Portrait of James Madison.

James Madison secretly authored the Virginia Resolution.

Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

1798–1799

The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were written in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.

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The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (or Resolves), also known as the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, were passed by the state legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts enacted by Congress in 1798. Secretly written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the resolutions challenged the Alien and Sedition Acts on the grounds that they went beyond the powers specifically given to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

The resolutions introduced the idea that individual states could declare federal legislation null and void when such legislation went beyond the powers given to the federal government when the states joined to form a compact. Although all the other states rejected Kentucky and Virginia’s call to join their challenge of federal authority at the time, the concept of nullification was invoked in later disputes involving states’ rights, most notably those centered on the issue of slavery.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
  • Coverage 1798–1799
  • Author
  • Keywords virginia and kentucky resolutions, thomas jefferson, james madison
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 28, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 11, 2021
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