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 “The Origin of the States Rights Movement” By Scott Rohter

It was the waning years of the 18th century.  A decade or more had passed since the end of the American Revolutionary War and the cessation of hostilities against the British.  Napoleon was in control of France and France was busily conquering most of Europe and expropriating what was left of European national sovereignty.  England and France were in a perpetual state of war, and both countries were wreaking havoc on American commercial shipping; stopping and boarding our merchant ships, confiscating their goods, and capturing and impressing our sailors into involuntary servitude in their respective navies.  There were violent uprisings of the various Indian tribes in the sparsely settled lands west of the Mississippi.  British and French weapons and ammunition were found in the possession of the warring tribes.  It was felt that British and French nationals were trying to stir up trouble, and it was in this tense atmosphere that President Adams sent a delegation to France, and Congress passed the “Alien and Sedition Acts.” President Adams signed them into Law in 1798.  

In response to the “Alien and Sedition Acts,” two states, Kentucky and Virginia adopted separate resolutions written and drawn up by no lesser scholars than Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (the father of the Constitution).  They respectively asserted that a state had the right to determine (and not just the Federal courts alone) whether or not a law passed by Congress and signed by the President violated the Constitution.  Thus was born in 1798, the "States Rights Movement," and the concept of nullification, not over the divisive issue of slavery, which had not surfaced yet, but to protest the restrictions that were being placed on our 1st and 6th Amendment rights, of freedom of speech and of the press and the right to a trial by jury.

The “Alien and Sedition Acts” were unconstitutional expansions of power by the President and the Congress, and infringements on our unalienable Constitutionally protected rights.  While it is true that the “elephant in the room” was always the question of slavery, which the Northern States understood and was why they refused to support the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, the original issue which gave birth to the “States Rights Movement” was NOT slavery at all.    It was infringements on our 1st and 6th Amendments. The contentious issue of slavery had not yet reared it’s ugly head up, and this should be remembered whenever we encounter the forces that try to link the "States Rights Movement" to slavery or to southern slave holding states.  They try to make it appear that “States Rights” is strictly a Southern issue.  They try to make this connection in order to discredit the "States Rights Movement" because they know that no one anymore supports slavery nor do they even want to seem to be supporting any movement or organization that ever appeared to condone slavery.

The very powerful imagery of slavery is being used against us today to discredit the "States Rights Movement" and to infringe on our Constitutionally protected freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights (especially the 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th amendments).  The very powerful imagery of slavery is actually being used against us today to enslave us!  If we don’t wake up soon to this fact, there is a very real danger that we will lose those rights and we will all wake up one day in chains, reduced to slavery.    
Editors Note:  While the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions did not receive the necessary support, especially from the Northern States, they were however instrumental in over turning the “Alien and Sedition Acts” of 1798.  They were over turned in 1800 and 1801.
"The truth, the political truth, and nothing but the political truth.
A journalist has no better friend than the truth."
- Scott Rohter


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