The Phaserl


Resolutions of 1798: Guideposts of Limited Government

by William J. Watkins, Jr,

Working in complete secrecy, Jefferson drafted the Kentucky resolution of 1798 between 21 July and 26 October 1798. His original plan was for W. C. Nicholas to introduce the Resolves in North Carolina, but because of political setbacks there, Nicholas instead gave the Resolves to John Breckinridge for introduction in Kentucky. As an independent-minded frontier state, Kentucky was the perfect forum for Jefferson’s resolution. Across the state, without much prompting, citizens gathered to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts. In Lexington, five thousand people — a crowd three times the town’s population — assembled. On 7 November 1798, Governor James Gerrard announced the need for “a protest against all unconstitutional laws of Congress” (Koch and Ammon 1948, 156.) A committee led by John Breckinridge was appointed, and the Kentucky resolution was quickly introduced. On 10 November 1798 the Resolves, with modifications, passed the house with only three dissenting votes; three days later the Senate concurred.

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