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Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

Vice-President Stevens declared, in effect, that all the difficulties between the North and South may be amicably settled on the basis of two resolutions by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Indeed Mr. Stevens letter announced that the Southern States are simply contending for the principles of these resolutions, and that when the North acknowledges these principles every obstacle in the way of reunion will be removed. [H. Seymour, 1865]

1st Kentucky Resolution of 1798 by Thomas Jefferson

"Resolved. That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to the 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 unathoritative, void, and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party; that this government, created by this compact, was not made the exclusive or final judde 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 infraction as of the mode and measures of redress."

3rd Virginia Resolution of 1798 by James Madison

"That this Assembly does 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 further 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."

In 1799 the bulk of the State governments of New England wrote counter-resolutions against the Virginia Resolutions supporting the Federal Government, ran by John Adams and the Federalist, in it's attempt to revolutionize the laws and increase the power of Washington over the states and decrease the power of the Constitution. After 1801 the Federalist lost favor with the people and control of the government, cementing the political belief that the Resolutions of 1798 were a supplement to the Constitution and held sway until 1861.

David Upton