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Full text of "The history of the Virginia federal convention of 1788, with some account of eminent Virginians of that era who were members of the body"

COLLECTIONS 



OF THE 



Virginia Historical Society. 

New Series. 



VOL. X. 



WM. ELLIS JONES, 

PRINTER, 
RICHMOND, VA. 




THE HISTORY 



OF THE 



Virginia Federal Convention 



OF 



1788, 



WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF THE EMINENT VIRGINIANS OF 
THAT ERA WHO WERE MEMBERS OF THE BODY 



HUGH BLAIR GRIGSBY, LL.D. 

WITH A 

Biographical Sketch of the Author 



ILLUSTRATIVE NOTES 

EDITED BY 

R. A. BROCK, 

Corresponding Secretary and Librarian of the Society. 



VOL. II. 




RICHMOND, VIRGINIA. 

PUBLISHED BY THE SOCIETY. 

MDCCCXCI. 



f 

330 



THR HISTORY 



OF THE 



Virginia Federal Convention 

OK 1788. 



INTRODUCTION. 



Before we proceed to detail the final scene of the Convention, 
we should leave unperformed an office as useful and instructive 
as any that devolves on the historian if we failed to glance at 
the lives and services of some of those patriotic men who com- 
posed the body, and whose history is in no unimportant respect 
the history not only of that great event, which singles out the 
year 1788 as one of the most important in our annals, but, in 
some instances, of great epochs of an earlier as well as a later 
day to which the lives of some of them were extended. It will 
become our duty to record the names not only of those who 
took part in debate, but of those who, though they spoke not a 
word during the session, mainly by their influence and ability 
effected the ratification of the Constitution. In forming our 
opinions of the last-named class of individuals, we must be 
careful to look at the circumstances and the impressions of the 
time in which they lived. To take the measure of the mental 
stature and of the political influence of such men from the face 
of the journals, or from their silence in debate, would not only 



b INTRODUCTION. 

be unjust to them, but would betray no slight ignorance of the 
views which prevailed at that conjuncture. Not only were the 
rules and customs of the British Parliament closely observed in 
the deliberative assemblies of the Colony, and of the Common- 
wealth in its earlier days, but the mode of conducting a parlia- 
mentary campaign was strictly observed. And in conducting a 
parliamentary campaign no rule was more generally enforced 
than that which confined the debate to certain leaders on each 
side of the House. 1 

The habit of every member making a speech on every subject, 
which has caused so much prolixity in our public proceedings, 
had not become the fashion with our public men. Beside the 
observance of the well-known customs of Parliament, there were 
other considerations which tended to repress much speaking. 
The sessions of the House of Burgesses were short, rarely 
exceeding a month, and were usually held in May a season 
precious in the eyes of those who derived their sustenance from 
agriculture. Political considerations also had their weight; for 
it was in the power of the Royal Governor to prorogue the 
House at pleasure, and it became important, as difficulties 
between that officer and the Assembly might at any moment 
arise, to transact the real business of the Colony with all prac- 
ticable speed. 2 It should also be observed that the greatest 
prompter to modern loquacity did not then exist. There were 
no reporters; and if there had been reporters, there were no 
papers in which reports could be published. A small weekly 
sheet afforded to the Colonists the only political nutriment 
which they could obtain, and that sheet would not hold an entire 
speech of the ordinary dimensions. Such, too, was the difficulty 
of public conveyance such was the infrequency and irregularity 
of posts that even that sheet reached very few of the home- 
steads of the people. Such was, to a certain extent, the case in 
the Commonwealth. Thus it happened that comparatively few 



1 We know from letters cited in the course of this work that the 
friends of the Constitution had parcelled out their opponents, and 
held themselves in reserve for them. 

2 Patrick Henry's resolutions against the Stamp Act were adopted at 
the heel of the session, and so with many other measures likely to 
offend the Governor. 



INTRODUCTION. 7 

of the really able members engaged in formal debate in our 
public bodies; and the remark may be hazarded, that if all those 
who in the Convention of 1788 engaged in the discussion of the 
Constitution had been absent, there were able and accomplished 
men who, as their subsequent career would seem to prove, 
would have displayed talents of a high order and achieved no 
mean reputation for statesmanship and eloquence. 




ARCHIBALD STUART. 



First among the young men west of the Blue Ridge in those 
qualifications which attract public attention, and which fit their 
possessor for acting with effect in public assemblies, was Archi- 
bald Stuart, of Augusta. He had not that large experience 
in affairs, civil and military, which was possessed by Thomas 
Lewis, or even by Andrew Moore, by Darke and Stephen, by 
William Fleming and Stuart, of Greenbrier; nor had he yet 
attained that standing at the bar which Gabriel Jones had long 
held; but he had seen the smoke of battle, was a ready and 
forcible speaker, was a graceful writer, and, though young, had 
already served with distinction during several sessions of the 
Assembly. He belonged to that remarkable portion of the 
Anglo-Saxon family which had for more than a century cherished 
on the Irish soil the principles and attachments of the land from 
which they came, and which under a domestic discipline, partly 
military and partly religious, were skilful in discerning their 
rights, and prompt in defending them. The British colonization 
of Ireland was essentially military. The settlers could be 
counted by thousands, while the aboriginal population num- 
bered more than a million. Another great element in this, the 
greatest in English estimation of all the schemes of colonization 
which England had there developed, was the element of religion. 
The Colonists were Protestants ; the subject caste, ignorant and 
semi-barbarous, were within the pale of the Church of Rome. 
Hence the Colonists became in a degree unknown in the mother 
country Whigs in politics and Protestants in religion. The 
history of Irish colonization is ircimately connected with the 
history of our own Colony, and of that freedom which we now 
enjoy. It was one of those wonderful processes in human 
affairs, which, though seen even by acute politicians only in 
their ordinary aspects, was destined in another age and in a dis- 
tant land to bring about a memorable revolution. To the com- 
mon eye there seems no connection between the butcheries 



10 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

perpetrated by Cromwell* and the cruelties and confiscations 
wrought by the misgovernment of James the Second, and the 
passage of the resolutions of Virginia in 1765 against the Stamp 
Act; yet, it is as certain as any event in history that, if the 
British policy in Ireland had been other than it was, those reso- 
lutions might indeed have been offered, but they would have 
been rejected by a decisive vote. When it is remembered that 
those resolutions were carried by the western vote, especially by 
the vote of the Valley members, the connection is obvious and 
indisputable. And it may well happen that in the measures of 
our own day, designed to accomplish limited and definite objects, 
the historian a century hence may detect the seminal principle 
which is destined to effect radical changes in existing institutions, 
and, perhaps, to overturn the present frame of society and to 
substitute some new system in its stead. 

The grandfather of Archibald Stuart emigrated from Ireland 
in 1727, and settled for a time in Pennsylvania, where in 1735 
Alexander, the father of Archibald, was born. In 1739 the 
family removed to Augusta county in this State, where Alex- 
ander, whose lofty stature and uncommon strength were noted 
even among his neighbors in the Valley, married in due time 
Mary Patterson. Of this marriage Archibald was the first of 
many children. He was born at the homestead about nine miles 
southwest of Staunton, on the igth day of March, 1757. His 
boyhood was spent in Augusta; but his father having removed 
to the neighborhood of Brownsburg, in Rockbridge, Archibald 
became a resident of that county, and was entered a pupil in the 
seminary then known as Liberty Hall, now as Washington Col- 
lege. [Now as Washington and Lee University. ED.] Like 
his classmates, who derived their instruction from William 
Graham, he became a devoted advocate of civil and religious 
freedom, and, in imitation of his illustrious teacher, was ever 
ready to defend it in battle or in debate. 

In the fall of 1779 he attended William and Mary College, 
and became an inmate of the family of the President, afterwards 
Bishop Madison. It happened that the institution then con- 
tained a large number of youths who were destined to act a 
conspicuous part in public affairs. Of these Allen, Hartwell 
Cocke, Eyre, Hardy, John Jones, and Stevens Thomson 
Mason were his colleagues in the present Convention. Another 



ARCHIBALD STUART. 11 

associate, who, after a long career at the bar, has for more than a 
third of a century been resting in his honored grave in the yard 
of St. Paul's in Norfolk, and who was beloved and revered by 
his countrymen for the incorruptible integrity and unblemished 
purity of his life, was John Nivison. It is creditable to the 
standing of Stuart that among such students he was conspicu- 
ous. His personal appearance and his address, as well as that 
accurate scholarship which was characteristic of the pupils of 
Graham, contributed to his popularity. His erect and sinewy 
form (which exceeded six feet in height), his placid face and 
expressive black eyes, his long black hair falling about his neck, 
the blended austerity and gentleness of his deportment, pre- 
sented to his young associates one of the finest models of the 
Western Virginian. There had been lately instituted in William 
and Mary a literary association, which in its brief life communi- 
cated its mystic symbols and its name to a similar association at 
Harvard, which in its foreign home has flourished with such 
unexampled vigor as to include on its roll the names of many of 
the most eloquent and learned men of the whole country for 
more than two entire generations, which was destined to sudden 
extinction in the place of its origin, but which was then in its 
early prime the Society of the Phi Beta Kappa. Of this 
association Stuart was elected president. On his return to 
College, in 1780, he found the eastern part of the State infested 
by the British. " The exercises of the College were suspended, 
and the public affairs were in an almost desperate condition. 
Stuart at once hastened to the scene of active war, joined the 
army as a private soldier in the regiment from Rockbridge, of 
which his father was the Major, and was promoted to an office 
in the commissariat department. But when the advance of 
Cornwallis rendered an engagement certain, he took his station 
in the ranks, and fought gallantly at Guilford. It was in this 
battle that he saw his father, who commanded the regiment on 
that day, fall with his wounded horse, instantly stripped of his 
clothing by the British Tories, and, suffering from his wounds, 
conveyed a prisoner within the enemy's lines. 3 During the 



3 Dr. Foote, in his second volume of Virginia Collections, page 147, 
states that Major Stuart was not wounded ; but authorities in my pos- 
session, which are most authentic, show that he was wounded. Dr. 



12 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

whole campaign young Stuart had in his possession the official 
seal of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, of which he was the presi- 
dent, which, as the Society went down, he retained till his death, 
and which, many years after his death, was found in the secret 
drawer of his escritoire, where it had remained more than half a 
century, and which was transmitted by his son to the Society at 
William and Mary, which had been recently revived, where it 
now performs its original office. 4 

On the return of Stuart from Guilford he studied law with 
Mr. Jefferson, and ever cherished for his preceptor the highest 
admiration and esteem. Some of the law-books which he pro- 
cured from Mr. Jefferson are in the library of his son. 5 What 
Wythe had been to Jefferson, Jefferson became to young Stuart; 
the adviser, the friend, and the revered associate through life. 
In the Stuart papers there is in the handwriting of Mr. Jefferson 
a form of a Constitution for Virginia, drawn in 1791. Their 
intimacy lasted during the life of Jefferson. When Stuart was 
elected judge, his district included the county of Albemarle; 
and, in attending the sessions of his court, he regularly spent a 
night with his old preceptor. As a politician he sustained his 
administration, and was a Republican elector until the series of 
Virginia Presidents who had borne a part in the Revolution was 
ended. 

He began the practice of the law in Rockbridge, and in the 
spring of 1783 was brought forward as a candidate for the 
House of Delegates, but lost his election by thirteen votes. A 

Foote describes the Major as riding on the field a beautiful mare. He 
was of gigantic stature. His sword [now in the cabinet of the Vir- 
ginia Historical Society, and not of unusual size ED.], which men of 
the ordinary size could hardly wield with effect, is in possession of his 
grandson, the Hon. A. H. H. Stuart, to whom I am indebted for some 
interesting details of his father's life. I would point out to the student 
of history the diary of the Rev. Samuel Houston, who was in the 
battle of Guilford. It may be found in Dr. Foote's second series,, 
pages 142-145. 

4 The original MS. proceedings of the Society are in the archives of 
the Virginia Historical Society. EDITOR. 

5 A portion of his correspondence with Mr. Jefferson and others is 
in the possession of the Virginia Historical Society, presented by his 
son, Hon. A. H. H. Stuart. EDITOR. 



ARCHIBALD STUART. 13 

few days after the election in Rockbridge he visited Botetourt 
on some business with Colonel Skillern, and while he was the 
guest of the Colonel he was invited to attend a public festival, at 
which most of the leading- citizens of the county were present. 
At the gathering he was called upon for a speech, which was so 
well received by the company that he was requested to become 
a candidate for a seat in the House of Delegates at the election 
to be held on the following Monday. 8 There was one obstacle 
to his success, which seemed at first sight difficult to be over- 
come. He did not possess a freehold in the county; but the 
prompt generosity of Skillern removed that defect, 7 and on the 
following Monday he was duly returned. He was re-elected 
from Botetourt in 1784 and in 1785, when he removed from 
Rockbridge to Augusta, where he resided until his death. 
From Augusta he was returned in 1786 and in 1787. But there 
was no public question in which he seemed to take a greater 
interest than the ratification of the Federal Constitution. He 
had sustained in the House of Delegates the resolution con- 
voking the meeting at Annapolis, and the resolution appointing 
delegates to the Federal Convention that framed the Constitu- 
tion, and he felt in a certain sense a paternal feeling toward that 
instrument. In Augusta he put forth all his strength in its 
support, and, having accidentally learned one day before the 
election in Botetourt was to take place that the candidates for 
the Convention were unwilling to pledge themselves to vote for 
its ratification, he mounted his horse and rode day and night to 
Fincastle, a distance of seventy-five miles, that he might make 
-an appeal to his old constituents in favor of the Constitution. 
He arrived at the court-house after the polls had been opened, 
and requested their suspension until he could address the people. 
He spoke with such effect that the people were induced to exact 
explicit pledges from the candidates to sustain the Constitution, 
which they finally gave, and which they faithfully redeemed. 

6 Until 1830 the Virginia elections were held "in all the month of 
April." 

7 This deed remained on record, overlooked by both parties con- 
cerned. Colonel Skillern, indeed, sold and conveyed it to another 
party. It was imprdltvj by the erection of buildings upon it. It was 
sold a few years ago, and, upon an examination of the title, the defect 
as above was discovered, and a release was given by Hon. A. H. H. 
Stuart, as the Editor has been informed by him. 



14 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

His course in the present Convention, in which he sustained 
the extreme views of those who upheld the Constitution, has 
been pointed out already, and may be read in the ayes and noes. 
In 1797, he was called once more into public life, took his seat 
in the Senate of Virginia from the Augusta district, and bore a 
part in the memorable contest which was then waging between 
the Federalists, who approved the policy of the elder Adams, and 
the Republicans, who approved the policy of which Jefferson 
was the representative. Here he voted for the resolutions, which 
though offered by John Taylor, of Caroline, were drawn by 
Madison; but before the report of 1799 had reached the Senate 
he was elected a judge of the General Court, and entered on the 
duties of his office on the ist of January, 1800, which he dis- 
charged with acknowledged ability and faithfulness until 1831, 
when, having attained the age of seventy-three, he declined a 
re-election under the Constitution which had been adopted the 
preceding year. Though on the bench, he was chosen the Jef- 
ferson elector in 1800 and in 1804, the Madison elector in 1808 
and in 1812, the Monroe elector in 1816 and in 1820, and the 
Crawford elector in 1824. Thus far he acted with his ancient 
colleagues of the Republican party; but, preferring Mr. Adams 
to General Jackson, he was placed by the friends of Adams on 
their electoral ticket in 1828, which was defeated by the ticket of' 
the opposite party. He died at Staunton on the nth day of 
July, 1832, in the seventy-fifth year of his age. 

He possessed an elegant taste in letters, which his contribu- 
tions to the memoir of Henry, by Wirt, strikingly exhibit; and 
we are told that he was one of that able cohort of writers who 
made the Richmond Enquirer, then recently established by its 
late venerable editor, the bulwark of the party to which it 
belonged and the terror of its foes. Nor were his attainments 
confined to literature. He was fond of the severe sciences; and 
such was his reputation in mathematics that he was tendered the 
professorship in .that department in William and Mary College, 
and was appointed one of the commissioners to run the dividing 
line between Virginia and Kentucky. 8 

In his latter years he presented to the young generations rising 

8 See Revised Code of 1819, Vol. I, page 6r. His colleagues were 
General Joseph Martin and Judge Creed Taylor. The Richmond 
Enquirer came out in May, 1804. 



ARCHIBALD STUART. 15 

around him a venerable image of the fathers of the Republic. 
His person to the last was erect; his frame, which was six feet 
three inches in height, was broad and muscular; his hair, which 
in youth was black, was white as snow, and was dressed in a 
queue; but his dark hazel eyes were still bright, and the grave 
and almost stern aspect of his face was such as one would look 
for in a statesman who, nearly half a century before, in an hour 
of trial and apprehension, had assisted in laying the foundation 
of the government under which we now live, and who had, since 
that time, been engaged in the honorable but arduous duties of 
a legislator and a judge. When he visited the hall of the Con- 
vention of 1 829-' 30, and took the seat allotted by the courtesy 
of the House to the judges, he observed with interest the repre- 
sentatives of a new generation about to frame a new system of 
government for his beloved Commonwealth, but he could not 
know the tender regard with which he was beheld as one of the 
five survivors of that illustrious band which composed the Con- 
vention of 1788.' 

9 In 1829 the survivors of the Convention of 1788 were Mr. Madison, 
Judge Marshall, and Colonel Monroe (who were members of the Con- 
vention of 1829), Judge Stuart, and James Johnson, of Isle of Wight. 
It was on this occasion I had the honor of forming an acquaintance with 
Judge Stuart. 

I annex portions of a letter received from an intelligent correspond- 
ent, which describes the Judge in latter life: "Judge Stuart, in May, 
1791, married Miss Eleanor Briscoe, a daughter of Colonel Gerard 
Briscoe, of Frederick county, Virginia, but formerly of Montgomery 
county, Maryland. Her two sisters married Dr. Cornelius Baldwin, the 
father of the late Judge Briscoe G. Baldwin, and Judge Hugh Holmes. 
In stature the Judge was tall and rawboned, his height was six feet 
three inches, and he was perfectly erect. He was broad-shouldered, 
large-boned, and muscular. His eyes were of a dark hazel color and 
exceedingly expressive. His complexion was dark, but somewhat 
florid; in manner he was rather stately and reserved. To strangers 
and on the bench he sometimes appeared austere in his deportment, 
but amongst his friends he exhibited the kindest and most genial dis- 
position. In his dress he adhered very much to the fashions of the 
Revolutionary period. His hair was worn combed back from his face 
and with a long queue behind. Until a short time before his death, he 
would wear nothing but short breeches with fair topped boots. In the 
latter part of his life his hair was as white as snow, and I never 
knew a man of more commanding and venerable appearance. In 



16 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



GABRIEL JONES. 



Another member of the bar, whom the Valley deputed to the 
Convention, and who holds an important place in its early his- 
tory, was Gabriel Jones. To this day some racy anecdotes, 
everywhere current in the Valley, but too prurient for the public 
eye, serve to show the peculiarities of this really able but most 
singular man. He is said to have opened the first law office 
west of the Blue Ridge. He was born in 1724, near Williams- 
burg, of English parents, who had come over ten years before 
and had settled in the vicinity of the metropolis. 10 About 1734 
the family returned to England, and in the city of London young 

the general aspect of his features he bore a strong resemblance to Gen- 
eral Jackson, hut was on a much larger scale. The most remarkable 
characteristic of his mind was his sound judgment. I have often 
heard Judge Baldwin say that he thought his judgment but little, if at 
all, inferior to Judge Marshall's, and that, if he had been placed in a 
position to require the constant exercise of all his faculties, he would 
have been one of the most eminent judges in his time. He was a 
generous patron of young men struggling against difficulties, and 
among those who shared his kindness was the well-known John Allen, 
the rival of Henry Clay, who was killed at the river Raisin. Another 
peculiarity of the Judge was his almost intuitive perception of the 
character of men. The only portrait of him in existence was painted 
in 1824 by George Cooke, and is in the possession of his son, the Hon. 

A. H. H. Stuart." 

10 Governor Gilmer, of Georgia, describes Gabriel Jones as " a Welsh- 
man well educated, a friend, kinsman, and executor of Lord Fairfax." 
I have followed the authority of the grandson of Mr. Jones, Francis 

B. Jones, Esq., as that most likely to be authentic. See Governor Gil- 
mer's " Georgians," page 61. [Gabriel Jones, it is believed, possessed 
a select, if not a large, library, for his period, in the Colony. Volumes 
with his book-plate frequently occur in libraries sold at auction. The 
arms used by him would indicate that he was of English descent, as 
they are those given by Burk (General Armory), as "Jones, Chilton and 
Shrewsbury, county, Salop; granted i6th June, 1607. Arms: A lion 
rampant vert, vulned in the breast, gu. Crest : A sun in splendour, 
or." Gabriel Jones's plate bore also the motto, " Pax ruris hospila" 
and " Gabriel Jones, Attorney at Law." EDITOR.] 



GABRIEL JONES. 17 

Jones received his early training. While yet a lad Gabriel 
returned to Virginia, studied law, turned in due time his course 
westward, and took up his abode in the Valley, attending the 
courts of Winchester, Staunton, and Romney. In 1748 he 
married Miss Margaret Strother, a daughter of William Strother, 
who lived on the Rappahannock, and whose two other daughters 
married Thomas Lewis and John Madison, the father of the 
Bishop. After his marriage, Jones continued to reside in Fred- 
erick, but subsequently purchasing a beautiful estate on the 
Shenandoah in the present county of Rockingham, he removed 
thither, and there he resided during the remainder of his life. 
His estate lay directly opposite the estate of his brother-in-law 
and colleague in the Convention, Thomas Lewis. He died in 
1806, in the eighty-third year of his age. He was of small 
stature and of a nervous temperament, and, having lost his right 
eye in early life, he always wore a shade to conceal the defect 
from public observation. He is represented in a portrait at 
" Vaucluse," the seat of his late grandson, as dressed in the full 
toilet of a gentleman of the old regime, the shade over his eye, 
and as having a face shrewd and attenuated, and indicative of a 
high temper. Indeed, with all the discipline of a long life, with 
all his respect for those restraints which his position at the head 
of the bar, as the head of a family in an orderly, moral and even 
religious society, and as a gentleman punctilious in dress and 
demeanor, he could never turn the cup of provocation from his 
lips, nor restrain the outbursts of a temper terrible to the 
last degree. Even in the presence of the court his passions 
flamed wildly and fiercely. He was the first, and for a long 
time the only, attorney who practiced in Augusta county, and 
was generally known as The Lawyer. The road by which he 
travelled to Staunton was called the Lawyer's Road. An inci- 
dent which occurred in Augusta court will serve^to show the 
peculiar temper of Jones, and, at the same time, the temper of 
the court toward him. He was engaged in a case in which the 
late Judge Holmes was the opposing counsel. Holmes was 
mischievous and witty, and contrived to get Jones into a furious 
passion, when he became very profane. After hearing Jones 
for some time the court consulted together in order to determine 
what steps should be taken to preserve its dignity. To think of 
punishing Lawyer Jones was out of the question; so the pre- 



18 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

siding judge gave it as the decision of the court, "that if Mr. 
Holmes did not quit worrying Mr. Jones and making him curse 
and swear so, he should be sent to jail." 1 Withal he was a most 
skilful and learned lawyer, indefatigable in maintaining the inter- 
ests of his clients, and most successful in winning verdicts. 

His politics were pitched to the same high key with his tem- 
per. He had no fears of a strong government which was, at the 
same time, a representative government. He thought that the 
principal defect in popular institutions consisted in their weak- 
ness, and that vigor in the administration was the true and the 
only means of sustaining successfully a republican system. He 
warmly supported the Federal Constitution, and was to his last 
hour a thorough, open, and uncompromising Federalist. Look- 
ing upon every honor to be conferred upon him as a mark of 
disgrace if founded on an erroneous view of his opinions, he 
expressed himself on public occasions with a freedom and a 
harshness that gave great scandal even to men not ordinarily 
squeamish. Thus, when he was a candidate with Thomas Lewis 
for a seat in the present Convention, though his opinions were 
everywhere known in the Valley, having heard that some of the 
voters whom he disliked intended voting for him out of regard 
for his brother-in-law, he declared from the hustings, on the 
opening of the polls, "that he would not receive the votes of 
such damned rascals." 12 He had no concealments, in public or 
in private. He was never worse than he appeared to be. In 
the relations of private life he was punctual, liberal, and honor- 
able. The man never lived who doubted his integrity. By 
strict attention to the duties of his profession he accumulated a 
large estate. In pecuniary matters he was stern, but just. He 
exacted indiscriminately his own dues from others, but he ren- 
dered the dues of others with equal exactness. In an age of 
wild speculation, he would never buy a bond, under par, nor 
receive more than six per cent, for the use of money. Hence, 
by the aid of his large capital, his influence was extensive; and 
that influence was invariably wielded in behalf of suffering 

11 1 have given this nearly in the words of a writer in the Virginia 
Historical Register, Vol. Ill, 17. I have received it from various 
sources. 

12 1 have heard this incident detailed in several ways, but all illustra- 
tive of the fearlessness of Jones in the presence of the voters. 



GABRIEL JONES. 19 

virtue, of sound morals, and of public faith. He kept an 
account of all his expenses; and when he engaged at his own 
fireside, or at the firesides of his friends, as was the fashion of 
the times, in a game of cards, he noted his losses and his gains; 
and a regular account of his luck, kept through his whole life, 
was found among his papers. When we regard his protracted 
career, and the influence which his strict veracity, his incorrupti- 
ble integrity, and his fearless assertion of the right, exerted on 
the public opinion of a young and unsettled country, rapidly 
filling up with the waifs of a various emigration, almost beyond 
the reach of law, his peculiarities, though ever to be pitied and 
deplored, are softened in the contemplation. He neither sought 
nor would accept public office; but it is certain that he was 
elected a member of Congress under the Confederation, and, it 
is believed, a judge of the General Court. 13 

13 The election of Jones to Congress was made under flattering 
circumstances. He was at the head of a delegation consisting of 
Edmund Randolph, James Mercer, Patrick Henry, William Fitzhugh, 
Meriwether Smith, and Cyrus Griffin. He was elected June 17, 1779. 
(Journal of the House of Delegates of that date.) He ran against 
Paul Carrington on the first election of the judges of the General 
Court, and was defeated by sixteen votes. (Journal House of Dele- 
gates, January 23, 1778.) I confess my obligation to Francis B. Jones, 
Esq., for information concerning his ancestor. There was a portrait of 
Gabriel Jones at the residence of the late General J. B. Harvie, of 
Richmond, who was his grandson. 



20 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



THOMAS LEWIS. 



But Gabriel Jones was not the only man of influence and 
talents whom Rockingham sent to the present Convention. No 
two men could differ more from each other in physical and moral 
qualities than Jones and his colleague, Thomas Lewis. Jones 
was diminutive in stature; Lewis was one of a family of gallant 
brothers whose height exceeded six feet; and he was large in 
proportion to his height. Jones, to the extreme verge of a pro- 
tracted and prosperous life, gave way to an uncontrollable tem- 
per; Lewis, though sprung from a fiery race, governed his 
passions with such deliberate judgment that few even of his 
intimate friends had ever seen him under high excitement. 
Jones, when he was furious and he was apt to be furious on 
slight provocation swore with such vehemence as to shock even 
men of the world; Lewis, though unconnected with any church, 
was essentially a pious man, and gave instructions in his will 
that the burial-service of the Episcopal Church should be read 
by his friend Gilmer at his grave. In the science and practice 
of law, to which he had devoted for more than half a century 
the energies of a vigorous mind, Jones was superior not only to 
Lewis, but to all his rivals west of the Ridge; but in a love of 
order, in popularity derived from personal worth, and in integ- 
rity, Lewis was his equal; and in profound and elegant scholar- 
ship, and in a knowledge of political affairs, acquired in the pub- 
lic councils during the earlier stages of those measures which 
led to the Revolution, he was not only ahead of Jones, but of all 
the able and patriotic men to whom the West had confided its 
interests at this critical conjuncture, he was regarded at home 
and throughout the State as confessedly the first. They were 
brothers-in-law, lived in a style of liberal hospitality on their 
princely estates lying on the opposite banks of the Shenandoah, 
and were personal friends. Lewis was the elder by six years. 
Both had probably studied at William and Mary, had emigrated 
in early life to the Valley, with the interests of which they were 



THOMAS LEWIS. 21 

fully conversant, and advocated with equal zeal the ratification 
of the Federal Constitution. They were descended from differ- 
ent stocks possibly from the same stock developed under differ- 
ent circumstances. Jones was of English parentage, and though 
born in Virginia, spent his youth in England. 1 * With the gov- 
ernment of that country he was familiar, and he saw nothing in 
it to excite remark or to demand reform. In common with the 
most conspicuous statesmen of the Revolution, he would have 
preferred a safe and honorable connection with England to a 
state of independence. He was in favor of an energetic govern- 
ment vigorously administered, and from habit, from policy, and 
from principle would have chosen rather to await the full develop- 
ment of bad measures than to assail in the beginning an abstract 
principle from which bad measures were likely to follow. Lewis 
was the descendant of a Scotch ancestor, who had become an 
Irish colonist, and who imbibed the spirit, partly religious and 
partly military, which a colonist of the dominant race in the cir- 
cumstances of his condition could not fail to cherish. Hence 
the readiness with which Lewis separated himself from the great 
body of the eastern delegation in the House of Burgesses of 
1765, and voted for the resolutions of Henry against the Stamp 
Act. He well knew that the Colony could bear the weight of a 
stamp tax as easily as we now bear the weight of the tax on 
letters transmitted through the post ; but he saw in the principle 
of laying taxes on the people without representation a source of 
danger, the extent of which could only be measured by the 
cupidity of those who had unjustly assumed the power. Jones, 
in common with many eastern members, might have hesitated to 
adopt means of resistance until the policy had become fixed; 
but Lewis voted to resist the infraction at the outset, and to 
incur present difficulty in the hope of forestalling future trouble. 
Hence, while many of the eastern men in March, 1775, were 
reluctant to proceed to extremities, and were disposed to rely on 
the operation of the non-importation agreements as an appeal to 



"Governor Gilmer, already cited, calls Jones a Welshman, and 
assigns his reasons for believing that the Lewises were originally from 
Wales. I lean to the belief that the Lewises were neither Huguenot 
nor Welsh, but were Scotch, and emigrated to Ireland in the time of 
James the First, or of Cromwell. [This question grows. EDITOR.] 



22 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the commercial sensibilities of England, Lewis approved the 
resolutions of Henry for putting the Colony into military array; 
and in the following year sustained the resolution instructing the 
delegates of Virginia in Congress to propose independence, and 
the resolution appointing a committee to report a Declaration of 
Rights and an independent Constitution. But on this great 
occasion Lewis and Jones united to attain a common object. 

This change in the policy of Lewis did not fail to attract atten- 
tion. It was from a close observation of his conduct in past 
years that the opponents of the Federal Constitution counted 
upon his vote. In the eyes of Henry and his compatriots, who 
had steadily guarded the right of taxation, not only from the 
encroachments of the mother country, but from the encroach- 
ments of our own Confederation, it seemed monstrous to cede 
that invaluable right without limitation to any authority what- 
ever, whether that authority was seated on the other side of the 
Atlantic or on this. The statesmen of whom Henry was the 
chief were free to declare that the Northern States richly merited 
their gratitude for their heroic conduct in resisting British 
tyranny, and that they ardently desired a union with them; but 
between an expression of gratitude and a love of union, and an 
entire surrender of the right most precious to freemen, there 
was an immense interval which it was madness to overleap. 
Lewis doubtless felt the delicacy of his position. It was pain- 
ful to part from friends with whom we had long held intimate 
communion; but it was his deliberate conviction that the diffi- 
culties of the crisis demanded a trial of the new system, and he 
voted with his colleague, who from the first had no doubts on 
the subject. 

Nor was his vote confined to the ratification of the Consti- 
tution. On the greatest of all the amendments which were 
reported by the select committee, and which aimed to secure to 
the States a modified control over the right of taxation, he again 
parted from his ancient allies. It may be remarked, as an 
instructive fact in the history of the Scotch-Irish race which 
settled in the Valley, and made an impression upon its popula- 
tion likely to last for years and ages to come, that those among 
them who were attached to the Episcopal Church were eager 
for the ratification of the Federal Constitution ; and that those 



THOMAS LEWIS. 23 

who had been dissenters before the Revolution, and were con- 
nected with the Presbyterian Church, opposed the adoption of 
that instrument in its unamended form with all their zeal. 15 

Of the early life of Lewis, of his birth in Ireland, and the 
circumstances which led to the emigration of his family, of his 
services as the first surveyor of Augusta, when Augusta extended 
to the Ohio and to the Mississippi, and of his career in the 
House of Burgesses, in the early conventions, and especially in 
the Convention of 1776, when he voted in favor of the resolu- 
tion instructing the delegates from Virginia in Congress to pro- 
pose independence, and was a member of the committee which 
reported the Declaration of Rights and the Constitution, we 
have already treated in detail. 16 His knowledge of mathematics 
was held in high repute; and when the boundary line between 
Virginia and Pennsylvania, an exciting question, which had 
nearly involved the two States in civil war, was about to be run, he 
was placed at the head of the commission to which Virginia 
assigned that delicate duty ; but, as he was unable to be pres- 
ent at the meeting of the commissioners of the two Slates in 
Baltimore, and as the arrangement made by his colleagues was 
not conclusive, he was again called upon by the Assembly to 
examine the subject in dispute and to report his opinion at a 
subsequent session. 17 In the intervals of public employments he 
devoted his time to the cultivation of his estate, and was ever 
pleased when he could snatch an hour from business and from 
society to engage in the pursuits of science, or to enjoy the 
pleasures of literature. He imported the elder as well as the 
more recent productions of British genius ; and the intelligent 
visitor from the East, who had come into the Valley in search of 
a patrimonial land-claim, and was welcomed as a guest at his 
hearth, saw with unfeigned surprise, on shelves freshly made from 
trees which had reared for centuries above the waters of the 

15 Archibald Stuart and Thomas Lewis on the one side, and William 
Graham, the Ajax Telamon of the Presbyterians of the Valley, are 
instances illustrative of the fact stated in the text. 

16 In the discourse on the Virginia Convention of 1776, page 112. 

17 His colleagues in the first instance were the Rev. James Madison 
and the Rev. Robert Andrews ; and in the second his brother, Andrew 
Lewis, and Colonel Innes. (Journal of the House of Delegates, June 
24, I779-) 



24 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Shenandoah, the most elaborate treatises on the sciences and 
the most instructive and most elegant performances in history, in 
theology, and in general literature. 18 His position in the Valley 
was so prominent that all who sought information or advice on 
any topic connected with the West either repaired to his house 
or consulted him through the post. Washington, who had 
served with him on many trying occasions in the House of Bur- 
gessess and in the Conventions, and who had taken up vast 
tracts of land on the Kanawha and the Ohio, earnestly asked his 
aid in the management of his affairs, which Lewis, whose whole 
time hardly sufficed to manage his own, was compelled to refuse. 
He had long suffered from a cancer on the face, and on the 3131 
day of January, 1790, within less than two years after the adjourn- 
ment of the present Convention, in the midst of his children and 
grandchildren, and in the seventy-third year of his age, he died 
on his estate on the Shenandoah, and was buried on its banks. 

[He accompanied the commission in 1746 to determine the 
line of Lord Fairfax's the Northern Neck grant from the 
head spring of the Rappahannock to the head spring of the 
Potomac. A journal of the expedition, kept by him, is in 
the possession of his descendant, the Hon. John F. Lewis. It 
gives the only authentic narrative now extant of the planting of 
the Fairfax stone. EDITOR.] 

18 In an account of the library of Colonel Lewis, see the discourse on 
the Convention of 1776, as last cited. 



JOHN STUART. 



