Greetings and welcome to our second Kentucky History Friday. Again, my name is Austin and this week we are to discuss the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798. Entitled The Context and Sociopolitical Implications of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, this article shall examine the history, antecedents and hence implications of the afore mentioned adjudications. Various photographs and/or representations are to be included for contextual comprehension.
The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were a set of adjudications adopted via the General Assemblies of Kentucky and Virginia, respectively. Given the general purpose hereof, we should today give precedence to the examination of the Kentucky Resolutions. Prior thereto, let us expatiate upon its context: Kentucky statehood (1st of June, 1792) had existed for circa 6 years when the Federal Congress of the United States adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Such implementations declared the indefinite illegality of any person to write, print, utter or publish any materials which were hostile to, detracting and/or critical of the Federal government. These laws were, in part, reactionary documents to undeclared hostilities with the newly born French Republic (primarily of a naval nature) henceforth termed the Quasi War; indeed the acts implemented numerous restrictions upon non-citizens. Although John Adams, the Federal President who set his hand such that these acts may become law, asserted their purpose as the perpetuation of peace, one can easily identify the political motivations thereof. Actuality endows us with the knowledge that only Democratic-Republicans (or de facto anti-federalists) were imprisoned via the statutes of these Federalist-proposed adjudications.
As we shall, with hope, come to realize in our subsequent articles, the Antebellum Period often was characterized by the abounding of conflicts between those who would see a consolidated unitary nation and those who would reassert the original doctrines of state sovereignty; one may certainly argue that the American Civil War was a culmination of these dissensions which ignited a major societal revolution in perception. Kentucky itself, during the course of secession from the Commonwealth of Virginia, had titillated the concept of a non-federated state which defied entrance into the American Union (this being perpetuated by Spain, who sought a buffer state to divide and diffuse the interests of the United Kingdom and United States on the North American continent.) The initial Governors of our Commonwealth were all of the Democratic-Republican (or Jeffersonian) Party; the afore being that which advanced states’ rights and favored the idea of strict constructionism. Strict constructionism entails the literal interpretation of the Federal Constitution, and is rooted deeply – as are the Kentucky Resolutions – in the 10th Amendment thereto, stating that powers not delegated to the Federal government are reserved to the States, or to the People, respectively.
The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.
As many of our readers may not wield a familiarity with it, let us take to examining and elaborating upon the doctrine of state sovereignty. Whereas the Civil War revolutionized for the majority the very delimitations of these United States, one must note the non-solidarity of the 13 American colonies. What we today term the Declaration of Independence was, to its authors, the Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America; found therein is the wordage …that united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States. In effect, this document does not declare the sovereignty of a nation but rather of 13 nations. The term state itself is synonymous with country, as evidenced via a later phrasing in the latter document referencing the State of Great Britain. Indeed, a federation - the governmental structure of the United States – is a union or association of states; a nation composed of nations, or a state composed of states, if you will. State sovereignty therefore is the doctrine asserting the independence of each state, as well as its inherent jurisdiction in its own territory. Such system is at times deemed dual federalism.
James Garrard was the occupant of the Governorship of Kentucky in 1798 – the 2nd individual to hold the office – and, as implied, was a Democratic-Republican. The Alien and Sedition Acts instilled a fiery opposition in many citizens; its constitutionality was questioned, with such detractors citing the 1st Amendment. Governor Garrard was among these citizens, and fervently supported the passage of the Kentucky Resolutions. Whilst the mother-state of Kentucky – Virginia – did institute its own resolutions authored by James Madison (who would later deny their purpose, despite its clear wording,) Kentucky’s resolutions were of a greater veracity. Authored by Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 affirmed state sovereignty; the document laments the violation of the US Constitution. In brevity, they state that the Federal government is but an instrument of the States as it may only exist so long as the Union – composed of the constituent states – survives; thus it is the right of each state to determine when such Federal government has overreached its authority, and hence nullify the acts thereof within its respective borders. An accompanying resolution the following year would reaffirm these principles, detesting the acts as despotism and That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.
Such statements were representative of an inflamed citizenry which sought to rectify what it held as a major injustice. The Alien and Sedition Acts were later repealed; however the question of nullification would greatly linger in the halls of government and in the righteous minds of men. It will in the subsequent century reappear, though not in Kentucky but rather in South Carolina. Many similar primary sources are immensely significant to us, as they lend to our contemporary society the sociopolitical implications of the 18th and 19th centuries.
We hope you have enjoyed this article and gained knowledge therefrom. Join us next week for another Kentucky History Friday! Next week, we will examine curious origins of the early Antebellum piece, Oh, Shenandoah; in light thereof, begin to ponder the question: how significant was music to the Antebellum mind and what are its implications? Email us your thoughts!
Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information: www.historyofky.weebly.com
- Austin R. Justice, History of Kentucky Group.
Jefferson and Madison.
The Declaration of Independence.
The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.
Historical state seal of Kentucky.
Recruitment advertisement; Quasi War.
Hi, I'm the website Admin. I look after the website as well as the chapter social media accounts.
Austin R. Justice
PMC of River Cities Chapter and Lincoln Forum & Colloquium Student Scholar.
Spencer M. Dayton