The Virginia and Kentucky
Resolutions (Resolves) argued that the federal government had no
authority to exercise power not specifically delegated to it in
the Constitution - the Principle of Nullification.
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
- States Rights
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were
the first attempts by the advocates of states rights to
impose the rule of nullification to cancel actions taken
by the central government.
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions for kids - History and Background
The Virginia and
Kentucky Resolutions were drafted as a backlash and the strong
opposition to the
Alien and Sedition Acts
a collection of four laws that were passed by Congress
in the aftermath of the
the XYZ Affair and during the
Quasi War with France. All of these events
contributed to the suspicion of
foreigners and the 'enemy within'. The Federalist political
party led by John Adams, Alexander
Gouverneur Morris initiated these 'war laws'
to strengthen the Federal government, and making the nation safe for
trade and wealthy men of property.
The Republican political party was
led by Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison. These men
mainly represented the poorer Americans and recent immigrants, and
were the fiercest opponents of the acts, which basically
restricted the rights of immigrants to the US and violated the US
Constitution and the right of free speech.
Opposition to the
1798 Alien and Sedition Acts for kids - The Virginia and Kentucky
Resolutions (1798 - 1799)
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (Resolves) in fierce opposition to the passing of the
Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson was responsible for
drafting the two Kentucky Resolutions that were proposed to the
Kentucky Legislature and James Madison was responsible for the one
Virginia Resolution that he proposed to the Virginia Legislature.
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions for kids - Jefferson and Madison
Thomas Jefferson and
James Madison looked to the recent history of the US when drafting
the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. During the build up to the
Revolutionary War of Independence the colonial legislatures had
passed many resolutions condemning the laws and acts of the British
government. Using this as an example for their actions the Virginia
and Kentucky legislatures passed resolutions against the Alien and
The Purpose of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
The purpose of the
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions was to question the
constitutionality of the laws and:
Condemn the Sedition Act
as a violation of the Free Speech Clause to the
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (the Bill of Rights)
Argue that Congress had
exceeded its powers by passing the law
Argue that Congress could
only exercise those powers specifically delegated to it
To argue that according to
Article I of the Constitution authority was given to the
legislative branch to regulate political speech
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions for kids - State Rights
The arguments of
Jefferson and Madison was based on the belief that the Constitution
was a compact (meaning a a formal agreement or contract) between the
states. It therefore followed that a state could determine whether
any act of Congress was constitutional or not. It therefore followed
that any state could refuse to permit an Act of Congress to be
enforced within its limits. (This argument was later used by John C.
Calhoun in his 1828 South
Carolina Exposition and the
1832 Nullification Crisis).
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions for kids - Rule of Nullification
These assertions meant that any state could make cancel or nullify
any Act of Congress that it saw fit to oppose. This last conclusion
was found only in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799. But Thomas
Jefferson wrote to this effect in the original draft of the Kentucky
Resolutions of 1798.
When were the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions passed?
The Kentucky state
legislature passed its two resolutions on November 16, 1798 and
November 22, 1999. The Virginia state legislature passed its one
resolution on December 24, 1798.
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions for kids - Abuse of Power by the
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions called the
voter's attention to the
abuse of power and did much to
form public opinion against the government and President John Adams.
The public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great
that they were in part responsible for
the election of Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican
Party) to the
presidency in 1800. Once in office, Thomas Jefferson pardoned all
those convicted under the Sedition Act, whilst Congress restored all
fines imposed which were paid with interest.