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rôle it was to play. Democratic in nature, it was to be republican in form. The prevalence of the idea of democracy gave to that name less distinction than the name Republican, and the French influences which were operating upon Mr. Jefferson also contributed to accent the Republican half of the name. To accept the Constitution for what it was, and to limit its meaning strictly to what it said, and to secure the largest freedom of action to the people and to the States became the settled policy of the Jeffersonian era. But, by a remarkable failure to clearly penetrate the true nature of the democracy of which he was then believed, and has ever since been believed, to be the protagonist, Mr. Jefferson sought to safeguard popular government by erecting a barrier to the Federal Government in the States. The independence and sovereignty of the States, the respective powers of the ordinary government of the States and the State in sovereign convention became, under the vague conditions of a half-digested political theory, the staple of debate and the occasion of much windy rhetoric.

Mr. Jefferson pursued his main policy with sufficient detachment from the side-issues that attended his progress to enable him to use every kind of profession of democratic faith to promote his ambition. And despite large use of the implied powers of the Constitution and the support of the most intense advocates of narrow provincialism and of freedom for the white man only he substantially advanced the popular ideals of a great and growing country.

The Kentucky Resolutions were primarily intended to promote the Jeffersonian campaign and to give it a platform. They professed to be an attack upon specific encroachments by the central Government. Their significance lies in the fact that they declared a particular theory of the origin and nature of the national Government. Unhappily this theory was hastily put together and capable of the greatest diversity of interpretation. This has rendered the history of the genesis of the movement, the authorship of the resolutions, and the responsibility for the doctrines put forth of the highest interest.


The genesis of any great movement must always be subject to different interpretations. The meaning of the Kentucky Resolutions and of those which immediately followed has been befogged by partisan controversy. The authorship also must remain an insoluble problem because it has become colored by political considerations. Probably all the facts that will ever be known have been laid before the public, and there remains a gap in the evidence which is essential to determine two main points: the origin of the idea of offering resolutions in the State legislatures, and the authorship of the first draft of the resolutions offered in Kentucky.

The first point is not very significant, perhaps, but it has a bearing on the initiative in the whole campaign. The facts that resolutions protesting against the Alien and Sedition laws were passed by various local meetings in Kentucky in 1798, that John Breckinridge went to Virginia and was in conference with Mr. Jefferson in the summer of that year, that he offered the resolutions, and for nearly a generation was accepted as their author constitute the basis of the claim that to him belongs the initial step.1

The controversy with reference to the authorship grew out of the effort of partisans to secure Mr. Jefferson's prestige for their interpretation of the resolutions, and is largely dependent upon the letter written by Mr. Jefferson on December 11, 1821, to Joseph Cabell Breckinridge, in which Mr. Jefferson asserts his authorship. The advocates of Mr. Breckinridge's claim assert that Mr. Jefferson was old, in failing health, and never generous in admitting the debts he owed to his colleagues and lieutenants. More recent discussion turns upon a very simple set of circumstances.

It is highly probable that there was a conference in Virginia in the summer of 1798 between Mr. Breckin'Warfield, "Kentucky Resolutions," Chapter II.

'In Mr. Jefferson's published writings this letter appears as to Nicholas, Esq.," which was supposed to mean a son of George


ridge, Mr. Jefferson, and Wilson Cary Nicholas, at which time it was determined that a definite movement should be undertaken for a popular denunciation of the Alien and Sedition laws, and that the first action should be taken by the Kentucky legislature and resolutions introduced there by John Breckinridge, and that Mr. Madison should be interested in the movement and should be consulted with reference to a further development of the plan. It would also appear that a second conference which had been planned failed to take place, and that the final arrangements were made by correspondence. It cannot be absolutely certain from the documents at hand that Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. Jefferson discussed the matter in detail. The Jefferson papers contain a set of resolutions similar to those introduced into the legislature by Mr. Breckinridge. It is a matter of difference of opinion whether these resolutions originated with Mr. Breckinridge, who communicated them to Mr. Jefferson, or whether they originated with Mr. Jefferson and were communicated to Mr. Breckinridge. Certain divergencies between the draft and the resolutions presented in the legislature are very significant as to the state of mind of Mr. Jefferson, especially as the weight of opinion has been that the portions contained in the Jefferson draft and omitted from the resolutions that were adopted were stricken out by Mr. Breckinridge on Mr. Jefferson's revision of his original proposal.

