Page:Contemporary Opinion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, p2.djvu/13

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237
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

other legislative action intended to be even more emphatic than a formal reply. South of the Potomac, where the Republican strength was rapidly rising, it had not yet been sufficiently consolidated to secure expressions of approval for even a portion of the resolutions; but it was strong enough to prevent any formal disapproval of them, as in the North.

2. The replies, formulated everywhere by the Federalists, declare the Alien and Sedition Laws both expedient and constitutional, thus constituting a most emphatic counter-protest to the protesting feature of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. The replies further assert, as regards the remedy hinted at by Virginia and Kentucky, that the states have no right to pass upon the constitutionality of laws enacted by Congress; and nearly all of them, in terms more or less direct, point to the federal judiciary as the proper authority to decide upon the constitutionality of federal laws.

3. The entire reasoning of both the Virginia and the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 was grounded upon the assertion, plainly expressed in each set of resolutions, that the Union was the result of a compact to which the states were parties. This fundamental doctrine received no attention in any of the replies or the discussions over them, so far as the latter have been preserved, except in the reply of Vermont to Kentucky. It is probable that this assertion of Virginia and Kentucky was more generally accepted in 1799 than it was later; and it is certain that neither the Republican who asserted it nor the Federalist who denied it had any adequate conception of the results to which a logical development of the doctrine would lead.

4. The Republicans, wherever their attitude can be learned, fully endorsed the protesting features of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and accepted in part the reasoning upon which the remedy was grounded, though few went to the full extent of the Virginia and Kentucky doctrines.

When the Kentucky legislature sent forth its resolutions the excitement in that state did not entirely cease. George Nicholas, who with Breckenridge had been the leader of the movement in Kentucky, published a pamphlet early in January 1799 for the purpose of putting the case of Kentucky in proper light. It bore the title A Letter from George Nicholas of Kentucky to His Friend in Virginia, and though dated three days prior to the passage of the Kentucky resolutions was really a defense of them. Nicholas denied most emphatically that the people of Kentucky contemplated separating from the Union,[1]

  1. Pp. 21–24. H U.