Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 43 Kentucky Resolutions

SOME time in September, 1798, ensconced in his eyrie ar Monticello, Jefferson commenced work on a series of resolutions which he intended to have submitted to a sympathetic stare legislature for consideration and passage. He worked in the strictest secrecy and enveloped the entire proceedings in such an extraordinary veil of mystery that the exact derails have furnished a fruitful field for historical dispute down to the present day.1

For the secrecy and mystery there was good and sufficient reason. Jefferson was Vice-President of the United States; the resolutions were an appeal from the authority of the Federal Government to the authority of the States. They proclaimed boldly the right and duty of the States to declare measures of the national government unconstitutional and void; and hinted even ar the last resort of secession from that government. At any time, such a pronouncement would have created an immense furore; in the current state of exacerbation and superheated tempers, it might welt have been considered as treason; and particularly so when penned by the second in command in the nation.

Therefore Jefferson rook no one into his confidence except for one man. Strangely enough, that man was not Madison, his bosom friend and stoutest political ally. At least nor in the beginning.2 Perhaps he feared that, with the connection between them so well known to the outer world, some hint of what impended might filter through, and the origin of the explosive resolutions be eventually traced. The man to whom he entrusted the perilous secret was Wilson Cary Nicholas of Virginia, an old friend and enthusiastic Republican, bur nor as intimately associated in the public rain d with Jefferson as Madison would have been, or Monroe.

What made Nicholas particularly well equipped to act as Jefferson's intermediary and emissary was the fact that his private and business affairs took him out of Virginia into the neighboring states, and his journeyings and meetings with the political leaders of those states would not occasion undue comment or be connected with Jefferson.

The Resolutions, as Jefferson shaped them into final form, expounded a theory of the federal compact which made the several States the final arbiters of Constitutional construction and the sole guardians of their own absolute powers against the delegated powers of the national government. The Alien and Sedition Acts were the springboard for this assertion of powers; hut the Resolutions went far beyond the particular occasion to enunciate

-610-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thomas Jefferson: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 1074

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?