Page:Contemporary Opinion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, p2.djvu/14

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F. M. Anderson

of improper opposition to the federal laws on the part of Kentucky. The laws of which Kentucky complained were of two sorts: one kind was constitutional, but impolitic; the other was unconstitutional and impolitic. The former Kentucky would remonstrate against, but would obey promptly as long as they remained in force. Although the latter might be treated as dead letters, "yet we contemplate no means of opposition, even to these unconstitutional acts, but an appeal to the real laws of our country."[1]

This letter by George Nicholas brought out a rejoinder, which was issued at Cincinnati by a writer who signed himself, "An Inhabitant of the North-Western Territory."[2] After a most elaborate defense of the whole policy of the federal administration, this writer called upon unprejudiced men to read the resolutions of Clark County, those of other counties throughout the state, and especially the resolutions of the Kentucky legislature, and then to say whether all these did not tend directly towards securing a dissolution of the Union. In fact Kentucky had refused obedience to the federal laws and so far as it could do so it had dissolved the Union.[3] Then taking up Nicholas's classification of the objectionable laws, the writer argued that the only right of a state legislature touching either class of laws was the right of remonstrance. The second might be brought before the supreme federal judiciary, which is the constituted authority for determining such matters.[4]

Aside from what can be learned from these two pamphlets, little can now be ascertained about the attitude of the people of Kentucky prior to the meeting of the legislature in November, 1799. But the pamphlets, both of which appear to have been well known in the state, are sufficient to show that the feature of the resolutions of 1798 upon which the people of Kentucky had not already expressed their opinions was clearly put before them. Knowing this we may conclude that the legislature elected that fall represented the deliberate opinion of the people of Kentucky upon the remedy hinted in the resolutions of the previous year.

In Virginia the questions raised by the resolutions of 1798 were constantly before the people until after the elections of 1800. Copies of the resolutions and of the address prepared by the legislature to accompany them were sent to each county in the state. To counteract the effect of the address the Federalist minority in

  1. P. 31.
  2. Observations on a Letter from George Nicholas of Kentucky to His Friend in Virginia. By an inhabitant of the North-Western Territory. Cincinnati, February 14, 1799. H. U.
  3. P. 29.
  4. Pp. 37–39.