Thomas Jefferson explains the Power of the General Government

“that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force”

The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

History and explanation hosted by JeffersonPapers.Princeton.edu.   I urge you to click on the title above and read for yourself the researched history of the “Kentucky Resolutions.  You can click on Jefferson’s “first draft”, the “fair copy”, or the Resolution adopted by Kentucky, from which I copy and pasted.  I added bold, italics, underlining, and paragraphs in an attempt to make Paragraphs I and III more easy to read and understand.

Begin quote:

I. 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 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 parties 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.

III. 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 to 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 abridgement by the United States of the freedom of religious opinion.  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 violates 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 the Congress of the United States passed on the 14th day of July 1798, entitled “An act in addition to the 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 effect.

End quote.

Let me re-state and re-phrase Jefferson’s penned resolution adopted by Kentucky:  Any law which violates or abridges the Constitution:

is not law, but is altogether void and of no effect.

Our U.S. Constitution adopted in 1789, created the “General Government, what we now call the Federal Government.

Our Constitution creates a

  • Government for special purposes, (Not unlimited purposes)
  • delegated to that Government certain definite powers, (delegated ONLY the enumerated, listed, definitive powers, commonly known as the “laundry list” NOT ALL POWERS)
  • reserving each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self Government;  (Any powers NOT SPECIFICALLY LISTED AND DELEGATED, REMAINED WITH THE STATES AND THE PEOPLE.)

I recommend to you original texts and writings of 200 years ago.  Not the 20th century “new” writings which say “trust me, it’s for your own good….”

I leave you with this ALL IMPORTANT language:

“that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers,

its acts are:

  • unauthoritative,
  • void, and
  • of no force”

May God bless and keep safe this great nation and her people.

texas

4 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson explains the Power of the General Government

  1. Texas95,

    Every State, the ones that have real men in charge, should all have refferendums on secession from the Union.

    Even if it is just a symbolic vote to see where everyone stands on this issue. If the results prove that the votes aren’t there, then we at least know our ultimate future is bleak to say the least.

    • The argument for secession was had 150 years ago.

      I believe, anyone who supports and or leads a secession movement will be branded a traitor with consequences.

      With the AP and FOX revelations and the admittance of illegal drone murders of American citizens authorized by Obama; I advise friends not to support secession.

      The current federal govt. will collapse when their paper money is no longer accepted as payment for debt. My personal belief is when the debt reaches 20 trillion.

  2. Let me start this by saying that I am a huge Jefferson fan. Now you know there is a but in there, waiting to fall like the second shoe. While he did much to write, publish and clarify the ideas of the Constitution, he himself, while president , found himself in contention with the limitations of the document. He even felt that his passion for and negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, were un-constitutional. He eventually got the Senate to agree (by a narrow margin) but the purchase was already a done deal. So a Constitutional crisis before the ink was dry, narrowly averted.

    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    • “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

      Thomas Jefferson

      Are “we” not doing the same thing today?

      I suspect Jefferson always felt that about slavery. The first declaration of independence listed slavery as one of the wrongs perpetrated upon the colonies. Virginia essentially made it illegal for slaves to be freed.

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