By the side of Thomas Lewis sat his son-in-law, a man of the 
ordinary height, but of a stalwart frame, whose large head, low, 
receding forehead, black, bushy eyebrows, small blue eyes, 
aquiline nose, bronzed features, and stern aspect, presented the 
beau-ideal of that hardy race, which in the outskirts of the Com- 
monwealth cultivated the earth and worshipped God with a rifle 
constantly by their side and with a ball-pouch flung across the 
shoulder. He had learned from his father-in law to beguile the 
cares and dangers of a frontier life with the pleasures of litera- 
ture. 

In his rock-built home near Lewisburg, in a cherry case as 
bright as mahogany, he had collected some of the best authors 
of the Augustan age of English literature. Nor were his literary 
amusements unprofitable to his country. He has left to posterity 
the most accurate and lifelike account of the greatest Indian 
battle ever fought on the soil ol" Virginia; and in a neat and 
truthful narrative has interwoven with charming effect the inci- 
dents, of personal and general interest, developed during the 
settlement of the country west of the Alleghany, of which he 
was now the representative. 

Such was John Stuart, of Greenbrier. He was the son of 
David Stuart, who was born in Wales in 1710, who married, in 
1750, Margaret Lynn, of Loch Lynn, Scotland, and who shortly 
after his marriage emigrated to Virginia, settling himself in the 
county of Augusta, where his brother-in-law, John Lewis, the 
father of Andrew and Thomas Lewis, resided. 19 David died 



19 Governor Gilmer says that the name of Colonel John Stuart's 
father was John; but my information is derived from the family records 
in the possession of the accomplished granddaughter of Colonel Stuart, 
Mrs. General Davis, of Fayette. Governor Gilmer states that the 
father of Colonel Stuart was an intimate personal friend of Governor 
Dinwiddie, and came over with him in 1752. If this be true, then David 
Stuart must have come by way of the West Indies. ("Georgians," 
page 50.) ["The probability is that Stuart had no personal connection 



26 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

early, leaving two daughters, whose reputable descendants live 
in the East and in the West, and one son, whose services it is our 
duty to record. Young Stuart had not the advantages of early 
instruction; but he was a close observer, a diligent inquirer, and 
was constant in his endeavors to improve his mind. He acquired 
a knowledge of mathematics ample enough to qualify him to 
perform with skill the duties of a surveyor, and was appointed by 
his uncle, John Lewis, his agent in locating land-warrants in the 
region now included in the county of Greenbrier. Thither he 
removed, and there during fifty eventful years he continued to 
reside. He settled himself on a tract of land four miles from 
Camp Union, as the present site of Lewisburg was once called, 
which was presented to him by his cousin, General Andrew 
Lewis, which he improved and adorned with commodious build- 
ings, and on which he lived until his death. In the Indian skir- 
mishes of the times he was frequently engaged, and in the army 
of General Andrew Lewis, which fought in October, 1771, the 
memorable battle at the Point, he commanded one of the Bote- 
tourt companies of Colonel Fleming's division, and acted with 
distinguished gallantry. In 1780 he was returned to the House 
of Delegates by the county of Greenbrier, which three years 
before had been set apart from Botetourt and Montgomery, and 
in November of the following year was appointed the clerk of 
the court. For more than a quarter of a century he performed 
the duties of clerk of all the courts of Greenbrier with scrupu- 
lous fidelity, and, retiring in his old age from public business, 
was succeeded by his son, Lewis. He became the County Lieu- 
tenant at a time when that office was keenly coveted by our 
fathers. Indeed, the County Lieutenant 80 then held the same 
honorable office which the Lord Lieutenant held in the parent 
country, and presided in the court, commanded the militia, and 
was in all public affairs the exponent of the county. His respon- 
sible duties were marked out by special enactments. It was not 
obligatory upon him to take the field; but if he took the field, 

with Governor Dinwiddie. He certainly settled in the Valley long 
before Dinwiddie became Governor of the Colony." Waddelfs Annals 
of Augusta County, page 463. EDITOR.] 

20 For the rank and position of the County Lieutenant, see pages 
35-36 of the Journal of the Convention of July, 1775. 



JOHN STUART. 27 

the colonel of the regiment became lieutenant-colonel and the 
lieutenant-colonel became major. It was the experience in civil 
and military affairs thus acquired, and his long and intimate 
acquaintance with the wants and interests of the West, that 
impelled him to approve a vigorous government and to favor 
the ratification of the Federal Constitution by the present Con- 
vention. His sagacity led him to fear that the Indian, though 
driven beyond the Ohio, might prove a dangerous foe to the 
West; and he knew that it rested not with Virginia, but with Eng- 
land in the North and with Spain in the West, whether there 
should be peace or war within our borders; and that a coalition 
between those two foreign forces might result in the extermina- 
tion of the settlers west of the Blue Ridge. He viewed both 
these nations with distrust; yet, if either of them should choose 
to bring all the Indians within its control into the field, it would 
require all the resources of the Union to repel the savages and 
to punish them. With such impressions, he brought all his 
influence to bear upon his countrymen, and succeeded in 
securing the vote of Greenbrier in favor of the Constitution. 
Nor did his affection for the Constitution cease with its adoption. 
He gave a cordial support to those who were charged with its 
administration, and upheld the policy of Washington and of 
Adams with unwavering confidence. As he was earnest and 
sincere in his political feelings, he maintained his opinions unal- 
tered by the fluctuations of popular passion or by the lapse of 
time, and died as he had lived an honest, upright, and consist- 
ent Federalist. He rarely spoke with* severity of his opponents; 
but in his letters to confidential friends he handled the foibles of 
the Democratic leaders without mercy, but without venom; and 
he showed his antipathy to their doctrines rather by laughing at 
what he deemed their inconsistencies and absurdities than in 
fierce and vulgar denunciation. 21 Indeed, the conspicuous trait 
of his character was a decorous self-command. It was hard to 
tell what impression a remark made upon him. In mixed com- 
panies he was silent and reserved, and his grave deportment and 
severe aspect were apt to repress the loquacity of others. He 

"The letters of Colonel Stuart, addressed to the Rev. Benjamin 
Grigsby during the Adams and Jefferson administrations, are in my col- 
lections. 



28 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

never lost his youthful love of the rifle, which to the last he 
wielded with unerring skill ; and it was the delight of his old 
age to wander through the forest ; and he has been seen to halt 
and carve a date or a name on the bark of a beech, and to sit 
upon a fallen tree with his rifle on his lap, as he was wont to do 
in youth when he watched the Indian enemy. Yet, with one or 
two old friends he would occasionally unbend, and on such occa- 
sions it was pleasing to hear him recount the early incidents of 
his life and his clear and admirable estimate of the Revolution- 
ary statesmen with whom he had served in the public councils. 
With all his seeming sternness, he was revered by the great 
body of his fellow-citizens ; and his popularity was the more 
honorable to him, as it arose from no concession to fashionable 
follies, from no concealment of unpopular opinions, but from the 
computation of solid worth in the calm judgments of the peo- 
ple. His habit of self-command and the steadiness of his nerves 
were remarkable even in his last hour. Like many of the early 
settlers, he had insensibly caught some of the Indian traits. He 
did not appear to suffer from any particular disease, but seemed, 
like a soldier on duty, patiently to await the time of his final 
discharge. On the evening of the 23d of August, 1823, he told 
his son that his time had come; and, rising from his bed, shaved 
and dressed himself with unusual care. When he had finished 
his toilet he rested on the bed, and in five minutes breathed his 
last. He had reached his seventy-fifth year. He was buried on 
his estate, not far from the site of a fort which he had erected for 
protection from the sudden forays of the Indians. A slab with 
an appropriate epitaph marks the spot. 

Taciturn and unbending as this worthy patriot appeared, there 
was a romance in the courtship of his wife, which has become 
one of the traditions of the West. About mid- day on the loth 
of October, 1774, in the town of Staunton, a little girl, the 
daughter of John and Agatha Frogge, and the granddaughter of 
Thomas Lewis, who was sleeping in the room in which her 
mother was attending to her domestic affairs, suddenly awoke, 
screaming that the Indians were murdering her father. She was 
quieted by her mother, and went to sleep again. Again she 
awoke, screaming that the Indians were murdering her father. 
She was quieted once more, and was waked up a third time by 
the same horrid vision, and continued screaming in spite of all 



JOHN STUART. 29 

the efforts of her mother to soothe and pacify her. The mother 
of the child was much alarmed at the first dream ; but when the 
same dreadful vision was seen by the child a third time, her 
imagination, quickened by that superstition which is almost uni- 
versal among the Scotch, and which the highest cultivation 
rather conceals than eradicates, presented before her the lifeless 
form of her husband gashed by the tomahawk of the savage. 
Her cries drew together her neighbors, who, when informed of 
what had occurred, joined in her lamentations, until all Staunton 
was in a state of commotion. It so happened that the bloody 
battle of the Point was fought on the very day when Staunton was 
thus agitated, and, what was still more wonderful, John Frogge, 
the father of the child who had seen the vision, was killed during 
the engagement. 22 When Captain Stuart, at the close of the 
Western campaign, visited the Valley, he saw the mother of the 
affrighted child, who was his first cousin, and, as he had pro- 
bably seen her husband fall and assisted in committing his body 
to the grave, communicated to her the melancholy but interesting 
details of his fate. The sequel is soon told. He was enter- 
prising and brave; she was young and beautiful; and in due time 
he conducted her as a bride to his mountain home. The off- 
spring of this marriage were two sons and two daughters, who 
survived their parents, but are now dead, leaving- numerous 
descendants. Mrs. Stuart outlived her husband some years, 
and saw her grandchildren attain to maturity. 23 

There is one reflection drawn from the life of John Stuart not 
undeserving our attention. While most of the early politicians 
east of the mountains, though beginning life with good estates, 
died poor, or were able to leave but a pittance to their families, 
which were scattered abroad, their Western colleagues bequeathed 
to their descendants a princely inheritance. The fine estates on 
the eastern rivers, the very names of which once imparted to 

"This incident I have given in almost the identical words of Gov- 
ernor Gilmer. (" Georgians," page 49.) 

23 1 knew this venerable lady in my early youth and in her extreme 
old age. She was active and shrewd to the last. She was somewhat 
deaf; and her son, Lewis, my early and dear friend, now too gone, 
used laughingly to say that his mother could not hear ordinary conver- 
sation very well, but that if you talked to her about money matters 
her hearing was perfect. 



30 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

their owners the dignity of a title, have long been alienated from 
the blood of their original possessors. During the present century 
four-fifths of the land on the banks of the James, and of other 
rivers of the East, have been in the market. Such has not been 
the case west of the mountains. We should err, however, in 
ascribing the result to the superior thrift or to the superior skill of 
our Western brethren. Its explanation will probably be found in 
the peculiar circumstances of each great section of country. In 
the East, if a man with ten children dies leaving an old planta- 
tion worth fifty thousand dollars, 24 as from obvious considera- 
tions it was incapable of sustaining a division into ten equal 
and habitable parts, it must be sold for a division. But fifty 
thousand dollars' worth of landed property in the West, as the 
West was at the beginning of the present century, could be 
divided indefinitely into fine plantations abounding in wood and 
water. Early purchases of land may be said to be the source of 
Western wealth; and for such purchases the East afforded no 
opportunity. But Stuart would, under almost any circum- 
stances, have been a wealthy man. In his temperament were 
combined in a profuse degree the elements of worldly success. 
He was systematic, patient, and economical. Debt he held in 
abhorrence. Whatever progress he made was sure. He did 
much for himself; but he took care that time should do more. 
Thus, watching the progress of events, and rising with a rising 
country, he accumulated vast wealth. Of the quarter of million 
of dollars at which his estate was assessed at his death, the 
greater proportion yet remains in the hands of his descendants, 
and will probably remain for a century to come. 25 

"Our great Eastern statesmen were as prolific as their Western 
brethren. If Thomas Lewis brought up thirteen children, Patrick 
Henry and George Mason nearly averaged a dozen. 

"The Historical Memoir of Colonel Stuart was among the earliest 
publications of the Historical Society of Virginia. A portion of it may 
be found in Howe, in the article on Greenbrier, and in the Historical 
Register, Vol. V, 181. I read it thirty years ago in the original manu- 
script, which was taken from the desk on which it was written and 
handed to me for perusal. I can recall many of the books of the 
Colonel's library. They were, of course, all London editions, and in 
calf binding. I acknowledge the kind assistance of Samuel Price, 
Esq., and of other members of the family of Colonel Stuart. 



ANDREW MOORE. 



From the mountains of Greenbrier we pass again into the 
Valley, and recall the name of a patriot who, by birth and race, 
was one of its peculiar representatives, whose early life was 
checkered by a various fortune, whose services as a soldier in 
three arduous campaigns in the North, during which he saw 
from the heights of Saratoga the surrender of the first .British 
General with his army to the prowess of the American arms a 
glorious result, achieved in no small measure by the valor and 
skill of the corps to which he belonged ; who was a member of 
the Assembly in the latter years of the Revolution, and distin- 
guished himself by his devotion to religious freedom; who was 
a member of the House of Representatives during the entire 
term of Washington's administration; who was a leader in the 
Republican party from the date of the Federal Constitution to 
the close of the presidency of Jefferson; who was the first native 
of the Valley elected by Virginia to the office of a Senator of 
the United States, and who, having lived to behold the second 
contest of his country with Great Britain and to rejoice in the 
success of her arms, and, reposing in the midst of his descend- 
ants in the shadow of his own vine, went down quietly, in his 
sixty-eighth year, to his honored grave. 

But, great as were the services rendered throughout a long 
life to his country, his course in the present Convention, which 
had a controlling influence in effecting the ratification of the 
Constitution, is not the least interesting incident in his career in 
the estimation of his posterity. He had been instructed by a 
majority of the voters of Rockbridge to oppose the ratification 
of the Constitution; but, after due deliberation, he resolved to 
disobey his instructions and to sustain that instrument. To 
obey the instructions of his constituents is the most fearful 
responsibility which a delegate can assume; and it is question- 
able whether, in a case that is definitely settled by his vote 
beyond the possibility of revision, it is susceptible of justifica- 
tion. But the cognizance of the question lies altogether with the 



32 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

constituents whose wishes have been thwarted, and to these 
Andrew Moore appealed on his return from the Convention, and 
was sustained by an overwhelming majority of their suffrages. 

Andrew Moore was of the Scotch-Irish race, to which Thomas 
Lewis and John Stuart belonged. His grandfather was one of a 
family of brothers who emigrated from the North of Ireland and 
settled in the Valley, and in some of the Southern States. His 
father, David, took, up his abode on a farm in the lower part of 
Rockbridge (then Augusta), now called " Cannicello." The most 
remote ancestor of David whom he could remember was a lady 
whose maiden name was Bante, who in her old age came over to 
this country, and who used to relate that, when a girl, she had 
been driven to take refuge under the walls of Londonderry, had 
seen many Protestants lying dead from starvation with tufts of 
grass in their mouths, and had herself barely escaped alive from 
the havoc of that terrible scene. 

In 1752, at the homestead of " Cannicello," Andrew was born, 
and was there brought up, availing himself of the advantages of 
instruction within his reach so effectually as, before manhood, to 
become a teacher in a school of his own. He determined to 
study law, and attended, about 1772, a course of lectures under 
Wythe, at William and Mary. Fascinated by a love of adven- 
ture, he embarked for the West Indies, was overtaken by a 
tempest, and was cast away on a desert island. To sustain life 
the shipwrecked party was compelled to live on reptiles, and 
especially on a large species of lizard, the flavor of which, even 
in old age, the venerable patriot could readily remember. From 
this inhospitable abode he was at length rescued by a passing 
vessel; and he went to sea no more. 

The Revolution was now in progress, the Declaration of 
Independence was promulgated, and Virginia had erected a 
form of government of her own, and appealed to her citizens to 
maintain it in the field. Andrew Moore hearkened to the call, 
and accepted a lieutenantcy in the company of Captain John 
Hays, of Morgan's Rifle Corps. As soon as he received his 
commission he attended a log-rolling in his neighborhood, and 
enlisted in one day nineteen men being nearly the whole num- 
ber present capable of bearing arms. Such was the spirit of 
patriotism that animated the bosoms of his countrymen. He 
continued in the army three years, and served most of that time 



ANDREW MOORE. 33 

in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. He participated 
in all the engagements which terminated in the capture of the 
British army under Burgoyne, and saw that accomplished Gene- 
ral play a part in a drama of deeper interest than the one which 
he wrote for the entertainment of a London audience. At the 
expiration of three years' service in the army, having attained 
the rank of captain, he resigned his commission, in consequence 
of the number of supernumerary officers, and .returned to Rock- 
bridge. 

In April, 1780, he entered on his legislative career, which he 
was destined to pursue for nearly the third of a century, and to 
close with the highest honor which can be attained in that 
department of the public service. As soon as he entered the 
House of Delegates he was placed on the Committee of Reli- 
gion, and it should be remembered forever to his praise that he 
was from the first the earnest and consistent advocate of religious 
freedom in all its largest sense. He was a member of the body 
when Tarleton made his famous effort to capture it in full session 
at Charlottesville. He acted with the party of which Henry was 
the head; nor until he took his seat in the present Convention 
did he depart from the policy marked out by the great tribune 
of the people. On the ijth day of December, 1785, true to the 
principles of the race from which he sprung, and, in unison with 
the spirit of that remarkable era in which he lived, he voted for 
the memorable act "establishing religious freedom." 16 And 

26 As several of the members of the Convention voted with Moore on 
that occasion, I annex, for the sake of reference, the ayes and noes on 
the passage of the bill in the House of Delegates : 

AYES Joshua Fry, Wilson Cary Nicholas, Joseph Eggleston, Sam' I 
Jordan Cabell, Zachariah Johnston, Michael Bowyer, John Trigg, 
Robert Clark, George Hancock, Archibald Stuart, William Anderson, 
Hickerson Barksdale, John Clarke (of Campbell), Samuel Hawes, 
Anthony New, John Daniel, Henry Southall, French Strother, Henry 
Fry, William Gatewood, Meriwether Smith, Charles Simms, David 
Stuart, William Pickett, Thomas Helm, C. Greenup, James Garrard, 
George Thomson, Alexander White, Charles Thurston, Thomas Smith, 
George Clendinen, John Lucas, Jeremiah Pate, Ralph Humphreys, 
Isaac Vanmeter, George Jackson, Nathaniel Wilkinson, John Mayo, Jr., 
John Rentfro, William Norvell, John Roberts, William Dudley, Thomas 
Moore, Carter Braxton, Benjamin Temple, Francis Peyton, Christopher 
Robertson, Samuel Garland, Benjamin Logan, David Scott, William 

3 



34 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

when, on the i6th of January following, the bill came down from 
the Senate with three amendments, two of which were critical 
and explanatory, and the third of which proposed to strike out 
the words, " that the religious opinions of men are not the object 
of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction," he assented to 
the two first, but voted against concurring with the last in a 
minority of twenty-seven; thus affirming in the most positive 
manner that the religious opinions of men are not within the 
range of legislation. 27 During the following session which 
began in October, 1786, and ended on the nth of January, 
1787 he voted for the appointment of commissioners to meet 
at Annapolis, and afterwards voted to appoint delegates to the 
Federal Convention, which should assemble in Philadelphia for 
the purpose of proposing amendments to the Articles of Con- 
federation. 

In the present Convention, as before observed, he sustained 
the Constitution proposed by the General Convention, and 
opposed the adoption of the third amendment of the series 
which "was reported by the select committee, and which reserved 

Pettijohn, Robert Sayres, Daniel Trigg, William H. Macon, Griffin 
Stith, David Bradford, James Madison, Charles Porter, William Harri- 
son, Benjamin Lankford, John Clarke (of Prince Edward), Richard 
Bibb, Cuthbert Bullitt, Daniel Carroll Brent, Williamson Ball, Andrew 
Moore, John Hopkins, Gawin Hamilton, Isaac Zane, John Tayloe, 
John W. Willis, Andrew Kincannon, and James fanes 74. 

NOES Thomas Claiborne, Miles King, Worlich Westwood, John Page, 
Garland Anderson, Elias Wills, William Thornton, Francis Corbin, 
Willis Riddick, Daniel Sandford, John Gordon, Edward Bland, 
Anthony Walke, George L. Turberville, William Garrard, John F. Mer- 
cer, Carter B. Harrison, Richard Gary, Jr., Wilson Gary, and Richard 
Lee 20. 

The italics point out the members of the present Convention who 
voted on the bill. 

"As Madison, Harrison, and other prominent men of the popular 
party voted in the majority of fifty-three, I am inclined to believe that 
they did so lest, by sending the bill back again to the Senate when the 
session had only two days to run, they might jeopard its passage. In 
the negative were the names of Zachariah Johnston, John Tyler, 
French Strother, Willis Riddick, Andrew Moore, Isaac Zane, and 
Thomas Mathews, members of the present Convention, all of whom 
(except Riddick) sustained the original bill. See Journal of the House 
of Delegates, January 16, 1786. 



ANDREW MOORE. 35 

to the State the privilege of collecting the Federal quotas 
through her own officers. He was elected to the first Congress 
under the Constitution ; and it soon appeared that, eager as he 
was to procure the ratification of that instrument by Virginia, he 
was resolved to watch its workings with unceasing vigilance, 
and to insist upon the strictest construction of its powers. On 
Wednesday, the i8th of March, 1790, he took his seat in the 
House of Representatives, then sitting in New York, and took 
an active part in its proceedings. In the arrangement of the 
new tariff he guarded the interests of the farmer, and contended 
that, as hemp could be grown in the Southern States, it should 
receive the same encouragement that was extended to the manu- 
facturers by a tax on cordage. He opposed the heavy duty on 
salt as being hard upon those who raised cattle, and argued with 
spirit against the discrimination of pay in favor of the Senators 
over the members of the House of Representatives as deroga- 
tory and unjust. It was on the questions growing out of the 
treaty negotiated by Mr. Jay with Great Britain that he spoke 
more at length than he had yet done, and ably defended the rule 
of the House of Representatives asserting its constitutional 
rights in relation to treaties ; and exposed the unequal and 
unjust stipulations of the treaty itself. When in 1793 the propo- 
sition was brought forward to reduce the army, he went into a 
minute history of Indian affairs, and proved what was after- 
wards established by a severe sacrifice of human life, that regu- 
lars, and not militia, were the proper troops for Indian wars. 28 In 
1797 he withdrew with Madison and Giles from the House of 
Representatives, and determined by a vigorous course of mea- 
sures in the Virginia Assembly to change the current of Federal 
politics. He supported the resolutions passed by that body in 
1798, and the celebrated report presented by Madison at the 
succeeding session. In 1803 he returned to the House of Repre- 
sentatives, and in the following year was elected for a full term 
to the Senate of the United States. While he remained in the 
Senate he upheld the policy of the Republican party, and gave 
to the administration of Jefferson a cordial and most effective 
support. On the conclusion of his senatorial term he declined 
a re-election, and withdrew from public life. He was appointed 

jBenton's Debates, Vol. I, 36, 39, 124, 411, 727. 



36 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

by Mr. Madison marshal of the district of Virginia, and when 
subsequently the district was divided he remained the marshal of 
the Eastern district, performing its duties until his death, on the 
i4th of April, 1821. Some years before his death he was elected 
by the Assembly a general of brigade, and afterwards major- 
general. He was of the middle height, stoutly built, and even 
in old age was capable of enduring fatigue and exposure. In 
his visits to Norfolk, which he made in the discharge of the 
duties of his office, he always rode on horseback. He died at 
Lexington, and was buried there. 29 

29 It was on one of his visits to Norfolk that I saw General Moore 
for the first and only time. He was then about sixty-six, but in his 
step and conversation he appeared to my young eyes as a man about 
the middle age. It was his elder brother William, and not Andrew, as 
stated by Howe and Foote, who was at the battle of Point Pleasant. 
When Colonel John Steele was shot during the fight by an Indian, who 
was about to scalp him, William Moore shot the Indian, and knocking 
another Indian down with his rifle shouldered Steele, who was a large 
man, and taking his own rifle and Steele's in the other hand, carried 
him a hundred yards back, and then returned to the fight. Steele, 
who recovered from his wound, used to say that William Moore was 
the only man in the army who could have carried him off if he would, 
or that would have carried him off if he could. William was a lieu- 
tenant in the militia at the siege of York. He was very strong, and 
told a nephew that he never drank a pint of spirits in the whole course 
of his life. He lived to the age of ninety-three. There is a miniature 
of General Moore in the possession of his widow. 



WILLIAM McKEE, MARTIN McFERRAN. 



The colleague of Moore from Rockbridge was Colonel William 
McKee, who was descended from the same Scotch-Irish race, 
and evinced in a long career in the House of Delegates a firm 
determination to overturn those institutions, which, however 
well adapted to embellish and adorn an aristocratic state of 
society, are out of place in a republic. Hence, he gave a hearty 
support to the bills reported by the Committee of Revisers, and 
though he was not one of that illustrious band which, amid the 
rebukes of the selfish and the prejudices of even wise and hon- 
orable men, recorded the act establishing religious freedom on 
the statute-book of the Commonwealth, he warmly approved the 
measure. He had been engaged in several encounters with the 
Indians, had fought gallantly at Point Pleasant, and had acquired 
a high reputation for integrity, energy, and ability. He was a 
member of the House of Delegates at the winter session of 1786, 
and voted to send commissioners to Annapolis, and subsequently 
to the General Convention, which was summoned to revise the 
Articles of Confederation. Like his colleague, Moore, he took 
the responsibility of disobeying the instructions of his constitu- 
ents, enjoining upon him to oppose the ratification of the Federal 
Constitution, and received an honorable acquittal at their hands. 
On the adjournment of the Convention he removed to Ken- 
tucky, where he spent the remainder of his days. 30 

The representatives of Botetourt were two men who exerted 
a great influence on public opinion in the West, and were among 
the most patriotic and steadfast of their generation. Both Mar- 
tin McFerran and William Fleming were of Scotch descent. 
McFerran, who belonged to the great Scotch Irish family that 
passed from Pennsylvania into the Valley, and who derived his 
Christian name from a clergyman, who as early as 1759 went 
forth as a missionary among the Indians, and was, it is believed, 



30 For the religious aspects of his character, see Footers Sketches of 
Virginia, first series, page 447. 



38 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

slaughtered by them, was for several years before the meeting 
of the Convention an active member of the House of Delegates, 
and maintained a prominent place on the committees of that 
body at a time when a few leading names only were found upon 
them. He, in common with his more distinguished colleague, 
was, in the first instance, opposed to the ratification of the Fed- 
eral Constitution, and it is probable that but for the fervid elo- 
quence of Archibald Stuart on the day of the election of the 
members of the Convention, which persuaded the voters to 
elicit pledges from the candidates, would, as in earlier days, 
have ranged under the banner of Patrick Henry. But he 
regarded the expressed will of his constituents as a rule of 
action, and not only voted in favor of the adoption of the Con- 
stitution, but opposed the scheme of previous amendments. 
And when the celebrated memorial to Congress adopted by the 
House of Delegates of which he was a member, on the i4th day 
of November following the adjournment of the Convention, 
which insisted " in the most earnest and solemn manner that a 
Convention of deputies from the several States be immediately 
called, with full power to take into their consideration the defects 
of the Federal Constitution that have been suggested by the 
State Conventions, and report such amendments thereto as they 
shall find best suited to promote our common interests, and 
secure to ourselves and the latest posterity the great and 
unalienable rights of mankind," 81 he voted for the milder propo- 



81 For the two memorials which strikingly exhibit the temper of the 
times, see the Journal of the House of Delegates of November 14, 
1788. The first memorial was probably from the pen of Henry, and 
the substitute from the pen of Edmund Randolph. The substitute 
was lost ayes 50, noes 72 and then the original memorial was carried 
without a division. As it is interesting to trace the action of the mem- 
bers of the Convention, some fifty odd of whom were members of the 
House of Delegates when the memorials were offered, I annex their 
votes for and against the substitute : 

AYES Mr. Speaker (General Mathews), Wilson C. Nicholas, Zacha- 
riah Johnston, Martin McFerran, David Stuart, John Shearman Wood- 
cock, Alexander White, Thomas Smith, George Clendenin, Daniel 
Fisher, Robert Breckenridge (Kentucky), Levin Powell. William Over- 
ton Callis, Francis Corbin, Ralph Wormeley, William Ronald, Walker 
Tomlin, John Allen. 

NOES William Cabell, John Trigg, Henry Lee (Kentucky), Notlay 



WILLIAM M'KEE, MARTIN M'FERRAN. 39 

sition offered by the immediate friends of the Constitution, which 
left it discretionary with Congress to act on the amendments 
proposed by the States in the form prescribed by the Constitu- 
tion itself, or to submit them to a Convention of the States. 
Nor should it be omitted in this brief sketch of McFerran that 
he voted against the schedule of amendments reported by the 
select committee of the Convention, and adopted by that body. 

Conn (Kentucky), Binns Jones, Benjamin Harrison, French Strother, 
Joel Early, Miles King, John Early, John Guerrant, Thomas Cooper, 
John Roane, Green Clay (Kentucky), Alexander Robertson, Richard 
Kennon, Willis Riddick, Burwell Bassett, Patrick Henry, Theo. Bland, 
Cuthbert Bullitt, William McKee, Thomas Carter, James Monroe, 
Thomas Edmunds, Samuel Edmiston. 



40 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 



Colonel William Fleming was not a member of the General 
Assembly which held its sessions in 1788; but on the first vote 
by ayes and noes in the Convention he separated from his col- 
leagues and sustained the schedule of amendments proposed by 
the select committee. The life of this remarkable man richly 
merits a deliberate record. For forty years he was engaged in 
the military and civil trusts of the Colony and of the Common- 
wealth; and signalized himself by his valor, his incorruptible 
integrity, and his ardent patriotism, all of which qualities were 
combined with and exalted by a pure moral character, by great 
domestic virtues, and by a deep sense of religion. He was born 
on the i8th day of February, 1729, in the town of Jedburgh, 
Scotland, a little village made familiar to the world by the genius 
of Scott. He was the son of Leonard and Dorothea Fleming, 
and was nearly allied to the Earl of Wigton and Lord Fleming. 
When the title of the earldom of Wigton was in abeyance on 
the death of the last earl without issue, which happened after 
the Revolution, Fleming was urged to visit Scotland and claim 
the succession; but, true to the principles of the memorable event 
which he had helped to achieve, he preferred to remain in Vir- 
ginia and bring up his large family in a new country, alleging 
that he had no wish to make his eldest son, who was already 
well provided for by his maternal grandfather, a rich man, and 
his other children poor. When we recall what Scotland was at 
that time, we are inclined to approve, on grounds disconnected 
from politics, the wisdom of his choice. That he had no unkind 
feelings toward his Scotch relations, and that he cherished the 
memories of his distinguished lineage, is evident from the fact 
that he called his beautiful estate in Botetourt (now in Roanoke) 
by the name of " Bellmont," a seat of the Flemings, which he had 
visited in his early days. That lineage had long been illustrious, 
and was intimately connected with the unfortunate but beautiful 
Queen of Scotland, whose character is one of the puzzles of 
modern history. It will be remembered that, when Mary was 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 41 

prohibited from taking more than two female friends to share 
with her the solitude of Lochleven, one of the most touching of 
modern fictions represents one of them to have been a Fleming. 

His parents were in moderate circumstances, but were able to 
afford him the means of a liberal education. He attended the 
school of a Mr. Totten in Dumfries, a good classical teacher ; 
and, having to make his way in the world by his own exertions, 
he chose the calling of a surgeon, and prosecuted his studies in 
the University of Edinburgh. At the close of his terms he 
entered the British navy as a surgeon's mate; and while engaged 
in the service was taken prisoner in his vessel by the Spaniards, 
who took him to Spain, where he was treated with great cruelty. 
He was strictly confined to his prison, but when his health began 
to fail he was allowed to walk in a small garden connected with 
the jail. So scanty was his fare, and of such indifferent quality, 
he would have perished with hunger but for the benevolence 
and sympathy of a Spanish lady, whose residence overlooked 
the garden, and who supplied him at intervals with nourishing 
food. Her name he could never learn, but her kindness he never 
forgot; and to the last day of his life he would not allow persons 
in want, apparent or real, to be turned from his door, lest, as he 
sometimes said with a smile, they might be descended from the 
good Spanish lady, but, in truth, from the impulses of his o\^n 
generous heart. Possibly, too, we may see in this incident an 
explanation of his tender affection for the female sex which was 
conspicuous in his character, and of that affectionate devotion to 
his wife which shines so sweetly through all his letters. 

When he was relieved from confinement he was resolved to 
resign his appointment in the navy, which from the first was 
uncongenial to his taste, and try his fortunes in the Colony of 
Virginia. Governor Dinwiddie, a Scotchman, had then been 
promoted from a berth in the customs of Barbadoes to the office 
of Lieutenant Governor of Virginia; and it is probable that, as 
an intimacy was soon formed between the Governor and young 
Fleming, the latter had brought over very flattering letters from 
Scotland. 3 ' 2 In August, 1755, he landed in Norfolk, and visiting 



82 A number of clever Scotchmen came to the Colony in Dinwiddie's 
time with letters from his relatives in Scotland ; and when the young 
Virginians visited England he was ever ready to introduce them 



42 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Williamsburg he determined to embrace the profession of arms. 
A few days before his arrival, and while he was on his passage 
to Virginia, the battle of Monongahela had been fought. Brad- 
dock, Halket, and Shirley had fallen, and the general route of 
the army had laid the whole West open to the incursions of the 
French and the Indians. Under such circumstances it was not 
difficult for an active and intelligent young man of six and 
twenty to obtain a commission; and on the 25th of August he 
was appointed ensign in the Virginia regiment commanded by 
Colonel George Washington. It may seem strange that he did 
not choose a plac^ in the medical staff; but he cherished a spirit 
of adventure, and it is probable that he had already shown a 
taste for war, as he bore on the bridge of his nose the mark of 
a sabre cut which he may have received in the fight with the 
Spaniards. His commission as ensign is printed on a folio 
sheet, the names and dates filled up in a fine hand, and the ink 
as bright as it was the day it was used; and bears the large, 
straggling signature of Robert Dinwiddie, which reminds us of 
the signature of Stephen Hopkins to the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. 

After serving faithfully in the grades of ensign and lieutenant, 
he received on the 22d of May, 1762, the commission of captain 
in, the Virginia regiment commanded by Colonel Adam Stephen. 
This commission, which is also before me, is printed on parch- 
ment about the size of a half foolscap sheet, and is signed by 
Governor Francis Fauquier. The term of the military service 
of Fleming included one of the darkest periods in the annals of 
the Colony. The letters of Washington faithfully portray the 
exigencies of that epoch. Even the heart of Washington, 
familiar as he was with the cruelties of the Indians, grew sick, 
and he declared that, if by his death he could restore peace and 
safety to the frontier, he would lay down his life without hesi- 
tation. At this trying time Fleming performed his duty with 
unfaltering devotion to his adopted country; and it was not 
until the general pacification took place the following year that 
he resigned his commission. 



abroad. Samuel Davies, among others, received this courtesy at his 
hands, and gracefully acknowledges the attentions he received from 
Dinwiddie's relatives in Scotland. 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 43 

He was now to change his mode of life and to resume his old 
profession. In selecting a new home he came to Staunton, in the 
county of Augusta, where he settled and engaged in the prac- 
tice of physic. Here he became acquainted with the family of 
Isaac Christian, one of the early settlers of the town, who was 
a prosperous merchant, and was rich in Western lands. The 
name of Christian is honorably known in the records of the 
West, and his blood flows in the veins of hundreds now living 
in Kentucky and in other Southern States. It was William, the 
eldest son of Isaac, whose name is intimately connected with 
our early Indian history, and whose murder by the savages, per- 
petrated with all the subtle refinements of Indian cruelty, has 
nerved the white man in many a bloody contest with his tawny 
foes, and will draw tears from generations yet unborn. To 
Anne, the sister of William, who was then living, and one of the 
most prominent men of the West, Fleming paid his addresses; 
and on the gth of April, 1763, she became his wife. 33 

A few years after his marriage he withdrew from the practice 
of medicine, and went to reside permanently on the estate in 
Botetourt (now Roanoke), which he received from his father-in- 
law, and which, as before stated, he called " Bellmont " ; and here 
he lived, unless when absent in his various public employments, 
until his death. At that time the Indians made frequent incur- 
sions into the settlements, and his first office was to build a log 
house or fort (the feudal castle of the West), and to this fortress 
the people of the neighborhood flocked on the discovery of 
Indian signs. On one occasion, when the neighbors had col- 
lected in the building, one of the sisters of Mrs. Fleming, who 
was slightly indisposed, had thrown herself on a bed beneath a 
window ; and presently looking up, she beheld the face of an 

33 As I write for Virginians and the descendants of Virginians, who 
are curious in tracing the origin of the settlers of Kentucky and other 
Southern States, it may be well enough to say that Isaac Christian had 
one son. William, mentioned in the text, who married a sister of 
Patrick Henry, and left several daughters, who married in Kentucky : 
Anne, who married Colonel Fleming; Rose, who married Judge Caleb 
Wallace, of Kentucky ; Mary, who married Colonel Stephen Trigg ; 
Elizabeth, who married Colonel William Bowyer, of Botetourt ; and 
Friscilla, who died early. Fleming, Trigg, and Christian counties in 
Kentucky were called after the brothers-in-law. 



