Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia: Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the Third day of December, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Eight
by VIRGINIA RESOLUTIONS - MADISON, James; and Thomas JEFFERSON
Richmond: Meriwether Jones and John Dixon, 1799. Folio. (12 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches). 36pp. Expertly bound to style in half calf and period marbled paper covered boards, flat spine ruled in gilt, red morocco lettering piece. Housed in a dark blue morocco box. Provenance: James Anderson (contemporary signature) The first official printing of James Madison's Virginia Resolutions: the foundation stone of the "States Rights" movement. The present extraordinarily rare and important session laws of Virginia for 1798, include the first official printing of the "Virginia Resolutions." Introduced and championed by the great libertarian, John Taylor of Caroline, the Virginia Resolutions were written by James Madison in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson. Together with similar resolutions introduced into the Kentucky legislature the following year, they stand as one of the foremost documents in the history of the "States Rights" argument and American libertarianism. The stage for the Virginia Resolutions was set by the bitter Federalist-Republican arguments of the 1790s, culminating in the so-called Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798, passed by the Federalist majority in Congress. These restrictive measures on free speech raised serious questions about the ultimate scope of Federal powers, and were viewed by the Republicans as unconstitutional attacks on civil liberties and the prerogatives of the states. Thomas Jefferson, then Vice-President, and Congressman James Madison, as the Republican leaders, determined to protest the laws through the medium of resolutions in the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures, effectively concealing their authorship at the time. Madison drafted the Virginia resolutions and Jefferson the Kentucky ones, although they are similar in content and ultimately the result of the close collaboration between the two men. In these documents they argue that the states should determine the scope of Federal powers, and that potentially any state could reject any Federal law - the principle of "Nullification," as it was labelled in the Kentucky Resolutions. In Madison's words, "That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the power of the federal government, as resulting from a compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention in that compact....the states who are parties thereof, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them." In short, that each state had the right to reject Federal laws it felt were not within the "plain sense and intention" of the Constitution. The Virginia Resolutions were introduced into the Virginia House of Delegates by John Taylor of Caroline on Dec. 13, 1798. A number of important Virginia political figures, including John Mercer, William Branch Giles, Henry Lee, George Nicholas and others, took part in the spirited debates over the next two weeks. The Resolutions (printed on p.33) were finally passed by the House on the 21st of December and the State Senate on the 24th. The immediate effect of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions was not great. The Federalist states greeted them coolly, although they provoked considerable debate, and the Jeffersonian revolution of 1800 swept away the laws they targeted; but they remained an active political document which gained force over time. They were widely invoked from the time of the South Carolina Nullification Crisis of 1832 to the Southern secessions of 1860 and 1861. They are still cited as primary doctrines in States Rights theory and American libertarianism. Written by two of the United States' greatest political minds, they also contained the seeds of the destruction of the Union. The first official printing of the Virginia Resolutions establishes this volume as an incredibly important American State Paper, of the highest rarity. Evans 36629; Tower 937; Swem 7904.
(Inventory #: 29816)
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