March 1, 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1798, James Madison authored a series of resolutions for Virginia, which in conjunction with Thomas Jefferson’s resolutions for Kentucky that same year. They were written in response to the hated Alien and Sedition Acts which were passed under the Adams administration during an undeclared war with France.
The acts authorized the president to deport any resident alien considered dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States, to apprehend and deport resident aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States, and criminalized any speech which might defame Congress, the President, or bring either of them into contempt or disrepute.
As important as these resolutions were in objecting to the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts, their lasting importance was due to the the fact that they were strong statements in defense of federalism, the sovereignty of the people of the several states, and the authority of state governments to check or resist the tyrannical proclivities of the federal government.
In 1799-1800, James Madison went into greater detail to explain the purpose and meaning of the resolutions in Virginia. This has become to be known as Madison’s “Celebrated Report of 1800.” It follows in its entirety.