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The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

In the early history of the United States, the States, as the main component of the Union, wanted to establish themeselves as seperate entities under the umbrella of the Federal Union. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were a statement of the desire of the States of the Union to be more assertive of their rights under the framework of the United States Constitution at the time.

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The Kentucky and Virginia resolutions were among the legialative acts that were passed that sought to assert that fact. The Kentucky legislature passed on Nov., 1798. Written by then Vice-President Thomas Jefferson, the Resolutions were of the context that the State itself basically owes its existence to the members of the compact, that being the essence of the existence of the Union itself, that the government was formed because of the members of the State, the individual state governments. In addition, they argued that the federal powers the national government can exercise powers were limited to what was granted or delegated to it in the Constitution. It can be construed as severe attack on the broad interpretation of the Consitution, which would have extended the powers of the Federal Governemnt over the States.

The Virginia Resolutions, on the other hand, did not seem to differ that much from the one passed by their colleagues in the Kentucky state legislature, but for the fact that the Kentucky legislature did pass another  resolution, passed on February, 1799, that gave the states the means to enforce their decisions.

The resolutions were submitted but with no real effect,: these were later considered as the first statements of the theory of the states’ rights of government, that paved the way for the nullification controversy and in the end, to secession.


The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.(2007). Kentucky and Viriginia Resolutions.

6th edition. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from Infoplease database.


Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia.(2007). Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.

Retrieved December 12, 2007, from MSN. Encarta.