms of the compact; should the federal government assume such powers, its acts under them would be unauthoritative and therefore void. It was the right of the states and not the federal government to decide as to the constitutionality of such acts. A further resolution, adopted in Feb., 1799, provided a means by which the states could enforce their decisions by formal nullification of the objectionable laws. A similar set of resolutions was adopted in Virginia in Dec., 1798, but these Virginia Resolutions, written by James Madison, were a somewhat milder expression of the strict construction of the Constitution and the compact theory of the Union. The resolutions were submitted to the other states for approval with no real result; their chief importance lies in the fact that they were later considered to be the first notable statements of the states' rightsstates' rights,
in U.S. history, doctrine based on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
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 theory of government, a theory that opened the way for the nullificationnullification,
in U.S. history, a doctrine expounded by the advocates of extreme states' rights. It held that states have the right to declare null and void any federal law that they deem unconstitutional.
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 controversy and ultimately for secessionsecession,
in political science, formal withdrawal from an association by a group discontented with the actions or decisions of that association. The term is generally used to refer to withdrawal from a political entity; such withdrawal usually occurs when a territory or state
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.

Bibliography

See E. D. Warfield, The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 (1887, repr. 1969); J. C. Miller, Crisis in Freedom (1951, repr. 1964).

References in periodicals archive ?
It was his devotion to the timeless principles of republicanism and popular sovereignty that led Spencer Roane to champion passage by the Virginia legislature of the Virginia Resolution penned by his friend and fellow Republican, James Madison.
Nathaniel Exum put it, "Once we have come to that recognition [of slavery], maybe we will also recognize steps we need to do to get rid of the lingering effects of it on the people." In saying that, he was contradicting the often-made argument that an apology does not, in the explicit words of the Virginia resolution, "justify the imposition of new benefits or burdens"--that is, monetary reparations.
The Kentucky Resolution and a similar, later Virginia Resolution can be seen as setting the stage for the Civil War since they proclaim the states to have the higher authority in a principled disagreement with the federal government.
Madison's Virginia resolution, which was introduced in the Virginia Assembly by John Taylor, was much shorter and more moderate than Jefferson's fervent Kentucky resolution.
* In the Virginia Resolution of 1798, Madison wrote, "In case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers [by the federal government], not granted by the said compact [the Constitution], 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."
The Virginia Resolution, written by Madison, was guided through the legislature by John Taylor of Caroline.
In fact, the three were so simpatico politically and philosophically that when it came to the critical constitutional role of states in the delicate balance of federalism, it was Taylor who introduced Madison's Virginia Resolution to the legislature of the Old Dominion in 1798.
The Virginia Resolution took the additional step of labeling as legitimate the interposition of states to the passing by Congress of unconstitutional acts.
Even Madison was alarmed by Jefferson's wording and used slightly more discreet language in his Virginia Resolutions. Decades later, he would try to distance himself from the implication that the Constitution was a mere treaty, or that states could nullify federal laws.
ACCORDING TO CALHOUN, NOT ONLY was the logic of nullification airtight, but he also believed he had the greatest authorities on his side: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, principal authors of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, respectively, written in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.
As I showed in a journal article years ago, recollection of the Philadelphia Convention was not the only context in which he engaged in such behavior: his famous Virginia Report of 1800 arguably represents not merely an explanation but a significant moderation of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798.
There are eight chapters: the idea of a non-party state; the idea of revolution; the idea of revolution: conspiracy and counterrevolution; the principles of the American and French Revolution; the politics of faction; the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and threats to the First Amendment; the politics of the revolution of 1800: prelude; the politics of the revolution of 1800: revolution.
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