Lessons for Today

  • William J. WatkinsJr.


“[T]he preservation of liberty,” wrote John Taylor of Caroline, “must depend on the division of power between the state and federal governments.”1 With an eye to securing and maintaining the most cherished liberty of all, the right to self-government, Jefferson and Madison made the proper division of legislative sovereignty the cornerstone of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. By nullification and interposition, Jefferson and Madison sought to give the states a weapon to thwart the national government’s encroachments. Though we are over two centuries removed from the Revolution of 1800, concern for the proper division of legislative sovereignty is just as relevant today as when Jefferson and Madison feared for the future of republicanism in America. Considering that our puissant national government scarcely resembles the government of “few and defined” powers that Madison described in the Federalist, an appreciation of federalism is perhaps more vital today than ever before.


National Government Federal System Central Intelligence Agency AMERICAN Revolution Interstate Commerce 
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    See John Taylor, Construction Construed, Constitutions Vindicated (New York: Da Capo Press, 1970) (1820) p. 58.Google Scholar
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© The Independent Institute 2004

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  • William J. WatkinsJr.

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