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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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Page 977


1. Resolved,

That the several States composing the United States of America, are not
united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that, by a
compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of Amendments
thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes,—delegated to that government
certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their
own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers,
its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as
a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the
Government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent
of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution,
the measure of its powers: but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers
having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions
as of the mode and measure of redress.

2. Resolved, That the Constitution of the United States, having delegated to Congress a
power to punish treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States,
piracies, and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations, and
no other crimes whatsoever; and it being true as a general principle, and one of the amendments
to the Constitution having also declared, that “the powers not delegated to the United States
by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or
to the people”, therefore the act of Congress, passed on the 14th day of July, 1798, and intituled
“An Act in addition to the act intituled `An Act for the punishment of certain crimes against
the United States”', as also the act passed by them on the—day of June, 1789, intituled “An
Act to punish frauds committed on the Bank of the United States” (and all their other acts
which assume to create, define, or punish crimes, other than those so enumerated in the Constitution ),
are altogether void, and of no force: and that the power to create, define, and punish
such other crimes is reserved, and, of right, appertains solely and exclusively to the respective
States, each within its own territory.

3. Resolved, That it is true as a general principle, and is also expressly declared by one of
the amendments to the Constitution, that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the
people”; and that no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the
press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the States or
the people; that thus was manifested their determination to retain to themselves the right of
judging how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening
their useful freedom, and how far those abuses which cannot be separated from their use should
be tolerated, rather than the use be destroyed. And thus also they guarded against all abridgment
by the United States of the freedom of religious opinions and exercises, and retained to
themselves the right of protecting the same, as this State, by a law passed on the general demand
of its citizens, had already protected them from all human restraint or interference. And that
in addition to this general principle and express declaration, another and more special provision
has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares,
that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”; thereby guarding in
the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the
press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the
others, and that libels, falsehoods, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are
withheld from the cognizance of Federal tribunals. That, therefore, the act of Congress of the
United States, passed on the 14th day of July, 1798, intituled “An Act in addition to the act
intituled `An Act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States”' which does
abridge the freedom of the press, is not law, but is altogether void, and of no force.

4. Resolved, That alien friends are under the jurisdiction and protection of the laws of the
State wherein they are; that no power over them has been delegated to the United States, nor
prohibited to the individual States, distinct from their power over citizens. And it being true
as a general principle, and one of the amendments to the Constitution having also declared, that
“the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”, the act of the Congress of the
United States, passed on the—day of July, 1798, intituled “An Act concerning aliens”,
which assumes powers over alien friends, not delegated by the Constitution, is not law, but is
altogether void, and of no force.

5. Resolved, That in addition to the general principle, as well as the express declaration,
that powers not delegated are reserved, another and more special provision, inserted in the
Constitution from abundant caution, has declared that “the migration or importation of such
persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited
by the Congress prior to the year 1808”: that this Commonwealth does admit the migration
of alien friends, described as the subject of the said act concerning aliens: that a provision
against prohibiting their migration, is a provision against all acts equivalent thereto, or it would
be nugatory: that to remove them when migrated, is equivalent to a prohibition of their migration,
and is, therefore, contrary to the said provision of the Constitution, and void.

6. Resolved, That the imprisonment of a person under the laws of this Commonwealth, on
his failure to obey the simple order of the President to depart out of the United States, as is
undertaken by said act intituled “An Act concerning aliens” is contrary to the Constitution,
one amendment to which has provided that “no person shall be deprived of liberty without
due process of law”; and that another having provided that “in all criminal prosecutions the
accused shall enjoy the right to public trial by an impartial jury, to be informed of the nature
and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory
process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his


Page 978
defence”, the same act, undertaking to authorize the President to remove a person out of the
United States, who is under the protection of the law, on his own suspicion, without accusation,
without jury, without public trial, without confrontation of the witnesses against him, without
hearing witnesses in his favor, without defence, without counsel, is contrary to the provision also
of the Constitution, is therefore not law, but utterly void, and of no force: that transferring the
power of judging any person, who is under the protection of the laws, from the courts to the
President of the United States, as is undertaken by the same act concerning aliens, is against
the article of the Constitution which provides that “the judicial power of the United States shall
be vested in courts, the judges of which shall hold their offices during good behavior”; and that
the said act is void for that reason also. And it is further to be noted, that this transfer of
judiciary power is to that magistrate of the General Government who already possesses all the
Executive and a negative on all Legislative powers.

7. Resolved, That the construction applied by the General Government (as is evidenced by
sundry of their proceedings) to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which
delegate to Congress a power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the
debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States”, and “to
make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested
by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer
thereof”, goes to the destruction of all limits prescribed to their power by the Constitution:
that words meant by the instrument to be subsidiary only to the execution of limited powers,
ought not to be so construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken
as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument: that the proceedings of the General Government
under color of these articles, will be a fit and necessary subject of revisal and correction,
at a time of greater tranquillity, while those specified in the preceding resolution call for
immediate redress.

