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INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF VIRGINIA TO STEPHEN THOMPSON MASON AND WILSON CARY NICHOLAS, SENATORS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA IN THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES [caption title]
[Richmond, 1800. Old fold lines, with small separation at the center cross- fold. Light dampstaining at bottom edge, else very good. In a half morocco slipcase. A rare printing of the Virginia Assembly's instructions to the state's U.S. Senators, explaining their reasons for opposing the Adams administration's expansion of the American army and navy, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the suspension of trade with France. This broadsheet includes the text of the Virginia Resolutions of 1800, authored by James Madison, which explicitly called on the Congress to repeal the Alien and Sedition Acts, and to curtail the increase in the size of the military. The so-called "Quasi War" with France was a major crisis for the Adams administration, and it had far-reaching policy ramifications. In order to defend against enemies foreign and domestic, Adams called for an increase in the size of the navy, tightened naval laws against France, abrogated treaties with the French and suspended trade with France, called 80,000 militia to active duty, and appointed George Washington commander-in-chief of a revitalized army (with Alexander Hamilton as second-in- command). Most controversially, Adams enacted (with Congressional approval) the "Alien and Sedition Acts," which sought to suppress dissent against the President's policies, and facilitated the deportation of foreigners whose presence was "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States." The most powerful protests against these measures came in the form of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 authored, respectively, by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These resolutions asserted the principle of "States Rights" over federal law, arguing for a narrow interpretation of the powers of the federal government, and the right of states to supersede federal authority on Constitutional grounds. Despite their strongly worded opposition, neither the Kentucky nor the Virginia legislatures sought to nullify or obstruct the disputed laws. There was a harsh backlash against the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, with several other states expressing their disapproval. In response, James Madison, then a member of the Virginia Assembly, composed the "Report of 1800." In it Madison backed down slightly from his earlier position (which he claimed had been misunderstood), asserting the right of a state to declare a federal action unconstitutional, but that this would be an expression of opinion not legally binding, simply a way of mobilizing public sentiment. The power to declare an act unconstitutional, Madison now said, resided with the courts. Nonetheless, he argued further that the ultimate power to decide constitutionality resided with the states, that they could override Congressional acts, and also those of the Supreme Court. The Report of 1800 included four resolutions, the full text of which are included in this broadsheet printing of instructions to Senators Mason and Nicholas. The resolutions call for a reduction in the size of the army and navy, and the repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Another of them opposes the proposition that the English Common Law should be seen as a basis for American constitutional law. The broadsheet also records the procedural votes in the Virginia Assembly on each of the four resolutions, noting the names of those who voted for or against each one. The rest of the broadsheet consists of passionate but reasoned arguments against several of the Adams administration's policies. In protesting the expansion of the army and navy, the Virginia Assembly notes that if the United States were to increase its military force in every case of European conflict, "a perpetual standing army would be the certain consequence of the recommendation." It goes on to make a long and cogent argument against the need for a military build-up, quoting several of George Washington's messages as President. The instructions also vigorously oppose the restriction of trade with France as injurious to the Virginia economy, especially with regard to the effect on the tobacco trade. The result of the sanctions, they argue, has been a deep decrease in the price of tobacco, and the monopolization of its trade by the British: "France and the markets supplied, or that could be supplied, through her, consume a very great proportion, of all the tobacco made in the U. States. Great Britain is supposed to consume not more than 10 or 11 thousand hogsheads. The consequence of passing this prohibitory act putting off one part of the continental market in Europe whilst the English fleet under the pretext of blockade, had cut off another, has been to throw almost the whole, of this great, and valuable staple, into the ports of Great-Britain; from which as a belligerent country, re-exportation to other markets, must be made with great difficulty, risk and charges whilst the monopoly thus thrown into a single market, has had the natural effect, of reducing the price of the article far below the usual standard...." Evans confusingly lists this broadsheet twice, once among his entries for 1798 (item 34939) and again for 1800 (item 38953). Since the text includes the four Resolutions of 1800, and notes the date of their passage (January 11 of that year), 1800 is where it properly belongs. Evans ascribes the printing of this broadside to Augustine Davis, the official printer for the Virginia Assembly, and he locates copies at the American Antiquarian Society and the Boston Public Library. While AAS describes theirs in their current on-line catalogue, BPL does not, nor does OCLC or ESTC list the Boston Public Library copy. OCLC records the AAS copy, and locates only one other, at the University of Virginia, as does ESTC. A rare and important statement from the Virginia Assembly against the Alien and Sedition Acts, against the expansion of the army and navy, and protesting the deleterious effects of government sanctions against France on the Virginia economy.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2015-11-30           Check availability:      Biblio    

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