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Jefferson And Madison On State’s Rights And Nullification

Written by | December 2nd, 2012

In 1798, in response to President John Adam’s, and The Federalist Party’s, Alien and Sedition Acts, and a Federal Government that was increasingly overstepping the Limited Constitutional Powers to which they were created to be an agent of, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison responded with two sets of Resolutions. Jefferson authored The Kentucky Resolution, and Madison, The Virginia Resolution. For those of us who are concerned about the increasing size and scope of our Federal Government, both Resolutions are as insightful, and applicable, today, as they were in 1798. And, both Resolutions should be read, and understood, by our State Legislators, so that they understand that they are responsible to us, the citizens of these respective states, and not to The Federal Government, or some political party.

Below, is a paragraph from each of The Resolutions, which demonstrate, clearly, and puts into perspective, the relationship between our states and The Federal Government; as well as the remedy, when The Federal Government legislates, and assumes powers, outside of it’s Enumerated Constitutional Powers:

“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 the compact; as no further valid that 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 appertaining liberties to them.” – James Madison (The Virginia Resolution)

“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 a 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 part, 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 powers 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.” – Thomas Jefferson (The Kentucky Resolutions)


Further Reading:
Nullification Of The Act Is The Rightful Remedy

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