When the Virginia legislature met, the replies of the other states were referred to a committee, of which Madison was chairman. The report of that committee, since known as Madison's Report, after carefully considering each of the resolutions of the preceding year, recommended a reaffirmation of them. This action was taken after the counter-resolutions offered by the Federalist minority had been voted down by a vote of ninety-eight to fifty-seven. The vote may be regarded as a fair approximation to the division of public opinion in Virginia.
The resolutions offered by the minority argued against the report of Madison's committee in its defence of both the protesting and the remedial features of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. But one peculiar feature of the minority resolutions is worthy of attention here. As has been already remarked more than once in the course of this article, the argument for the remedy hinted at in the Virginia Resolutions was grounded upon the doctrine that the states were parties to the compact which resulted in the federal union. Madison in his argument for the resolution which contained this doctrine was forced to consider the meaning of the term states. The conclusion arrived at was that the term states in the resolutions meant "the people composing those political societies, in their highest sovereign capacity." Thus, according to Madison's further reasoning, the people of each state instead of the people of the United States en masse, were the parties to the Constitution. In the counter-resolutions offered by the Federalists this interpretation of the parties to the Constitution is accepted entirely. The conclusion which the Federalists drew from this premise, as applied to the particular question then at hand, was quite different from that drawn by Madison, but the agreement between them is significant, for it shows that many of the Federalists as well as the Republicans accepted the fundamental doctrine of state sovereignty.
Intrinsically the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799 and Madison's Report are equally important with the resolutions of 1798, or more so. In view of this fact it is much to be regretted that we know little as to what was thought of them outside of Virginia and Kentucky. The resolutions were widely copied, appearing in nearly all of the leading newspapers, but in nearly every instance that I have found, they appeared in the same issue with the announcement of the death of Washington. Sorrow so completely filled the public mind and the newspapers were so much taken up with details of his death, his
- Elliot's Debates, IV. 572 (Washington ed. 1836).
- Proceedings of the Virginia Assembly on the Answers of Sundry States to their Resolutions, 1800. Pamphlet, H. U. Pp. 100–102
- Elliot's Debates, IV. 573 (Washington ed. 1836).