Resolutions of the General Assembly of Connecticut 1809

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This Assembly have attended with anxious concern, to the several acts of Congress interdicting foreign commerce, and more especially to an act, approved on the 9th day of January last, by the President of the United States, under the title of “An Act, to enforce and make more effectual an act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbours of the United States.”

After solemn deliberation and advisement thereon, the General Assembly are decided in the opinion, and do Resolve, that the acts aforesaid are a permanent system of measures, abandoning undeniable rights; interdicting the exercise of constitutional privileges, and unprecedented in the annals of nations; and do contain provisions for exercising arbitrary powers, grievous to the good people of this State, dangerous to their common liberties, incompatible with the constitution of the United States, and encroaching upon the immunities of this State.

Resolved, That to preserve the Union, and support the constitution of the United States, it becomes the duty of the Legislatures of the States, in such a crisis of affairs, vigilantly to watch over, and vigorously to maintain, the powers not delegated to the United States, but reserved to the States respectively, or to the people; and that a due regard to this duty, will not permit this Assembly to assist, or concur in giving effect to the aforesaid unconstitutional act, passed, to enforce the Embargo.[1][2]

Resolved, That this Assembly highly approve of the conduct of his Excellency the Governor, in declining to designate persons to carry into effect, by the aid of military power, the act of the United States, enforcing the Embargo, and that his letter addressed to the Secretary for the Department of War, containing his refusal, to make such designation,[3] be recorded in the public records of this State, as an example to persons, who may hold places of distinguished trust, in this free and independent republic.

Resolved, That the persons holding executive offices under this State, are restrained by the duties which they owe this State, from affording any official aid or co-operation in the execution of the act aforesaid; and that his Excellency the Governor be requested, as commander in chief of the military force of this State, to cause these resolutions to be published in general orders: And that the secretary of this State be and he is hereby directed to transmit copies of the same to the several sheriffs and town clerks.[4]

Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be requested to communicate the foregoing resolutions to the President of the United States, with an assurance that this Assembly regret that they are thus obliged under a sense of paramount public duty to assert the unquestionable right of this State to abstain from any agency in the execution of measures, which are unconstitutional and despotic.[5]

Resolved, That this Assembly accord in sentiment, with the Senate and House of Representatives, of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, that it is expedient to effect certain alterations in the constitution of the United States; and will zealously cooperate with that commonwealth and any other of the States, in all legal and constitutional measures for procuring such amendments to the constitution of the United States as shall be judged necessary to obtain more effectual protection and defence for commerce; and to give to the commercial States their fair and just consideration in the Union, and for affording permanent security, as well as present relief, from the oppressive measures, under which they now suffer.

Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be requested to transmit copies of the foregoing resolutions to the President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and to the Legislatures of such of our sister States,[6] as manifest a disposition to concur, in restoring to commerce its former activity, and preventing the repetition of measures which have a tendency, not only to destroy it, but to dissolve the Union, which ought to be inviolate.
General Assembly, special session, February, 1809.

John Cotton Smith,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Jonathan Trumbull, Governor.

Attest, Samuel Wyllys, Secretary.

  1. [1]In this opening resolution, the legislature boldly affirms that it is their duty to vigorously watch and vigorously maintain the powers which rightfully belong to the states. This is an important first step as it defines roles and power and authority. –Lance Earl
  2. [2]It is interesting to note that a constitutional act of resistance against the abuses of the federal government is neither conspiracy, nor treason, nor a crime of any sort. In fact, is is the process upon which the Union is preserved and the Constitution is supported. –Lance Earl
  3. [3]A key part of any act to preserve states rights (nullification) is to withdraw all state support and prevent all state enforcement of the federal act that is being nullified. –Lane Earl
  4. [4]When the states begin to nullify a federal action, repugnant to the Constitution, it becomes necessary to inform and direct all state officials and agencies in order that the state may resist federal oppression as a unified and determined body. –Lance Earl
  5. [5]This is and interesting resolution. The President is being respectfully but firmly informed that his actions are those of a unconstitutional despot. This action must be a part of any state act of nullification. –Lance Earl
  6. [6]When one state’s rights are being usurped by federal actions, all states are negatively affected. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the state that is initiating the act of nullification, to transmit all relevant data to the legislatures of the other states in the hope that these states may join with the first. When a single state defends her rights, it is likely that the federal government will push back against that single state. However, when the states stand united in a single cause, the federal government has no alternative other than to comply. –Lance Earl