CHARLESTON, W. Va. (March 24, 2016) – The West Virginia House passed a resolution reaffirming the principles of state interposition found in the Virginia Resolutions of 1798.
Rep. Gary Howell (R-Mineral) introduced House Resolution 5 (HR5) on Jan. 25. The stated purpose of the resolution is to express the “concern of the House of Delegates to the growth of the federal government’s power over the individual states of the United States.”
The HR5 asserts that “West Virginia continues to believe in and support the Virginia Resolution of 1798 that was written by one of our founding fathers, James Madison,” and includes the full text of the resolutions.
Through the resolution, the “House of Delegates urges West Virginia’s representatives in Congress be cognizant of the Virginia Resolution of 1798 when reviewing proposed federal legislation.”
The House passed the measure by a voice vote on March 12.
While not legally binding, passage of the resolution is significant in that it affirms the state’s right and duty to interpose to stop unconstitutional federal actions. It creates a foundation for the state of West Virginia to take more substantive steps to stop federal overreach such as withdrawing state cooperation with specific federal acts.
In response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, James Madison drafted resolutions for introduction in the Virginia legislature. The Virginia Resolutions declared the Alien and Sedition Acts “unconstitutional.” Madison also asserted that the states had an obligation to act against egregious federal exercises of undelegated power.
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed the resolutions on Dec. 21, 1798, by a vote of 100 to 63. The Senate followed suit on Dec. 24, by a 14 to 3 margin.
Taken together with companion resolutions penned by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Kentucky legislature, lay out the principles of nullification.
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