44 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Indian warrior examining the room. She instantly gave the 
alarm, and a strict search was made, but without success; and it 
was generally believed, in spite of the earnest protestations of 
the lady, that there was some illusion or mistake in the case. 
Some years later, when a deputation of Indians, on their return 
from Richmond, called at " Bellmont," one of the chiefs observed 
that he had been there before, and had looked through the win- 
dow, but finding the whites ready to repel an attack, had quietly 
departed. 

The first important trust that Fleming filled after his removal 
to Botetourt was that of colonel of the regiment of militia which 
marched to the Ohio and which performed so gallant a part in 
the battle of Point Pleasant. Allusions have been frequently 
made in this work to that battle, and we subjoin in a note the 
best sources of information on the subject. 34 Suffice it to say, 
that Colonel Charles Lewis and Colonel Fleming, in the early 
part of the fight, were ordered by General Lewis to detail a 
portion of their forces under their oldest captains, and to 
advance in the direction of the reported enemy. The two colo- 
nels, hastening on as directed, sent forward scouts, and while 
yet in sight of the camp guards heard the discharge of mus- 
ketry and saw the scouts fall; and in a few moments received a 
heavy fire along their entire line. Both the colonels fell badly 
wounded, and were in due time borne into the fort. Lewis died 
before the fate of the day was decided; but Fleming, though 
believed to be mortally wounded, joined in the shout of victory. 
He had received three balls one in his right wrist, which 
crushed the bones; another in the same arm, higher up; and the 
third in his breast. Before reaching the fort the extravasated 
blood had gathered in the cavity of the chest, which seemed to 
protrude, and he was in such a state of intense suffering as to 
preclude all hope of relief. In this emergency, while the sur- 
geons were attending to those who appeared likely to recover, 
Fleming called to his aid his negro servant, who had frequently 
assisted him in surgical operations, and instructed him to follow 
his prescriptions. This ball in the breast was never extracted; 



34 Colonel John Stuart's Historical Memoir, Footers Sketches of Vir- 
ginia, second series, 159-168, and Charles Campbell's History of Vir- 
ginia, 179, first edition. 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 45 

and from this time to his death in 1795, a period of twenty-one 
years, he was more or less an invalid. When he exerted his 
strength often when he rode on horseback the ball made itself 
felt. It would rise up for the distance of two inches, causing at 
times much suffering, and then fall down again to its old bed. 
That with such a drawback he persisted in making numerous 
journeys to Richmond and Williamsburg, and to the extreme 
West, at a time when the back of a horse was the only means 
of travel, shows great perseverance and energy. 

With great caution, united to medical skill, he was enabled to 
render material service to his country. Soon after the organi- 
zation of the State government he became a Senator from the 
district composed of the counties of Montgomery, Botetourt, 
and Kentucky, and a member of the Executive Council; and 
when we reflect that then the Indians were almost as formidable 
as the British, and were, in fact, subsidized by them, his know- 
ledge of the Indian character, and his military talents which had 
been trained in many a contest with that wary foe, were emi- 
nently useful. His letters and papers show the active part 
which he took, especially in Western affairs. From some of 
those letters, written on coarse paper and somewhat mutilated, 
an interesting picture of the cares and wants, the hopes and 
fears of that day may be drawn. In a letter to his wife from 
Williamsburg, dated October the 3Oth, 1778, and written before 
the currency had greatly depreciated, he says: "I have sent 
you half a pound of Hyson tea at forty shillings, half a pound 
of green tea at twenty shillings, and half a pound of Bohea at 
ten shillings. I have sent you a pound of pins at three pounds. 
No coffee to be got. We have nothing new here, except the 
high price of grain corn five pounds a barrel, wheat four dol- 
lars. I hope this will find you and all the little ones in health. 
I trust God will preserve them and all the rest of the family. I 
have much t(5 say, but no time, as Colonel Christian is waiting. 
God bless and protect you." 

Writing to his wife from Williamsburg, May 20, 1779, he 
describes the taking of Portsmouth, and narrates some instances 
of British cruelty not to be found elsewhere : " Four ships of 
force and others (in all seventeen) came to anchor near Ports- 
mouth the 9th instant, and next day landed and took possession 
of the town; Major Mathews, who commanded a part of the 
artillery battalion, retiring after spiking the cannon. A large 



46 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

quantity of tobacco, provisions, and some military stores fell 
into their hands. A party of the enemy marched to Suffolk, 
and burned the town. On hearing that General Scott was 
marching against them, they hastily retreated, doing all the 
damage they could. Many of my old friends and acquaintances 
have suffered greatly by having their houses burned, and their 
negroes and stock taken, and the women made captives of and 
exposed to the greatest insults they can be subjected to. 
Another party of the British, meeting with some trading French- 
men, butchered five of them in cold blood, and strangled three. 
The captain of a French vessel informed me that they had taken 
two vessels near Gwinn's Island, one of them his own; that a 
snow fought them brav.ely. The other did not fire; and the 
British murdered their crews with shocking barbarity, one man 
having his eyes cut out, and his body mangled with worse than 
Russian barbarity. They threaten to visit Hampton and York. 
Thank God, we are prepared for them; every day men pouring 
in, and a thousand came in to-day. By the next opportunity I 
hope to send you a favorable account of the issue of this affair. 
The strength of the enemy is known by deserters to be two 
thousand five hundred. Old Guthridge, 35 James Parker, 88 and 



85 A corruption of the name John Goodrich, ship-owner and mer- 
chant ; at first enjoyed the confidence of the Whigs, and was employed 
to import gunpowder to the amount of .5,000, with which sum he was 
entrusted in advance. Under this engagement he incurred the dis- 
pleasure of Lord Dunmore, who caused him to be seized and confined. 
In January, 1776, he petitioned the Virginia Convention for an adjust- 
ment of his accounts, which caused much debate in that body, and led 
to the development of fraud by himself and sons. In March, 1776, the 
father and his sons John, William, Bartlett, Bridger, and another 
(five) had abandoned their houses, plantations, negroes, and stock, 
and were serving the Crown under Lord Dunmore, who had five of 
their vessels in his fleet, under orders to constantly run up the rivers 
of Virginia and seize, burn, or destroy everything that was water- 
borne. John Goodrich was captured by the authorities of Virginia, 
and was for a time in prison and in chains. Finally, released, he went 
to England, but returned and engaged in fitting out privateers. His 
daughter, Agatha Wells, married Robert Shedden, a loyalist, whose 
descendants in England are persons of consideration. (Sabine's Loyal- 
ists of the American Revolution, page 480.) There are many descend- 
ants of Goodrich in Virginia. EDITOR. 

88 Of Norfolk, Va., merchant ; appointed Captain. (Sabine.) EDITOR. 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 47 

Parson Agnew 37 are said to be active with them." After recount- 
ing these outrages of the British, which were in the same 
vicinity in 1812, with equal if not greater brutality, his thoughts 
recur homeward: " I am anxious to hear from you and to know 
how my dear children are. Is there danger from the small-pox 
or from the enemy? If from either, let me know. There is 
such a bustle about me I cannot say anything more. I must 
suppress the emotions I feel rising, and only say what I have 
constantly told you, and what I know you believe, that I am ever 
yours." 

In November, 1780, when the currency had become depre- 
ciated, he writes to his wife from Richmond: "Robert Preston 
took up the box, in which you will receive thirty-three pounds 
of sugar, a pair of shoes, a pair of breeches and waistcoat; like- 
wise two papers of pins, which cost one hundred and tnirty dol- 
lars (if you think proper you may spare one of the papers, as I 
shall get some pound pins), half a pound of allspice at thirty 
dollars, and eight pounds of coffee at thirty dollars a pound, &c." 
These items explain the scarcity of those days as well as the 
currency. He adds : " Colonel Campbell has the thanks of the 
House for his behavior at King's Mountain, and a present of a 
fine horse equipped, and a sword." As he is about to close his 
letter, recollections of his distant home burst upon him. " O, 
my little ones ! let me hear how they are, and believe me ever 
yours." In this letter he announces the appointment of General 
Greene as the successor of General Gates in command of the 
Southern army an appointment of precious memory to this 
hour from the Potomac to St. Mary's. 

He had received the commission of County Lieutenant of 
Botetourt as early as the ist of April, 1776. This office had 
been established anew by the July Convention of 1775, and its 
duties were prescribed by the ordinance. During the interval of 
1775 and the establishment of the Constitution in July, 1776, the 
commission was signed by the Committee of Safety. As the 
ordinance contained no form of a commission, as it was careful 
to prescribe in the case of the colonel commanding in chief the 

37 Rev. John Agnew, rector of Suffolk parish ; became Chaplain of 
the Queen's Rangers ; died near Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1812, 
aged eighty-five years. (Sabine.) EDITOR. 



48 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

forces of the Colony, and as it is probable that no copy of a 
commission of County Lieutenant issued by the Committee of 
Safety is in existence, with the exception of Colonel Fleming's, 
now before me, I will recite its words: " The Committee of Safety 
of the Colony of Virginia to William Fleming, Esq : By virtue 
of the power and authority invested in us by the delegates and 
representatives of the several counties and corporations, in 
General Convention assembled, we, reposing especial trust and 
confidence in your patriotism, fidelity, courage, and good conduct, 
do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be Lieu- 
tenant and Commander-in-Chief of the militia of the county of 
Botetourt; and you are, therefore, carefully and diligently to 
discharge the trust reposed in you by disciplining all officers 
and soldiers under your command. And we do hereby require 
them to obey you as their County Lieutenant; and you are to 
observe and follow all such orders and directions as you shall 
from time to time receive from the Convention, the Committee 
of Safety for the time being, or any superior officers, according 
to the rules and regulations established by the Convention. 
Given under our hands, at Williamsburg, this 4th day of April, 
1776." It is signed by Dudley Digges, Paul Carrington, James 
Mercer, Thomas Ludwell Lee, William Cabell, and Thomas 
Walker. An endorsement on the commission is in the following 
words: "May, Botetourt County Committee, 1776. I do hereby 
certify that the within-named William Fleming, Esq., took the 
oath required by the Convention. Teste: David May, Clerk." 
The commission is printed lengthwise on a half foolscap sheet. 
The signatures of the Committee of Safety are all distinct, legible 
at a glance, and like ordinary writing, except Mercer's, which 
has an elaborate flourish, strongly reminding us of the times 
when the old feudal barons found it easier to deal in hiero- 
glyphics than to write simple words, though those words made 
up their own names. 

In June, 1779, he was placed at the head of a commission 
consisting of James Steptoe, Edward Lyne, and James Barbour, 
for carrying into execution an act of Assembly entitled an act 
for adjusting and settling the title of claimers to unpatented 
lands under the present and former governments previous to the 
establishment of the Commonwealth Land Office in Kentucky. 
This office, which required a minute knowledge of the land 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 49 

laws, and stern personal courage to resist the passions peculiar 
to squatters, he performed with great credit to himself and to 
the entire satisfaction of the Executive and the General Assem- 
bly. At that time, and long subsequently, the traveller to Ken- 
tucky incurred no little personal risk; and on one occasion 
his party was attacked by the Indians, who were fortunately 
repulsed. 

It was the custom of the patriots who' controlled the public 
councils during the Revolution, when any important duty was 
to be performed, to select the best man for the purpose, and to 
throw the responsibility of a refusal upon him. Thus it was 
that, notwithstanding the inconvenience arising from his wounds, 
which rendered him susceptible of what he called rheumatic 
attacks, Fleming was constantly called upon in Western affairs; 
and his energy and patriotism always impelled him to respond 
to the call of his country. Accordingly, on the 2Qth of January, 
1782, he was placed at the head of a commission issued by 
Governor Harrison, composed of Thomas Marshall, the father 
of the Chief Justice, Samuel McDowell, the ancestor of the late 
Governor McDowell, and Caleb Wallace, afterwards a judge of 
the State of Kentucky, "to call to account all officers, agents, 
commissaries, quartermasters, and contractors, who have been 
or are in service in the Western country (then extending to the 
Mississippi), belonging to this State, for all their proceedings, 
and to liquidate the accounts of all such persons, as well as those 
who may still have any claim or claims against the Common- 
wealth, and make a special report thereof to the Executive." 
The commission was invested with the power of choosing its 
secretary, of calling and summoning before it all public officers 
in the Western country, and of doing all things necessary to 
accomplish its object; and in April of the following year he was 
appointed by Governor Harrison commissary to the troops 
that then were in Kentucky, and to the militia that may be sent 
there, for the purpose of building and garrisoning a fort at the 
mouth of Kentucky river. 

As a member of the Senate from the district made up of 
Botetourt, Washington, and Kentucky counties he was punctual 
in his attendance upon its sessions, and gave efficient support in 
conducting the war and in furthering those domestic reforms 
which then engaged the attention of the" Assembly. It was by 



50 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the aid of such men as William Fleming that the relics of feudal 
policy, which disfigured the Colonial regime, were extirpated 
from our new system. 

Having thus during the third of a century passed through all 
the grades of military service, from an ensign to a colonel, and 
filled the most responsible trusts which his connection with the 
Senate and the Council entailed upon him, and having seen the 
humble Colony which he had entered thirty-three years before 
assume her station as a sovereign member of a great Confedera- 
tion, he fondly hoped that his public career was ended, and that 
he would be called abroad no more. But a great question, 
which shook the State to its centre, rose suddenly before him, 
and he was called to the metropolis once more as a mem- 
ber of the Convention called to consider a new Federal Con- 
stitution. 

His views of a Federal Union were those of a statesman; and 
he correctly estimated its value in respect of the country at 
large, but more especially of the distant and thinly-settled West. 
He knew, as well as any man living, that so long as Spain held 
Louisiana, and Great Britain held the Canadas, Indian troubles 
would be frequent, and that all the resources of all the States 
would be required to repress the hostilities of the Indian tribes 
in the pay of those foreign powers. But he also knew the 
innate dread of the tax gatherer by a people who had no outlet 
for the products of their farms, and, of course, no money, and 
he shrunk from a system of direct taxation by Federal authority. 
Hence he would have preferred a strictly Federal Union, which 
would bear upon the States rather than upon the people; and it 
is probable that, but for the visit of the eloquent and enthusiastic 
Stuart to the Botetourt election heretofore alluded to, which 
resulted in instructions to the members of the Convention, he 
would have sided with the opponents of the Federal Constitu- 
tion. But, yielding to those instructions which the Rockbridge 
delegates did not hesitate to disobey, he voted in favor of ratifi- 
cation; but at the last call of the ayes and noes in Convention, 
as has been already stated, he parted from his colleague and 
sustained the schedule of amendments which were proposed by 
the select committee, and which were adopted by a majority of 
twenty. 

He saw the intimate relation of knowledge and freedom, and 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 51 

became an active promoter of education in the Commonwealth. 
Had it depended upon him, all Mr. Jefferson's schemes of 
schools would have been in full operation before the close of the 
war. He aided in providing funds for the benefit of Hampden- 
Sidney; 38 and he was one of the first Board of Trustees of 
Washington College. But he knew that academies were quite as 
useful as colleges; and at a time when elementary education was 
little thought of in the West or in the East, he used his influence 
with the General Assembly in the establishment of a literary 
fund for the great western counties. 39 He cultivated a taste for 
letters throughout his varied and various career, and he was one 
of the few residents of the West that had a good collection of 
books. Beside the leading medical authors which he read pro- 
fesssionally, he possessed some of the best English classics, 
especially the historians and the theologians. His Tillotson, 
bearing the signs of thorough reading and annotated by his 
hand, is, I believe, still in existence. And it deserves to be 
remarked that, of all his letters to his family, though written 
hastily, as most of them were sometimes in the bustle of a 
tavern, at others in camp or in the wilderness few there are that 
do not contain some allusion to a Superintending Power, and a 
commitment of his family to His care. 

In the practical business of life he was, like most Scotchmen 
who turn their backs upon Toryism and brandy, not only suc- 
cessful, but highly prosperous. He invested largely in Kentucky 
lands, and was able to provide well for his family. Had his 
lands been judiciously managed after his decease, they would 
have conferred great wealth upon all his descendants. His hos- 
pitality was always on a liberal scale. The first eight years of 
his life in Virginia, when he was not engaged in his compaigns, 
were spent in Williamsburg and in its vicinity; and entering 
into society with a zest made more keen by the hardships and. 
dangers of a camp, and uniting in his person the qualities (then 
rare) of a scholar and a soldier, who bore the prestige of noble 
blood, he acquired a quiet dignity of address and a polished 
courtesy which were conspicuous in his old age; and his intimate 

^Judge Paul Carrington, Sr., to Fleming, in the Fleming papers. 
39 A copy of the petition to the Assembly may be seen in the Fleming 
papers. 



52 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

acquaintance with all the distinguished actors of his time was 
refreshed by visits from them whenever they came within reach 
of his house. And the traveller from the East or from the 
West looked forward with longing to the hospitable mansion at 
" BeUmoot" 

The last days of this estimable patriot were now at hand. 
Writing to a niece in England the year before his death, he says: 
"I have retired from all public business for several years; am 
now old, my constitution broken, maimed by several wounds, 
and am often attacked by violent pains in my limbs, brought on 
by colds and by many years' severe duty in a military line. I am 
just able to walk a little, after a month's confinement to my bed 
and room. When well I am employed in my family affairs, and 
in the support cf a pretty numerous family in a part of the 
country where little business is carried on." He lingered to the 
following year, when on the 5th day of August, 1795, in his 
sixty-sixth year, he breathed his last. His remains were interred 
in the burial ground at "Bellmont" by the side of his deceased 
children. At a late day the body of his wife was placed by him. 
A substantial stone wall protects the remains; but, in common 
with most of our early patriots, no stone tells the passer-by who 
rests beneath. 40 

40 Colonel Fleming had twelve or fourteen children, of whom seven 
survived him. Of these Leonard, the eldest son, removed to Ken- 
tucky before his father's death, and lived to the age of eighty-four ; 
Eliza, who married first the Rev. Gary Allen, and afterwards the Rev. 
Samuel Ramsey ; Dorothea, who married Mr. James Bratton ; Anne, 
who married the Rev. George A. Baxter, D. D. ; Priscilla, who married 
Mr. Samuel Wilson, and has resided more than thirty years in Ala- 
bama; William, who has also lived in Alabama for many years ; and 
John, the youngest son, who died at the age of eighteen, while a stu- 
dent at Washington College. Of these Colonel William Fleming and 
Mrs. Wilson are the only survivors. Mrs. Fleming long survived her 
husband, and maintained the wonted hospitality of his house. Con- 
sult Footers Sketches of Virginia, second series, page 268. Governor 
Gilmer, in his l> Georgians,' 1 '' page 56, states .that Colonel Fleming 
was Governor of Virginia; but he is mistaken. As a member of the 
Council, he may have acted on some occasion as Lieutenant-Governor. 

[As a member of the Council, for a time in June, 1781, during the 
flight, before the enemy, of Governor Jefferson from the capital, Colo- 
nel Fleming was the Executive of the State. His acts were legalized 
by a resolution of the Assembly (Hening's Statutes, x, 567) : 



WILLIAM FLEMING. 53 

He is said to have been of medium height, his features strongly 
marked, his eyes blue, his nose Roman, and his hair, until it 
became grey, of a dark brown. His teeth were sound to the 
last. There is no portrait of him extant; for in those days 
painters never crossed the Blue Ridge, and came very rarely 
east of it; but there is a small profile likeness of him, which 
exhibits the outline of a striking head. His address was dig- 
nified and engaging; and having received a classical training in 
early life, and mingled freely in society, passing in a period of 
more than forty years through all the varieties of public life, and 
with fair powers of observation, he was always self possessed in 
his demeanor, and displayed great facility in pleasing and inter- 
esting all who came in contact with him. He wore the dress of 
the Revolution to the end; and was not inattentive to his person 
or to the customs of polished society. Even in his Indian cam- 
paigns he sealed his letters to his wife with wax on which was 
impressed the Fleming coat-of-arms. Such was William 
Fleming, a patriot whose name had almost slipped from the 
memory of that Commonwealth whose independence he aided 
in achieving, and whose glory is a part of his work. 

There is a strong similarity in the lives of Hugh Mercer and 
William Fleming. Both were Scotchmen, who emigrated in 
early manhood to the Colony of Virginia. Both studied medi- 
cine in the University of Edinburgh, and exchanged the scalpel 
for the sword, and were engaged in the Indian wars that ended 
with the pacification of 1763. Both in high military command 
and in the midst of battle fell covered with wounds. But here 



<% It appearing to the General Assembly that Colonel William Flem- 
ing, being the only acting member of the Council for some time before 
the appointment of the Chief Magistrate, did give orders for the calling 
out the militia, and also pursued such other measures as were essential 
to good government, and it is just and reasonable that he should be 
indemnified therein 

" Resolved, therefore, That the said William Fleming. Esq., be 
indemnified for his conduct as before mentioned, and the Assembly do 

approve the same. 

"JOHN BECKLEY, C. H. D. 
" 1781, June 23. 

"Agreed to by the Senate. 

"WILL. DREW, C. S." 

EDITOR.] 



54 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the parallel ceases. Mercer died in a few days of his wounds; 
Fleming, though disabled from active command, and at times 
enduring excruciating pain from his injuries to the hour of his 
death, which was caused by them, lived more than twenty years, 
during which he rendered valuable services to his country, saw 
that country's independence recognized by the proudest nations 
of Europe, and succeeded in securing the adoption of the Fed- 
eral Constitution under whjch we now live.* 1 



41 1 acknowledge with much pleasure my obligations to Miss Louisa 
P. Baxter, a granddaughter of Colonel Fleming, for entrusting to my 
care some valuable papers of her ancestor, and for an admirable letter 
of her own. Sidney S. Baxter, Esq., formerly Attorney-General of 
Virginia, is a grandson of Colonel Fleming. The reader of our early 
journals must be careful not to confound William Fleming, of Cumber- 
land, who was a member of the Convention of 1776, &c., and after- 
wards a judge of the Court of Appeals, with Colonel William Fleming, 
of Botetourt. 



ISAAC VANMETER, EBENEZER ZANE. 



It would be to present an unfaithful portrait of the useful and 
able men who represented the West in the Convention if we 
omitted to record the names of Isaac Vanmeter, of Hardy, and 
of Ebenezer Zane, of Ohio. They were the peculiar repre- 
sentatives of the region from which they came; but in their man- 
ners, in their services rendered to their adopted State, and in 
their eminent fitness for the perilous times in which they acted, 
would compare favorably with their ablest associates in the body. 
Vanmeter was the son of John Vanmeter, of New York, who 
accompanied the Delawares on a war party against the Catawbas; 
but the Catawbas, anticipating the attack, surprised and defeated 
the Delawares in a battle fought near where the present court- 
house of Pendleton county now stands. John Vanmeter 
escaped, and returned to New York; but he was so impressed 
with the fertility and beauty of the lands on the South Branch 
bottom in Hardy county, particularly those immediately above 
what was called the Trough, that he advised his sons to migrate 
and settle upon them. Isaac, the subject of the present notice, 
shortly set out for the happy valley, and in 1736 made a toma- 
hawk improvement on the lands recently, if not now, owned by 
his descendants of the same name, lying just above the Trough, 
where Fort Pleasant was afterwards erected. He then returned 
to New York, but in 1740 visited his improvement, on which he 
found a squatter, whom he immediately bought out.* 2 

In the mean time emigrants from other quarters made their 
appearance, and in the names of Hite, Mercer, White, Swear- 
ingen, Stephen, Lucas, Vance, Rutherford, Jackson, Morgan, 
and others, we find the representatives of that region who 
opposed the measures of the British Ministry which led to the 
Revolution, and who on the field and in the council sustained 



411 1 derive my authority for these facts from Kerchevafs History of 
the Valley of Virginia, page 72, and Footers Sketches of Virginia, 
second series, page 15. 



56 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

with unfaltering fidelity the fortunes of the young Common- 
wealth through a long and perilous war. It was by the aid of 
these and such like gallant sons of the West that Patrick Henry 
maintained that majority in the House of Delegates, without 
which, according to Jefferson, there must have been a stand-still 
in the prosecution of the contest with Great Britain. 

Isaac Vanmeter was frequently a member of the House of 
Delegates, and in 1786 approved the expediency of amending 
the Articles of Confederation, and gave a cordial support to the 
resolutions appointing the Convention at Annapolis, and subse- 
quently the General Federal Convention that met at Phila- 
delphia. 

During the October session of 1786 a measure of domestic 
policy, which has a peculiar interest at the present time, was 
brought before the House of Delegates, and from the introduc- 
tion of the ayes and noes, which, however, were still rarely 
called, we have the means of knowing the deliberate opinions of 
Eastern and Western men upon it. It appears that Joseph 
Mayo had in his will instructed his executors to give freedom to 
his slaves, and on the 4th of November, 1786, an application 
was made by them for permission to carry the will into effect. 
The subject was referred to the Committee of Propositions and 
Grievances, and reported reasonable. A motion to lie on the 
table was made and failed. It was then moved to postpone the 
subject until the next session of the Assembly, which the House 
refused to do. A motion was now made to strike out the words 
"is reasonable," and insert "be rejected," which also failed. 
The main question was then put upon agreeing with the report 
of the committee, and decided in the affirmative by a vote of 
fifty-three to forty-eight ascertained by ayes and noes. 48 A 
select committee, consisting of James Madison, Theoderick 
Bland, Francis Corbin, John Page, Mann Page, Richard Bland 
Lee, French Strother, and Thomas Underwood, all Eastern men, 
were appointed by the Chair to draft a bill in pursuance of the 
vote of the House. On the i3th of the month, Mr. Madison 
reported a bill, which was made the order of the following day, 
but which was not reached until the i8th of December, when, 
after an animated discussion, it was passed by a vote of sixty- 

43 House Journal, November 4, 1786. 



ISAAC VANMETER, EBENEZER ZANE. 57 

seven to forty ascertained by ayes and noes. 4 * Vanmeter voted 
for sustaining the report of the committee and for the passage 
of the bill. This question receives additional interest from the 
fact that few slaves were then owned west of the Blue Ridge. 

On the various questions touching the finances of the State, 
and particularly on those relating to the payment of taxes, he 
voted with the popular majority which so long ruled the coun- 
cils of the Commonwealth. When the act to amend an act 

"As many of the members of the House of Delegates at this session 
were also members of the present Convention, I annex the ayes and 
noes, the names of the members of the present Convention being in 
italics : 

AYES John Cropper, Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, John 
Trigg, John Campbell, Thomas Rutherford, Martin McFerran, George 
Hancock, Adam Clement, Paul Carrington, Jr., Henry Southall, Wil- 
liam Christian, French Strother, Mernwether Smith, David Stuart, 
Elias Edmunds, Joseph Crockett, John Fowler, Jr., George Thompson, 
John Early, George Clendenin, Isaac Coles. Elias Poston, John Prunty, 
George Jackson, Isaac Vanmeter, Willis Wilson, John Mann, William 
Norvell, William Walker, Richard Terrill, Arthur Campbell, John 
Lyne, Daniel Fitzhugh, James Gordon, Cyrus Griffon, Francis Peyton, 
Richard Bland Lee, William White, James Dabney, Benjamin Logan, 
John Jouett, Francis Corbin, Owen Davis, David Scott, Robert Sayres, 
Andrew Hines, William McMahon, James Madison, Jr., Charles Porter, 
Benjamin Lankford, Constant Perkins Wade Mosby, Theodorick 
Bland, John Thoroughgood, Andrew Moore, William McKee, John 
Hopkins, Isaac Zane, Abraham Bird, Mann Page, Jo/in Dawson, James 
Campbell, Robert Craig, Daniel McCarty, David Lee, and Thomas 
Matthews. 

NOES George Nicholas, John Pride, Thomas Claiborne, Binns 
Jones, John Cabell, Anthony New, Thomas Scott, Matthew Cheatham, 
Miles King, James Upshaw, John Rentfro, Samuel Richardson, Charles 
Mynn Thurston, Thomas Smith, John Lucas, Edmund Wilkins, John 
Coleman, Parke Goodall, John Garland, George 'Hairston, John Scar- 
brook Wills. John Lawrence, William Thornton, Benjamin Temple, 
Christopher Robertson, James Johnson, William Curtis, Willis Riddick, 
Anthony Brown, Willis Wilson, Griffin Stith, Littleton Eyre. John 
Gordon, Cuthbert Bullitt, George Lee Turberville, Thomas Ridley, 
Andrew Buchanan, Lemuel Cocke, and John Allen. 

Joseph Prentis was Speaker of the House ; but it appears that at this 
time it was not usual for that officer to vote except in the case of a tie. 
Those who wish to examine the geographical aspect of the vote so far 
as the votes of the members of the Convention of 1788 are concerned, 
may do so by turning to the list of the members in the Appendix. 



58 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

entitled an act for the establishment of Courts of Assize, which 
took up much of the time of the October session of 1786, 
came before the House with sundry amendments from the Com- 
mittee of the Whole, he voted to sustain the eleventh of the 
series, which virtually enacted a stay-law for a given period in 
certain cases, and it is a pregnant illustration of the public 
opinion of that age that the amendment was carried by a majority 
of one hundred and twelve against ten. 45 When the engrossed 
bill came up, however, there was an even vote on its passage, 
and its passage was effected by the casting vote of the Speaker. 46 
Nor should we fail to add that when on the i7th day of Decem- 
ber, 1785, the bill "establishing religious freedom" was on 
its passage in the House of Delegates, Vanmeter, in common 
with his colleagues of the West, gave it a cordial support. 47 

In the present Convention he opposed the policy of previous 
amendments, and voted for the ratification of the Constitution. 
And when the motion to strike from the schedule of amend- 
ments the third article, which stipulated that Congress should 
first apply to each State for its quota of taxes before proceeding 
to lay any taxes at all, he seems to have been casually absent, as 
his name does not appear on the roll of ayes and noes, though 
there is no doubt of his opposition to the amendment. 

The name of Zane is honorably known in the history of the 
West. The' original emigrants who bore it- passed from Penn- 
sylvania, it is believed, between 1735 and 1745, into what is now 
the county of Hardy, and encountered all the difficulties and 



45 See the ayes and noes in the House Journal of December 16, 1786. 

48 House Journal, December 18, 1786. On the stay-law clause Madi- 
son voted in the affirmative, and George Nicholas in the negative. 

47 1 annex the vote of the House of Delegates on the bill, so far as the 
names of the members of the present Convention are concerned : 

AYES Wilson Gary Nicholas, Samuel Jordan Cabell, Zachariah 
Johnston, John Trigg, Archibald Stuart, French Strother, Meriwether 
Smith, Charles Simms, David Stuart, Alexander White, Thomas Smith, 
George Clendenin, Ralph Humphries, Isaac Vanmeter, George Jack- 
son, Benjamin Temple, Christopher Robertson, James Madison, Cuth- 
bert Bullitt, Andrew Moore, and James Innes. 

NOES Miles King, Worlich Westwood, William Thornton, Francis 
Thorburn. Willis Riddick, Anthony Walke, and Richard Gary. (House 
Journal, December 17, 1785.) 



ISAAC VANMETER, EBENEZER ZANE. 59 

dangers that beset a frontier life. As early as 1752 William 
Zane and several members of his family were taken prisoners by 
the Indians from their dwelling on the South Branch in Hardy, 
but regained their liberty. Isaac, one of the sons of William, 
who was captured in his ninth year, spent his whole life among 
the Indians. He was seen in the town of Chilicothe, as late as 
1797 by Kercheval, the historian of the Valley, and detailed to 
him his early career. He had married a sister of the chief of 
the Wyandots, and had eight children, of whom four were sons 
and four were daughters. The sons adhered to the savage life, 
but the daughters married white men, and are said by Kerche- 
val "to have been remarkably fine women, considering the 
chances they had for improvement." The father, who had 
become identified with the Indian race, possessed great authority 
among his redskin comrades, and exercised his influence in 
behalf of the whites in so marked a manner that the Govern- 
ment of the United States granted him a patent for ten thousand 
acres of land. 48 

48 Kercheval' s History of the Valley of Virginia, page 113. 



60 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



ISAAC ZANE. 



The first of the Zanes who appeared in the public councils 
was the namesake and relative of the Indian refugee, General 
Isaac Zane, of Frederick, as Frederick was at its creation. He 
was probably born in Pennsylvania, and migrated in early life to 
that part of Virginia then known as Frederick; was successful 
in the pursuit of wealth, and displayed his enterprise by estab- 
lishing the first iron-works in that region. As the site of his 
foundry he selected Cedar creek, a full and bold stream, which 
winds its way under high cliffs, and affords now and then 
a stretch of bottom land. The remains of the forge are yet 
visible, and attest the skill and thorough workmanship of the 
original structure. The source from which he obtained his ore 
was distant ten miles from the foundry. Surrounding his estab- 
lishment he possessed a fine estate of three thousand acres of 
land. 49 

From this scene of successful enterprise he was called to the 
March Convention of 1775, which held its sessions in the wooden 
church [St. John's] on Church Hill, in the town of Richmond. 
This was the first step of a career which embraced ten years, 
more remarkable for the number and dignity of the events that 
transpired during their term than any other similar period in our 
history. When Zane took his seat in the Convention he thought 
that the troubles of the times would soon pass away, and that 



49 " I rode over for my satisfaction and examined the site of General 
Zane's old iron-works. I found still standing the remains of the old 
stack of the furnace, which is still a huge pile of mortar, sandstone, 
and brick. It was formerly encased with large timbers and walls of 
limestone on the outer side, to resist the inward expansion of heat. 
The large arches for the bellows and for the escape of the melted iron 
are in good preservation. The works afforded employment for a num- 
ber of persons. It was evident that the structure had suffered more 
from the hand of man than from the progress of time." (Letter of 
Francis B. Jones, Esq., March 12, 1857.) 



ISAAC ZANE. 61 

the old good humor between the mother and the daughter 
would soon be restored. But events, which were soon to dispel 
all hopes of a reconciliation, were at hand. Though Zane was 
compelled to travel on horseback through the snows of the 
mountains, he was early at his post in the Convention. What 
memorable events in the annals of Virginia soon passed before 
him ! He heard the eloquence of Henry in defence of his reso- 
lutions putting the Colony into military array, and was one of 
that majority which carried those resolutions triumphantly 
through the house. 

