[Back to the Unit Three Summary]
 
Rhode Island and New Hampshire's Responses
to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (1799)

Every State from Maryland north replied to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, rejecting the constitutional principles set forth by Jefferson and Madison.  The following are brief excerpts of the responses of the legislatures of Rhode Island and New Hampshire.  As you read, consider Rhode Island and New Hampshire╠s response to the "doctrine of nullification" proposed in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.  Why would Rhode Island and New Hampshire have felt compelled to respond to Kentucky's assertion that states have the power to rule federal laws unconstitutional?
 

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (February 1799):

1. Resolved, That, in the opinion of this legislature, the second section of the third article of the Constitution of the United States, in these words, to wit, - " The judicial power shall extend to all cases arising under the laws of the United States," ­ vests in the Federal Courts, exclusively, and in the Supreme Court of the United States, ultimately, the authority on the constitutionality of any act or law of the Congress of the United States.
 
2. Resolved, That for any state legislature to assume that authority would be ­
        1st.  Blending together legislative and judicial powers;
        2nd. Hazarding an interruption of the peace of the states by civil discord, in a case of a diversity of opinions among the state legislatures; each state having, in that case, no resort for vindicating its own opinions, but the strength of its own arm;
        3rd.  Submitting most important questions of law to less competent tribunals; and
        4th. An infraction of the Constitution of the United States....

3. Resolved, That, although, for the above reasons, this legislature... do not feel themselves authorized to consider and decide on the constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition laws... [do] declare that in their private opinions, these laws are within the powers delegated to Congress.
 
 

New Hampshire Resolution on the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (June 1799):

The legislature of New Hampshire unequivocally expresses a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States... against every aggression, either foreign or domestic....

The state legislatures are not the proper tribunals to determine the constitutionality of the laws of the general government... the duty of such decision is properly and exclusively confided in the judicial department.

If the legislature of New Hampshire, for mere speculative purposes were to express an opinion on the... Alien and Sedition Bills, that opinion would unreservedly be that those acts are constitutional.
 

[Back to the Unit Three Summary]