South Carolina Exposition and Kentucky and Virginia

1 January 2018

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (or Resolves) were important political tenements in favor of states’ rights written secretly by Vice President Thomas Jefferson (who would later become president) and James Madison in 1798. They were passed by the two states in opposition to the federal Alien and Sedition Acts. Though often mentioned as a pair in modern historical discussions, they were actually two separate documents.The Kentucky Resolutions were written by Jefferson and passed by the state legislature on November 16, 1 798, with one more being passed the following year on December 3, 1799.

The Virginia Resolutions were written by Madison and passed by the state legislature on December 24, 1798. Jefferson and Madison collaborated on the writing of the two documents, but their authorship was not known for many years.The resolutions attacked the Sedition Acts, which extended the powers of the federal government over individuals inside the states. The resolutions declared that the Constitution was a “compact. ” That is, it was an agreement among the states. The federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it; should the federal government assume such powers, its acts under them would be void. Thus it was the right of the states to decide as to the constitutionality of such laws passed by Congress.

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