In 1798 Thomas Jefferson secretly drafted another declaration few people know about…
by Derek Sheriff
Most Americans know that Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of “The Declaration of Independence”, the most important of all our founding documents.
Yet few of them have even heard of another document that I would say might be the second most important declaration he ever wrote: The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. He drafted them secretly while he was serving as vice president. It was 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. You could compare it to the Patriot Act, but really it was much worse. Either way, The Alien and Sedition Acts were probably Thomas Jefferson’s worst nightmare.
Some people are surprised to learn that in response to these acts, Jefferson did not hold up the First Amendment in protest. Rather he invoked the Tenth Amendment, which states 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.”
Essentially, he argued that by passing and enforcing the Alien and Sedition Acts, the federal government had over stepped its bounds and was exercising powers which belonged to the states.
In other words, the Alien and Sedition Acts were acts of usurpation.