Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 1.djvu/217

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206
Ch. 7.
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

judgment for them." He went so far as to advise that every State should forbid, within its borders, the execution of any act of the general government "not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution;" and although the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia softened the language, they acted on the principle so far as to declare certain laws of the United States unconstitutional, with the additional understanding that whatever was unconstitutional was void. So far from accepting with "absolute acquiescence" the decisions of the majority, Jefferson and his followers held that freedom could be maintained only by preserving inviolate the right of every State to judge for itself what was, and what was not, lawful for a majority to decide.

What too, was meant by the words which pledged the new Administration to preserve the general government "in its whole Constitutional vigor"? The two parties were divided by a bottomless gulf in their theories of Constitutional powers; but until the precedents established by the Federalists should be expressly reversed, no one could deny that those precedents, to be treated as acts of the majority with absolute acquiescence, were a measure of the vigor which the President pledged himself to preserve. Jefferson could not have intended such a conclusion; for how could he promise to "preserve" the powers assumed in the Alien and Sedition laws, which then represented the whole vigor of the general government in fact if not in theory, when he had himself