The chief omission is that of the eighth resolution of the draft: a long, labored, and turgid diatribe, the authorship of which cannot add anything to the reputation of either claimant. In form and in substance it has all the defects of a hastily drawn and half-considered proposal which was expected to receive searching revision. This resolution contains the word nullification-which did not find official enactment until the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799, of which Mr. Breckinridge was indisputably the author-and a fully developed form of the idea of nullification.

A part of the language of this resolution is also found in the report of Mr. Breckinridge's speech in the Kentucky legislature, printed in the Palladium in its re

port of the proceedings in the legislature. It is as follows:

"To be explicit, sir, I consider the co-States to be alone parties to the Federal compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the power exercised under the compact-Congress being not a party, but merely the creature of the compact, and subject as to its assumptions of power to the final judgments of those by whom and for whose use itself and its powers were created."

I have discussed this matter with fulness in my history of the Kentucky Resolutions, while the opposite opinion has been ably presented by one of the chief authorities upon the subject, the late James C. Welling, president of Columbian University, in a review of that book in the Nation for December 29, 1887. My view is that the draft was Mr. Breckinridge's, was submitted by him to Mr. Jefferson for consultation with Mr. Nicholas and others, and that the omitted passages were suppressed upon Mr. Jefferson's advice as being a somewhat more radical expression than was deemed wise. The general agreement of the revised resolutions with the Virginia Resolutions seems to me to indicate the Virginia attitude of mind, while the assertion of the position by Mr. Breckinridge in debate and the appearance of the same phraseology in his Kentucky Resolutions of 1799 seem to indicate that the position was his, and is valuable evidence as to his responsible authorship of the resolutions themselves.


Whatever may be the fact with regard to the authorship, two or three very significant facts have become more and more evident.


The first of these is that the Kentucky Resolutions were the first step in the propaganda of the Jeffersonian theory of the relationship of the States to the national Government, and that as such they supplied a popular plan of campaign. On the other hand, recent investigation has made more and more clear the fact that, despite

very prevalent discontent with the action of the general Government, the resolutions were far in advance of the temper of the hour. No other State responded favorably to the lead taken by Kentucky and Virginia. The House of Representatives in Pennsylvania were, indeed, in hearty sympathy with the movement, but they did not dare submit the resolution they had adopted to the Senate, because of its well-known antagonism to the principles advocated. The shrewdness of the position taken by Mr. Jefferson, the appreciation of the undercurrents of opinion, which only needed to be brought to the surface, and his characteristic unwillingness to expose himself to the chances of war are highly characteristic. He left to Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. Madison and their colleagues the feeling of the pulse of the people and the enunciation of the general position which in due season he was to accept and adopt. Thus he kept himself free from such entanglements as would have prevented his developing as he did the implied powers of the Constitution when he became President. The danger of his position can hardly be over-estimated. The history of the resolutions and the struggle to give to them widely divergent interpretations, ranging from the strongly National position, which became characteristic of the Western democracy, to the intensest State rights position, developed with such metaphysical subtlety by Mr. Calhoun, is highly suggestive of the peril which Mr. Jefferson ran of being involved in discussions of details at a time when his object was to overthrow the Federal party and to discredit what he believed to be its extreme extension of the powers of the general Government, in order that he might come to power at the head of a permanent party organization.


It is important to keep in mind that the Kentucky Resolutions distinctly state that the several States are united by compact, and that "to this compact each State acceded as a State, its co-States forming as to itself the other party," and "that, as in all other cases of com

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