Kentucky Resolutions

Also found in: Encyclopedia.

Kentucky Resolutions

A set of proposals formulated by Thomas Jefferson and approved by the state legislature of Kentucky during 1798 and 1799 in opposition to the enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts (1 Stat. 566, 570, 577, 596) by Congress.

The Kentucky Resolutions attacked the validity of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the enactment of which were a reaction to the turbulent political climate of France during the late 1700s following the French Revolution. The acts imposed strict residency requirements in order to attain U.S. citizenship, empowered the president to deport or incarcerate Aliens who were considered "dangerous," and permitted the criminal prosecution of persons who made critical or seditious speeches or writings against the government. The resolutions advocated a strict constructionist view of the federal government which treated the Constitution as an agreement reached among the states as to the particular powers to be exercised by the central government. The federal government could not act in any way unless specifically authorized to do so in the Constitution. The enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts was considered to be beyond the powers of Congress and, therefore, the acts were void. The resolutions represented the exercise of the right of the state of Kentucky to declare the acts void through nullification (the declaration that such laws were not legally enforceable).

A comparable series of proposals, the Virginia Resolutions, drawn by James Madison, and approved by the Virginia legislature in 1798, treated the Alien and Sedition Acts in a similar fashion.

Both the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions did not meet with any real success when presented to other states for adoption. They were, however, significant in American Legal History because they embodied the clash between two competing principles of government—states' rights versus Federalism.

Further readings

Costa, Greg. 1999. "John Marshall, the Sedition Act, and Free Speech in the Early Republic." Texas Law Review 77 (March).

Watkins, William J., Jr. 1999. "The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions: Guideposts of Limited Government." Independent Review 3 (winter).


Virginia and Kentucky Resolves; "Virginia and Kentucky Resolves" (Appendix, Primary Document).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Constantine Gutzman, "The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions Reconsidered: 'An Appeal to the Real Laws of Our Country,'" The Journal of Southern History 66 (2000), 473-96.
The Grass Roots Origins of the Kentucky Resolutions. William and Mary Quarterly 28 (April): 221-45.
Seen from this perspective, Madison's participation in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions is not a change of heart but a consistent consequence of confederal thinking.
Constitution, one of the first significant attempts to resist political consolidation was the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798.
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 provide contexts for examining problems of constitutional meaning and authority that are typically obscured by forms of analysis that center on the Constitution's judicial enforcement.
In 1798, Jefferson and James Madison prepared the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions in reply to the Federalists ' Alien and Sedition Acts, which were directed against propagandists for the French Revolution and the Democratic - Republican Party.
The second of the Kentucky Resolutions was intended to specifically set forth the legal and constitutional basis for the denial to the Congress of the power to punish crimes not explicitly listed in the Constitution.
Here you will find the text and explication of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99, New England's nullifying response to Jefferson's Embargo Act, the South's dispute with Jackson over tariff policy, and Wisconsin's rejection of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Serious scholars will find little that is new in the book, but it is lucidly written and explains complicated events (such as the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions) accurately and succinctly.
The term "nullification" was coined by Thomas Jefferson in his 1798 Kentucky Resolutions that protested the Alien and Sedition Acts' unconstitutional criminal ban on criticism of the President.

Full browser ?