In the Convention of the following July he voted for the 
raising of the two Virginia regiments, and for placing Henry at 
their head. In the December Convention of the same year he, 
with his compeers, assumed the direction of public affairs as 
fully as if Virginia had been an independent State. Still, there 
was no open talk of an entire separation from the mother 
country. How impotent are the actors themselves to foretell 
the progress of events in the tempest of a revolution ! Three 
short months elapse, and the Convention of May, 1776, assem- 
bles. Zane, living on the outskirts of our territory, was again 
among the earliest in his seat. The first stages of the drama of 
Independence now passed before his eyes. He voted to instruct 
the delegates of Virginia in Congress to propose independence. 
He voted for the appointment of a committee to draft a Declara- 
tion of Rights and a plan of government for a free Common- 
wealth; and when those papers were passed from the honest 
hands of Archibald Gary who, by the way, like Zane, was a 
worker in iron to the Clerk of the House, he gave them an 
active and cordial support. He voted for Patrick Henry as the 
first Governor of the new Commonwealth he had aided in estab- 
lishing, as he had already voted to confer upon him the chief 
command of the public forces. He now returned home to pro- 
claim his work to the sturdy pioneers who would soon be called 
upon to sustain it in the field. As he was returning to his 
mountains he might almost have heard the sound of the simple 
artillery of his Western compatriot, Andrew Lewis, as it played 
upon the vessels of Lord Dunmore and drove that weak and 
faithless man beyond the waters of the new State. And he had 
just reached his home, when he read in the Virginia Gazette, 
of the loth of July, a synopsis of that Declaration of Inde- 



62 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

pendence which had been brought forward in Congress in 
obedience to his own vote. 

Three rapid months have flown, and he is again in the saddle 
on his way to Williamsburg to attend the first session of the 
General Assembly under the Constitution. He had already 
borne a prominent part in bringing about events which, even at 
this day, startle and thrill us as we trace their progress on the 
cold pages of the old journals. But these events, grand and 
august as they were, were but the first acts of a long and peril- 
ous dr'ama which he was to behold to its close. It is known 
that the Convention of May, 1776, having filled the measure of 
its labors by the organization of the new government created by 
its act, adjourned over to October, and became the first House 
of Delegates under the Constitution which it had framed. Zane 
was accordingly a member of the first House of Delegates, and 
was one of that noble majority which, under the auspices of Mr. 
Jefferson, abolished primogeniture and entails and the collection 
of church levies; and, besides making active preparations for 
maintaining the war, laid the foundations of a judiciary system. 
The creation of the courts caused much discussion in our early 
Assemblies, and it is worthy of record that it was on a motion 
made on the 3d of March, 1778, to postpone indefinitely Mr. 
Jefferson's bill "for establishing a General Court and Courts of 
Assize," that the ayes and noes were first called in a Virginia 
Assembly; 50 and on that occasion the name of Isaac Zane 

50 As it may interest the curious to see a list of the first ayes and noes 
ever called in Virginia, I annex the vote on the indefinite postpone- 
ment of the bill "for establishing a General Court and Courts of Assize." 
I may add that the motion to postpone was negatived by a majority of 
six votes, and that the bill passed the House by a majority of two 
votes. Pendleton was Speaker, but voted in course as a member for 
Caroline: 

AVES Munford, McDowell, Bowyer, Macklin, Tazewell, Patterson, 
Harrison of Charles City, Edmondson, Smith of Essex, Woodson, 
Underwood, Terry, Syme, Anderson, Wilkinson, Adams, Hairston, 
Nicholas (Robert Carter), Norvell, Wills, Fulghatn, Callaway, Dabney, 
Meriwether, Crockett, Montgomery, Allen, Godfrey, Porter, Thorough- 
good, Robinson, Brown, Gee, and Judkins. 

NOES Jefferson, Talbot, Thomas Hite, Lockhart, Pendleton, Upshaw, 
Strother, Randolph, Carrington (Paul), Bird, George Mason, Pickett, 
Hugh Nelson, Zane (Isaac), Smith of Frederick, Burzvell, Abraham 



ISAAC ZANE. 63 

appears in the negative, and in favor of the immediate establish- 
ment of the judiciary under the new government. Until the end 
of the war he united with Henry and his associates in carrying 
those measures into effect which were then deemed indispensable 
to the public welfare. 

In common with all the Western members he cherished a 
devoted love of religious liberty, and in 1785 voted for the act 
establishing religious freedom, and thus invested his name with 
a glory that will only kindle the brighter for years. A friend to 
the Union of the States, he approved the scheme of a Conven- 
tion at Annapolis and of the General Federal Convention at 
Philadelphia. With the session of 1787 his public career ended. 
He had grown old, and he determined to retire from public life. 
He never married, but a relative bearing his name succeeded 
him in the public councils. We may add that he lived to hail 
the adoption of the Federal Constitution, which he greatly 
admired, and to vote for the re-election of his friend Washing- 
ton, with whom he had voted in the March Convention of 1775 
in favor of Henry's warlike resolutions. In 1795 this venerable 
patriot was gathered to his fathers. 

Hite, Neaville, Braxton, Griffin, Gordon, Clapham, Daniel, Duval, 
Muse, Moore, Fleming, Ruffin, Harrison of Prince George, Bullitt, 
Thornton, Carter, Fitzhugh, Richard Lee, Bledsoe, Cocke of Washing- 
ton, Wright, Prentis, Jett, and Harwood. 

It is probable that the ayes and noes were introduced by Mr. Jeffer- 
son, with a view of holding up to public responsibility the men who 
were reluctant to put the courts in motion under the new regime. See 
Journal of the House of Delegates, January 3, 1778. The name of 
Moore in the above list is that of William Moore of Orange, and that 
of Fleming is Judge Fleming. 



64 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



EBENEZER ZANE. 



The namesake and relative of Zane who succeeded him in the 
public councils, and now held a seat in the present Convention, 
hailed not from Frederick, as Isaac Zane had hailed when he 
represented that immense principality in the early Conventions, 
but from the county of Ohio, which had been cut off ten or 
twelve years from the district of West Augusta. 

Colonel Ebenezer Zane was now past middle life, and had long 
been known as one of the most intelligent, brave, and enter- 
prising settlers of the extreme Northwest. As early as 1760, 
we are told by Withers, Colonel Zane and two of his brothers, 
with some friends from the South Branch of the Potomac, visited 
the Ohio for the purpose of making improvements and of 
selecting positions for their future residence. They finally deter- 
mined upon the site of the present city of Wheeling, and, 
having made the requisite preparations, returned to their former 
homes, and brought out their families the ensuing year. It was 
characteristic of the Zanes that they possessed enterprise, tem- 
pered with prudence, and directed by sound judgment. To the 
bravery and good conduct of the three brothers the Wheeling 
settlement, according to Withers, was mainly indebted for its 
security and preservation during the war of the Revolution. 51 
The defence of Fort Henry, which was built at the mouth of 
Wheeling creek, was one of the most brilliant exploits of our 
Indian warfare. One of the handful of men who on that occa- 
sion defied and defeated a host of Indians commanded by the 
notorious Girty, was Ebenezer Zane; and it is delightful to 
record that, while Zane was firing on the foe, his wife and sister, 
who were in the fort, were cutting patches and running bullets 
for those engaged in the fight. Nor should we pass over in 
silence the heroic courage of this sister of Zane's, who, though 

51 Withers' s Chronicles of Border Warfare and Chronicles of Western 
Virginia. Clarksburg: 1831. 



EBEBEZER ZANE. 65 

just returned from a boarding-school at Philadelphia, volun- 
teered during the heat of the action to sally from the fort 
and fetch from a neighboring house a keg of powder an achieve- 
ment she succeeded in accomplishing amid a shower of rifle 
balls from the Indians who suspected the object of the mission. 
She escaped without a wound, and lived many years to enjoy 
the reputation of having performed a deed of daring unsur- 
passed by man or woman in ancient or modern times. 52 

It is probable that Colonel Zane's intimate knowledge of the 
Indian character, and of the numbers which the savage war- 
riors could bring into the field, and his conviction of the neces- 
sity of the union of all the States in any effort to oppose them 
with ultimate success, rather than the positive provisions of the 
Federal Constitution, insensibly led him to sustain that instru- 
ment before the people, and to vote for its ratification in Conven- 
tion. He accordingly opposed the policy of previous amend- 
ments, and had he been present when the question was taken 
(just before adjournment) on striking out the third article of the 
schedule of amendments proposed by the select committee, which 
recommended to Congress a resort to requisitions upon the 
States before that body proceeded to lay direct taxes, he would 
have followed the example of his colleague and voted in the 
affirmative. 53 

52 Withers states that she married twice, her last husband being a 
Mr. Clark, and that she was living at the time of the publication of his 
work. For an animated account of the battle of Fort Henry (so called 
after Patrick Henry), see an article which originally appeared in the 
American Pioneer, from the pen of George S. M. Kiernan, and is 
partly copied in Howe's Virginia, page 409. 

53 Journal Virginia Federal Convention, page 37. Colonel Zane some 
years after the date of the Convention moved to Ohio, and settled the 
town of Zanesville, in that State. The substance of the article of Mr. 
Kiernan on the battle of Fort Henry may be found in Lossing's Pic- 
torial Field-Book of the Revolution, Vol. II, 292. He entered the House 
of Delegates in 1784. 






60 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



GEORGE JACKSON. 



Among those adventurous and fearless men to whom Virginia 
is indebted for the settlement of her northwestern territory, and 
whose names deserve to be held in lasting remembrance, was 
George Jackson, who was one of the representatives in Conven- 
tion of the county of Harrison, which had been created four 
years before, and had been called in honor of Benjamin Har- 
rison, of "Berkeley." He was the son of John Jackson, who, in 
1768, accompanied by his sons, George and Edward, 5 * set out 
from their settlement on the South Branch of the Potomac, and 
under the guidance of Samuel Pringle, a British deserter, who, 
as early as 1761, had made a lodgment in the new territory, 
made an improvement at the mouth of Turkey Run, where his 
daughter resided as late as the year 1831. 55 An active and 
intelligent member of the new settlement, he gained the confi- 
dence of his associates, and having been returned at the first 
election of members for the county of Harrison, he took his seat 
with his present colleague, John Prunty, in the House of Dele- 
gates in the October session of 1785. 



64 It is an interesting conjecture if the distinguished Confederate 
chieftain, General Thomas Jonathan Jackson (born in Harrison county, 
and whose great-grandfather was Edward Jackson,) was of the blood 
of George Jackson. EDITOR. 

55 The Pringles, John and Samuel, had deserted from Fort Pitt in 
1761, and keeping up the course of the Valley river, observed a large 
right-hand fork (now Buckhannon), which they ascended some miles, 
and at the mouth of a small branch, now called Turkey Run, they took 
up their abode in a large hollow sycamore tree, the remains of which 
were not long since visible. Fearful of being apprehended and sent 
back prisoners to Fort Pitt, as was the fate of two companions who 
had deserted with them, they avoided the settlements for several years ; 
nor until their powder was reduced to two loads did Samuel Pringle 
venture into the society of white men ; and on his return he was 
attended by John Jackson and his sons, and by other residents of the 
South Branch. See Withers^ Border Warfare, quoted in Howe, 188. 



GEORGE JACKSON. * 

The first important question which he was called to vote upon 
was one that from the beginning of the Revolution to the adop- 
tion of the Federal Constitution more than any other perplexed 
our councils and laid the foundation of our early parties. 
Money was wanted to defray the ordinary expenses of 
government, to meet our own obligations, which were pressing 
heavily upon the Commonwealth, and to pay the Federal 
requisitions; and money could not be collected from the 
people. There was substantially no circulating medium ; 
tobacco had fallen to a nominal price ; the old channels of trade 
had been closed by the Revolution, and no new ones had been 
as yet effectually opened. Hence the various measures of relief 
which were brought forward and discussed from time to time. 
On the I4th of November, 1785, General Matthews reported from 
the Committee of the Whole a long amendment to the act " to 
postpone the collection of the tax for 1785," which struck out 
the whole of the act, declared that from various considerations 
"it is found impracticible, without involving the people in too 
great and deep distress, to collect from them one-half tax 
levied for 1785 by an act entitled ' an act to discharge the peo- 
ple of this Commonwealth from the payment of one-half of the 
revenue tax for the year 1785,' and that there is reason to believe 
that by the remitting of the said tax the people will be here- 
after enabled to pay the revenue taxes with more ease and 
punctuality," and concluded with enacting the repeal of the act. 
On this amendment the ayes and noes were called, and Jackson 
and his colleague (Prunty) voted in the affirmative. It was agreed 
to by a vote of fifty-two to forty-two, and the bill as amended 
was ordered to be engrossed. 56 The following day when the 



56 As this was one of the test questions of the October session of 
1785, I annex the votes of those who became members of the present 
Convention : 

AYES Benjamin Harrison (Speaker), John Trigg, Joseph Jones, 
Thomas Smith, George Clendenin, Ralph Humphries, Isaac Vanmeter, 
Parke Goodal], George Jackson, John Prunty, William White, Christo- 
pher Robertson, Andrew Moore, Richard Gary. 

NOES Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, John Tyler, David 
Patteson, Miles King, Charles Simms, David Stuart, Alexander White, 
Isaac Coles, William Thornton, Francis Corbin, Wills Kiddick, James 



VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

ill came up on its passage with a rider, "authorizing the Solici- 
tor-General to move for and obtain judgment for the penalty of 
a bond given by any sheriff or collector who should fail to 
render when required an account of the taxes by him already 
collected," the vote was again taken by ayes and noes, and 
resulted in the defeat of the bill by a majority of two votes; 
Jackson and Prunty voting in the affirmative. 

On the i3th of November of the same year another great 
question was presented to the House, which foreshadowed the 
amendment of the Articles of Confederation to such an extent 
at least as to invest Congress with a limited control over the 
commerce of the several States. Alexander White reported from 
the Committee of the Whole a resolution which it had agreed to, 
in substance, "that the delegates of Virginia in Congress be 
instructed to propose in that body a recommendation to the 
States in Union to authorize that assembly to regulate their 
trade under certain stipulations." One of these required " that 
no act of Congress that may be authorized as here proposed 
shall be entered into by less than two-thirds of the confederated 
States, nor be in force longer than thirteen years.' A motion 
was made to add to these words: "unless continued by a like 
proportion of votes within one year immediately preceding the 
expiration of the said period, or be revived in like manner at 
the expiration thereof." On this amendment the ayes and noes 
were called; and it was rejected by a vote of seventy-nine noes 
to twenty-eight ayes; Jackson and Prunty voting in the negative. 
The original resolution as reported was then agreed to without 
a division, and White was requested to carry it to the Senate 
and request its concurrence therein. 57 But the meditation of 

Madison, William Ronald, Edmund Ruffin. Cuthbert Bullitt, Anthony 
Walke, John Howell Briggs, James Innes, Thomas Matthews. 
This is a most significant record to those who read it rightly. 

57 The votes of those who became members of the present Conven- 
tion were as follows : 

AYES Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, John Tyler, French 
Strother, Charles Simms, David Stuart, Thomas Smith, George Clen- 
denin, Isaac Coles, William Thornton, James Madison, and James 
Innes. 

NOES Benjamin Harrison, Samuel Jordan Cabell, John Trigg, Wil- 
liam Watkins, Joseph Jones, Miles King, Worlich Westwood, Alex- 



GEORGE JACKSON. 

a single night seems to have materially changed the views 
the members, for on the following morning, as soon as th> 
House was called to order, a motion was made to rescind the 
order of the House transmitting the resolution to the Senate, 
and to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to recon- 
sider it. This motion prevailed by a majority of sixty to thirty- 
three ascertained by ayes and noes; and several amendments 
were made in committee which were reported to the House; and 
the resolution and amendments were ordered to lie on the table. 
We believe the resolution slept during the session; at all events, 
the ayes and noes were not again called upon it. 58 

On the iyth day of December, at the same session of the 
Assembly, there was brought up in the House of Delegates a 
not less important question, and the vote of Jackson on that 
occasion has connected his name honorably with one of the 
most liberal and most glorious enactments recorded in our 
statutes. On that day the engrossed bill " for establishing reli- 
gious freedom" came up on its final passage, and was triumph- 
antly carried by a vote of seventy-four to twenty ascertained 
by ayes and noes. The name of George Jackson, enrolled 
among the friends of that measure, is the richest legacy which 
he could have bequeathed to his posterity. 59 From this period 
to the close of the session Jackson was absent from his seat. 

During the October session of 1786, Jackson voted to sustain 
the report of the select committee, of which Madison was the 
chairman, which recommended the manumission of the slaves of 
Joseph Mayo, deceased, in pursuance of the provisions of his 
will, with certain restrictions a subject which attracted much 
attention at the time; and on the i6th of December he voted for 
the amendment to the bill establishing Courts of Assize and 
allowing a limited stay in collecting debts under certain circum- 

ander White, Ralph Humphries, Isaac Vanmeter, George Jackson, 
John Prunty, Benjamin Temple, Christopher Robertson, Francis Cor- 
bin, Willis Riddick, Edmund Ruffin, Cuthbert Bu litt, Andrew Moore, 
Thomas Edmunds (of Sussex), John Howell Briggs, Richard Gary. 

This vote represents pretty fairly the relative strength of parties on 
Federal questions before the advent of the Federal Constitution. 

58 House Journal, November 30 and December i, 1785. 

59 House Journal, December 17, 1785. See ayes and noes, ante. 



VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Dances another test question of the times. He also voted on 
,ts final passage for the bill emancipating the slaves of Mayo, 
with certain restrictions, and in favor of the passage of the bill 
establishing Courts of Assize. He sustained the bill to amend 
and reduce into one act the several acts concerning naval col- 
lectors a bill which involved in its discussion the litigated 
question of taxation by imposts, and which caused so much heat 
at the time that the House of Delegates ordered it to be pub- 
lished for three weeks in the Virginia Gazelle, with a list of the 
ayes and noes appended to it! We will only say further that 
Jackson approved the resolutions convoking the meeting at 
Annapolis and the General Convention at Philadelphia, both of 
which passed the House without a division. 

Allusion has been made more than once to the great revolu- 
tion which was effected in the State of parties respecting Federal 
affairs by the appearance of the new Constitution, and by the 
able and prolonged discussions which it produced. This change 
was most sensibly apparent among the public men west of the 
Blue Ridge, who usually maintained the decided majority of the 
Assembly for eight or ten years previously on Federal as well as 
purely domestic questions. This change was to a certain extent, 
and to a certain extent only, perceptible in Jackson. He 
opposed, indeed, the policy of previous amendments, and voted 
for the ratification of the Federal Constitution; but he mani- 
fested his adherence to the leading principle of the old Con- 
federation by sustaining the third article of the schedule of 
amendments, which aimed at the restoration of the ancient 
systems of requisitions instead of an immediate resort to direct 
taxation as prescribed by the new scheme; and he was one of the 
celebrated majority of twenty who retained that distinctive 
article among the amendments proposed by Virginia. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 



Perhaps no member of the able and patriotic delegation which 
the West contributed to our early councils exerted a greater 
influence in moulding public opinion, especially during the 
period embraced by the treaty of peace with Great Britain and 
by the adoption of the Federal Constitution, than Alexander 
White, of Frederick. He was the son of Robert White, a sur- 
geon in the British navy, who, having visited, about the year 
1730, his relative, William Hoge, then residing in Delaware, fell 
in love with his daughter, whom he married, and with whom, 
accompanied by her father, he emigrated to Virginia, and made 
his home near the North Mountain, on a creek which still bears 
the name of White. Robert White died in the year 1752, in 
the sixty-fourth year of his age, and was buried in the eastern 
corner of the old Opecquon church-yard, in the county of 
Frederick, distant three miles from Winchester, where a tree 
marks his grave. He left three sons, of whom the youngest 
was the statesman whose services it is our duty to record. 60 

In June, 1783, he took his seat for the first time in the House 
of Delegates, when the body had 'been in session more than a 
month; and we find him immediately placed on a select com- 
mittee, consisting of Joseph Carrington and Cabell (of " Union 
Hill"), appointed to bring in a bill " to confirm certain proceed- 
ings of the court of Cumberland county." At that day great 
vigilance was manifested by the House of Delegates in scruti- 

80 1 am indebted for these particulars respecting the Whites to Footers 
Sketches of Virginia, second series, page 23. The father of Robert 
Carter Nicholas and the father of William Cabell of (" Union Hill ") were 
also surgeons in the British navy. The late eminent Judge Robert 
White was the nephew of Alexander. [From the following extract 
there is reason to believe that Alexander White had the advantages of 
education in England and of legal training: "Alexander White, son 
of Robert White of Virginia, Esq., matriculated January 22, 1763 ; 
admitted to the Inner Temple January 15, 1762." (Gray's Inn Admis- 
sion Register, 1521-1889, by Joseph Foster, page 383.) EDITOR.] 



VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the claims of a member to his seat a vigilance the more 
t remarkable from the fact that the qualifications were prescribed 
by law in addition to those required by the Constitution. As 
White had been an assistant to the county attorney in certain 
prosecutions, probably about the time of his election, a member 
moved that his case be referred to the Committee of Privileges 
and Elections, which made a favorable report. On the yth of 
June, 1783, a bill came up for engrossment concerning one Peter 
Heron, a subject of His Most Christian Majesty, and master of 
the brigantine Lark, who, being ignorant of the language and 
misled by his interpreter, had, contrary to law, broken bulk 
before he had entered his vessel. This would seem to be a plain 
question at this time; but from peculiar circumstances it elicited 
warm debates, and the ayes and noes, which up to this date were 
rarely called during the session, were demanded by Mann Page 
and seconded by George Nicholas. The proposed amendment 
was adopted and the bill ordered to be engrossed by a vote of 
sixty to twenty-five, George Nicholas, William Cabell, Adam 
Stephen, French Strother, Thomas Smith, Patrick Henry, Joseph 
Jones, Stevens Thomson Mason, and James Gordon voting in 
the affirmative ; and John Tyler (Speaker), Archibald Stuart, 
Alexander White, William Ronald, Andrew Moore, and Gabriel 
Jones in the negative. 61 The bill alternately passed both houses 
and became a law. 

On the gth of June a selecf committee was appointed to bring 
in a bill to amend an act entitled an act declaring tenants of lands, 
or slaves in tail, to hold the same in fee simple; and White was 
placed at its head, with Thomson Mason as his associate. At 
this day we can hardly form an adequate opinion of the intense 
excitement raised in the early stages of the Republic by every 
measure relating to sheriffs. There was no coin in the country, 
the circulating medium had only a nominal value, and nothing 
could be more arbitrary than the prices affixed in the interior to 

61 These gentlemen were all members of the present Convention, and 
in reporting their votes on the test questions of the session I give the 
most authentic account of their public conduct. I must caution those 
who consult our early journals against the remarkable errors in the 
names of the members. Adam Stephen is always confounded with 
Edward Stevens, who was also a general, and a gallant fellow. Stevens 
Thomson Mason's name is never printed correctly, nor Willis Riddick's. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 73 

tobacco, hemp, flour, deerskins, and other commodities receiva- 
ble in kind in the payment of taxes. An astute and unscrupu- 
lous sheriff or deputy sheriff, aided by an unprincipled petti- 
fogger, and availing himself of the authority of law, could render 
the rich uncomfortable and reduce men of moderate means to 
beggary. Hence the enormous fortunes made by the sheriffs, 
some of which have descended to our times; and hence the ter- 
rible malediction upon the sheriffs which was uttered by Patrick 
Henry in the present Convention, and which was the fiercest that 
ever fell from his lips. The orator had doubtless felt the sting 
of the viper on his own person; and he had seen hundreds of 
poor and virtuous citizens driven from their homes by the 
rapacity of the legal bloodsuckers, to take refuge in the haunts 
of the savage. The present bill was evidently designed to 
modify the existing laws in relation to the collection of taxes, 
and was sustained by White, Henry, George Nicholas, William 
Cabell, Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, Thomas Smith, 
Isaac Coles, Joseph Jones, Andrew Moore, and Gabriel Jones; 
Adam Stephen, French Strother, and James Gordon voting in 
the negative. The measure was carried by a vote of seventy- 
seven to seventeen. 62 

On the loth of June an engrossed bill for the relief of the 
sheriffs was read the third time, and the ayes and noes were 
called upon its passage. 

It was often difficult to procure money for the wages of the 
members of the General Assembly. At one time, such was the 
depreciation of the currency, a member would have been com- 
pelled to pay fifty dollars for a night's lodging and feeding for 
himself and horse, and probably feed and dress himself and 
his horse with his own hands. The difficulty of paying the 
wages of the members had become less since the termination of 
the war, but it was still annoying, and had to be encountered at 
the present session of the body. On the nth of June a motion 
was made to appropriate eighteen hundred pounds out of the 
fund heretofore appropriated for the defence of the Chesapeake, 
and twelve hundred pounds out of the fund arising from 
recruiting duties, for the payment of the wages of the members. 
This proposition involved the important considerations affecting 

62 1 do not cite the paging of the Journals of Assembly, because the 
dates are the surest means of reference. 



74 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the payment of the debt of the Commonwealth, to which these 
funds were pledged, and the public defence. These funds were 
composed of duties collected mainly in the East, which were 
mainly paid by Eastern men. The debate was long and warm. 
The motion was carried by a vote of forty-three to forty; White, 
Stephen, Smith, Coles, Henry, Joseph Jones, Stevens Thomson 
Mason, Robert Lawson, and Andrew Moore voting in the 
affirmative, and George Nicholas, Cabell (of "Union Hill"), 
Strother, and William Ronald, in the negative. 

On the i yth of June leave was given to bring in a bill to 
amend the act concerning the appointment of sheriffs, and 
White was placed at its head; and on the 226. he was appointed 
chairman of a select committee, which was instructed to bring 
in a bill to suspend the operation of so much of any act or acts 
of Assembly as prohibits intercourse with British subjects, and 
to legalize such intercourse in certain cases. 

A glimmering of a more wholesome public opinion on the sub- 
ject of debts was seen on the 2oth of June. The House postponed 
indefinitely a bill for the relief of debtors, by the decided vote of 
sixty-six to twenty-three; White, George Nicholas, Johnston, 
Stephen, and William Watkins voting in the affirmative, and 
Archibald Stuart and Strother in the negative. 63 The last topic 
of general interest during the May session of 1783 was one 
which at a later day produced much excitement in the public 
councils the removal of the seat of government from Richmond. 
A committee of the House had been appointed to hold a con- 
ference with the directors of the public buildings in Richmond, 64 

63 Patrick Henry and Stevens T. Mason were absent when the ayes 
and noes were called. I wish Henry's name had been forthcoming,- 
but we may judge by White's vote what his would have been, as they 
rarely separated. That such a cool, clear-headed man as White always 
upheld Henry, is greatly to the honor of Henry. 

84 On the 24th of June, 1779, when the Assembly determined to 
remove the seat of government from Wilhamsburg, they appointed a 
board of directors of the public buildings to make arrangements for 
the accommodation of the members of Assembly and the public 
officers in Richmond. The board was composed of Turner Southall, 
Archibald Gary, William Watkins, Robert Goode, James Buchanan, 
and Robert Carter Nicholas. They had accordingly purchased certain 
lots and tenements, which are specified in the report of the committee 
of the House of Delegates, and may be learned from the Journal. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 75 

and made a report of what had occurred between them, con- 
cluding with a recommendation that it was most expedient for 
the progress of the settlements on Shockoe Hill that the House 
declare its determination to adhere to the site already chosen on 
that hill in preference to any other place within the limits of 
Richmond. When the question of concurring in the resolution 
of the committee came up, it was moved to amend it by striking 
out all after the word " Resolved," and by inserting the words 
" that the seat of government ought to be removed from the city 
of Richmond to the city of Williamsburg." After an animated 
discussion the vote was taken by ayes and noes, and resulted in 
the rejection of the proposed amendment by a majority of six- 
teen; Stephen, Thomas Smith, Joseph Jones, Stevens Thomson 
Mason, Robert Lawson, and Edmund Ruffin voting in the 
affirmative, and George Nicholas, Cabell (of "Union Hill"), 
Archibald Stuart, French Strother, William Watkins, Alexander 
White, William Ronald, and Andrew Moore in the negative. 
The vote was mainly founded on geographical views, but not in 
strict relation to East and West. This was the last effort made 
to return to Williamsburg. The large appropriations for public 
buildings, which soon followed, put an end to the contest between 
the ancient and the new metropolis. 

There was a vote of the House on a subject connected with 
the church establishment, which, though not final, shows the 
views of the members on that topic, and claims a passing notice. 
The House, on the ?4th of June, resolved itself into Com- 
mittee of the Whole on the bill to amend the several acts 
concerning vestries, and the bill was reported without amend- 
ment. A motion was then made to postpone the further con- 
sideration of the bill to the second Monday in October next, 
and was carried by a vote of fifty-two to twenty-eight; John 
Tyler (Speaker), Zachariah Johnston, Adam Stephen, William 
Watkins, Alexander White, Isaac Coles, Joseph Jones, Stevens 
Thomson Mason, and Edmund Ruffin voting in the affirmative, 
and George Nicholas, Cabell (of Union Hill), Archibald Stuart, 
French Strother, Robert Lawson, and Andrew Moore in the 
negative. 65 



65 This was not equivalent to a vote for the indefinite postponement 
of the bill, as the House was really in session in October. 



76 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

At the October session of 1783 White was late in his attend- 
ance. Indeed, from the necessity of travelling on horseback, 
and in the absence of those helps for protection in bad weather 
which we now possess, the members of Assembly frequently 
failed to make a quorum on the first days of the session. Those 
who were punctual met and adjourned from day to day, and on 
the organization of the House held the absentees to a strict 
accountability. The roll was called, the names of the absent 
were noted, and the sergeant-at arms was ordered to take them 
into custody. Nor was this a mere farce. No absent member 
was then allowed to take his seat without the payment of the 
fees, unless he could render a substantial excuse for his delin- 
quency. On one occasion the sergeant-at-arms dispatched a 
messenger to a distant member, who grumbled when called 
upon to pay fifteen pounds for the adventure. The calling of 
the roll of absentees had an effect which neither the House nor the 
absentees dreamed of at the time. It has preserved to posterity 
the full names of some individuals whose connection with the 
Assembly could not otherwise have been proved from the Jour- 
nals. In ordinary times the only appearance of the name of a 
member was on a regular committee appointed at the beginning of 
a session, when the Christian name was almost always omitted, 
or on the list of ayes and noes, where a similar omission fre- 
quently occurs. Indeed, the ayes and noes were rarely called 
from the Declaration of Independence to the peace with Great 
Britain ; and when they were called the members were often 
absent. To ascertain who were members of our early Assem- 
blies is one of the most laborious offices of the annalist. In 
many cases it is impracticable. In the case of the House of 
Burgesses it is impossible.* 8 

68 It is impossible to ascertain who were members of the House of 
Burgesses from the Journals; but the fact can be learned from the 
clerks' offices, and from the old almanacs. From the absence of a 
list of the names of members, from the constant omission of Christian 
names, and from the number of persons of the same surname, it 
requires great caution in perusing our early records not to confound 
individuals and even generations. Thus there are Burwells, Carters, 
Cabells, Bassetts, Harrisons, Carys, Diggeses, Mayos, Carringtons, 
Masons, Moores, Randolphs. Lees, Taylors, without number. At the 
present session, and at several previous ones, there was a Benjamin Har- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 77 

The first vote which White gave at the October session of 
1783 was on one of the most perplexing topics of those days. 
We have heretofore said that, as there was no coin in the Com- 
monwealth, and hardly a circulating medium of any kind apart 
from the public securities, the taxes, if paid at all, must be paid 
in kind. To fix upon the articles which might be taken in pay- 
ment of taxes was often difficult; but it was also difficult to 
determine the sections of country to which the act should apply. 
A man living on tide- water would have a fairer chance of getting 
money than a man living in the interior at a time when, from 
many parts of the State to the seat of government, there was no 
public road at all, when wagons were unknown, and when a man 
was deemed fortunate who had succeeded in rolling a hogshead 
of tobacco undamaged to tide. But at the session of 1783 there 
was the dawn of a new policy, which, at all times admitted to be 
theoretically sound, might with proper caution be gradually 
introduced into. practice; and that was the payment of taxes in 
money. Consequently, when on the igth of November an 
engrossed bill " to amend the laws of revenue, and declaring 
tobacco, hemp, flour, and deerskins a payment of certain taxes," 
there was a most animated discussion in the House of Dele- 
gates. It was necessary to determine what taxes should be 
payable in either of the articles, and the sections of country to 
which the provisions of the bill should extend. It should seem 
that all were agreed that the bill should include the country west 
of the Blue Ridge, but should it also include the counties of the 
East? Should an Eastern nabob be allowed to pay his taxes in 
skins ? Accordingly, when the bill was on its passage, a rider 
was offered " to admit payments of hemp in counties on the 
eastern side of the Blue Ridge in certain cases," which was duly 
read three times and adopted by the House. The question then 



rison from Rockingham, while another of the same name was either 
Speaker of the House, member of Congress, or Governor, and yet 
another who was a member of the Council or of the House The 
indispensable necessity of tracing the history of each member of the 
one hundred and seventy of the present Convention for twenty or 
thirty years through volumes of Journals that have no regular list of 
names or indices of subjects, has cost me as much labor as would have 
sufficed to acquire any European language. Hence I may have made 
some mistakes, but I trust they are few and unimportant. 



78 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

recurred on the passage of the bill with the rider, and was 
decided in the affirmative by a vote of sixty-one to twenty-three 
(ascertained by ayes and noes). Some of the ablest statesmen of 
the East were opposed to the mode of paying taxes in kind, 
now that the war was over; and it appears that nearly every 
negative vote was given by the members from that section of 
country. The names of those of the present Convention who 
then voted in the affirmative were Zachariah Johnston, Archibald 
Stuart, Thomas Smith, George Clendenin, Patrick Henry, Joseph 
Jones, and William Ronald; and of those who voted in the 
negative were George Nicholas, Alexander White, Isaac Coles, 
and Edmund Ruffin. The vote of White, which was almost the 
only one from the West, bespeaks his courage in opposing a 
policy which, in one shape or other, had always prevailed in 
Virginia, and which, however inconsistent with correct notions 
of political economy, seemed peculiarly applicable to the condi- 
tion of the people of the West. 67 

Few questions excited keener debates and roused to a higher 
pitch the passions of the members who composed the General 
Assemblies immediately after the peace with Great Britain than 
those relating to citizenship. At the beginning of the Revolu- 
tion many persons went abroad and continued to be loyal sub- 
jects of England. Such persons on their return to Virginia 
were plainly not entitled to any other privileges than those 
which the laws offered to the subjects of any other foreign 
potentate. There were, however, numerous individuals who 
remained at home and took no open interest in public affairs, 
but whose secret wishes, it was well known, were in favor of the 
success of the British arms. There was a strong desire mani- 
fested by others, who were nominally on the side of the Com- 
monwealth, to save their lives and estates in the event of the 
subjection of the States by Great Britain. These sent a son, a 
brother, or an aged relative to some British port or colony as an 
earnest of their own good will towards the mother country, and 
as a means of procuring immunity from future punishment; 



87 In the minority was Henry Tazewell, who was particularly distin- 
guished by his efforts to inaugurate the new system of taxation, until 
he withdrew from the Assembly on his election to the bench of the 
General Court. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 79 

while they remained themselves at home, showing just so much 
fidelity to the State as was necessary to exempt them from the 
penalty of treason, or, entering the public councils, they sought to 
embarrass by the tricks of Parliament or by specious maneuver- 
ing the measures of the patriots. 68 As for those emigrants 
who were not subjects of Great Britain, and who came with the 
honest intention of taking up their abode in the Commonwealth, 
there was a very slight difference of opinion respecting them. 
But the element of British influence entered very generally into 
all the discussions on the subject of citizenship, and in no debate 
more than the one which occurred on the bill which we shall 
now proceed to notice. 

