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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
pact among parties having no common judge, each party. has an equal right to judge for itself as well of infrac tions as of the mode and measure of redress." It is scarcely necessary to emphasize the difference between this and the view so frequently asserted in later years, that the general Government was constituted by a compact to which it was itself a party, each State forming as to itself the other party. It is scarcely more necessary to point out the various shades of interpretation given to the idea presented by the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, or how far short they fall of the interpretation which has been adopted through the influence of political and judicial action.
It is important, however, to note that the view of the nature of the general Government, which may be regarded as having the support of the best authority at the present time, was clearly enunciated in the Kentucky legislature by Mr. William Murray, of Franklin county, who alone opposed the resolutions from the beginning to the end. Mr. Murray pointed out that the "Constitution of the United States was rendered necessary by want of energy in the former Confederation," and that the -Constitution "was not merely a covenant between integral States but a compact between the several individuals composing those States, and accordingly the Constitution commences with this form of expression: 'We, the people of the United States,' not we the thirteen States of America." He proceeded to declare that “to the judiciary, and the judiciary alone, it belongs to declare what acts of legislature are law and what are not law. And to their honor be it said that they have, with an independence becoming their character, declared an act passed by Congress no law."
This position, so ably but so vainly urged by Mr. Murray, was asserted by the Massachusetts legislature in its response to the Kentucky Resolutions as well as in other replies.
It is almost necessary, in order to illustrate the position of the Kentucky Resolutions, to quote the significant words of Mr. Madison in the Virginia Resolutions, contained in the third article:
"That, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of powers not granted by the compact, the States who are parties thereto have a right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them."
That this point of view is highly illustrative of current political thinking is further proved by the almost identical words used by the Hartford convention when the New England States found themselves in a similar attitude to the general Government. The following passage is so similar to the words of Mr. Madison that it seems almost incredible that it was adopted by a body of intelligent men in opposition to the policy of Mr. Madison as President:
"In case of deliberate, dangerous, and palpable infraction of the Constitution affecting the sovereignty of the State and liberties of the people, it is not only the right, but the duty of such a State to interpose its authority for their protection in the manner best calculated to secure the end."
The literature of the subject has been vitalized by almost every force which has entered into the political history of our country. The vivid and vigorous, if not always well-informed oratory of the new West, the intense and highly dramatic eloquence of the Southern leaders of the contest for the perpetuation of slavery and a provincial type of civilization, the legal learning of the best school of New England statesmanship, and the great national debates growing out of the struggle of a young nation to rise to a consciousness of its unity and power have all contributed to the interpretation of the resolutions. Jeffersonian Democracy would have been glad to be rid of many of the associations which early attached themselves to the resolutions. The State rights party of Calhoun developed every possibility of a particularist interpretation. The Western Democracy, full of a spirit of national enthusiasm, strove to use them to
check the centralization, which seemed to subordinate the new States to the older communities.
It is scarcely possible at this late date, with the complete change of accent in political thinking, to realize how extremely significant the questions that are connected with these resolutions, their authorship, and the peculiar attitude of Mr. Jefferson, were for more than half a century, yet in these resolutions there is a germ of truth which may well be cultivated afresh in a time when the spirit of the age seems to favor the unlimited consolidation of government in a single element of it.