Page:Contemporary Opinion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, p2.djvu/9
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
hand, is long and elaborate, deserving to rank in importance with that of Massachusetts. It is not, like the reply of Massachusetts, a consideration of the general principles involved, but takes up the resolutions of Kentucky one after another and makes reply to them. The fundamental principles of the resolutions of Kentucky contained in the opening declaration are thus epitomized: "That the states constituted the general government, and that each state as party to the compact, has an equal right to judge for itself as well of the infractions of the Constitution, as of the mode and measure of redress." The entire contemporary discussion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions brought out no more significant comment than the answer of Vermont to the doctrine of Kentucky. "This cannot be true. The old confederation, it is true, was formed by the state Legislatures, but the present Constitution of the United States was derived from an higher authority. The people of the United States formed the federal constitution, and not the states, or their Legislatures. And although each state is authorized to propose amendments, yet there is a wide difference between proposing amendments to the constitution, and assuming, or inviting, a power to dictate and control the General Government." This brief reply of Vermont is the only one in all of the answers made by the states which, like the first resolution of Kentucky and the third of Virginia, goes directly to the fundamental question, the nature of the federal union. The declaration of Vermont, properly understood, is not free from all ambiguity on the subject. It does not declare so decisively as to admit of no doubt that the legislature of Vermont thought of the Constitution as ratified by the people of the United States acting en masse, instead of as states. But it leans strongly in that direction and absolutely denies the correctness of the conclusion drawn by Kentucky from the opposite premise.
The second resolution of Kentucky pronounced the Alien and Sedition Laws "altogether void and of no force" as contrary to the principles of the Constitution, Amendment X. declaring "that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or the people." To this Vermont rejoined that Kentucky misconstrued and misapplied the amendment, but that even if one adopted the construction which Kentucky put upon that amendment, its conclusion was not warranted. Under that conclusion all the acts of Congress would be brought in review before the state legislatures, while the Constitution of the United States provides that "Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be proper for carrying into execution the government of the United States."