8. Resolved, That a committee of conference and correspondence be appointed, who shall
have in charge to communicate the preceding resolutions to the Legislatures of the several
States: to assure them that this Commonwealth continues in the same esteem of their friendship
and union which it has manifested from that moment at which a common danger first suggested
a common union: that it considers union, for specified national purposes, and particularly to those
specified in their late Federal compact, to be friendly to the peace, happiness and prosperity of all
the States: that faithful to that compact, according to the plain intent and meaning in which it
was understood and acceded to by the several parties, it is sincerely anxious for its preservation:
that it does also believe, that to take from the States all the powers of self-government and
transfer them to a general and consolidated government, without regard to the special delegations
and reservations solemnly agreed to in that compact, is not for the peace, happiness or
prosperity of these States; and that, therefore, this Commonwealth is determined, as it doubts
not its co-States are, to submit to undelegated, and consequently unlimited powers in no man, or
body of men on earth: that in cases of an abuse of the delegated powers, the members of the
General Government, being chosen by the people, a change by the people would be the constitutional
remedy; but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of
the act is the rightful remedy; that every State has a natural right in cases not within the
compact (casus non fœderis), to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others
within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and
unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them: that nevertheless, this
Commonwealth, from motives of regard and respect for its co-States, has wished to communicate
with them on the subject: that with them alone it is proper to communicate, they alone being
parties to the compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the powers exercised
under it, Congress being not a party, but merely the creature of the compact, and subject as to
its assumptions of power to the final judgment of those by whom, and for whose use itself and
its powers were all created and modified: that if the acts before specified should stand, these
conclusions would flow from them; that the General Government may place any act they think
proper on the list of crimes, and punish it themselves whether enumerated or not enumerated by
the Constitution as cognizable by them; that they may transfer its cognizance to the President,
or any other person, who may himself be the accuser, counsel, judge, and jury, whose suspicions may be the evidence, his order the sentence, his officer the executioner, and his breast the sole
record of the transaction: that a very numerous and valuable description of the inhabitants of
these States being, by this precedent, reduced, as outlaws, to the absolute dominion of one man,
and the barrier of the Constitution thus swept away from us all, no rampart now remains against
the passions and the powers of a majority in Congress to protect from a like exportation, or other
more grievous punishment, the minority of the same body, the legislatures, judges, governors, and
councillors of the States, nor their other peaceable inhabitants, who may venture to reclaim the
constitutional rights and liberties of the States and people, or who for other causes, good or bad,
may be obnoxious to the views, or marked by the suspicions of the President, or be thought
dangerous to his or their election, or other interests, public or personal: that the friendless alien
has indeed been selected as the safest subject of a first experiment; but the citizen will soon follow,
or rather, has already followed, for already has a Sedition Act marked him as its prey; that
these and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested at the threshold, necessarily drive
these States into revolution and blood, and will furnish new calumnies against republican government,
and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by
a rod of iron; that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice
to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of
despotism—free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence: it is jealousy and not
confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to
trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further,
our confidence may go; and let the honest advocate of confidence read the Alien and Sedition
Acts, and say if the Constitution has not been wise in fixing limits to the government it created,
and whether we should be wise in destroying those limits. Let him say what the government
is, if it be not a tyranny, which the men of our choice have conferred on our President, and the
President of our choice has assented to, and accepted over the friendly strangers to whom the


Page 979
mild spirit of our country and its laws have pledged hospitality and protection: that the men of
our choice have more respected the bare suspicions of the President, than the solid right of innocence,
the claims of justification, the sacred force of truth, and the forms and substance of law
and justice. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him
down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. That this Commonwealth does, therefore,
call on its co-States for an expression of their sentiments on the acts concerning aliens, and for
the punishment of certain crimes herein before specified, plainly declaring whether these acts
are or are not authorized by the Federal compact. And it doubts not that their sense will be
so announced as to prove their attachment unaltered to limited government, whether general
or particular. And that the rights and liberties of their co-States will be exposed to no dangers
by remaining embarked in a common bottom with their own. That they will concur with this
Commonwealth in considering the said acts as so palpably against the Constitution as to amount
to an undisguised declaration that that compact is not meant to be the measure of the powers
of the General Government, but that it will proceed in the exercise over these States, of all
powers whatsoever: that they will view this as seizing the rights of the States, and consolidating
them in the hands of the General Government, with a power assumed to bind the States (not
merely in the cases made Federal (casus fæderis) but in all cases whatsoever, by laws made,
not with their consent, but by others against their consent; that this would be to surrender the
form of government we have chosen, and live under one deriving its powers from its own will,
and not from our authority; and that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not
made Federal, will concur in declaring these acts void, and of no force, and will each take
measures of its own for providing that neither these acts, nor any others of the General Government
not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution, shall be exercised within their
respective territories.

9. Resolved, That the said committee be authorized to communicate by writing or personal
conferences, at any times or places whatever, with any person or persons who may be appointed
by any one or more co-States to correspond or confer with them; and that they lay their proceeding
before the next session of Assembly.—ix, 464.
Ford ed., vii, 289. 1798.