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The Virginia and Kentucky Resolves

The Virginia And Kentucky Resolves

In 1798 JAMES MADISON wrote the VIRGINIA RESOLVES, and THOMAS JEFFERSON wrote the KENTUCKY RESOLVES. These legislative resolutions challenged the legitimacy of the federal ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS of 1798. Enacted as internal security laws, these acts restricted aliens and limited freedom of the press on the assumption that the United States might soon be at war with France.

Madison and Jefferson argued that Congress did not have the express constitutional authority to deport aliens nor to prosecute persons for seditious libel. They asserted in the resolves that state legislatures had the right to determine whether the federal government was complying with the mandate of the Constitution. In the second of the Kentucky Resolves, Jefferson contended that the "sovereign and independent states" had the right to "interpose" themselves between their citizens and improper national legislative actions and to "nullify" acts of Congress they deemed unconstitutional.

The resolves became an important component of Southern political resistance in the nineteenth century. These ideas ultimately became the legal justification for the secession of the Southern states from the Union in 1861.

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