The New Student's Reference Work/States' Rights
States' Rights, a term used in the United States to indicate a doctrine, based upon an understanding of the constitution, which assumes that the different states of the Union are independent and that the citizens of a state owe allegiance only to the state; that the states are joined together only for certain purposes; and that the acts of the general government must be approved by the separate states, which possess the right also to nullify or pronounce them of no authority or, if necessary, to secede from the Union. The first appearance of this idea was in 1798, when the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia protested on this ground against the alien and sedition laws which permitted the president of the United States to remove from the states aliens or foreigners whose presence might be considered dangerous and to punish sedition in the states. In 1811 and in 1819 the matter recurred in connection with the United States Bank charter, Henry Clay and Maryland claiming that the government had no authority to create a bank. In 1832 South Carolina attempted to carry the principle into action by pronouncing the high tariff “null and void” and not binding on its citizens. The passage of a compromise tariff-law settled the trouble for that time. In 1860-61 the southern states carried out the principle by seceding from the Union, and their action was followed by the Civil War.