wrote the Kentucky Resolutions
wrote the Virginia Resolutions. Each having been passed by a state legislature
was an official pronouncement
Jefferson was, and many would still say is, the foremost spokesman for democratic principles.
Madison was generally accepted as the best informed man in the field of government at the Constitutional Convention. Although he was in a bad physical condition, some would consider him the most aggressive speaker.
These men were sincerely alarmed at the growing power of the central government under "loose construction". They were sure that the Sedition and the Alien Act were unconstitutional.
They Kentucky Resolutions made the following points:
1. The states made a compact, an agreement, known as the Constitution.
2. The Constitution set up a general government, the federal government, for special purposes, gave it definite powers, and reserved to each state all other rights and powers.
3. Whenever the "general government" assumed undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.
4. The government made by this compact "...was not made the exclusive or final judge of the exten of the powers delegated to itself."
5. The limited power of the general government and the soverignty of the states is made clear by the 10th Amendment, "that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States repsectively, or to the people."
6. The acts listed in the Sedition Act are punishable only by the states, "... the power to create, define, and punish such other crimes is reserved, and of right appertains solely and exclusively to the respective States, each within its own Territory."
7. "...no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by iut to the States, all lawful powers repsecting the same did of right reamin, and were reserved to the States, or to the people:... that therefore (the Sedition Act) which does abridge freedom of the press, is not law, but is altogether void and of no effect."
8. Aliens, "are under the jurisdiction and protections of laws of the State wherein they are; that no power over them has been delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the individual States distinct from their power over citizens;... (Alien Act), which assumes power over alien friends not delegated by the Constitution, is not law, but is altogether void and of no force."
9. Under the Alien Act the President may, without accusation, without jury, without public trial, without confrontation of the witnesses aginst him, without having witnesses in his favor, without defense counsel,... is therfore not law, but utterly void and of no force."
10. "...that the friendless alien has indeed been selected as the safest subject of a first experiment, but the citizen will soon follow, or rather has already followed; for, already has a sedition act marked him as its prey: that these and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested on the threshold , may tend to driv these States into resolution and blood, and will furnish new calumny against Republican governments, and new pretexts for those who wish it believed, that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron:"
Significance of the KY and VA Resolutions
At the time these resolutions were adopted by Kentcuky and Virginia, there was no intent to claim, much less act upon, the right of a state to withdraw from the union. BUt it clearly followed, and this was noted at the time, that acceptance of the Jefferson-Madison reasoning would make both nullifcation of laws of Congress by states, and the withdrawal of states form the Union obviously lawful steps for any state to take. The Constitution says nothing about the power to nullify acts of Congress,it says nothing about a state withdrawing from the Union; it therefore follows that these powers or right are residual, and thus belong to the states, or to the people. It is an interesting detail that the Articles of Confederation contained the words, "perpetual Union," but no such designation occurs in the Constitution. ON the basis of the ideas expressed in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions the prophecy that the states would be driven, "into revolution and blood," became a tragic truth in 1861.