The superb Library of America publishing project has collected the most important writings of James Madison in one volume, which includes not only all of Madison’s contributions to The Federalist, but many of his key speeches, as well as letters to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other notables of the revolutionary and early national periods of our country.
Following is a sample of Madison’s views on the limits of federal power as reflected in his authorship of the Virginia Resolution Against the Alien and Sedition Acts, passed by the Virginia General assembly in 1798:
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 that compact; as no farther valid than 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.There are really very few things that are genuinely new under the sun, and an ever-growing, ever-grasping federal government is an evil that has been known and opposed by wise American citizens since the prospect of a constitution was first debated. Madison, as one of the principal architects of our independent nation, was present at the creation, and is a worthy guide to the principles that gave birth to the United States, and to the dangers that threaten – that will always threaten, and therefore must always be guarded against - our republican form of government.
That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret that a spirit has in sundry instances, been manifested by the federal government, to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases…so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration…[Commerce clause, anyone? – Paco]”