On the 2d day of December, 1783, an engrossed bill "for 
repealing a former law, and declaring who shall be deemed citi- 
zens of this Commonwealth," was read the third time, and after 
a protracted discussion, which consumed nearly the whole day, 
was rejected by a vote of fifty-five to thirty one ascertained by 
ayes and noes. The vote on the bill affords a curious study to 
the political anatomist. East and West were blended together 
in beautiful confusion. Some Eastern men had constituents of 
great influence at home, who were eager for the return of 
friends, and these they were unwilling to disoblige; while other 
Eastern men, remembering the trouble which the Tories had 
caused during the Revolution, were not indisposed to hold the 
rod of terror over the heads of the returning recreants. Opposing 
sentiments were also visible in the Western vote. There had 
been few or no Tories in the West; but Western men had seen 
with the deepest indignation in the public councils the policy of 
those whom they regarded as the friends of the Tories, and were 
not inclined to hold out to emigrants from Great Britain a too 

68 1 have all needful respect for those Virginians who. at the outbreak 
of the Revolution, elected to remain subjects of Great Britain and 
withdrew from our territory. Such a determination was altogether 
legitimate. But for those miscreants who pretended to adhere to the 
cause of Virginia, and sought by private letters or advices to entice 
the enemy to visit our borders, or who perplexed our early councils 
with their treacherous wiles, I have no respect, but rather an unutter- 
able abhorrence. The private papers of Cornwallis, of Tarleton, ot 
Arnold, and of Matthews ought to be examined for evidences of the 
guilt of such wretches. 



80 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

welcome hand, even on the return of peace; while Western men 
generally, and especially the holders of vast tracts of land, were 
eager for the prompt settlement of the country, which could 
hardly be effected in a single generation without the aid of emi- 
grants from abroad. Hence these were inclined, for the most 
part, to favor a liberal policy in respect of citizenship. Those 
who voted for the rejection of the bill were George Nicholas, 
Zachariah Johnston, French Strother, Alexander White, Isaac 
Coles, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Wilson, and William Ronald, 
and those who voted against the rejection were John Tyler 
(Speaker), Cabell (of "Union Hill"), Archibald Stuart, Thomas 
Smith, George Clendenin, Joseph Jones, and Stevens Thomson 
Mason. A few days after leave was given to bring in a new bill 
on the subject, and George Nicholas, Patrick Henry, Alexander 
White, and Joseph Jones were placed on the committee to pre- 
pare it. 

From the position and wants of Virginia, as well as from the 
variety of her products, a trade with the West Indies on princi- 
ples of reciprocity has been for nearly two centuries and a half a 
favorite object. While the States were colonies of Great Britain 
the commerce between the different settlements of the same 
empire was comparatively unrestricted. The most friendly rela- 
tions existed between the West Indies and our ancestors; visits 
were interchanged, which resulted in marriages; and some names 
most honorably distinguished during the Revolution, and con- 
tinuously to this day, were borne either by the original emigrants 
from the West Indies or by their immediate descendants. 69 Nor 

69 General Matthews, who bore arms during the Revolution, was long 
Speaker of the House of Delegates, a member of the present Conven- 
tion, and from whom the county of Mathews has been named, was a 
native of St. Kitts. Howe states that the county was named after 
Governor Mathews, of Georgia, which is a mistake, as I, who am a 
townsman of Matthews, have always heard to the contrary; and I find 
in the chart of the Commonwealth of Virginia, compiled in the year 
1790 by William Marshall, clerk of the district of Virginia, the very 
year of the birth of the county, that it was called after " Mr. Speaker 
Matthews." I take pleasure in vindicating the just fame of my towns- 
man from the misrepresentations of careless compilers. The Mayos 
and the Carringtons came from Barbadoes. Farley, a West Indian, 
visited Colonel Byrd at Westover, and bought from him the vast area 
of the Saura Town-lands at a nominal price. Byrd had previously sold 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 81 

when peace was secured with England, reverted eagerly to their 
old trade, but found it crippled with limitations and restrictions. 
The subject was immediately brought before the Assembly. It 
should seem that a British order in Council, passed on the 2d 
of July previous, prohibited American ships from carrying the 
products of this country to any of the West India islands belong- 
ing to England, and the Virginia merchant was compelled to 
ship his merchandise in British bottoms, or to give up the trade 
altogether. The House of Delegates, on the 4th of December, 
took the matter in hand, and having discussed it at length 
in Committee of the Whole, came to a resolution which was 
reported by White as chairman of the committee. This resolu- 
tion recommended "that Congress be empowered to prohibit 
British vessels from being the carriers of the growth or produce 
of the British West India islands to these United States as long 
as the restriction aforesaid shall be continued on the part of 
Great Britain, or to concert any other mode to be adopted by the 
States which shall be thought effectual to counteract the designs 
of Great Britain with respect to American commerce." It was 
unanimously adopted, and a select committee, consisting of 
White, Jones, Henry, Cabell, Ronald, and Tazewell, was appointed 
to bring in a bill in pursuance of the same. It is creditable to 
the standing of White a Western man as he was that, in a 
matter referring to the seabord and to the interests of commerce, 
he should hold such a prominent place on a committee composed 
of the ablest men of the East. He reported the bill on the 5th, 
and on the 6th it was discussed and referred back to the com- 
mittee, and was again reported, when it passed unanimously both 
houses of the Assembly. 

On the 5th of December White reported a bill "to regulate 
elections, and to enforce the attendance of the members of 

the lands to a Mr. Maxwell, who visited them during a pest, and was 
so dispirited that he begged to be excused from his bargain. Some 
time after the sale to Farley, Byrd's eyes were opened to their great 
value, and it is said that he grew sick from vexation and took to his 
bed. In the course of time Farley sent his son from the West Indies 
to inspect his lands, and the young man, calling at Colonel Byrd's, fell 
in love with his daughter, married her, and brought the lands, for a third 
time, into the family. See Smith's Tour in America, Volume I, printed 
in London about 1780. 



82 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Assembly," and was placed on a select committee, of which 
George Nicholas was chairman and Patrick Henry a member, 
for granting pardons, with certain exceptions. On the 8th he 
was appointed a member of the select committee to bring in a 
bill " instructing the delegates of Virginia in Congress to convey, 
by proper instrument in writing, on the part of Virginia, to the 
Congress of the United States, all right, title, and claim which 
the said Commonwealth hath to the lands northward of the 
river Ohio, and upon the terms contained in the act of Congress 
of the 1 3th of September last, with certain restrictions." On 
the 1 3th a bill prohibiting the migration of certain persons to the 
Commonwealth, and for other purposes, was read a third time, 
and passed the House by a vote of sixty-nine to eleven; Alex- 
ander White, Cabell (of "Union Hill"), Adam Stephen, Strother, 
William Watkins, Thomas Smith, Patrick Henry, Joseph Jones, 
Benjamin Wilson, William Ronald, and Andrew Moore voting 
in the affirmative, and Johnston, Archibald Stuart, and George 
Clendenin in the negative. 

At the May session of 1784, White again appeared in the 
House of Delegates as a member from Frederick. He was 
required on the 7th of June to vote on a question, which, how- 
ever simple it may now appear, involved considerations, public 
and private, of so grave a caste as might well account for the 
reception it then met with from the Assembly. We allude to 
the definitive treaty with Great Britain. A motion was made in 
the House of Delegates " that so much of all and every act or 
acts of Assembly, now in force in this Commonwealth, as pre- 
vents a due compliance with the stipulations contained in the 
definitive treaty entered into between Great Britain and America, 
ought to be repealed." This motion appeared in a questionable 
shape, and probably came from a questionable source. It had 
not passed through the hands of a committee. It was absolute. 
It made no exceptions or reservations whatsoever. If it passed 
the House in its present shape, and a bill in pursuance of its 
spirit became a law, the entire financial system of the Common- 
wealth for the past ten years would be involved in inextricable 
confusion. Great trouble would fall upon the people. Every 
man who had paid a British debt into the treasury in obedience 
to the enactments of good and constitutional laws would be 
compelled to pay the same debt a second time, and to pay it in 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 83 

coin. To make suitable arrangements for encountering such an 
extraordinary stipulation of the treaty would require great 
deliberation and consummate judgment, and delay was abso- 
lutely indispensable for the purpose. Nor did the British Gov- 
ernment show any haste in carrying into effect those parts of 
the treaty which depended upon itself. There was hardly a 
member present from the country west of the Blue Ridge who 
had not seen some individual of his own household, some friend 
or neighbor, slain by the Indians, who had been supplied with 
arms and ammunition by the British forts on the frontier, and 
who were paid by British officers for the scalps of Virginia men, 
women, and children. Yet, though a year and more had elapsed 
since the date of the treaty, there was no movement made 
towards withdrawing from those forts their garrisons and their 
arms. On the contrary, they were kept in the highest state of 
preparation for immediate action. It was plain that England 
regarded the treaty as a mere truce that would separate us from 
our European allies, and that she held the Western forts in 
reserve as a part of her insiduous scheme. So long as those 
forts were retained by Great Britain, the Indians would annoy 
our frontiers and deluge the cabins of the settlers in blood. 
Did the treaty absolutely require that the British debts should 
be paid a second time ? And if it did, had not Congress clearly 
exceeded its powers in acceding to such a provision? To confis- 
cate a debt was as perfect a belligerent right as to burn a house 
or a ship, to take a negro from his owner, or to pocket the 
ancient silver flagon of a host who was dispensing to his foes 
the hospitalities of his house; and yet, there was no mention 
made of the rebuilding of our homesteads, or a restitution of our 
negroes, one-fifth of whom had been enticed or forced away, or 
of that flagon which found its way into the pocket of Corn- 
wallis. Even the negroes on board the British ships at York, 
who were carried off in the face of the articles of capitulation, 
were not to be restored or paid for. 70 There was no reciprocity 



70 Mr. Jefferson, in his correspondence with Hammond, held that 
Congress had performed its duty when it recommended to the States 
the payment of the British debts. That Cornwallis took a piece of plate 
from the table of Mr. Bates may be seen in Randall's Life of Jefferson, 
Vol. I, 344. As the ayes and noes on the subject of complying with the 



84 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

in such a provision; and until it was evident that Great Britain 
was disposed to withdraw her garrisons from a position which 
threatened our Northwestern frontier, it was the dictate of com- 
mon sense, as well as of patriotism, to deliberate well while 
deliberation was possible. The result was that the motion to 
repeal the acts of Assembly in conflict with the definitive treaty 
prevailed by a majority of twenty ascertained by ayes and noes; 
White voting with the minority. 71 

On the loth of June the House of Delegates went into Com- 
mittee of the Whole on the subject of the public lands, White 
in the chair; and two resolutions were reported and agreed to, 
one of which ordered all the public lands, except such as were 



British treaty have never been published from the Journals, I annex 
the full vote, the names of the members of the present Convention 
being in italics : 

AYES Wilson Cary Nicholas, Archibald Stuart, John Marshall 
(Chief Justice), Alexander White, James Wood. Moses Hunter, 
Thomas Edmunds (of Brunswick), Edward Carrington, George Wray, 
Bartlett Anderson, William Norvell, Philip Barbour, Larkin Smith, 
William Thornton, Richard Bland Lee, Francis Corbin, John Brecken- 
ridge, William Armistead, John Watkins, Littleton Eyre, Bennet 
Tompkins, James Madison, William Mayo, Jr., William Ronald, 
Thomas Walke, John Taylor (of Southampton), Bailey Washington, 
William Brent, John Allen, John Howell Briggs, Wilson Miles Cary, 
John Langhorne, Richard Henry Lee, Joseph Prentis, Nathaniel Nelson, 
and Henry Tazewell. 

NOES John Cropper, Jr., Thomas Parramore, Samuel Sherwin, John 
Booker, Jr., William Meredith, Michael Bowyer, John Trigg, Robert 
Clarke, George Hancock, Thomas Claiborne, Samuel Ha^'es, Jr.. 
Thomas Collier, Matthew Cheatham, Carter Henry Harrison, French 
Strother, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Spencer Roane, William Gate- 
wood, Alexander Henderson, John Mosby, Thomas Smith, Batte Peter- 
son, Isaac Vanmeter, Garland Anderson, Turner Southall, Nathaniel 
Wilkinson, Patrick Henry, Peter Saunders, William Walker, John S. 
Wills, Edmund Byne, John Heath, John Berryman, William White, 
Anthony Street, John Glenn, John Logan, William Randolph, Benja- 
min Wilson, Francis Worman, Willis Riddick, Kinchen Godwin, John 
Kearnes, Ebenezer Zane, Charles Porter, Benjamin Lankford, William 
Dire, Richard Bibb, Edmund Ruffin, Edward Bland, John Ackiss, John 
Bowyer, Gawin Hamilton, Thomas Edmunds (of Sussex), William 
Russell, James Montgomery, and Thomas Matthews. 

11 For repeated instances of the gross violation of the treaty by Gene- 
ral Carleton, see House Journal, June 14, 1784. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 85 

necessary for the use of government, and except also the lands 
and houses in and adjacent to the city of Williamsburg, which 
ought to be given to the masters and professors of William and 
Mary University for the use of that seminary forever, ought to 
be sold for money or military certificates ; and the other recom- 
mended that the lands known by the name of Gosport ought to 
be laid off into lots and annexed to the town of Portsmouth. 
A select committee was appointed to draft the bills in pursuance 
of the resolutions, of which White was chairman and Patrick 
Henry and William Grayson were members. 

The public mind had not yet become reconciled to the removal 
of the seat of government from Williamsburg to the town of 
Richmond. The associations connected with the ancient 
metropolis, with the old House of Burgesses, and with the vene- 
rable college, and the delightful society and pleasant accommo- 
dations, which did not exist in such a rude settlement as the 
Richmond of that day was, long exerted an influence on the 
members of Assembly generally, while a sense of interest 
impelled the immediate representatives of Williamsburg and of 
the adjacent counties to make every effort to revoke the pre- 
cipitate action of the Assembly of 1779. The attention of the 
House of Delegates had already been drawn to the public lands, 
as just stated, and a select committee had been appointed to 
bring in a bill on the subject. But on the nth of June the 
House went into committee on the public lands, and a resolution 
was reported requiring all the public lands in and near Rich- 
mond, not necessary for the purposes of the government, to be 
sold, and the proceeds of the sales applied to the erection of the 
public buildings in Richmond, in pursuance of the act for the 
removal of the seat of government. As soon as the resolution 
was read in the House, a motion was made to strike out all after 
the word "Resolved," and insert "that proper measures ought 
to be adopted to obtain the opinion of the citizens of the Com- 
monwealth as to the place that ought to be fixed on for the seat 
of government." An animated discussion arose; but the ancient 
city, though sustained by a strong party, was destined to suc- 
cumb once more. The amendment was lost, and the bill passed 
by a majority of six votes only in a full House ; Wilson C. 
Nicholas, Trigg, Archibald Stuart, Strother, Joseph Jones (of 
Dinwiddie), John Marshall, Richardson, Isaac Coles, Vanmeter, 
Patrick Henry, William White, Wilson, James Madison, Ronald, 



86 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

William Grayson, and Briggs voting in the affirmative, and 
Miles King, Alexander White, Thomas Smith, Clendenin, 
Thornton, Temple, Francis Corbin, Riddick, Littleton Eyre, 
Gaskins, Ebenezer Zane, Edmund Ruffin, Thomas Walke, Allen, 
Edmunds (of Sussex), and Thomas Matthews voting in the 
negative. 

A remarkable incident occurred on the I4th of June, which 
stands alone in our annals, and, as it has been most grossly 
though facetiously mistated, it may be proper to state the facts 
of the case as they appear on the Journals of the House of Dele- 
gates. It was reported to the House that Mr. John Warden 
had spoken most disrespectfully of the members who had voted 
against the repeal of the laws in conflict with the definitive treaty 
with Great Britain, and the matter was referred to the Committee 
on Privileges and Elections. The committee reported that 
Warden had appeared before them, and, waiving the necessity 
of examining any witnesses as to the charge against him, deliv- 
ered in the following written acknowledgment signed with his 
name: "I do acknowledge that, in a mistaken opinion that the 
House of Delegates had voted against the payment of British 
debts, agreeable to the treaty of peace between America and 
Great Britain, I said that, if it had done so, some of them had 
voted against paying for the coats on their backs. A committee 
of the House judging this expression derogatory to the honor 
and justice of the House, I am sorry for the offence I have given, 
and assure the committee that it never was my intention to 
affront the dignity of the House or insult any member of it." 
The House immediately resolved that the acknowledgment was 
satisfactory, and that John Warden be discharged out of the 
custody of the sergeant-at-arms. This was the end of the 
whole affair. He was not personally before the House at all, 
and could have made no remark about the dust on his knees as 
he rose from the floor; and the blessed mother of us all has 
been for more than seventy years laughing herself, and making 
her children laugh, at a joke as utterly destitute of a solid foun- 
dation as the currency she supplied us with during the Revo- 
lution." 



"Warden was a Scotchman, a prominent lawyer, a good classical 
scholar, and had some generous qualities as an individual, but was 
classed among " the tainted " during the Revolution. As some of my 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 87 

Among the difficulties that beset the path of the young Com- 
monwealth was the proper regulation of commerce. To lay 
uniform duties upon our own and foreign vessels and their car- 
goes was a simple office on paper; but there were territorial 
obstacles which tended greatly to diminish the amount of reve- 
nue derived from the customs, and to prevent this easy and 
effectual mode of taxation from being as profitable to the State 
as it ought to be. In one aspect the numerous rivers of Vir- 
ginia, trending from the Northwest and West to the Chesapeake, 
should seem to afford extraordinary facilities for agricultural 
success. Most of the products of our soil are bulky, and are 
difficult to be conveyed by land carriage to market; and the 
accessibility to water must exert a wonderful influence on the 
productive capacities of the State. In a purely agricultural 
view, then, nothing can well exceed the advantages of our posi- 
tion in this respect, and such a natural arrangement unquestion- 
ably develops the resources of the State in a greater degree than 
any improvement that could be contrived by the wit of man. 
Unfortunately each large stream has its distinctive interests, and 
its inhabitants are not only anxious to retain their own trade, but 
seek the trade of the other rivers of the Commonwealth. Hence 
a rivalry is excited which is fatal to the concentration of com- 
merce in a single mart, and prevents a cheap and speedy collec- 
tion of the revenue for customs. When we regard Virginia as 
an independent Commonwealth, such as she then was (1784), it 
is obvious that she could not derive that profit from the trade 
which was indispensably necessary for her prosperity and her 
safety. Commerce, to produce its full effect upon a country, 
must be concentrated in a single mart. For the sake of economy 



young readers may not have heard the joke in question, and as I am 
inclined to indulge them with a spice of the fun that tickled their 
fathers, I may as well put it down. The story goes that Warden was 
summoned before the House in full session, and was required to beg 
its pardon on his knees, which he is said to have done. As soon, how- 
ever, as he rose from his knees, pretending to brush the dust from his 
knees, though really pointing his hands toward the House, he uttered 
audibly in broad Scotch, and evidently with a double meaning : " Upon 
my word, a dammed DIRTY House it is indeed." For a humorous pas- 
sage between Warden and William Wirt, see Virginia Historical Reg- 
ister, Vol. II, 58. 



88 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

alone, such a concentration was expedient. If the State was 
compelled to follow the ancient custom, and establish ports of 
entry and custom houses at every plantation on the banks of our 
numerous rivers, the expenses of collecting the revenue from 
customs might exceed the amount of the revenue itself and 
involve the public in loss. Moreover, by the multiplicity of 
offices, the chances of smuggling would be too numerous to be 
controlled by any police which the State could maintain; and 
those merchants who were too honest to cheat the revenue, and 
who deserved the aid of the State, would suffer a loss of their 
legitimate profits and be involved in ruin. Thus one of the 
most difficult problems which our early statesmen were com- 
pelled to solve was, how they could most effectually concentrate 
the commerce of the State with the least inconvenience to the 
people. Unless commercial capital could be fixed in a single 
mart, the State would not only fail to derive a fair revenue from 
the customs, but she could form no seamen; and as Virginia 
then was, a navy was necessary to protect her ships in peace as 
well as in war. It was also seen that, with the concentration of 
capital, the arts would prosper, and that we might be able ere 
long to manufacture common articles for ourselves. 

To accomplish such desirable objects, a bill was presented in 
the House of Delegates which " restricted foreign vessels to cer- 
tain ports within this Commonwealth." On the iyth of June it 
came up on its final passage, and was discussed with all the zeal 
that public and private interests could inspire by the ablest men 
in the body. Its provisions were closely scrutinized, and it is 
evident that they must have interfered sensibly with the profit 
and convenience of many members. Its preamble declared that 
our foreign commerce would be placed upon a more equal 
foundation; that expedition and dispatch would be better pro- 
moted if foreign vessels in loading and unloading were restricted 
to certain ports, and that the revenue arising from commerce 
would also thereby be more certainly collected. The bill then 
enacted that all foreign vessels shall enter, clear out, load, and 
unload at Norfolk, Portsmouth, Tappahannock, Yorktown, or 
Alexandria; and it further enacted that, as the navigating small 
county craft by slaves tended to discourage free white seamen, 
and to increase the number of free white seamen would produce 
public good, not more than one-third part of the persons 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 89 

employed in the navigation of any bay or river craft shall con- 
sist of slaves; and if the owner of slaves shall put a greater 
proportion on board of such craft, he shall forfeit and pay one 
hundred pounds for each offence. The act was not to take effect 
until the loth of June, 1786. The principle on which it was 
based was sound, and it was a step in advance to reduce the 
number of ports of entry to five; but even this reduction could 
not suffice to attain what was practicable. The trade of that 
day could easily have been managed at a single office, but, 
divided among five, would enrich neither, and many of the 
advantages flowing from a concentration of trade would be lost. 
We should have no controlling mart of trade and money; there 
would be but a small gathering of people around either of the 
five commercial centres; the domestic arts and manufactures 
could not be sustained, and a sickly languor would still pervade 
our commercial system. 

The bill passed in a full House by a majority of six; Patrick 
Henry, James Madison, Archibald Stuart, Patteson, Strother, 
King, Thomas Smith, Clendenin, Isaac Coles, Thornton, Temple, 
John Logan, Francis Corbin, Riddick, Eyre, Gaskins, Ebenezer 
Zane, Ronald, Thomas Walke, Allen, Edmunds (of Sussex), and 
Matthews voting in the affirmative, and John Marshall, Alexander 
White, Wilson C. Nicholas, John Trigg, Watkins, Joseph Jones 
(of Dinwiddie), Richardson, William White, Wilson, Edmund 
Ruffin, William Grayson, and Briggs in the negative. 

As an illustration of the importance attached to the bill, it was 
ordered to be inserted at full length on the Journal, and, together 
with a copy of the Journal of the proceedings of the House 
thereupon, printed in handbills, and four copies thereof delivered 
to each member. We have already recorded a solitary instance 
of the publication of the ayes and noes in the public prints by 
order of the House of Delegates; but, so far as our researches 
have extended, we cannot recall an instance in which the bill 
itself was printed entire, by a vote of the body on the face of the 
Journal." 

It is not an uninstructive office to trace the early stages of 

73 1 have heard old men who had served in the Assembly about the 
period of the passage of this bill speak of it as " Madison's bill," and 
"Madison's scheme of building up towns." 



90 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

great measures which engaged the attention of our fathers, and 
which, discussed at long subsequent periods, were finally deter- 
mined in our own time. One such measure is that which has 
been familiar to the present generation as the Convention ques- 
tion. The first Constitution of the State was formed simultane- 
ously with the adoption of the resolution instructing the delegates 
of Virginia in Congress to propose independence. It was indeed 
formed at a perilous time; but it was unquestionably formed with 
all the deliberation which so grave a subject demanded. The 
Federal Constitution, which effected the most thorough change 
in our Government that ever was made in the institutions of a 
free people, was summarily settled during a discussion of twenty- 
five days; while the Constitution of the State was deliberately 
examined and discussed for nearly two months by the ablest 
and wisest men whom Virginia had then or, perhaps, has since 
produced. Of the practical workings of the Constitution there 
was no foundation for just complaint, at least on the part of the 
West. Severe complaints had been made by the residents of the 
extreme Eastern counties that the rapid creation of new coun- 
ties before the Declaration of Independence would subject the 
property of the State to the control of those who owned but a 
small proportion of it ; n and the statutes show that after the 
adoption of the Constitution in 1776 the multiplication of new 
counties continued with accelerated rapidity. Still there was a 
dissatisfaction with the existing form of government in the 
Assembly, both among the Eastern and Western members; and 
a serious design was entertained at the close of the war of form- 
ing a new scheme of government by the authority of the ordi- 
nary Legislature. 75 The reasons of this extraordinary movement 

74 Letter of Carter to Washington, dated August or September, 1775, 
in the American archives. I have mislaid the exact reference. 

75 George Mason, in a letter to Cabell (of " Union Hill " ), dated May 6, 
1783, thus writes : " We are told here that the present Assembly intend 
to dissolve themselves to make way for a General Convention to new- 
model the Constitution. Will such a measure be proper without a 
requisition from a majority of the people? If it can be done without 
such a requisition, may not the caprice of future Assemblies repeat it 
from time to time until the Constitution shall have totally lost all sta- 
bility, and anarchy introduced in its stead ? " And on the subject of 
the definitive treaty with Great Britain, he writes in the same letter : 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 91 

were mainly theoretical, and may be seen in the Notes on Vir- 
ginia. It was promptly opposed by George Mason, who was 
not then a member of Assembly, in letters to the leading men 
in public life, and by others, and finally defeated. The contest 
was renewed at the present session by a petition from the county 
of Augusta praying that further time be allowed for paying hemp 
in discharge of taxes, and that the government of the Common- 
wealth be reformed. 

On the i3th of June, 1784, Mr. Carter Henry Harrison, from 
the Committee of Propositions and Grievances, reported that so 
much of the Augusta petition as prayed farther time for paying 
hemp in discharge of taxes ought to be rejected; but "that the 
prayer for the reformation of the government was reasonable; 
that the ordinance of government, commonly called the Consti- 
tution, does not rest upon an authentic basis, and was no more 
than a temporary organization of government for preventing 
anarchy, and pointing our efforts to the two important objects of 
war against our then invaders, and peace and happiness among 
ourselves; that this, like all other acts of legislation, being sub- 
ject to change by subsequent legislatures possessing equal power 
with themselves, should now receive those amendments which 
time and trial have suggested, and be rendered permanent by a 
power superior to that of an ordinary legislature." The report 
concluded with a resolution that "an ordinance pass, recom- 
mending to the good people of this Commonwealth the choice 
of delegates to meet in General Convention, with powers to form 
a Constitution of government to which all laws, present and 
future, should be subordinate," and providing that the existing 
Constitution remain in force until duly superseded by the new 
system. The House rejected the prayer for farther delay in 
paying hemp in discharge of taxes; but it referred the subject 
of the Convention to a Committee of the Whole. 

"We are very much alarmed in this part of the country lest the 
Assembly should pass some laws infringing the articles of the peace, 
and thereby involve us in a fresh quarrel with Great Britain, who might 
make reprisals on our shipping or coasts, without much danger of 
offending the late belligerent Powers in Europe, or even the other 
American States; but I trust more prudent and dispassionate counsels 
will prevail." 
16 Query XIII, page 128, et seq. (Randolph's edition.) 



92 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

On the 2ist of June the House resolved itself into committee 
to consider the subject Henry Tazewell in the chair and a reso- 
lution was reported "that so much of the petition from Augusta 
county as relates to an alteration of the Constitution or form of 
government ought to be rejected, such a measure not being 
within the province of the House of Delegates to assume; but, 
on the contrary, it is the express duty of the representatives of 
the people, at all times and on all occasions, to preserve the same 
inviolate until a majority of all the free people shall direct a 
reform thereof" A motion was made to strike out the words 
in italics, and, after an animated discussion, passed in the 
negative by a majority of fifteen votes; Wilson C. Nicholas, 
John Marshall, Archibald Stuart, Patteson, Watkins, Clendenin, 
Thornton, Temple, William White, Logan, Gaskins, Madison, 
Ronald, and Edmunds (of Sussex) voting in the affirmative, and 
Patrick Henry, Alexander White, Trigg, Strother, Joseph Jones, 
Richardson, Thomas Smith, King, Wilson, Eyre, Ruffin, Thomas 
Walke, Allen, and Matthews in the negative. A motion was 
then made to strike out the words " a majority of all the free 
people shall direct a reform thereof," and insert "it shall be 
constitutionally reformed," which was rejected by six votes. 

The main resolution was then agreed to without a division. 
The next most prominent movement on the subject of calling a 
Convention was in 1816, when the measure would have suc- 
ceeded but for a compromise, which resulted in the re arrange- 
ment of the representation in the Senate on the basis of white 
population, according to the census of 1810; and it was finally 
determined, in 1827, to take the votes of the freeholders on the 



"As the vote on striking out the words in italics was a test vote, 
and some of my young readers may he curious to know how certain 
prominent men voted who were not members of the present Conven- 
tion, I may as well state that among the ayes were John Taylor (of 
Caroline), Henry Tazewell, Larkin Smith, Jones (of King George), 
John Breckenridge, and Joseph Prentis, and among the noes were 
Spencer Roane, Edmunds (of Brunswick), Turner Southall, Edward 
Bland, William G. Munford, John Bowyer, and William Russell. The 
ayes were forty-two, the noes fifty-seven; and this was a full vote, the 
members being very lax in their attendance thoughout the session, 
and a bill was accordingly passed at the present session to force their 
attendance. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 93 

question, a majority of which was cast in favor of calling a Con- 
vention. That Convention was called by an act passed during 
the session of 1828-' 29, and on the first Monday in October, 
1829, assembled in the city of Richmond. 

There was one act of this session which posterity will ever 
appreciate, and which was passed with entire unanimity. It was 
the just and beautiful tribute paid to Washington, in acknow- 
ledgment of his services during the Revolution, in the form of 
an address from both houses of Assembly, and by the adoption 
of a resolution "requesting the Executive to take measures for 
procuring a statue of General Washington, to be of the finest 
marble and of the best workmanship," with the inscription from 
the pen of Madison upon it, which is now so familiar to us all, 
and which, we fondly hope and believe, will be as familiar to 
posterity for generations and ages to come. Thirteen years 
before, in sadness and in sorrow, Virginia had voted a statue in 
commemoration of the patriotism of a noble 'Briton, who had 
fallen suddenly in our midst while honestly seeking to avert that 
storm which seemed to threaten the Colony with ruin; and now, 
when that storm had spent its force, with joy and gladness again 
she voted a statue in honor of her own son, whose valor and 
wisdom had defended her from peril and had given her a place 
among the nations of the earth. 78 

78 The statue to Lord Botetourt was voted by the Assembly July 20, 
1771, and, when completed, occupied a position in the old Capitol at 
Williamsburg very similar to that now held by the statue of Washing- 
ton between the two houses. On the removal of the seat of govern- 
ment the statue of Botetourt was presented to William and Mary, and 
was then unfortunately placed in the open air, which in our climate will 
soon destroy the finest work of the chisel. Exposure more than 
violence has marred the beauty of this admirable statue. We need 
not add that the address and the statue to Washington passed unani- 
mously, though we wish the ayes had been recorded as a memorial for 
posterity. The committee appointed by the House of Delegates to 
present the address were Joseph Jones (of King George), William 
Grayson, Brent, Henderson, and West. From the geographical caste 
of the committee it is probable that the address was presented to 
Washington at Mount Vernon. We may add that the Executive was 
unrestricted in its discretion as to money in procuring the statue ; and 
a resolution was passed on the 3oth of June instructing the Treasurer 
to pay to the order of the Executive, out of the first money that shall 



94 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

We have alluded already to the report of the committee 
appointed to inquire into the infraction on the part of Great 
Britain of the seventh article of the definitive treaty of peace 
with that Power a report that shows conclusively that General 
Carleton had repeatedly refused to deliver to citizens of Virginia 
and Maryland their slaves and other property under his control 
in the city of New York, though the application was made by 
our citizens in persons. On the 23d of June the report, which 
had been referred to the Committee of the Whole, was debated 
at length, and three resolutions were reported, the first of which 
instructed the delegates of Virginia in Congress to lay before 
that body the subject-matter of the preceding report and resolu- 
tion, and to request from them a remonstrance to the British 
Court, complaining of the aforesaid infraction of the treaty of 
peace, and desiring a proper reparation for the injuries conse- 
quent thereupon; that the said delegates be instructed to inform 
Congress that the General Assembly have no intention to inter- 
fere with the power of making treaties with foreign nations, 
which the Confederation has wisely vested in Congress; but it is 
conceived that a just regard to the national honor and interests 
of the citizens of this Commonwealth obliges the Assembly to 
withhold their co-operation in the complete fulfilment of the said 
treaty until the success of the aforesaid remonstrance is known, 
or Congress shall signify their sentiments touching the premises. 
The second resolution declares that so soon as reparation is 
made for the aforesaid infraction, or Congress shall judge it indis- 
pensably necessary, such acts of the Legislature passed during 
the late war as inhibit the recovery of British debts ought to be 
repealed, and payment made thereof in such time and manner 
as shall consist with the exhausted situation of this Common- 
wealth. And the third resolution declares, in a spirit of peace, 
that the further operation of all and every act or acts of Assem- 
bly concerning escheats and forfeitures from British subjects 
ought to be prevented. The first resolution having been read a 
second time, an amendment was offered to strike out from the 
word "thereupon" to the end of the resolution, and insert "and 



arise under the law "for recruiting this State's quota of men to serve 
in the Continental army," any sum they may direct for the purpose of 
procuring a statue of General Washington. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 95 

that in case of refusal or unreasonable delay of due reparation 
the said delegates be instructed to urge that the sanction of 
Congress be given to the just policy of retaining so much of the 
debts due from the citizens of this Commonwealth to British 
subjects as will fully repair the losses sustained by the infraction 
of the treaty aforesaid." A motion was then made to a/nend 
the amendment by adding to the end thereof: "and in order to 
enable the said delegates to proceed therein with greater preci- 
sion and effect, the Executive be requested to take immediate 
measures for obtaining and transmitting to them all just claims 
of the citizens of this Commonwealth under the treaty aforesaid." 
The question was put on the amendment to the amendment, and 
reasonable as it appears to us, and merely executive as it was, 
it was lost by a majority of twenty-two Madison for the first 
time in his life calling out for the ayes and noes. Those who 
voted to sustain the amendment were Alexander White, Madi- 
son, Marshall, Wilson C. Nicholas, Archibald Stuart, Watkins, 
Thornton, Francis Corbin, Gaskins, Thomas Walke, Allen, and 
Matthews, and those who voted in the negative were Patrick 
Henry, Strother, Joseph Jones, Richardson, Thomas Smith, 
Isaac Coles, and Edmund Ruffin. The rejection of this amend- 
ment, which purported on its face to procure the materials neces- 
sary for conclusive action in the premises, can only be explained 
on the supposition that it came from a suspicious quarter, and 
that the delay consequent upon making inquiries would result 
in the defeat of the scheme for obtaining reparation from the 
British Government. 

The question was then put upon the amendment, and was lost 
by seventeen votes; Alexander White, Madison, Marshall, Nicho- 
las, Strother, Watkins, King, Thornton, Corbin, Gaskins, Ronald, 
Walke, Allen, and Matthews in the affirmative, and Patrick 
Henry, Joseph Jones, Thomas Smith, Coles, Riddick, and Ruffin 
in the negative. The rejection of this amendment by the 
so called opponents of the treaty, who would be anxious to arm 
Congress with full power on the subject, seems to be susceptible 
of but one explanation, and that is, that it proceeded from a 
hostile source, and was designed to convey a menace that would 
disgust some of the friends of the original resolution. 

