The administration of Mr. John Adams was a dark day for the republic. Then, alien and sedition acts were let loose upon us: the purity of the constitution itself was violated by the madness of party: and those rights which had been respectively reserved to the states and to the people, were exposed to the most fearful jeopardy by the usurpations of the federal government.
But, the friends of the constitution did not “despair of the republic.” Though the liberty of speech and of the press were invaded; though the power and patronage of the government were exerted to intimidate or seduce the people; the republicans did not abandon the cause of their country. Their resistance continued with the crisis: the form of it only was varied. While Mr. Jefferson remained in the senate of the United States, and Mr. Gallatin in the house of representatives, most of their most able and active friends, in some of the states, retired from the walks of the general [federal] government, and retreated to the state legislatures; in which great citadels of the public liberty, they proposed to re-assert the true principles of the government. The republicans succeeded; and the constitution was saved.
Among the most memorable productions of those times, were the resolutions and reports, which were adopted by the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia. These were penned by Jefferson and Madison. To Mr. Madison is due, the honor of having drafted the Virginia resolutions of the 21st December, 1798; and that masterly vindication of them, which was adopted by the legislature of Virginia during the session of ’99-1800: a paper, which is familiarly known by the name of “Madison’s Report,” and which deserves to last as long as the constitution itself.
The resolutions of Kentucky, were submitted to the legislature of that state, by Mr. John Breckenridge, and adopted by them on the 10th November, 1798. They had the honor of being penned by the author of the declaration of American independence.
Both these esteemed productions are scarce, and out of print. They are frequently asked for. They are again wanting, to re-establish the land marks of the constitution; and to stay that flood of encroachment which threatens to sweep our country. The rights of the states and of the people, are again assailed in an alarming manner. Doctrines are preached in high places, which are directly at war with the principles of our government. The centripetal power is assuming a new and fearful energy. Under the authority of great names, great errors are maintained. Is it not time, then, for the friends of truth to rally together, and to re-assert her principles? Where can we find these principles more clearly stated, or the arguments in their defence more powerfully developed, than in the celebrated productions which the publisher of this pamphlet [post will] now lays before his readers? [The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions] – Richmond ( Va.) February, 1826.