James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Hubbard Taylor, 3 January 1799

From Hubbard Taylor

3d. Jay 99

Dear Sir

Majr Welch’s starting sooner than I expected I have only time to inclose you a letter from Colo. Geo. Nicholas, to Colo. C. M. Thrusten,1 in answer to one written to B. Thrusten,2 who was desired to shew it to Colo. Nicholas. It is universally approved of in this state. You no doubt have seen the Resolutions passed by our assembly,3 there were only 3 descenting to one, 2 to another & only one to the other 7. Never were people more united, in sentiments than they now are in this State, respecting the Measurs of the Genl. Govt. I flatter myself they will be prudent, firm & persevering, for the preservation of the Union, through the Medium of the Constitution, to which we mean to cling to, with principled fidelity.

I am anxious to hear the result of the deleberations on that subject in your assembly, it is ardently wished by the Citizens of this State, that, their Sent[i]ments may be concordant with ours, we still look up to Virginia as a parent.

Our assembly ended last of Decr. we have passed a Law to call a Convention, to meet in July next to amend, alter or readopt our Constitution.4 Many of the most deserning amongs[t] us, are under great apprehensitons, of too great a change being attempted.

The abolishion of slavery & the Senate, the Representation, by Counties, and I fear the distruction of the Compact, with Virginia will be all attempted with great violence, & it is intended also by that party to Gag the Judges so that they shall not have it in their power to declare a Law unconstitutional. I really dread the consequences, but hope the more steady part of the Community will prevail.

I have nothing of a private nature to mention only that the Tax’s of your & your fathers Lands are all settled. I have not time now to write to your Father, will do so shortly by my brother, who I expect will go in very shortly. My respects to Mrs. Madison yr. father and family and I am with great esteem Yr affe. Friend &C

H. Taylor

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Nicholas’s letter to Charles Mynn Thruston of Frederick County, Virginia, was published as A Letter from George Nicholas, of Kentucky, to His Friend, in Virginia. Justifying the Conduct of the Citizens of Kentucky, as to Some of the Late Measures of the Central Government; and Correcting Certain False Statements, Which Have Been Made in the Different States, of the Views and Actions of the People of Kentucky (Lexington, Ky., 1798; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 34235). Nicholas attempted to answer Thruston’s objections to the Kentucky Resolutions, expressed in a private letter to Buckner Thruston, by pointing out the threat to individual liberty embodied in the enlargement of presidential power and the unconstitutionality of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

2Buckner Thruston (1764–1845) was a graduate of the College of William and Mary and practiced law in Kentucky. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1804 and served until 1809 when he resigned to become a judge of the U.S. circuit court, a position he held until his death (Charles Kerr, ed., History of Kentucky [5 vols.; Chicago, 1922], 2:1097).

3The Kentucky Resolutions, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and introduced into the Kentucky legislature by John Breckinridge on 8 Nov. 1798, passed the House of Representatives two days later with three dissenting votes. The Senate accepted them unanimously on 13 Nov. (Koch and Ammon, “The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 5 [1948]: 156).

4The Kentucky constitutional convention of 1799 began on 22 July and ended one month later. Advocates for the abolition of slavery were overwhelmingly defeated in the election of delegates, so that issue was never discussed during the convention. The convention did act on a number of other issues, however, by strengthening the powers of county courts, protecting judges from recall, and endorsing the principle of representation in state government by population (while allowing each county at least one representative). For a detailed discussion of the convention, see Coward, Kentucky in the New Republic, pp. 124–61.

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