James Madison and the Virginia Resolution considers Madison’s response to a governmental endeavor to expand its scope and authority through the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. The acts attempted to limit the public’s ability to scrutinize the federal government, and they further unbalanced efforts to find an equilibrium of power in the new republic.
In this essay, Madison’s Virginia Resolution is examined and analyzed in the context of early American politics. It shows that, contrary to what some historians have suggested, Madison’s position was not a greater threat to the nation’s stability than the actual legislation he was fighting. It further contends that although Madison’s arguments on the role and size of government may have shifted contextually between the time of the American Revolution and the acts, his underlying motive was consistent throughout. “James Madison and the Virginia Resolution” gives notice to the lesser known and greatly threatened philosophy of the early Democratic-Republicans—a philosophy James Madison embodied.
Excerpts from “The Conservative Collection”:
“If the Constitution is subject to informal dismissal, then in practice we have no Constitution at all. What will protect the rights of political minorities if legality is subjective? What will ensure the innocence of the accused until conviction [or] preserve the right of all to speak without censure?”
“If not for the mutual protection of one’s interests, as well as one’s neighbors’ interests, under the rule of law, on what substitute grounds can government exist?”
Greg Lacey is a Michigan attorney and the author of “The Conservative Collection.” He lives in the metro-Detroit area with his wife and their children.