Page:Contemporary Opinion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, p2.djvu/11

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Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

the replies because they regarded the Alien and Sedition Laws as both inexpedient and unconstitutional. Unfortunately the statement does not make equally plain the attitude of the minority regarding the other important feature of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, namely, their doctrine of the proper remedy for unconstitutional federal legislation. The minority declared that they could not assent to the view advanced by the majority, that the Virginia and Kentucky remedy was an unconstitutional assumption of power not belonging to the state legislatures. Without stating explicitly its own theory the minority alluded to itself as "advocating the power of each state to decide on the constitutionality of some laws of the union;" this right it limited to laws which "infringe on the powers reserved to the states, by the tenth article of the amendments to the constitution." Nothing was said to indicate the manner in which this right was to be exercised, and an express disclaimer was entered against "an intent to justify an opposition, in any manner or form whatever, to the operation of any act of the union." Such opposition would be "rebellion, punishable by the courts of the United States." From these somewhat contradictory declarations the only conclusion which we are warranted in drawing is that the Vermont Republicans agreed in part at least with their Virginia and Kentucky brethren upon the remedy for unconstitutional federal legislation. Upon a yet more fundamental point, the nature of the federal union, their agreement was complete; the Vermont minority declared "that the states individually, compose one of the parties to the federal compact or constitution."

None of the states south of Virginia sent replies and but little can be learned about the cause of their failure to do so. The legislature of North Carolina was in session when the Kentucky Resolutions reached that state but adjourned before those of Virginia arrived. The Kentucky resolutions were laid before it, but the few notices of its action upon them are so ambiguously phrased that the precise action taken cannot be ascertained. In the Senate the Kentucky Resolutions were certainly read and laid upon the table, where they were permitted to remain without any definite action upon them.[1] About the same time the resolutions were sent to the House, but whether that body endorsed them and sent them to the Senate or took into account the action of the Senate and took no action itself cannot be ascertained.[2] The fact that there was a Republican majority in the lower house and that it passed a resolution calling upon Congress to repeal the Alien and Sedition Laws

  1. Albany Centinel, January 22, 1799. H. U.
  2. Ibid.