All the resolutions were then severally agreed to, and a com- 
mittee, consisting of General Matthews, Judge Tazewell, Judge 



96 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Stuart, and Jones (of King George), were appointed to prepare a 
bill in pursuance of the third resolution relating to escheats and 
forfeitures by British subjects. When we regard the wanton 
destruction of our property during the war by the British, 
and by the Tories in their ranks, in violation of all the rules of 
warfare observed among civilized nations, and our utter inability 
to retaliate upon them, the abduction of our slaves in open 
defiance of the articles of capitulation at York, and the positive 
refusal of General Carleton to deliver up to our own citizens 
their slaves and other property in his possession when claimed 
by them in person and with full proofs in the city of New York, 
according to the express provisions of the definitive treaty, and 
the retention of the forts by the British, who might at any 
moment involve Virginia in a bloody and expensive war with all 
the Indians of the Northwest and West, we may safely pro- 
nounce the conduct of our fathers in relation to the treaty to 
have been not only temperate and legitimate, but in the highest 
degree gallant and honorable. 19 

An engrossed bill on the 25th of June came up on its passage, 
directing the. sales of the public lands in and near the city of 
Richmond, and was decided by ayes and noes (recorded in the 
Journal). The question which excited debate had not so much a 
reference to the intrinsic merits of the bill as to the mode and 
time of sale. A rider was offered directing that all lands sold 
for certificates should be sold at private sale and before the ist 
of October next. The object of the rider was to make a good 
bargain for the Commonwealth by enabling her to affix a round 
price for lands when paid in certificates, and if the lands should 
not be sold for certificates, then to obtain ready money at the 
public sale. As certificates abounded, and there was but little 
cash in the treasury, such artifices were not then deemed dis- 



79 The case of Thomas Walke, who was a member of the present 
Assembly, and also of the present Convention, was singularly hard. 
Carleton not only refused to give up his negroes, who were then in the 
city of New York, but sent them off before his face to a British colony, 
not for the purpose of manumitting them, but of selling them for the 
benefit of British officers. Yet Walke might not only have been called 
upon, as probably was to pay a British debt which he had already paid 
in pursuance of law, but to pay it in coin. See the report of the com- 
mittee, House Journal, June 14, 1784. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 97 

honorable, as Patrick Henry, Madison, Grayson, Stuart, Strother, 
Joseph Jones, Richardson, Coles, William White, Watkins, 
Wilson, Ronald, and Matthews voted with the majority; while 
Alexander White, Nicholas, Thomas Smith, Thornton, Temple, 
Corbin, Eyre, Gaskins, Ruffin, and Allen opposed the bill. 

The last topic of the session which required a deliberate 
record of the opinions of the members on the Journal was the 
amendment of the several laws concerning marriage. In the 
Colony no marriage ceremony performed by any other than a 
minister of the Established Church was valid in law; and as the 
dissenters had increased to such an extent at the period of the 
Revolution as to compose, in the opinion of a competent judge, 
a moiety of the population, it was plain that an amendment 
of the law was demanded, not only on the faith of the doctrine 
laid down in the sixteenth article of the Declaration of Rights, 
but on the still stronger ground of public necessity. Of the 
ministers of the Episcopal Church who held the livings at the 
beginning of the war, a large majority had disappeared before 
its close. One of tnem entered the military service and attained 
to the rank of major-general. Another also entered the service 
and became a colonel. 80 Some of the ministers had taken to 
secular pursuits; and there were large districts of territory 
where no minister of the Established Church had ever been 
seen. To limit the performance of the ceremony of marriage 
to such men was virtually to interdict it altogether, and to 
work not only great temporary inconvenience in a new 
country, but the most permanent and most disastrous results to 
society; and hence, even before the modification of the old law, 
some of the patriot chiefs recommended the policy of having 
the ceremony performed by a clergyman of any religious per- 
suasion, and of trusting to the Assembly to make it valid. 81 On 

80 Bishop Meade says that at the beginning of the war the Episcopal 
Church had ninety-one clergymen officiating in one hundred and sixty- 
four churches and chapels; at its close only twenty-eight ministers 
were found laboring in the less desolate parishes of the State. (Old 
Churches, Ministers, &c., Vol. I, 17.) Muhlenburg and Charles Mynn 
Thurston were the military priests. Muhlenburg was a member of the 
December Convention of 1775, and Thurston was a member of all the 
Conventions except that of May, 1776. 

81 Patrick Henry gave this advice. 

7 



VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the 28th of June the engrossed bill to amend the several acts of 
Assembly concerning marriage came up on its passage, and, 
though far from being what it ought to be, made some necessary 
and important alterations of the existing laws. It passed the 
House of Delegates by a vote of fifty to thirty ascertained by 
ayes and noes. White, who stood on the frontier of religious 
freedom, opposed the bill, and, demanding the ayes and noes, 
was sustained by Ronald, who voted for the bill, but who believed 
that it had gone too far on the road of reform. Those who 
voted in the affirmative were W. C. Nicholas, John Trigg, Archi- 
bald Stuart, Strother, Watkins, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), 
Richardson, Thomas Smith, William White, Logan, Benjamin 
Wilson, Ronald, Edmunds (of Sussex), and Briggs, and those 
who voted in the negative were Alexander White, William Gray- 
son, Coles, Corbin, Ruffin, Allen, and Matthews. Two days 
later the House adjourned. 

The second session of the present General Assembly, which 
was held on the igth day of October, 1784, was as remarkable 
for its deliberations on questions connected with religion as on 
those which were purely political. John Tyler, who had been 
nominated by Patrick Henry for the Chair in the spring of 1783, 
and had been elected by a large majority over Richard Henry 
Lee, and had been nominated by Richard Lee, and unanimously 
elected, at the first session of the present Assembly, held over as 
Speaker of the House of Delegates, and John Beckley, who had 
succeeded Edmund Randolph as Clerk of the House, still held 
that position. 82 As was usual, when the same Assembly held 
two sessions in a single year, there was much difficulty in 
obtaining a quorum, and it was not until the 3Oth that the House 
of Delegates could proceed to business. On that day the stand- 
ing committees were appointed; and it is instructive to read the 

81 The majority of Tyler over R. H. Lee was forty-one. The rule of 
the House of Delegates in the sessions of the same Assembly was that 
the Speaker and the Clerk held over, but the term of the other officers 
ended with an adjournment. If the Speaker at the second session was 
not forthcoming, a substitute was elected to serve until he made his 
appearance. Thus, at the October session of 1783, on the declination 
of George Carrington and Charles Carter, of Stafford, Mann Page, of 
Spotsylvania, was elected to fill the chair until the arrival of Tyler, who 
was detained by indisposition. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 99 

names of the eminent men who were placed at their head. Nor- 
vell, the colleague of Robert Carter Nicholas in the Convention 
of 1776, and long known in the councils both of the Colony and 
the Commonwealth, presided in the Committee of Religion; 
Patrick Henry, another member of the Convention of 1776, 
presided in the Committee of Privileges and Elections; Henry 
Tazewell, another member of the Convention of 1776, presided 
in the Committee of Propositions and Grievances ; Madison, 
another member of the same body, presided in the Committee 
of Courts of Justice; Richard Lee, another member of the same 
body, presided in the Committee of Claims; and Matthews, who 
was a gallant officer of the Revolution, who was subsequently 
long Speaker of the House, and whose name, conferred on one 
of our counties, is fresh in our times, presided in the Committee 
of Commerce. 

It would not be uninteresting to record at length the legisla- 
tion of the State concerning the Episcopal Church since the 
Revolution, and to present the exact position which it held in 
respect of other denominations at the beginning of the present 
session; but we must perform this office in a summary manner. 
At the first session of the Assembly in October, 1776, an act 
was passed which declared "that all such laws which rendered 
criminal the maintaining any opinions on matters of religion, 
forbearing to repair to church, or the exercising any mode of 
worship whatsoever, or which prescribes punishments for the 
same, shall henceforth be of no force or validity in this Com- 
monwealth," and "that all dissenters, of whatever denomina- 
tion, from the said Church shall be totally free from all levies, 
taxes, and impositions whatever toward supporting and main- 
taining the said Church, as it now is or may hereafter be estab- 
lished, or its ministers." The act further provides that the ves- 
tries of the different parishes shall levy and assess upon the titha- 
ables, including dissenters, as before, all the salaries and arrearages 
due the ministers up to the ist of the ensuing January. These 
assessments are also directed where the vestries, counting upon 
them, have made engagements, and former provisions for the 
poor are directed to be continued, conformist and dissenting 
tithables contributing. The fourth section reserves to the Epis- 
copal Church her glebe lands held at the time, her churches and 
chapels built or then contracted for, and all books, ornaments, 



100 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

and decorations used in worship; also all arrearages of money 
or tobacco then due, and the perpetual benefit and enjoyment 
of all private donations. The act closes with directions for 
taking a list of tithables, and enacts that the old law of Twenty- 
second of George the Second, for the payment and support of 
the clergy, should be "suspended" until the termination of the 
next General Assembly. That body continued, by successive 
acts, to supend the old law until the session commencing Octo- 
ber, 1779, when it repealed it entirely, declaring that this and 
"all and every act or acts providing salaries for the ministers, 
and authorizing vestries to levy the same, shall be and the same 
are hereby repealed." The former provisions, however, are 
made for arrearages of salary, the performance of engagements, 
and the support of the poor. And thus the case mainly stood 
until the first session of ijS^. 83 

On the 25th of June, of the year last mentioned, the House 
of Delegates, just before its adjournment, postponed the con- 
sideration of a bill to incorporate the Episcopal Church until 
the second Monday of November following, when the House 
would again resolve itself into committee on the subject. This 
interval afforded an opportunity to those who were opposed to the 
measure of presenting their views to the House. Accordingly 
several petitions were offered on the subject of a connection ot" 
the Church with the State, and of grievances which then existed 
on the score of religion. On the nth of November a memorial 
from sundry Baptist associations held at Dover was presented, 
complaining of several acts in force which they believed to be 
repugnant to religious liberty, especially the marriage and vestry 
act. The following day a memorial from the Presbyterian 
Church was presented, setting forth that they felt much uneasi- 
ness at the continuance of their grievances, which they com- 
plained of in a memorial presented at the last session of Assem- 
bly, increased by a prospect of addition to them by certain 
exceptionable measures said to be proposed to the Legislature; 

83 A succinct and accurate abstract of the laws concerning the Church 
to this date, by John Esten Cooke, Esq., may be seen in Bishop 
Meade's Old Churches, &c., Vol. II, 437, and in Footers Sketches 
of Virginia (first series), 319, et seq. Those who wish to consult the 
acts in full will refer to Hening 's Statutes at Large. The parliamen- 
tary record of the acts will be found in the Journals. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 101 

that they disapproved of all acts incorporating the clergy of any 
society independent of their own, or any interference of the 
Legislature in the spiritual concerns of religion, and that a 
general assessment for its support ought, they think, to be 
extended to those who profess the public worship of the Deity 
and are comprised within the Declaration of Rights. On the 
i6th the memorial of the Presbyterians, presented at the last 
session, was referred to the Committee of the Whole. 8 * On the 
2Oth the petition of certain citizens of Lunenburg, Mecklen- 
burg, and Amelia was presented, praying that a general assess- 
ment for the support of religion be laid, and that an act should 
pass incorporating the Episcopal Church. On the ist of Decem- 
ber a petition was presented of certain citizens of Rockbridge 
expressive of their hostility to assessments for the support of 
religion, and declaring that such legislation was impolitic, 
unequal, and beyond the rightful sphere of the Assembly, and 
that religion ought to be left to its own superior and successful 
influence over the minds of men. These were the only expres- 
sions of the public will which were recorded on the Journal of 
the House; but it is probable that, as the subject had long 
engaged the attention of the people, especially during the past 
summer, each member considered himself fully instructed upon 
it without the formality of a petition. 

On the nth of November the House resolved itself into com- 
mittee to take the whole subject into consideration, and General 
Matthews reported, as the opinion of the committee, that the 
people of this Commonwealth, according to their respective 
abilities, ought to pay a moderate tax or contribution annually 
for the support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian 
Church, denomination, or connection of Christians, or of some 
form of Christian worship. The question upon agreeing with 
the report of the committee was then taken, and it was agreed 
with by a vote of forty-seven to thirty-two. As usual, we 
record the names and votes of the members who were also mem- 
bers of the present Convention: In the affirmative were Patrick 
Henry, Jones (of Dinwiddie), King, Thomas Smith, Coles, 

84 This and the other memorials of the Presbytery of Hanover, 
which are written with great ability, may be found in Foote, Vol. I, 
319, et seq. 



102 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Thornton, William White, Corbin, Wills Riddick, Eyre, Gas- 
kins, Thomas Walke, Allen, and Edmunds (of Sussex), and in 
the negative were James Madison, Wilson C. Nicholas, Zacha- 
riah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, Strother, Richardson, Clen- 
denin, Humphreys, and Matthews. 85 A committee was ordered 
to prepare and bring in a bill in pursuance of the resolution, and 
Patrick Henry, Corbin, Jones (of King George), Coles, Norvelli 
Wray, Jones (of Dinwiddie), Carter H. Harrison, Henry Taze- 
well, and Prentis were placed upon it. 

It has happened unfortunately for Virginia that, while her 
religious history has been recorded in minute detail by skilful 
and zealous sectarians, her political history, from the Declaration 
of Independence to the present day, has remained wholly uncer- 
tain. 86 Hence, her policy in religious matters at an important 
epoch has been imperfectly understood ; and the patriotic and 
enlightened men who controlled her early councils have been 
blamed by one class of sectarians for not having gone far enough 
in reforming our religious institutions, and by another class as 
having gone too far. And it is mainly in a political aspect that 
all her enactments on the subject of religion ought to be viewed. 
Of these perplexing religious questions the observance of a 
plain maxim will lead us safely through the maze. On the sub- 
ject of religion, as on every other, the will of the constituent is 
the rule of the representative. What was the will of the people 

85 Among the ayes were Henry Tazewell, Edmunds (of Brunswick), 
Nicholas Cabell, Carter H. Harrison, Edward Carrington, Jones (of 
King George), Richard Lee, and Joseph Prentis, and among the noes 
were Spencer Roane, Jacob Morton, John Breckenridge, William Rus- 
sell, and Richard Bland Lee. 

^Burk and his successors stop at the siege of York, as does Charles 
Campbell. Howison alone embraces the period of which I am now 
writing, and he candidly tells us that a very general outline only is 
within the scope of his work. His authorities for this date are Footers 
Sketches, The Literary and Evangelical Magazine of the Late Dr. 
John H. Rice, and VVirt's Life of Henry all excellent in their proper 
place ; but it seems to me that the true history of our religious measures 
cannot be fully known without a perpetual reference to the Journals. 
I do not pretend to supply the omissions of preceding writers farther 
than is necessary to put the conduct of the members of the Assembly 
of 1784, who were also members of the present Convention, in its 
proper light. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 103 

on the subject of assessments? The proposition to lay an 
assessment had been for several years before them, and it was 
well known that the question would probably be decided by the 
present Assembly. Memorials expressive of that will were laid 
before the House of Delegates. Of all these there were two 
only that opposed the policy of assessments the memorial of 
certain citizens of Rockbridge, which only in part related to the 
subject of religion, 87 and the memorial from the Baptist asso- 
ciations at Dover. 

Even the Baptist memorial did not expressly object to an 
assessment, but laid the burden of its prayer on the marriage 
and vestry acts; 88 while the citizens of Lunenburg, Mecklen- 
burg, and Amelia, the Episcopal, the Methodist Episcopal, and 
the Presbyterian Churches favored the measure. 89 There was 
then a preponderating majority of the people, as well as of the 
intelligence and wealth of the State, inclined to such a policy. 
The proposed scheme was also in entire unison with the six- 
teenth section of the Declaration of Rights, as that section 
simply declares that all men are equally entitled to the free 
exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; and 
the bill enacted, at a time when there was neither a Jew nor an 
infidel in the State, that each individual called upon to pay the 
assessment might, if he pleased, apply it to a Christian Church, 
or to the public schools in his own county. The question, then, 
arises whether the statesmen of 1784 manifested any lack of 
liberality or good sense in allowing the people, at their own 



87 House Journal, December i, 1784. The other topic of the petition 
was the calling of a convention. 

88 House Journal, November n, 1784. 

89 The Presbyterian memorial did not object to the principle of an 
assessment, but prayed that it should be extended to the Jew and the 
Mohammedan as well as the Christian, or (in its own words) on the 
most liberal plan. See the memorial at length in Footers Sketches, 
Vol. I, 337. In the following year a very different view was taken in 
the memorial of the Presbytery of Hanover, which was drawn with 
extraordinary ability by Graham, who doubtless drafted the petition 
of the Rockbridge people, presented at the present session of the 
Assembly. 



104 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

solicitation, to tax themselves for the purpose of religious or 
general instruction, as they might at the time of giving in their 
lists deem proper. 

But it is a great mistake to suppose that the assessment was a 
religious question at all. It was strictly meant as a matter of 
police. It had no religious obligation whatever. So far as it 
may be supposed to have any religious bearing, it was merely 
permissive. It instructed the tax-gatherer to receive a certain 
sum of money from a given individual and pay it to any 
religious society that individual might choose to name, or to 
appropriate it to the education fund of his county. It was 
substantially a tax in favor of education, with an alternative that 
allowed a different application of the money if the tax payer so 
pleased. It was this option alone which imparted to the measure 
a religious aspect, and it was in the power of the tax-payer to 
deprive it of that aspect at his own will and pleasure. It had no 
more connection with Church and State than the law has which 
punishes the infraction of Sunday, which prevents a congrega- 
tion from being disturbed in time of public worship, or which 
hangs a man who slays a parson. 

There was yet another view of this question that presented 
itself most favorably to the far-seeing friends of religious free- 
dom, which has been wholly overlooked by those who have con- 
demned assessments with such extreme severity. By requiring 
every person to pay a certain sum towards the religious or 
literary instruction of his neighbors, the act might indirectly 
tend, so far as it exerted any religious influence at all, to 
strengthen, and even to multiply, the various sects in the com- 
munity, and thus, by dividing the people into schisms, establish 
a more powerful barrier than law against the ascendancy of any 
one denomination. Even at this day it is the opinion of our 
most philosophic statesmen that the greatest obstacle to the 
establishment of a single church in the State is to be found, not 
so much in positive law constitutional or statute as in the 
infinite multiplicity of sects. Should a sect include a majority 
of the people, it may repeal the law and even amend the Consti- 
tution; and it is more probable that such a sect might obtain a 
share in the government than that all the various sects should 
unite in stripping themselves of their equal privileges and posi- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 105 

tion in the eye of the law and subject themselves to the authori- 
tative and arbitrary rule of a rival denomination. 90 

On the 1 7th of November the House of Delegates resolved 
itself into committee on the subject of religion, and when the 
committee rose General Matthews reported two resolutions, one 
of which declared that so much of the memorial of the Hanover 
Presbytery and of the Baptist associations as prays that the 
laws regulating the celebration of marriages and relative to the 
construction of vestries was reasonable; and the second, that 
acts ought to pass for the incorporation of all religious societies 
which may apply for the same. The first resolution, having 
been read a second time, was agreed to by the House without a 
division. On the second resolution there was a difference of 
opinion, and a vote was taken upon it by ayes and noes, which 
resulted in its passage by the large majority of thirty-nine. 
Alexander White demanded that the names of the members be 
recorded in the Journal, and was seconded by Carter Henry 
Harrison. Those who voted in the affirmative were Patrick 
Henry, Archibald Stuart, Watkins, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), 
King, Richardson, Thomas Smith, Coles, Humphreys, Temple, 
Wills Riddick, Corbin, Littleton Eyre, Gaskins, Ruffin, Allen, 
Briggs, and Matthews, 91 and those who voted in the negative 

90 1 have no means at hand of ascertaining the number of the persons 
in full communion with the various sects in Virginia, but my general 
recollection of the numbers would give to the Baptist Church (including 
the Campbellite and other branches) 100,000; the Methodist Episcopal 
and the Methodist Protestant, together, 100,000 ; the Presbyterian (old 
and new school), about 40,000; the Protestant Episcopal, about 8,000; 
the Catholics and Jews, united, not more than 5,000. It is thus evident 
that if the Methodists and Baptists were to sink their distinctive tenets, 
and unite on a common platform as a single sect, they could call a con- 
vention and create a church establishment whenever they pleased. I 
am aware that the Baptist and Methodist Churches include a greater 
proportion of our slaves than the Presbyterian and the Episcopal, but 
any reasonable deduction on this account would still make them all- 
powerful as a united body. Hence, our protection from a religious 
establishment is founded more in the multiplicity of sects than in the 
law or the Constitution. 

91 Among those not members of the present Convention who voted 
in the affirmative were Spencer Roane, Cropper, N. Cabell, Edmunds 
(of Brunswick), VVray, Jones (of King George), Richard Bland Lee, 



106 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

were James Madison, Alexander White, Zachariah Johnston, 
W. C. Nicholas, Trigg, Strother, and Clendenin. Committees 
were appointed to prepare and report bills for each of the two 
resolutions; those composing the committee to report a billl 
incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church were Carter 
Henry Harrison, Patrick Henry, Thomas Smith, William An- 
derson, and Henry Tazewell. On the nth of December Mr. 
Harrison reported the bill to incorporate the Episcopal Church, 
which was read a first time and ordered to be read a second 
time. It was before the Committee of the Whole on the i8th 
and the 2Oth, and on the 22d it passed the House by a vote of 
forty-seven to thirty eight ascertained by ayes and noes; James 
Madison, 92 John Marshall, William Grayson, Benjamin Harrison 
(of Berkeley), Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Miles King, Joseph 
Jones (of King George), Thornton, Corbin, Willis Riddick, 
Eyre, Ronald, Ruffin, Edmunds (of Sussex), and Briggs voting 
in the affirmative, and W. C. Nicholas, Zachariah Johnston, 
Archibald Stuart, John Trigg, Strother, Clendenin, Humphreys, 
and Isaac Vanmeter in the negative. 93 

The incorporation of the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church was an important incident in the religious controversy 
which began with the first Assembly in October, 1776, and was 
terminated, in its legislative aspect, by the passage of the act of 
1802, which ordered a general sale of the glebe lands. It tended 
to infuse a bitterness in the subsequent discussions not before 
known, and was upheld by one party with all its zeal, and 

and Richard Lee, and in the negative were John Taylor (of Caroline), 
Nathaniel Wilkerson, John Breckenridge, and William Russell. Many 
members were absent. 

"Madison had recently voted against the resolution which offered 
the privileges of incorporation to all sects. The reason of his present 
vote may be inferred presently. 

93 Among those not members of the present Convention who voted 
for the bill were Cropper, N. Cabell, Edward Carrington, C. H. Harri- 
son, Richard Lee, and Henry Tazewell, and those who voted against it 
were Spencer Roane, John Nicholas, Jacob Morton, Henderson, R. B. 
Lee, and Michael Bowyer. John Taylor (of Caroline) was absent. 
Alexander White had asked and obtained leave of absence on the 2oth 
of November, but was present on the 29th, and voted on that day, as 
will be seen hereafter. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 107 

denounced by all not included in its scope with unusual severity. 
At this day we may safely regard the question on its own merits, 
and form a correct opinion of the conduct of our fathers on a 
trying occasion. 

The first question that arises is, whether any act of incorpora- 
tion ought to be passed by the General Assembly; the second, 
whether, if an act of incorporation ought to pass, ought an act 
incorporating a religions society receive the sanction of that 
body ; and the third, whether the special provisions of the act in 
question were just and proper. There have always been a few 
of our earlier, as well as later, politicians who were opposed to 
the granting of acts of incorporation for any purpose whatever. 
As late as the Convention of 1829 Mr. Giles presented a propo- 
sition on the subject, and intended to have put forth all his 
strength in demonstrating their dangerous effects; 9 * but the 
measure was not sanctioned by that body. In the opinion of 
such politicians no association of citizens for any public purpose 
should be allowed to sue or be sued, or to have a common seal, 
but must be compelled to conduct their affairs through the cum- 
brous and perilous machinery of trustees. But no such doc- 
trine was advanced in any petition from the people, or was coun- 
tenanced by the Assembly. On the contrary, acts of incorpora- 
tion were as freely sought and as freely granted for any useful 
enterprise of a public nature, conducted by the joint capital of 
several individuals, then as now. Perhaps, from obvious reasons, 
grants of exclusive privileges were then made more readily than 
at present. During the present session the exclusive privilege 
of running stage-coaches between Williamsburg and Hampton 
had been granted to John Hoomes for a term of years, and the 
exclusive right of constructing and managing certain boats for 
the term of ten years was conferred upon James Rumsey. 95 So 

94 He was prevented by indisposition from a constant attendance 
during the session, and happened to be absent when his proposition 
was called up and rejected. But the body was so much opposed to the 
proposition that it rather ungraciously refused to reconsider their vote 
on the subject with a view of allowing Mr. Giles to present his views 
at length. 

95 House Journal, November 15, 1784. The State, however, could at 
any time take possession of his boats and determine the charter by 
paying him ten thousand pounds, Virginia currency, in gold or silver. 



108 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

far, then, as the opinions of the people and of the Assembly were 
concerned, there was no serious ground for hostility to the bill 
arising from theoretical views of the nature and effect of incor- 
porations. 

The second question is, whether there was anything in the 
character of religious associations which should exclude them 
from the privileges which were freely accorded to all others. 
Without entering into the minute discussion of the question 
whether the proprietors of a church should not have the privi- 
lege of holding their property in the same manner in which a 
college building or a manufacturing mill is held, and " be relieved 
from the precarious fidelity of trustees," 93 it is sufficient to say 
that, although there had been a period of several months 
allowed by the postponement of the bill for the ascertainment of 
public opinion on the subject, none of the memorials or petitions 
from societies or individuals recorded in the Journals objected to- 
the expediency of incorporating religious associations. 

It is true that the Presbytery of Hanover of October, 1784, 
objected to the incorporation of the clergy as a class distinct 
from the people; but it is obvious that this objection extended 
to the form of incorporation only, and not to the expediency of 
incorporating the Church as an association. And this view is 
sustained by the explicit declaration of the same Presbytery, in 
its memorial of the igth of May, 1785 drawn by the skilful 
and unconquerable Graham after the passage of the Episcopal 
Church bill that " we (the Presbytery of Hanover) do not desire 
to oppose the incorporation of that Church for the better man- 
agement of its temporalities."^ There was then not a single 
memorial before the Assembly, which specifically objected to the< 
^corporation of a religious society, not excepting the Rock- 
bridge petition, which objected to assessments only, 98 and which, 

96 1 quote these words from the memorial of the Presbytery of Han- 
over of May 19, 1784, in Foole, Vol. I, 334. 

97 Foote, Vol. I, 343. The italics are in the printed memorial. 

98 As the Rockbridge petition was evidently drawn by the same hand 
that drafted the Hanover memorial of 1785, which favored acts of 
incorporation, had it spoken at all. it would have been in favor of 
incorporating religious associations. It may be observed that the 
objection of Hanover Presbytery in their memorial of October, 1784^ 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 109 

had it been opposed to incorporations, would have been out- 
weighed by the petition from Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and 
Amelia, either of which counties equalled Rockbridge in intelli- 
gence, and exceeded it in population and resources. When we 
regard the time that elapsed between the committal of the Epis- 
copal Church bill on the 25th of June, and its third reading on 
the 22d of December following, the unparalleled excitement pro- 
duced by the religious disputes in the interval, and the absence 
of all objections from the people to the policy of incorporating 
religious associations, it is hard to see on what ground the 
Assembly could refuse to grant a mere act of incorporation, 
which was freely offered to all religious sects by a formal resolu- 
tion, to any one religious body which might apply for the same. 
"So far, then, the conduct of the Assembly was not only free 
from serious objection, but was in the highest degree liberal, and 
in perfect consonance with the express and implied wishes of 
the people. 

The third, and most popular, objection to the bill was the 
nature of its provisions. The bill declared that every minister 
of the Protestant Episcopal Church, now holding a parish in 
this Commonwealth, either by appointment from the vestry or 
induction from a governor, and all the vestrymen in the differ- 
ent parishes now instituted, or which may hereafter be instituted, 
within this Commonwealth that is to say, the minister and 
vestry of each parish, respectively, or, in case of a vacancy, the 
vestry of each parish, and their successors forever are hereby 
made a body corporate and politic, by the name of " The 
Minister and Vestry of the Protestant Episcopal Church," in 
the parish in which they respectively reside. Each vestry could 
hold - property not exceeding in income eight hundred pounds 
per annum, could sue and be sued, and perform all necessary 
acts of a vestry or corporation, and hold the glebe lands and the 
churches. A Convention of the Church was to be called, and 
the government of the Church to be vested in the Convention, 
both as to its forms and doctrines. Such were the principal 
enactments of the bill; and so far as the forms are concerned, as 

against the bill as incorporating the clergy as a class, was removed by 
including the vestry, as well as the minister, in the name of the corpo- 
ration. 



110 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the same privilege of prescribing forms for themselves was con- 
ceded to all churches which would apply for a charter, there was 
no favoritism in the provisions. But the Episcopal Church was 
entitled by this bill to hold all the churches and glebes which it 
was entitled to hold under the act of the October session of 
1776. And the question arises here whether the churches and 
glebes held by the Episcopal Church belonged to that Church, 
as such, or to the people. 

Looking at this question with the convictions and feelings of 
this day, and regarding it as an original question presenting 
itself for the first time, few would hesitate to say that the people 
who paid for the building of the churches, and for the purchase 
of the glebes, were their rightful proprietors. The Episcopal 
Church was originally chosen as an efficient instrumentality in 
conveying moral and religious instruction to the people, and was 
as essentially an integral part of the Government as a judiciary 
constructed for the dispensation of justice, or a treasury depart- 
ment for the receipt and disbursement of the public revenue; 
and it was fair to suppose that the clergy and vestry had no 
more right to the houses in which they preached and wor- 
shipped than a judge possesses to the hall in which he performs 
his duty, or the treasurer to the room in the capitol in which he 
keeps his office. The right of property in the churches and 
glebes should seem to be in the Commonwealth, and it should 
appear that to confer upon a single sect the property belonging 
to all the people would be manifestly unwise and unjust, and, as 
the Assembly did not propose to confer an equal amount of 
property upon all the sects, it would be in violation of the fourth 
article of the Declaration of Rights, which enacts that no man, 
or set of men, are entitled to exclusive privileges from the com- 
munity. Such is the view which persons of the present day 
are apt to take of the subject when presented as an original 
question. 

But for more than eight years it had ceased to be an original 
question. There cannot be a greater mistake than that into 
which some theoretical writers have fallen, which supposes that 
when our fathers sundered the tie that bound the Colony to the 
King we were resolved into a state of nature. The only change 
effected in our condition by the deposition of the King was a 
change of a foreign executive for one of our own making. The 



ALEXANDER WHITE. Ill 

body of our jurisprudence remained just as it had been before. 
Property in possession of its lawful owners was deemed as sacred 
as it ever was, and was so declared to be in the Declaration of 
Rights, and WAS held by the same tenures. If any property 
may appear to have been invaded by the Declaration of Rights 
it was property in slaves; yet, though there were few or no 
slaves at that time in that vast territory beyond the Blue Ridge, 
none deemed its tenure less secure after the adoption of the 
Declaration of Rights than before. All the provisions of that 
artificial polity, the growth of a thousand years, and the 
emblem of a high civilization, which were binding before the 
Declaration of Rights was adopted, were equally sacred after its 
adoption. Hence, when, after the Declaration of Independence, 
the rights of individuals or associations were concerned, the 
question was not what the law of nature said upon the subject, 
but what were the laws of the land. 

There were grave objections to the division of the church 
property at this time (1784) in the mode just alluded to, which 
had great weight with the eminent jurists who were to vote upon 
the bill. 99 Indeed, the question of the disposition of the churches 
and glebes was far from being an original question. Setting 
aside all right and title held by the Episcopal Church to its 
houses and lands prior to 1776, the members of the House 
knew that the Convention of that year which framed the Con- 
stitution not only did not repeal the corporate character of the 
Church, but sought to make it more efficient by amending its 
liturgy. At the close of the session of the Convention that 
declared independence, the Episcopal Church was as much an 
establishment as she had been from the passage of the act of the 



*The House of Delegates then held as able men as ever appeared 
in our councils. Among them were James Madison, who was always 
placed at the head of the Committee on the Judiciary ; Henry Taze- 
well, who was soon after the present date elected a judge of the 
General Court and then a judge of the Court of Appeals ; John Mar- 
shall, afterwards Chief Justice of the United States ; William Grayson, 
one of the ablest lawyers as well as statesmen of his age; Jones of 
King George, and Jones of Dinwiddie, and other distinguished men, 
who voted for the bill ; while the only able lawyer who opposed it was 
Spencer Roane, then a young man, and Archibald Stuart, then also 
very young. John Taylor (of Caroline) was absent. 



112 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

twenty-second year of George the Second. Great changes had 
been made in her authority and revenues at the October session 
of 1776; but, shorn as she was, she was still an establishment; 
and the act of that session distinctly reserved to her her churches 
and her glebes. How far it was just and proper to confirm the 
Church in her title to property under existing laws we shall not 
discuss here; but it was a grave question with eminent lawyers 
whether the act of 1776 did not settle the question of property 
forever. Supposing the Church had not a perfect title, the 
right of the Assembly to make donations was unrestricted by 
the Constitution ; and, although a donation or confirmation of 
title may appear to trench upon the Declaration of Rights, that 
instrument was then believed by prominent members of the 
Convention that framed it to be no part of the Constitution; nor 
had any decision settling its relation to the Constitution then 
been made. 100 

In the eye of the law the Assembly was competent to bestow 
public property upon literary or religious associations according 
to its discretion ; and the act of 1776 confirming the right of the 
Church to the property held in possession, was, in its nature 
and extent, insignificant when compared with the act of the 
same session converting all the lands in the Commonwealth held 
by tenants in tail into fee simple. The members of the Assem- 
bly well knew that if they made any new enactment touching 
the property of the Church, the subject would immediately be 
brought before the courts, and what would be the decision of the 
court of the last resort was hardly a matter of doubt. Indeed, 
nine years later, when the Assembly had passed the act of 1802 
ordering the glebes to be sold, that court would, but for the sud- 
den death of its chief, have pronounced that act unconstitutional, 
and restored the glebes to the Episcopal Church. 101 With these 
facts before them, the members of the House, in a spirit of pru- 
dence and peace, made no new provision in the present bill 

100 Edmund Randolph denied its authority as a part of the Constitu- 
tion as late as the year 1788, and that denial was made in the presence 
of the present Convention. 

101 The Court of Appeals had heard the argument in the case, and 
Pendleton had prepared an opinion in favor of the Church, which he 
was to have delivered the day on which he died. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 113 

respecting the property of the Church, but simply remitted it to 
the rights and titles which it enjoyed under the act of 1776 an 
act made by the identical men who composed the Convention of 
1776, and were sitting as the House of Delegates under the 
Constitution which they had formed. That act was either con- 
stitutional, or it was not. If it was constitutional, then the 
present bill did not confer any right or title to property which 
the Church did not already possess under the sanction of law; 
and if it was unconstitutional, then it was the province of the 
judiciary to decide the question, and the provisions of the present 
bill in respect to property were of no avail. It will thus appear, 
from a full view of the case, that the majority which carried the 
bill incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church acted with 
that wise foresight that became a deliberate body, and in the full 
spirit of religious freedom. 

In a historical as well as in a moral view, it is much to be 
regretted that the religious controversy, which was soon to wage 
more fiercely than ever, had not ended in our legislative halls 
with the passage of this bill, or if it was destined to continue, 
had not been transferred to the cooler arena of the courts. 
Before the close of the session religious freedom was established 
as substantially as it was in the following year ; and the speedy 
and successful adjustment of this vexed question might have 
saved from decay many of those venerable structures in which 
our fathers worshipped, and which ultimately became the prey 
of the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and the still 
more brutal spoliation of man; and might have rescued from 
desecration those noble monuments which the piety of the 
people had reared to protect and honor the abodes of the dead. 
It might have prevented the almost entire extinction of an illus- 
trious branch of the Church of Christ, which had achieved great 
and glorious things in the common cause, and the literature of 
which is still the pride of the Anglo-Saxon race ; 1M and it might 

1M The memorial of the Presbytery of Hanover estimated the value 
of church property at "several hundred thousand pounds"; but the 
sales contributed the merest pittance to the public funds. The down- 
fall of the Episcopal Church was owing partly to the prejudice arising 
from its former connection with the British Crown, and the hostility 
which an establishment, as such, must necessarily excite in any country 
in proportion that it is free; partly from the large emigration from 



114 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

have filled the pulpit with learned and faithful ministers through- 
out a populous region of our country at a time when none other 
existed to take their places, and might thus in some measure 
have tended to avert that torrent of infidelity which was soon to 
sweep over fhe land and scatter destruction in its train. 

We now advert to the action of the committee appointed to 
bring in a bill providing for an assessment in pursuance of the 
resolution adopted by the House on the nth of November. 
Patrick Henry had been placed at its head, but he had in the 
mean time been elected Governor, and Francis Corbin, on the 
2d of December, reported a bill "establishing a provision 
for teachers of the Christian religion," which was immediately 
read a first time and ordered to be read a second time. On 
Friday, the 3d, it was read a second time and referred to a com- 
mittee of the whole House for the following Thursday. Finally, 
on the 24th the engrossed bill came up on its passage, and a 
motion was made that its further consideration be postponed 
until the fourth Thursday in November next; James Madison, 
Wilson C. Nicholas, Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, John 

Eastern Virginia to the upper and western counties and to Kentucky, 
but mainly from the irreligious demeanor of its clergy, both before and 
after the Revolution. There was no hostility to the Episcopal Church 
as a Church of Christ. If any man felt that hostility, Samuel Davies 
might have been expected to feel it. That illustrious man was the 
father of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia, and was as fearless in 
the expression of his opinions as he was able in defending them. 
But he candidly declares that, " had the doctrines of the Gospel been 
solemnly and faithfully preached, I am persuaded that there would 
have been few dissenters in these parts of Virginia, for their first objec- 
tions were not against the rites and ceremonies of that Church, much 
less against her excellent articles, but against the general strain of the 
doctrines delivered from the pulpit; so that at first they were not 
properly dissenters from the original Constitution of the Church of 
England, but the most strict adherents to it, and only dissented from 
those who had forsaken it." One thing our fathers owed to the old 
clergy of the Church, who, though they were sometimes tempted to 
hunt foxes, fight duels, and to drink hard, were capital scholars, and 
and taught Latin and Greek and mathematics quite as thoroughly as 
they have been taught since. It is to this source mainly that we are 
indebted for that admirable literary preparation which made the 
State papers of our public men worthy of the cause in which they were 
engaged. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 115 

Trigg, Strother, Clendenin, Humphreys, Isaac Vanmeter, 
Ronald, Edmunds (of Sussex), Briggs, and Matthews voting in 
the affirmative, and John Marshall, Benjamin Harrison (of 
Berkeley), Watkins, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Miles King, 
Thomas Smith, Thornton, Corbin, Wills Riddick, Littleton 
Eyre, Edmund Ruffin, Thomas Walke, and John Allen voting 
in the negative. The motion prevailed by a vote of forty-five 
to thirty -eight. 103 

The postponement was expressly designed to submit the 
question of assessment to the people. Accordingly, the House 
ordered " that the bill with the ayes and noes on the question of 
postponement be published in handbills, and twelve copies 
thereof to be delivered to each member of the General Assem- 
bly, to be distributed in their respective counties; and the peo- 
ple thereof be requested to signify their opinion respecting the 
adoption of such a bill to the next session of Assembly." We 
have already shown that the question of assessments had no con- 
nection with the notion of an establishment, but arose from a 
conviction that some certain means of support might be afforded 
to religious teachers of all sects, who might thus be induced to 
settle in the Commonwealth. The preamble of the bill declares 
"that the general diffusion of Christian knowledge hath a 
natural tendency to correct the morals of men, restrain their 
vices, and preserve the peace of society, which cannot be effected 
without a competent provision for learned teachers who may be 
thereby enabled to devote their time and attention to the duty of 
instructing such citizens as from their circumstances and want of 
education cannot otherwise attain such knowledge; and it is 
judged that such provision may be made by the Legislature with- 
out counteracting the liberal principle heretofore adopted and 
intended to be preserved, by abolishing all distinctions of pre- 
eminence amongst the different societies or communities of 

103 Among those not members of the present Convention who voted 
for the postponement were Spencer Roane, Nicholas Cabell, Jacob 
Morton, M. Bowyer, Moses Hunter, John Nicholas, John Breckenridge, 
Charles Porter, John Bowyer, Gawin Hamilton, Isaac Zane, John 
Hopkins, Mann Page, and William Brent, and against it were Henry 
Tazewell, Carter H. Harrison, Philip Barbour, Joseph Jones (of King 
George), R. B. Lee, Richard Lee, and Nathaniel Nelson. The vote 
shows a very thin House. 



116 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Christians." The obvious tendency of the bill was to create 
and sustain a variety of sects, and thus most effectually provide 
against the predominance of any one of them in particular. 
Nor should we overlook, in forming an opinion of the policy of 
the bill, the utter destitution of religious services at that day 
throughout entire districts of country. The old system of 
church supply had gone down, and the new had not taken its 
place. A single fact will show the absence of intelligent preach- 
ing in some populous parts of the State. More than four years 
later two young Presbyterian missionaries from the Valley visited 
Petersburg, and there preached the first sermon ever delivered 
by a clergyman of their sect in that town. 10 * 

The only other topic connected with the clergy that was acted 
upon during the present session was the amendment of the law 
passed at the preceding sessions concerning marriages. It was 
now enacted " that it shall and may be lawful for any ordained 
minister of the Gospel, in regular communion with any society 
of Christians, and every such minister is hereby authorized, to 
celebrate the rites of matrimony according to the forms of the 
church to which he belongs," and thus placed the law of the 
land on that just and equal footing which it now holds. 

Among the political questions of the session was one which 
has, in some of its forms, maintained an interest to the present 
time, and which related to the extradition of fugitives from 
justice. The position of the United States between the terri- 
tories of Great Britain on the north and northwest, and those of 
Spain on the west and south, rendered it important that a good 
understanding should exist respecting the delivery of persons 
who, having committed a crime within the dominions of one of 
the Powers, might flee into those of another. On the 26th 
of November John Breckenridge, from the Committee of the 
Whole, reported certain amendments made therein to a bill "for 

104 For the religious condition of the people of that day, even in the 
thickly-settled parts of the country, consult the narrative of the two 
missionaries mentioned above in the Life of Dr. A. Alexander of 
Princeton^ by his son. Alexander was one of the young preachers, 
and the other was Benjamin Porter Grigsby, who afterwards became 
the pastor of the first Presbyterian church ever gathered in Norfolk, 
who died in the prime of manhood from yellow-fever, and whose 
remains now repose in the yard of Trinity church, Portsmouth. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 117 

punishing certain offences injurious to the tranquility of this 
Commonwealth"; and a motion was made to strike out the first 
amendment and insert in its place an amendment which declared 
the desire of Virginia, in all cases, to manifest her reverence for 
the laws of nations, to cultivate amity and peace between the 
United States and foreign Powers, and to support the dignity 
and energy of the Federal Constitution; and enacted "that if 
any citizen of Virginia should go beyond the limits of the 
United States within the acknowledged jurisdiction of any civil- 
ized nation, and should within the same commit any crime for 
which, in the judgment of the United States, in Congress assem- 
bled, the law of nations, or any treaty between the United States 
and a foreign nation, requires him to be surrendered to the 
offended nation, and shall thereafter flee within the limits of this 
Commonwealth, and the sovereign of the offended nation shall 
exhibit to the United States, in Congress assembled, due and 
satisfactory evidence of the same, with a demand for the offender, 
and the United States, in Congress assembled, shall thereupon 
notify each demand to the Executive of this State, and call for 
the surrender of such offender, the Governor, with the advice 
of the Council of State, is hereby authorized to cause him to be 
apprehended, and conveyed and delivered to such person or 
persons as the United States, in Congress assembled, may pre- 
scribe." This limited law of extradition, which applied to our 
own citizens, but not to those of any other nation, was discussed 
at great length. Suspicions of England were rife among our 
wisest statesmen; and it was also feared by some that Spain 
might seek to entrap individuals living on our frontiers, and by 
the instrumentality of such a provision get them into her power. 
The motion prevailed by a majority of four votes only; James 
Madison, John Marshall, Johnston, Archibald Stuart, Watkins, 
Isaac Coles, Humphreys, Littleton Eyre, Ruffin, Thomas Walke, 
and Matthews voting in the affirmative, and John Tyler (Speaker), 
Alexander White, Wilson C. Nicholas, John Trigg, Strother, 
Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Thomas Smith, Clendenin, Isaac 
Vanmeter, Cor bin, Gaskins, Ronald, and Briggs in the nega- 
tive. 105 Most of the votes on such questions had a geographical 

105 Among those not members of the present Convention who sus- 
tained the amendment were Henry Tazewell, John Taylor (of Caro- 
line), Jacob Morton, C. H. Harrison, W. Walker, Philip Barbour, Jones 



118 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

tinge, which the curious eye may detect; and it will occur to the 
reader that a great man, whose name is second on the roll of 
ayes, was, a few years later, to make one of the most extraordi- 
nary displays of his intellect on a question somewhat similar to 
the present. 106 

The subject of the British debts was again considered; and a 
series of resolutions was reported from the Committee of the 
Whole, the purport of which was a repeal of all acts of Assem- 
bly in conflict with the fourth article of the definitive treaty of 
peace; the recommendation that interest should not be stated 
between the igth day of April, 1775, and the 3d of March, 1783; 
the balance due British creditors should be paid in seven annual 
instalments, the first of which should become due on the ist of 
April, 1786; the suggestion of providing for a more ready collec- 
tion of the British debts than was practicable under existing 
laws; and a repeal of the law concerning forfeitures and escheats 
from British subjects. All of the series were agreed to without 
a division, and Edward Carrington, Jones (of King George), 
Madison, Grayson, Carter H. Harrison, and Matthews were 
ordered to bring in the corresponding bills. 

The House soon passed a bill entitled an "act for the enabling 
of British merchants to recover their debts from the citizens of 
this Commonwealth." The bill was sent to the Senate, and was 
returned with many verbal alterations, to which the House would 
not consent. A conference was granted Tazewell, Madison, 
Breckenridge, Stuart, and Henderson acting on the part of the 
House and Tazewell reported the result of the conference in 



(of King George), R. B. Lee, William Russell, and Charles Porter; and 
those who opposed it were John Cropper, Hunter, Wray, West, Thomas 
Edmunds (of Surry), Richard Lee, and Joseph Prentis. Charles Por- 
ter, last named in the ayes, was the colleague of Madison, and was the 
person who defeated the great statesman at the spring election of 1777. 
Mr. Madison told Governor Coles, who told me, that he lost his elec- 
tion because he would not treat; and I am afraid that Mr. Porter, who 
was a near kinsman of mine, gained his by pursuing a different policy. 
A venerable friend assured me that Mr. Porter, who ominously hailed 
from the "Raccoon Ford " of the Rapid Ann, was unsurpassed in the 
tact of electioneering. 

106 1 allude to Judge Marshall's speech, in the case of Jonathan Rob- 
bins, delivered in the House of Representatives on the 7th of March 
1800. See a pretty full report in Benton's Debates, Vol. I, 457, et seq. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 119 

the shape of an amendment, which was amended by the House. 
At this stage of the contest, before the action of the Senate was 
received, the House was compelled, by the absence of a quorum, 
to adjourn sine die. 101 

As an illustration of the pecuniary condition of the State at 
this time, we may notice an engrossed bill, which came up on its 
passage on the 3oth of December, "discharging the people of 
this Commonwealth from the payment of the revenue tax for 
the year 1785." It was debated with much warmth, partly on 
considerations affecting the true theory of taxation, and partly 
on those drawn from the necessities of the people. It was car- 
ried by a vote of fifty-one to twenty-nine; Madison, Grayson, 
Marshall, W. C. Nicholas, Archibald Stuart, Benjamin Harrison, 
Strother, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), King, Clendenin, Hum- 
phreys, Eyre, Ronald, Edmunds (of Sussex), Briggs, and Mat- 
thews sustaining the* bill, and Johnston, Trigg, Thomas Smith, 
Thornton, Temple, Corbin, Wills Riddick, Ruffin, and Thomas 
Walke opposing it. 108 The vote was so thin that the House 
determined to adopt a new method of exposing the negligence of 
its members. The names of the absent members were recorded 
on the Journal, and it was ordered that the names of all who 
were absent without leave should be published in the Virginia 
Gazette. On the following day, however, the House rescinded 
the order of publication. On the yth of January, 1785, the 
House finally adjourned. 

It is due to the members who composed the Assembly of 1784 
to say that they have not been surpassed in ability and in a 
liberal patriotism by any who have since occupied their places. 
They discussed the exciting and complicated questions which 
arose during their sessions with great skill and learning, and 
effected, where it was possible, a wise and satisfactory adjust- 
ment of them. The subject of religious freedom was managed 

107 For the report from the Committee of the Whole on British debts, 
see House Journal, December t, 1784; and for the amendments of the 
Senate and the report of the conference, January 5, 1785, pages 106 
and 107. 

108 Judge Roane voted in the affirmative and Judge Tazewell in the 
negative. It is much to be regretted that John Taylor (of Caroline) 
was absent when nearly all the best questions of the House were 
decided. 



120 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

with as much liberality as at any subsequent session. All Chris- 
tian societies were placed upon the same footing, and were enti- 
tled to the same privileges; and if the Episcopal Church received 
a charter, it received it under a resolution of the House, which 
tendered the same privilege to every sect. The marriage ques- 
tion was arranged in a manner agreeable to all denominations; 
and the bill concerning religious teachers, though called for by 
petitions and memorials, and its principle determined by a vote 
of the House, was, nevertheless, in a spirit of deliberation and 
compromise, submitted to the people for a distinct expression of 
their opinion upon it. 109 In a purely political view, the action 
of the Assembly was high-toned and unanimous. It went as 
far, in relation to the British treaty, as courtesy demanded; for 
Great Britain had made (and did not make ten years later) no 
reparation for those infractions of the treaty which bore with 
peculiar severity upon our own citizens, and still retained, and 
did retain for ten years to come, the western forts that threat- 
ened the safety of our frontier. And, to pass over many impor- 
tant acts which required the utmost deliberation and wisdom in 
maturing them, but which it would exceed our province to 
record, the Assembly not only voted an address and a statue to 
Washington, but bestowed upon him " a certain interest in the 
companies established for opening and extending the navigation 
of Potomac and James rivers." Thus, in every respect, the 
numerous descendants of the members may contemplate the 
conduct of their ancestors with a just pride and pleasure. 

We now proceed to give a brief outline of some of the pro- 
ceedings of the House of Delegates during one of the most 
laborious and responsible sessions in its history. It began its 
session on the ijth day of October, 1785, but did not form a 
quorum until the 24th. Benjamin Harrison (of " Berkeley "), who 
had been defeated in Charles City as a candidate for the House, and 
going over into Surry had been returned one of the members 

108 We omitted to mention the petition of Isle of Wight in favor of 
assessments. It was presented on the 4th of November. 

110 The bill was evidently drawn by Mr. Madison, and was reported 
by him just as the House was about to rise on the 4th of January, 1785, 
and was passed unanimously the following day. Mr. Madison was 
requested to carry the bill to the Senate. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 121 

of that county, was elected Speaker by a majority of six votes 
over John Tyler, one of his successful opponents in Charles 
City, and the occupant ot the chair at the last session. There 
were some few changes in the members. Tazewell having been 
appointed by the Executive, before taking his seat in the House, 
a judge of the General Court, and Joseph Jones (of King 
George) and John Marshall had withdrawn, 111 but their places 
were filled by several able men, among whom were Arthur Lee, 
Meriwether Smith, and James Innes. 

The chairmeli of the standing committees were selected with 
evident regard to the nature of the duties which they would be 



111 The Executive appointment of Tazewell was confirmed by the 
Assembly. I cannot tell whether John Taylor, of Caroline, was a mem- 
ber. He was on no standing or other committee during the session ; 
but the name of John Taylor occurs in a collocation on the list of ayes 
and noes that could not apply to his namesake of Southampton. He 
certainly did not attend the session more than a day or two. Arthur 
Lee lost his seat in a few days (November ist), in consequence of his 
having accepted the appointment of Commissioner of the Board of 
Treasury of the United States, since his election to the House, and 
still held the office. The vote declaring his seat vacant was ayes 
eighty, noes nineteen. Among the noes was Madison, also Archibald 
Stuart, who was to lose his own seat as a member from Botetourt 
before the close of the session on the ground of non-residence, but 
not until he had borne the burden of the day (December igth). Har- 
rison ought to have lost his seat on the same ground. After he was 
defeated in Charles City on the 6th of August, he '' carried his bed and 
some furniture to Surry, where he engaged his rooms and board for a 
twelvemonth; also a servant and horses, leaving his family in Charles 
City" (House Journal, November 2, 1785, and was returned on the 
fourth Tuesday of the same month as a member from Surry. It was 
palpable that he was not a bona fide resident of Surry at the time of 
his election. If the same justice had been dealt to him that was 
dealt to Lee and Stuart, he must have lost his seat. But parties had 
formed in relation to Harrison and Tyler, and it was foreseen that, if 
Harrison was sent home, Tyler would have been restored to the Chair. 
Had Harrison been sent home, as he ought to have been, and Tyler 
chosen Speaker in his place, as he would have been, we should have 
had another chapter in this amusing rivalry between two old neighbors 
and esteemed patriots There is a harsh representation of the facts 
about the defeat of Harrison in the sketch of his life in the work 
called the Biographies of the Signers of Independence, first edition, 
which is softened in the second. I have the letter of General W. H. 
Harrison, the son of Benjamin, making the correction. 



122 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

required to perform. Zachariah Johnston, the unflinching friend 
of religious freedom, presided in the Committee of Religion; 
John Tyler, in the Committee of Privileges and Elections; Car- 
ter Henry Harrison, in the Committee of Propositions and 
Grievances; James Madison, in the Committee of Courts of 
Justice; Richard Lee, in the Committee of Claims; and Carter 
Braxton, in the Committee of Commerce. 11 * 

Some able members of the present Convention held seats in 
the House. Beside Harrison, Tyler, Johnston, Madison, and 
Innes were Alexander White, Archibald Stuart, French Strother, 
Christopher Robertson, Miles King, William Watkins, William 
Thornton, John Howell Briggs, Willis Riddick, Joseph Jones (of 
Dinwiddie), Wilson Gary Nicholas, Richard Cary, Benjamin 
Temple, Samuel Jordan Cabell, John Trigg, Meriwether Smith, 
Andrew Moore, George Clendenin, Isaac Coles, Cuthbert Bul- 
litt, Henry Lee (of the Legion), Worlich Westwood, Edmund 
Ruffin, Parke Goodall, Isaac Vanmeter, Anthony Walke, Thomas 
Edmunds (of Sussex), William Ronald, and Thomas Matthews. 

It will be remembered that the House had at its last session 
distributed among the people copies of the engrossed bill, 
establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion, 
and had invited an expression of their opinions upon its merits. 
The bill had been freely discussed since the adjournment, and 
numerous petitions were presented throughout the present 
session, either approving or condemning it. On the score of 
the number of petitions and of petitioners, the majority was 
clearly against the bill. 113 It was plainly seen, however, that few 

112 General Matthews was absent, and could not, consistently with the 
rules of the House, be placed on the standing committees. 

113 1 annex a list of the counties from which the petitions came. 
Where the name of a county appears on both sides, or twice on the 
same side, it is owing to several petitions coming from the same 
county. The counties are given in the order of the presentation of 
their petitions : 

IN FAVOR qr THE BILL Westmoreland, Essex, Richmond county, 
Pittsylvania, Lunenburg, Amelia, Halifax. 

AGAINST THE BILL Caroline, Buckingham, Henry, Pittsylvania, 
Nansemond, Bedford, Richmond county, Campbell, Charlotte, Acco- 
mack, Isle of Wight, Albetnarle, Amherst, Louisa, Goochland, Essex, 
Westmoreland, Culpeper, Prince Edward, Fairfax, King and Queen, 
Pittsylvania, Mecklenburg, Amelia, Brunswick, Middlesex, Amelia, 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 123 

or no petitions came from the friends of the Episcopal and 
Methodist Churches; while the Presbyterians and Baptists, both 
as societies and individuals, took evident pains to put forth all 
their strength on the occasion. The memorial of Hanover Pres- 
bytery of the loth of August, 1785, discussed at length, and 
with great power, the subject of religious freedom, protested 
against the passage of the bill, and urged a revision of the act to 
incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Church; with an express 
declaration, however, that its authors did not object to the incor- 
poration of that Church for the better management of its tempo- 
ralities, but to its possession of the churches and the glebes. 
The remonstrance of the Baptist associations, holding their 
sessions in Orange, went still farther, and objected not only to 
the bill providing for the payment of religious teachers, and to 
certain provisions of the act incorporating the Episcopal Church, 
but to the act granting certain exclusions to the Quakers and 
Menonists, whose principles would not allow them to bear arms, 
and who were excused from the muster-field; all which acts the 
remonstrants deemed "repugnant to sound policy, equal liberty, 
and the best interests of religion." 114 They do not object to the 
act incorporating the Episcopal Church on the ground of the 

Middlesex, Montgomery, Hanover, Princess Anne, Amelia, Henrico, 
Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Northumberland, Prince George, Powhatan, 
Richmond county, Spotsylvania, Botetourt, Fauquier, Southampton, 
Lunenburg, Loudoun, Stafford, Henrico, Chesterfield, James City, 
Washington, "Frederick, Chesterfield, Hanover Presbytery, Baptist 
Associations, Otter Peak Presbyterian Church, Sundry Presbyterian 
Societies, Frederick Presbyterian Church, Baptist Associations in 
Orange. 

lu See House Journal, November 17, 1785. This was doubtless the 
famous paper drawn by Mr. Madison, which presents on the face of 
the Journal the meagre outline only which is given above. It is proba- 
ble that many of the petitions contained the paper of Mr. Madison, as 
the abstract of most of them is in the same words. As Mr. Madison 
voted for the bill to incorporate the Episcopal Church, he could not 
consistently include in his paper the subject of religious incorporations 
as a grievance. Professor Tucker says (Life of Jefferson, Vol. I, 99) 
that George Mason, George Nicholas, and others of their party, pro- 
posed to Mr. Madison to prepare a remonstrance to the next Assem- 
bly against the assessment, to be circulated throughout the State for 
signatures. 



124 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

impolicy of religious incorporations, but of certain provisions of 
the act. 

This strong expression of public opinion seems to have set- 
tled the fate of the bill providing for the payment of religious 
teachers, without the formality of a vote. The Journal of the 
present session contains no mention of the bill whatever. It 
was not called up at the appointed time, nor was it reported at 
all. It is stated by Howison that the bill was rejected by a small 
majority; but in his reference to Wirt, who referred to what he 
believed had been the fate of the bill at the preceding session, 
misses the date by an entire year. 115 Foote says that the bill 
was lost in the Committee of the Whole, and the bill concerning 
religious freedom was reported to the House. He assigns no 
authority for his statement; but if it had been rejected in com- 
mittee as an independent bill, it would have been reported to 
the House, and the question would have been put on agreeing 
with the report of the committee. But the Journal makes no 
allusion to the bill. It is possible that the bill might have been, 
offered in committee as an amendment to the bill concerning 
religious freedom, and rejected; and it would not then have been 
reported to the House. If this supposition be correct, the fate 
of the bill was decided, not upon its own merits, but as a sub- 
stitute for the bill concerning religious freedom; and under the 
pressure of such an alternative, many who opposed the prin- 

l Howison, Vol. II, 298, refers to Wirt, who says "the first bill" 
(meaning the act incorporating the Episcopal Church) "passed into a 
law; the last" (providing for religious teachers) "was rejected by a 
small majority"; but he distinctly refers to the session of 1784, when 
Henry was a member of the House. But he errs in stating that even 
then the bill was rejected. It was not rejected at all, Wirt mistaking 
the definite postponement of the bill to a certain day of the ensuing 
session, with a view of submitting it to the people, for a rejection of 
the bill. Professor Tucker, in his Life of Jefferson, Vol. I, 99, is dis- 
posed to view the postponement as a hostile movement; but it is plain 
that, as there was a majority of the House on the test question, some 
of that majority must have favored the postponement. The statements 
of Professor Tucker, in his Life of Jefferson, in relation to this part of 
our history, deserves respect, not only from the source from which 
they come, but incidentally as having passed under the eye of Mr. 
Madison, who perused the proof-sheets of much of the first volume of 
that work. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 125 

ciple of assessments might have been constrained to vote 
against it. 116 

In reviewing this period of our history, which is interesting 
alike in its religious and in its political bearing, it will be the 
province of the philosophic observer to inquire whether the bill 
providing for the support of religious teachers was decided on 
its intrinsic merits, or by the policy of religious sects, or from 
the financial condition of the country. That the measure of 
assessments was- well received in the first instance is proved by 
the vote of the House of Delegates ascertained by ayes and 
noes. The bill brought forward in pursuance of the vote on 
assessments passed its early stages without opposition, and was 
postponed for obvious reasons to the following session. When 
that session came round, no vote was ever taken directly upon it 
in the House. If the House of Delegates leaned either way on 
the bill, it was inclined in its favor. As to the policy of religious 
sects, as such, it was sustained to the last by the Episcopalians, 
and almost to the last by the Presbyterians. It was only in the 
last memorial from Hanover Presbytery that serious objections 
were taken against the expediency of assessments. The Bap- 
tists alone from the first opposed all legislative action in religious 
matters. The temporal interest of each sect, though it may not 
have been the result of deliberate design, was in unison with its 
abstract opinions on the subject. The Episcopalian, who had 
heretofore received public support, and who knew that the 
majority of wealth, and probably of numbers, was on his side, 
could not think hard of a policy which allowed him the privi- 

116 The Rev. John B. Smith is said to have spoken three days in the 
Committee of the Whole. He must have received permission from 
the committee. If he had received it from the House, some notice of 
it would have appeared on the Journal. The Rev. Reuben Ford was 
deputed by the Baptist associations to present their remonstrance to 
the House. He, too, may have addressed the committee; but the 
memorial was presented by a member of the House. The authority 
for the statement concerning the Rev. Mr. Smith is the Literary and 
Evangelical Intelligencer, of which I do not possess a complete set, 
and especially of the period in question ; but Dr. Rice, its editor, 
though too young to have known Smith personally at the time, lived 
in his old neighborhood, was intimate with his personal friends, and 
was eager and cautious in gathering the materials of a history of the 
Presbyterian Church. 



126 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

lege of paying his tax in support of his own Church. The Pres- 
byterians, who in intelligence were equal to the Episcopalians, 
but were surpassed by them in wealth, justly thought that, as all 
the churches and glebes had been retained by the Episcopalians, 
a pro-rata assessment might tend to strengthen their most 
formidable rivals, and in the same ratio to weaken themselves. 
The Baptists, though numerous, were poor, and it was evidently 
their policy rather to leave the religious contributions of their 
rivals to private impulse than to enforce them by law. 117 

There was, however, an obstacle to the success of the bill not 
less difficult to be surmounted than any abstract notion of the 
nature of assessments. The State was overwhelmed with an 
unsettled debt. Taxation was severe; and it was manifest, by 
petitions and other proofs, that it could hardly be borne. The 
Journal of the present session contains numerous memorials from 
whole counties, and from counties united in districts, praying 
for relief. One county prayed that its taxes should be appropri- 
ated to the making of a road towards the seat of government 
or, in other words, that money should be commuted for labor. 
Another county prayed that the sheriffs should not distrain for 
taxes for a certain period, and that facilities for the payment 
thereof should be granted; and a bill for the purpose passed the 

117 The Methodists were as yet regarded as connected with the Epis- 
copal Church. No memorial from them as a body was presented 
during the session. The relative numbers of the different sects at this 
time (1785) I suppose to have been in favor of the Episcopalians, next 
of the Presbyterians, then of the Baptists. Mr. Jefferson, in his Notes 
on Virginia, estimates the number of dissenters to have been two- 
thirds, and, in his Memoir, as a majority of the people at the beginning 
of the Revolution. But when we remember that all the offices and 
honors of the Colony, that a seat in the Council, a commission in the 
militia, or a constable's post could only be held by a member of the 
Church of England, the amount of wealth owned by its members, 
and the social caste of the day, it is hardly to be presumed that a 
majority of the people were in open opposition to the Established 
Church. Mr. Madison evidently thought Mr. Jefferson's estimate alto- 
gether beyond the mark. It may be stated here that Washington, R. 
H. Lee, Patrick Henry, and some other leading men warmly approved 
the policy of assessments, while George Mason, Madison, George 
Nicholas, and others opposed it. Writings of Washington, Vol. XII, 404 ; 
Life of R. H. Lee, Vol. II, 51; Tucker's Jefferson, Vol. I, 99. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 127 

Assembly, was printed in handbill form, and dispatched by a 
special messenger to the counties to which it applied. A bill 
" to postpone the collection of the tax for 1785," was brought 
forward, and was lost by two votes only. Three.counties applied 
at the same time to be exempted from all taxes for a limited 
period. Then the unsettled state of the public mind in relation 
to the payment of British debts, many of which had been paid, 
and were now to be paid a second time, and in coin, rendered 
the suggestion of a new pro-rata tax highly distasteful. To 
add to the gloom which hung so heavily at this time above a 
people thinly scattered over a vast extent of country, and just 
emerging from an eight years' war, was the loss of the West 
India trade, by a British order in council. Petersburg, Norfolk, 
and other ports complained loudly of their loss of business, and 
called for relief or retaliation. 118 It is nearly certain that no 
additional tax for any purpose, religious or political, would have 
been approved at that time by a direct vote of the people. 

As several of the remonstrances against the bill, providing for 
the payment of teachers of the Christian religion, called for 
a revision of the act^ incorporating the Protestant Episcopal 
Church, it may be proper to state in this connection that, on the 
29th of December, leave was given to bring in a bill "to amend 
the act for incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church," and 
Wilson C. Nicholas, Meriwether Smith, Alexander White, 
Zachariah Johnston, Francis Corbin, and Carter Braxton were 
appointed to prepare and bring it in. It was accordingly brought 
in, and on the i6th of January, 1786, was read a second time 
and committed to the whole House; but in the press of business 
it was postponed from day to day, and was not reached before 
the final adjournment. 

The ever- memorable act of this session was the passage, on 
the i7th of December, by the House of Delegates, of the bill 
for establishing religious freedom. As we have heretofore 
alluded to the bill in detail, we will only add here that it was 



118 This order in council was met by the passage of a bill to impose 
additional-tonnage duties on British vessels. The bill was brought in 
on the last day of the session, and read three times and passed by the 
House, and the same by the Senate, and enrolled all in one day. 



128 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

passed in the House of Delegates by a majority of fifty- four 
votes ascertained by ayes and noes. Of the members of the 
present Convention who voted in the affirmative were Alexander 
White, James Madison, Wilson Gary Nicholas, Samuel Jordan 
Cabell, Zachariah Johnston, John Trigg, Archibald Stuart, 119 
French Strother, Meriwether Smith, Charles Simms, David 
Stuart, Thomas Smith, George Clendenin, Ralph Humphreys, 
Isaac Vanmeter, George Jackson, Benjamin Temple, Christo- 
pher Robertson, Cuthbert Bullitt, Andrew Moore, and James 
Innes, and in the negative were Miles King, Worlich West- 
wood, William Thornton, Francis Corbin, Wills Riddick, 
Anthony Walke, and Richard Cary. 120 As soon as the vote was 
announced Alexander White was ordered to carry the bill to 
the Senate and request the concurrence of that body. On the 
2gth the Senate returned the bill with an amendment, which 
struck out the whole of the preamble, and inserted in its stead 
the sixteenth article of the Declaration of Rights. The House 
refused to agree to the amendment by a vote of fifty-six to 
thirty-six. As the preamble of the bill was much admired in 
Europe, and is justly regarded with great favor here, the reader 
will be inclined to inquire how the members of the present Con- 
vention, who were then members of the House, voted upon the 
subject. In the affirmative that is, for striking out the pre- 
amble were John Tyler, Alexander White, David Patteson, 
Thomas Smith, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Miles King, Wor- 
lich Westwood, Parke Goodall, George Jackson, John Prunty, 
William Thornton, Benjamin Temple, Francis Corbin, Willis 
Riddick, and Richard Cary; and in the negative that is, for 
retaining the preamble were James Madison, Wilson C. Nicho- 
las, Samuel J. Cabell, Zachariah Johnston, John Trigg, French 
Strother, Meriwether Smith, Charles Simms, David Stuart, 



119 It was not until the igth two days later that the seat of Judge 
Stuart was vacated, as before mentioned. 

170 King,. Thornton, Corbin, and Riddick voted, on the nth of Novem- 
ber, 1784, for the resolution declaring the expediency of assessments, 
on which the bill providing for teachers of the Christian religion was 
founded. Westwood was absent when the vote was taken, and 
Richard Cary was not then a member of the House. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 129 

William White, Cuthbert Bullitt, Andrew Moore, and Thomas 
Matthews. 121 

The bill was returned to the Senate, which held it under 
advisement until the gth of January, 1786, when it returned it 
to the House of \Delegates, with the message that that body 
adhered to its amendment, and desired a free conference with 
the House on the subject. On the same day the House agreed 
to a free conference with the Senate, and Madison, Johnston, 
and Innes were appointed to manage the conference on the part 
of the House; and Madison was ordered to acquaint the Senate 
therewith. On the I2th a message from the Senate announced 
that that body had appointed managers to meet the managers 
on the part of the House in free conference on the subject-matter 
of the amendment of the Senate to the bill for establishing reli- 
gious freedom, and they were attending in the conference cham- 
ber. The House immediately ordered its managers to attend, 
and in due time they reported that they had met the managers 
of the Senate in free conference, and fully discussed the subject. 
On the 1 3th the House considered the report, receded from their 
disagreement to the amendment of the Senate, and do agree to 
the said amendment, with amendments. What these amend- 
ments were is not stated in the Journal. On the i6th the Senate 
informed the House that it had agreed to the amendments pro- 
posed by the House to the amendments of the Senate, with 
several amendments, to which that body desires the concurrence 
of the House. The House, in the course of the day, took the 
amendments into consideration, and agreed to them by a 
majority of twenty-six votes ascertained by ayes and noes. 
The amendments to the preamble, which the House was com- 
pelled to agree to in order to save the bill, 1 " may be seen by 



121 There were three clergymen of the Episcopal Church, or had 
been, who voted on the bill establishing religious freedom at some one 
of its stages Charles Mynn Thruston, Thomas Smith, and Anthony 
Walke. The two first were in favor of the bill as it passed on the I7th 
of December, and the last voted against it. Smith and Walke voted, 
as above, against the preamble, and Thruston in favor of it. 

122 The original bill, and the bill as amended, may be seen in a single 
view in the first volume of Randall's Life of Jefferson, 219-220, and 
make an interesting study. 

9 



130 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

comparing the act of religious freedom as reported by the 
revisers and the act as it now appears in the Code. 

The votes in opposition to the preamble of the bill may 
be explained on the ground of literary taste, of the supposed 
unsoundness of its doctrines in a religious view, and of the 
apparent appropriateness of the sixteenth article of the Declara- 
tion of Rights as a preamble to the subject-matter of the bill. 
Nor does the final vote against the bill necessarily imply any 
hostility to religious freedom. There prevailed as great a degree 
of religious freedom in the State before its passage as after, and 
if at any future time the disposition to connect a Church with 
the State should exist, the act of religious freedom could as 
readily be repealed as any other. It is probable that all who 
voted against the bill approved the policy of assessments, which, 
though not inconsistent with its provisions, would be indefinitely 
defeated by its passage. 123 Fortunately an overwhelming majority 
of the House sustained the bill, not only for the truthfulness and 
beauty of its reasoning, but as a distinctive and definitive 
measure in relation to the connection of the State with religion. 124 

The subject of slavery was discussed during the session, and that 
the descendants may form some opinion of the public sentiment 
of their fathers at that epoch, we will trace the course of a peti- 
tion in favor of a general emancipation of the negroes.- It was 
presented on the 8th of November by one of the members, pur- 
ported to be from sundry persons without place, set forth "that 
the petitioners are firmly persuaded that it is contrary to the 
fundamental principles of the Christian religion to keep such a 
considerable number of our fellow creatures (the negroes) in this 

123 The reasoning of the act establishing religious freedom applies 
only to the impolicy of compelling individuals to sustain a plan of 
religion. The assessment bill made the support of any plan optional, 
and was only operative in a religious view by the deliberate consent of 
each tax-payer. 

124 Howison, Vol. II, 299, says that "a careful analysis of these docu- 
ments (the memorials of the Hanover Presbytery) will draw from them 
every material argument and principle that will be found embodied in 
the act for establishing religious freedom." This is, in one sense, true 
and proper praise ; but it may be well enough to recall the fact that the 
act of religious freedom was published far and wide seven years before 
the Hanover memorials were written. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 131 

State in slavery; that it is also an express violation of the 
principles on which our government is founded; and that a gen- 
eral emancipation of them, under certain restrictions, would 
greatly contribute to strengthen it, by attaching them by the ties 
of interest and gratitude to its support ; and prayed that an act 
might pass to that effect." It was the obvious scope of the 
petitioners not only that the negroes should be emancipated, 
but that they should be made citizens, and reside within the 
Commonwealth. As a counter petition was presented at the 
same time from Mecklenburg, it is probable that the original 
petition came from that county. The counter petition not only 
opposed the abolition of slavery, but prayed that the act empow- 
ering the owners of slaves to emancipate them be repealed. 
Both petitions were ordered to be laid upon the table. On the 
loth counter petitions were also presented from Amelia, Bruns- 
wick, Pittsylvania, and Halifax. All the petitions were referred 
to the Committee of the Whole on the State of the Common- 
wealth. In the course of the day, however, the House, waiving 
the form of going into committee, called up the petition in favor 
of abolition, and a motion was made to reject it, which passed 
unanimously. On the i4th of December Carter H. Harrison, 
from the Committee of Propositions and Grievances, reported 
that the petition from Halifax, praying that the act to authorize 
the manumission of slaves be repealed, was reasonable. The 
question presented by the report of the committee on the Hali- 
fax petition was very different from the one just decided. At 
that day it was evident that public opinion was disposed to allow 
every man to act on the subject of manumission as he pleased, 
the law leaning to the side of liberty ; and, as at particular sea- 
sons in many parts of the State there was a great demand of 
labor, which could be supplied to a certain extent by free 
negroes, it does not appear that there was that prejudice against 
that class of our population which, now, for obvious reasons, 
exists in a greater or less degree throughout the Commonwealth. 
As soon as the report of the committee was read a motion was 
made to strike out the words "is reasonable," and insert "be 
rejected." After a long discussion the vote was taken by ayes 
and noes, and it was ascertained there was a tie, when the 
Speaker gave his casting vote in the negative. Those who 
were members of the present Convention and voted in the 



132 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

affirmative were Alexander White, James Madison, John Tyler, 
Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, John Trigg, David Patte- 
son, French Strother, William Watkins, Worlich Westwood, 
Meriwether Smith, Charles Simms, David Stuart, George Clen- 
denin, Isaac Vanmeter, William Thornton, William White, 
Francis Corbin, Edmund Ruffin, Cuthbert Bullitt, Andrew Moore, 
Thomas Edmunds (of Sussex), John Norvell Briggs, and James 
Innes, and in the negative were Benjamin Harrison (Speaker), 
Wilson C. Nicholas, Samuel Jordan Cabell, Joseph Jones (of 
Dinwiddie), Miles King, Thomas Smith, Ralph Humphreys, 
Parke Goodall, Christopher Robertson, Anthony Walke, and 
Richard Cary. 

The amendment was lost, and the question recurred on agree- 
ing to the report of the committee, which declared the repeal 
of the act to authorize the manumission of slaves to be reason- 
able. On this question another contest took place, the ayes 
and noes were again called, and the repeal of the act was 
ordered by a majority of a single vote. Among the ayes were 
W. C. Nicholas, Cabell, Jones, King, Thomas Smith, Hum- 
phreys, Goodall, Robertson, Walke, and Cary, and among the 
noes were Madison, Tyler, Alexander White, Johnston, Archi- 
bald Stuart, Patteson, Strother, Watkins, Westwood, Simms, 
Meriwether Smith, David Stuart, Clendenin, Vanmeter, Jack- 
son, Thornton, Corbin, Ruffin, Bullitt, Andrew Moore, Edmunds 
(of Sussex), Briggs, Innes, and Matthews. The Committee of 
Propositions and Grievances was ordered to report a bill to 
repeal the act to authorize the manumission of slaves. On the 
24th of December the bill was brought in and was read a first 
time, and, the question being put that it be read a second time, 
it passed in the negative by a majority of seventeen; Nicholas, 
King, Thomas Smith, Goodall, Temple, and Cary in the affirma- 
tive, and Madison, Tyler, Alexander White, Trigg, Patteson, 
Strother, Watkins, Westwood, Simms, David Stuart, Clendenin, 
Vanmeter, Prunty, Thornton, William White, Corbin, Bullitt, 
Andrew Moore, Briggs, and Matthews in the negative. As 
soon as the vote was announced a motion was made to bring in 
a bill to amend the act entitled an act to authorize the manu- 
mission of slaves, and Carter Braxton, Richard Bland Lee, 
Thomson, Tyler, David Stuart, Isaac Zane, Simms, and Nicholas 
were ordered to prepare and bring it in. On the ijth of Janu- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 133 

ary, 1786, within three days of the close of the session, Braxton 
reported the bill to amend the act in question, and it was read a 
first time; but on the motion that it be read a second time, the 
House rejected it without a count, leaving the law of 1782 as it 
originally stood. ^ 

The manumission of slaves was never popular in the Colony. 
When Jefferson, in 1769, for the first time took his seat in the 
House of Burgesses, one of the earliest schemes that engaged 
his attention was the melioration of the laws respecting slavery . m 
He prevailed on Colonel Richard Bland to make the motion in 
the House ; but the scheme was scouted, the learned and patri- 
otic Bland was denounced as an enemy of his county, and Jeffer- 
son owed it to his youth that he was not treated with the same 
severity. But, with the establishment of the Commonwealth, a 
new spirit began to be diffused among the people, and not only 
were obstacles to manumission removed, but the policy of the 
relation of slavery was called in question. The Committee of 
Revisors unanimously agreed upon the propriety of offering an 
amendment to one of the bills, declaring that all slaves born 
after a certain day should be free at a certain age, and then to be 
deported from the Commonwealth. And though the state of 
public sentiment did not justify the offering of such an amend- 
ment when the revised bills were discussed, there was an evident 
inclination among the leaders of the Revolution to oppose no 
obstacle in the way of voluntary manumission. Hence, before 
the close of the war (1782),' the bill to authorize the manumis- 
sion of slaves was passed, and hence the refusal of the present 
Assemby to repeal it. 



125 What the precise measure proposed by Mr. Jefferson was is rather 
uncertain. In his letter to Governor Coles, dated August 25, 1814, he 
says k 'he undertook to move for certain moderate extensions of the 
protection of the laws to these people." Professor Tucker, in his 
Life of Jefferson, Vol. I, 46, states that his object was "merely to 
remove the restrictions which the laws had previously imposed on 
voluntary manumission, and even this was rejected." The letter to 
Governor Coles strongly details the views of its author on the present 
subject, and may be found in print in Randall's Life of Jefferson, Vol. 
III. 643. It is not in either Randolph's or the Congress edition of his 
writings. Its genuineness is beyond question, as I have seen the origi- 
nal, and have a copy in manuscript, which I owe to the kindness of the 
venerable gentleman to whom it was addressed. 



134 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

An interesting event occurred on the 3131 of October in rela- 
tion to the Revised Code. Up to this period no nation in 
modern times had ever devolved upon a committee the office 
of deliberately revising its entire jurisprudence, and, embracing 
the work of the revision in the shape of bills, had proceeded to 
examine them in detail. It will be remembered that, during the 
session of the Assembly in 1776, a Committee of Revisers had 
been appointed, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Pen- 
dleton, George Wythe, George Mason, and Thomas Ludwell 
Lee. These gentlemen met in Fredericksburg on the i3th of 
January, 1777, and divided the task among themselves. 126 In 
February, 1779, they reassembled in Williamsburg, read and 
commented on the parts of each, ordered a fair copy to be made 
of the whole, and deputed two of their number to present their 
joint work to the Assembly. It was accordingly presented in 
the shape of one hundred and twenty-six bills. Thus was 
accomplished the most laborious, the most responsible, and the 
most delicate undertaking which had then been assigned to three 
men, and which, if it stood apart from the great deeds of an 
extraordinary epoch, would make an epoch of its own. 1 " 

126 At this meeting all the revisers attended, when George Mason and 
Lee resigned, but not until some most important principles were set- 
tled, and the parts were assigned to Jefferson, Pendleton, and Wythe. 
Professor Tucker says (Life of Jefferson, Vol. I, 104, note) that he 
learned from Mr. Madison that Lee and Pendleton were in favor of 
codification, Wythe and Jefferson against it, and that Mason gave the 
casting vote. I use the word revisor because it is the word of the bill. 
In modern times it is written with an e. It is from the mint of Jeffer- 
son, and is nearer the original. I may add that the pay of the revisors, 
as proposed in the House of Delegates in 1785, was three hundred 
pounds apiece, or one thousand dollars of our present currency. What 
a theme for the artist, that gathering of the revisors in an attic in 
Fredericksburg ! 

m It is due to Jefferson and Wythe to say that Mr. Pendleton, not 
having embraced exactly the views of his colleagues, " copied the 
British acts verbatim, merely omitting what was disapproved ; and some 
family occurrence calling him home, he desired Mr. Wythe and myself 
(Jefferson) to make it what we thought it ought to be, and authorized 
us (Wythe and Jefferson) to report him as concurring in the work. 
We accordingly divided the work, and re-execttted it entirely, so as to 
assimilate its plan and execution to the other parts." (Jefferson to 
Skelton Jones, July 28, 1809.) This explicit statement destroys the 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 135 

The difficulties and dangers of the Revolution now began to 
engross the minds of men, and the time and attention of the 
Assembly was, for years to come, devoted exclusively to the 
complicated topics of the war, and at the commencement of the 
present session (1785) nine of the bills only had been enacted 
into laws. 

And we are now to record the next step in this noble work. 
On the 3ist of October Mr. Madison rose in his place in the 
House of Delegates, and presented from the Committee of 
Courts of Justice, according to order, one hundred and seven- 
teen of the printed bills contained in the Revised Code, and not 
of a temporary nature. The titles of the bills alone fill two 
closely-printed quarto pages of the Journal. The bills were 
received, read severally a first time, and ordered to be read a 
second time; and on motion they were read severally a second 
time and ordered to be committed to the whole House the follow- 
ing day. The order was postponed daily until the yth of Novem- 
ber, when the House, fully appreciating the nature and urgency 
of revising so many fundamental laws, and the importance of 
setting apart a specified time for the purpose, resolved "that, 
during the continuance of the present session, it be a standing 
order of the House that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 
in each week be set apart and appropriated to the consideration 
of the Revised Code in such manner that no business be intro- 
duced, taken up, or considered after twelve o'clock of the day 
other than the bills contained in the said Revised Code, or such 
other as respects the interests of the Commonwealth at large, or 
messages from the Executive or the Senate." The House pro- 



force of the compliment said by Henry Lee, the son of General Henry 
Lee, to have been paid by John Wickham to Pendleton on the superior 
precision of his (Pendleton's) part of the revision; and as we may sup- 
pose that Jefferson, being the younger and more ready man, recast 
much more of Pendleton's part than Wythe, it may be that the very 
precision praised by Wickham was the merit of Jefferson. Still, 
eminent credit is due to each of the revisors, and it deserves to be 
noticed that although the admirable accomplishment of this great 
work was sufficient of itself to fill the measure of the fame of each, 
yet such were the numerous and valuable services rendered by each 
of the revisors to his country that the revision of the laws appears 
only as one act of the series. See Randall's Jefferson, Vol. I, 217. 



136 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

ceeded in good earnest to perform its duty, and made consider- 
able progress, when, on the i4th of December, it was resolved 
that the further consideration of the several bills in the Revised 
Code, from No. 63 to the end, except the bill (No. 68) for the 
employment, government, and support of malefactors con- 
demned to labor for the Commonwealth; the bill (No. 82) for 
establishing religious freedom; the bill (No. 105) reforming the 
proceedings in writs of right; and the bill (No. 123) concerning" 
executors, be postponed till the next session of the General 
Assembly. And on the 2ist the House went into committee 
"on the residue of the printed bills in the Revised Code of laws 
enumerated in the order of the I4th instant," and, on rising, it 
was resolved " that the House would again resolve itself into 
committee on the 3ist of March next on the vsaid bills." When 
we recall the fact that from 1779 to 1785 nine bills only had been 
acted on, and that during the present session the number of 
sixty-eight had been reached in regular progression, we may 
form an opinion of the dispatch of public business in the days 
of our fathers. 128 

But, engrossing as were the labors expended in the revision 
of the laws, the current business of the State would have suf- 
ficed to occupy the full time of an ordinary session. Before we 
relate the memorable proceedings of the House on Federal 
affairs, we will glance at a few acts which exhibit the courtesy 
and taste, as well as the sense of justice, of the House. A bill 
Wds reported in the early part of the session for the naturaliza- 
tion of the Marquis de Lafayette, which passed rapidly through 
its several stages, and was passed unanimously into a law. A 
bill securing to authors of literary works an exclusive property 



128 Those who wish to refer to the acts passed at this session will find 
them in Hening's Statutes at Large, Anno 1785 Probably one of the 
greatest theatres of usefulness, as well as for the display of his great 
powers of management and reasoning, which was presented in Madi- 
son's whole career, was his masterly and triumphant generalship of the 
revised bills. No man then living but himself if we except Mr. Jtffer- 
son, who always seemed to carry his point by casting a spell over his 
political associates could have achieved the work. And the members 
of the House, who were also members of the present Convention, and 
who aided him on the occasion, deserve, and should receive, their just 
and patriotic praise. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 137 

therein for a limited term of years was introduced by Mr. Madi- 
son, and received the sanction of both houses. The House 
received with due sensibility, on the 3oth of December, the 
intelligence of the death of the Honorable Samuel Hardy, a 
delegate from Virginia in Congress, who had died in Philadel- 
phia, paid cheerfully the expenses which his colleague (Grayson) 
had incurred in conducting the funeral, and entered on their 
Journal, as a perpetual record, that "the faithful and important 
services of Samuel Hardy demand this token of his country's 
gratitude." 129 



129 The bill of funeral expenses was ^"114 gd. Samuel Hardy died in 
Philadelphia on the ijth of October, 1785, while attending Congress 
as one of the delegates from Virginia. His death was announced the 
same day to Congress, which resolved that the members, as a body, 
would attend his funeral the following day, with a crape around the 
left arm, and will continue in mourning for the space of one month. 
They appointed Mr Grayson, Mr. Read, and Mr. Kean a committee to 
superintend the funeral and the chaplains were notified to attend, and 
one of them to officiate on the occasion ; and the committee was 
ordered " to invite the Governor of the State, the ministers of foreign 
Powers, the mayor of the city, and other persons of distinction in town 
to attend the funeral." (Journals of the Old Congress, October 17, 
I 78b, Vol. X, 251, edition of 1801.) Hardy was one of the most popu- 
lar and beloved of our early statesmen. He entered the House of 
Delegates about the close of the war, and remained an active member 
until he was sent to Congress in 1783. The Assembly, during the pres- 
ent year [1858], called a county by his name. Monroe and Hardy were 
about the same age, were in the Assembly together, were on terms of 
the strictest intimacy, and boarded with Mrs. Ege, in Richmond. When 
Monroe made his Southern tour as President, he called to see his old 
landlady, who presently appeared, and, though thirty-odd years had 
passed since the death of Hardy, as she threw her arms about the neck 
of Monroe, she sobbed forth, "'Poor Hardy!" [There is a tradition, 
which has been regarded as somewhat apocryphal, that the small 
one-story-and attic building of rubble-stone on the north side of Main, 
between Nineteenth and Twentieth streets, known as the " Old Stone 
House," has accommodated as guests Washington, Monroe, and 
other distinguished men. It is now the oldest house in Richmond, 
and was probably built soon after the town was laid off in 1737. In the 
original plan Jacob Ege appears as an owner of a town lot. His 
descendants occupied the house until a few decades past. The house 
is too small, and the rooms two few in number, for it to have been 
used for the entertainment and lodging of guests. Mrs. Ege, the land- 
lady of Monroe and Hardy, was more likely some other than the 



138 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

The session of the House of Delegates of 1785. in connection 
with Federal affairs, will always be conspicuous in our annals. 
It may be said, in a certain sense, to have given birth to the 
present Federal Constitution. During the century and a half 
of her colonial existence the commerce of Virginia, except in 
the interval of the Protectorate, was regulated by Great Britain, 
either in the form of direct legislation or by the supervisory 
power which was exercised over the acts of Assembly. 130 After 
the Declaration of Independence the Commonwealth passed 
laws for the regulation of her trade; but, owing to the prepon- 
derance of the naval power of the enemy throughout the war, 
our regulations were merely nominal. At the peace of 1783 all 
obstacles to trade were removed, and Virginia, for the first time 
since the death of Cromwell, regulated her trade with foreign 
Powers. It was soon apparent that her geographical position in 
respect to several neighboring States rendered a commercial 
compact with them highly expedient, if not indispensably neces- 
sary to the prosperity of each. An adroit legislative movement 
of Maryland, in abolishing a duty on certain articles highly taxed 
by Virginia, might divert the entire foreign trade of a season 
from Norfolk to Baltimore or Annapolis. Hence the early indi- 
cations of a wish in our councils to form an agreement with 
Maryland; and the object was promoted by the residence on the 
Potomac of some of the ablest statesmen of that era, who felt 
sensibly the inconvenience perpetually arising from a conflict of 
jurisdiction over their immediate waters. But, anxious as Mary- 
land might be to form an agreement with Virginia, she must be 
controlled, to a greater or less extent, by the policy of Pennsyl- 
vania, whose waters mingled with her own, and whose territory, 
running the whole length of the northern boundary of Mary- 
land, afforded opportunities for smuggling, which nothing short 

mistress of the " Old Stone House." EDITOR.] His remains still rest 
in Philadelphia, where those of Henry Tazewell, James Innes, Stevens 
Thomson Mason, Isaac Read, and of other gallant and patriotic Vir- 
ginians also repose. Should we not gather all the honored dead of the 
Revolution in a cemetery of our own ? 

130 1 have before me the Sessions Acts of 1766, [ ? ] in which the acts 
vetoed by Great Britian are marked by a member of the House of 
Burgesses. The royal veto was exercised very freely on the acts of 
that session. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 139 

of a strict military police always on the field could fully check. 
At the present session two years and a half had elapsed since 
the peace; yet, with every disposition on the part of Virginia to 
form an equal and amicable commercial league with neighboring 
States, she had been foiled in her purposes each State looking 
to her local interests only, and unrestrained by any feeling of a 
personal or patriotic nature. 131 Hence a conviction, which had 
long been felt by our members of Congress, became general 
among the people at large that the regulation of commerce, 
under certain restrictions, should be entrusted to the Federal 
Government. 

The nature and extent of those restrictions involved long and 
angry debates. Those argue falsely who contend that the 
acknowledgment of our independence bound the several States 
to each other, so far as local interests were concerned, more 
intimately than before. The main conviction drawn from the 
struggle with England was that the union of the States was 
necessary to enable them to resist a foreign foe; but that any 
one State should subject its business or its trade to the control 
of another, or of all the States, was a sentiment that was slow to 
make its impression on the public mind. The interests of the 
States were diverse; there was but little communication between 
them; their institutions were unlike; and few of those considera- 
tions that soften national prejudice could act upon the people. 
It is probable that there was a more intense individuality of 
feeling and of character among the several States after the peace 
than before it. This temper was heightened in Virginia by her 
weight in the confederacy, produced by her numbers, the extent 
of her territory, and her wealth, and partly, perhaps, from the 
fact that some of her most eminent statesmen, who had for thirty 
years directed the State councils, had never gone abroad, nor 
had come directly in contact and in friendly association with 
men of the same class in other States. 132 The success of the 
Revolution tended rather to confirm the sense of individuality in 

131 John Randolph, of Roanoke, used to say that the exemption by 
Maryland of certain articles which were taxed high in Virginia gave 
the first impulse to the trade of Baltimore. 

132 Patrick Henry, George Mason, Joseph Prentis, John Tyler, Henry 
Tazewell, and many other able men had never been abroad or held 
seats in Congress except Henry, for a few weeks and they opposed 
the adoption of the Federal Constitution with all their might; while 



140 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the States, for it added a moral element to the less exalted ones 
of interest and power. Still, a commercial arrangement with a 
neighboring State, whose waters were identical with our own, 
was necessary, and its negotiation on fair terms seemed imprac- 
ticable. And, as the finances of the States required the success- 
ful development of all her resources, it was determined to bring 
the whole subject before the Assembly. Accordingly, on the 
7th of November the House of Delegates went into Committee 
on the State of the Commonwealth; and, when it rose, Prentis 
reported a resolution, which was twice read and agreed to by the 
House, declaring that an act ought to pass to authorize the dele- 
gates of Virginia in Congress to give the assent of the State to 
a general regulation of the commerce of the United States under 
certain qualifications. A select committee, consisting of Joseph 
Prentis, James Madison, Henry Lee, Meriwether Smith, Carter 
Braxton, William Ronald, James Innes, and Cuthbert Bullitt, 
were ordered to bring in a bill in pursuance of the resolution. 18 * 

Madison, Randolph, Henry Lee, and Pendleton (who occupied a seat 
on two occasions in Congress) were friendly to its adoption. This 
distinction was obvious in the Assembly from as early as 1777 to 1778, 
and exercised a serious influence upon public measures. 

33 This committee, which was appointed by Speaker Harrison, who 
had been a member of Congress and knew the parties of the House, 
was composed of four members who had not been members of Con- 
gress, and four who had. Prentis, one of the best of men, the substi- 
tute of Wythe in the Convention of 1775, an old member of the House, 
and afterwards a judge of the General Court; Bullitt, a member of all 
the early Conventions, an old member of the House, of which he was 
Speaker, and afterwards a judge of the General Court; John Tyler, 
who had been more than once Speaker of the House, afterwards a 
judge of the Court of Admiralty, and a district judge under the Federal 
Constitution ; Innes, who succeeded Edmund Randolph as Attorney- 
General of Virginia, was a commissioner under Jay's treaty, and 
declined the appointment of Attorney-General of the United States 
tendered by Washington; and Ronald, an old and able lawyer, and a 
member of the present Convention. These four members of the com- 
mittee had never been abroad; while Meriwether Smith, one of our 
oldest statesmen, who has claims to the authorship of the first Consti- 
tution of Virginia (of which hereafter), Madison, Carter Braxton, who 
signed the Declaration of Independence, and Henry Lee, who was 
soon to become a member of Congress, had been much abroad in a 
public capacity. All the members of the committee except Prentis 
and Braxton were members of the present Convention. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 141 

Meantime, the House reconsidered the plan of giving its assent 
to regulations of commerce by a bill, and resolved to discharge 
the committee from the office of preparing one, and, constituting 
the same gentlemen members of a new committee, ordered them 
to draft and report instructions to the delegates of the State in 
Congress according to the resolution adopted by the House. 
On the I4th Prentis reported a preamble and resolution, the 
preamble setting forth that "Whereas the relative situation of 
the United States has been found on trial to require uniformity 
in their commercial regulations, as the only effectual policy for 
obtaining in the ports of foreign nations a stipulation of privi- 
leges reciprocal to those enjoyed by the subjects of such nations 
in the ports of the United States, for preventing animosities, 
which cannot fail to arise among the several States from the 
interference of partial and separate regulations, and for deriving 
from commerce such aids to the public revenue as it ought to 
contribute, and whereas such uniformity can be best carried into 
effect by the Federal councils, which, having been instituted for 
the purpose of managing the interests of the States in cases that 
cannot be so well provided for by measures individually pursued, 
ought to be invested with authority in this case as being within 
the reason and policy of their institution"; and the resolution 
declaring "that the delegates in Congress be instructed to pro- 
pose in Congress a recommendation to the States in union to 
authorize that Assembly to regulate their trade on the following 
principles and under the following qualifications: (i) That the 
United States, in Congress assembled, be authorized to prohibit 
vessels belonging to any nation which has no commercial treaty 
with the United States from entering any of the ports thereof, or 
to impose any duties on such vessels and their cargoes which 
may be judged necessary ; all such prohibitions and duties to be 
uniform throughout the United States, and the proceeds of the 
latter to be carried into the treasury of the State within which 
they shall accrue. (2) That over and above the duties which 
may be so laid the United States, in Congress assembled, be 
authorized to collect in manner prescribed by an act 'to provide 
certain and adequate funds for the payment of this State's quota 
of the debt contracted by the United States,' an impost not 
exceeding five per centum, ad valorem, on all goods, wares, and 
merchandises whatsoever imported into the United States from 



142 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

any foreign ports; such impost to be uniform as aforesaid, and 
to be carried to the treasury of the United States. (3) That no 
State be at liberty to impose duties on any goods, wares, or 
merchandises imported by land or by water from any other State, 
but may altogether prohibit the importation from any other 
State of any particular species or description of goods, wares, or 
merchandise of which the importation is at the same time pro- 
hibited from all other places whatsoever. (4) That no act of 
Congress as may be authorized, as hereby proposed, shall be 
entered into by less than two-thirds of the confederated States, 
nor be in force longer than years, unless continued by a like 
proportion of votes within one year immediately preceding the 
expiration of the said period, or be revived in like manner after 
the expiration thereof, nor shall any impost whatsoever be col- 
lected by virtue of the authority proposed in the second article 
after the year 17 ," 134 The instructions were read a second 
time and were ordered to be committed to a Committee of the 
Whole on Friday sennight. 

When we consider the temper of the times, these stipulations 
must be regarded as going far beyond the true mark. The 
uniformity of duties was desirable, and some sacrifice of interest 
might fairly be claimed for the arrangement. Still it was a con- 
cession that went beyond any proposition offered by the States 
to the Federal authority, and was rendered yet more influential 
from the source from which it came. The payment of the cus- 
toms into the treasury of the State in whose waters they were 
collected was right and proper. But the grant to the Federal 
Government of the right to laying five per centum on imposts at 
a time when the average rate of the Virginia tariff was greatly 
below that figure, and which savored of an entire cession of the 
customs to the United States, might well create alarm and rouse 
the suspicions of those who were inclined to view the Federal 
authority with distrust. If it be alleged that the measures 

184 House Journal, November 14, 1785, page 36. Mr. Gilpin, in his 
note (169) to the "Introduction" of Mr. Madison, refers to the pro- 
ceedings of the Assembly of the 3oth November and ist of December, 
J 785, but has overlooked the resolution of the i4th of November, 
which is the foundation of the whole. I cannot refrain from bearing 
my tribute to the modesty, accuracy, and unbounded research which 
characterizes the editing of the Madison Papers by Mr. Gilpin. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 143 

recommended by the committee excluded those States that did 
not possess seaports from all benefits arising from the customs, 
it also relieved them from all expense in their collection; and it 
was competent to J\ny State, with the consent of Congress, to 
make any agreement with any seaport State in relation to the 
customs which might be deemed beneficial. It should be 
remembered that each State was then responsible for its own 
debt, foreign and domestic, contracted during the war. The 
duration of the grant for a term of years, which could not be 
recalled until they expired, but could be abridged at the pleasure 
of Congress, was also a concession to the Federal Government. 

In the interval an urgent petition was forwarded to the House 
by the merchants of Petersburg, the business of which town 
then greatly exceeded that of Richmond, setting forth that they 
considered the commerce of the State in a ruinous situation 
from the restrictions and impositions which have been laid upon 
it by the commercial Powers of Europe, and praying that such 
measures may be adopted as may tend to re-establish it upon a 
proper basis; and that due encouragement be given to the build- 
ing of ships in this State, and to the trade carried on in Ameri- 
can bottoms, and owned by American merchants only. 185 

When Friday came the House, as if reluctant to grapple with 
Federal affairs, ordered that the Committee of the Whole, to 
which had been referred the instructions to the delegates in 
Congress, be discharged from further proceedings thereon, and 
that the instructions be referred to the Committee of the Whole 
on the State of the Commonwealth. On the 28th the House 
went into committee to consider the instructions, and, when it 
rose, Alexander White reported that the committee had come to 
certain resolutions on the subject, which it had instructed him 
to present whenever the House should think proper to receive 
them. On the 3Oth White reported the original preamble with- 
out amendment, and the first and third stipulations of the origi- 
nal resolution, omitting the second, which set apart five per 



135 House Journal, November 24, 1785. Norfolk had presented an 
equally urgent memorial at the last session, referring mainly to the 
West India trade. I have often conversed with old merchants in the 
interior who bought their foreign goods at this date in Petersburg, 
which they paid for in specie or tobacco. The merchants of Peters- 
burg were mostly foreign, as were those at Norfolk. 



144 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

centum of the imposts for the Federal treasury, and declaring, 
as a third stipulation, that no act of Congress that may be 
authorized as hereby proposed shall be entered into by less than 
two-thirds of the confederated States, nor be in force longer than 
thirteen years. The Federal party proper had evidently sus- 
tained an overwhelming defeat in committee; for no member of 
that party proposed in the House to amend the report by insert- 
ing their favorite stipulation, which had been lost, but merely 
sought a comparatively immaterial issue by moving to add after 
the words " thirteen years," in the third stipulation, the words 
"unless continued by a like proportion of votes within one year 
immediately preceding the expiration of the said period, or be 
revived in like manner after the expiration thereof." This 
amendment was, at best, but a matter of minor detail since the 
rejection of the grant of five per centum, and could add but 
little to the power already granted by the stipulation; but, such 
as it was, the Federal party determined in its support to venture 
a battle, which resulted in their second entire defeat the ayes 
being only twenty-eight and the noes seventy-nine. The mem- 
bers of the present Convention who voted in the affirmative were 
Madison, Johnston, Archibald Stuart, John Tyler, Strother, 
Simms, -David Stuart, Thomas Smith, Clendenin, Isaac Coles, 
Thornton, Innes, and Matthews, and in the negative were Ben- 
jamin Harrison (Speaker), Alexander White, Cabell, John Trigg, 
Watkins, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Miles King, Westwood, 
Humphreys, Isaac Vanmeter, George Jackson, Prunty, Temple, 
Robertson, Corbin, Willis Riddick, Ruffin, Bullitt, Andrew 
Moore, Edmunds (of Sussex), Briggs, and Gary. The third 
stipulation was then read and agreed to, and Alexander White 
was ordered to carry the instructions to the Senate. 

The following day (December ist), as soon as the House pro- 
ceeded to business, a motion was made that, as the resolution 
including the stipulations respecting commerce, which had been 
agreed to the day before and sent to the Senate, did not, from a 
mistake, contain the sense of a majority of the House that voted 
for the resolution, the direction to send the resolution to the 
Senate be rescinded, and the House immediately resolve itself 
into a committee to reconsider the same. This motion was car- 
ried by a vote of sixty to thirty-three ascertained by ayes and 
noes; Madison, Trigg, Cabell, Watkins, Jones, Westwood, 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 145 

Simms, David Stuart, Thomas Smith, Humphreys, Vanmeter, 
Prunty, Temple, Willis Riddick, Ruffin, Bullitt, Andrew Moore, 
Edmunds (of Sussex), Briggs, Gary, and Innes voting in the 
affirmative, and Alexander White, Johnston, Archibald Stuart, 
John Tyler, Patteson, Strother, King, Jackson, Thornton, and 
Matthews in the negative. The House at once resolved itself 
into committee on the instructions; and, when it rose, Matthews 
reported that the committee had taken the resolution into con- 
sideration and had made several amendments thereto, which he 
was directed to present when the House should think proper to 
receive them. The report was then ordered to be laid upon 
the table. 

The real cause of the recall of the resolution from the Senate 
can only be inferred; but it is probable that the Federal party 
proper, having felt the pulse of their opponents since the adjourn- 
ment of the previous day, were inclined to make another effort 
to secure the grant of five per centum for the Federal treasury; 
while their astute opponents, on the other hand, thinking, per- 
haps, that they might have gone too far, were not unwilling that 
the resolution should be placed once more within their reach. 138 
Its further history may be given at once. The House went into 
committee on the 4th of December, and, when it rose, Alexander 
White reported two resolutions on the subject of commerce, one 
of which declared that no vessel trading to this State, other than 
such as are wholly owned by American citizens, or the subjects 
of Kingdoms or States having commercial treaties with the 
American States, shall be permitted to bring in any goods not 
the produce or manufacture of the State to which she belongs; 
and the other allowing a certain drawback on the duMes imposed 
on goods imported into the Commonwealth by her citizens, or 
by citizens of the United States, in Virginia-built vessels, which 

136 It was a clear breach of the privileges of the Senate for the House 
of Delegates to recall from that body, without its consent, a resolution 
which had been duly passed by the House and was beyond its power, 
and which was doubtless referred by the Senate to a committee. The 
Senate Journal of the 3oth of November does not notice the receipt of 
the resolution, but it notices the receipt of other resolutions or bills 
which White had been commanded, during the day. by the House to 
present to the Senate. The Journal was, no doubt, corrected when the 
turn of the House became known. 
10 



146 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

shall be wholly owned by such citizens. These resolutions were 
agreed to, and the Committee of Commerce was ordered to 
bring in a bill pursuant with their tenor, and at the same time 
to bring in a bill in pursuance with the resolution instructing the 
delegates of Virginia in Congress to propose a grant of power 
over commerce, with certain stipulations, to that body. This 
was the last action of the House on this famous resolution, 
which, we are told by Mr. Madison, its peculiar friends cared 
no longer to sustain; but not until they had presented a resolu- 
tion, still more famous, which was adopted at a later stage, recom- 
mending a meeting of the States to consider their commercial 
regulations, but which was now voted down. 137 

The brilliant success of the Federal Constitution has cast a 
halo around those who were active in preparing the public mind 
for its advent, and has left in shadow the illustrious men, who, 
devoted to the independence and glory of Virginia, hesitated to 
strip her of the prerogatives of sovereignty, and bind her up in 
one homogeneous mass with all the States. And the reputation 
of the members of the present House of Delegates has been 
arraigned at the bar of posterity by a venerable statesman, who 
usually displayed great magnanimity in judging the conduct of 
his associates, and whose censure, uttered from the verge of the 
grave, falls with the greater force upon those against whom it 



137 Mr. Madison's words are: "The resolution [of the 2ist January, of 
which presently] had been brought forward several weeks before on 
the failure of a proposed grant of power to Congress to collect a reve- 
nue from commerce, which had been abandoned by its friends in con- 
sequence of material alterations made in the grant by a committee 
of the whole." (" Introduction to the Debates in the Federal Conven- 
tion," Madison Papers. Vol. II, 695.) In the same paper (694) Mr. Madi- 
son calls the proceedings of the House "wayward," but it is hard to 
see wherein that waywardness consists. A committee reports to the 
House a resolution embracing certain stipulations, which the House, 
after full debate, alters and amends. Surely there is nothing " way- 
ward " in such action. If there was anything openly " wayward," it 
was the recall of the resolution from the Senate ; but Mr. Madison 
could hardly allude to that subject, as he was one of the majority 
which sustained that questionable measure. Perhaps it is not going 
too far to say that Mr. Madison, in writing, so many years later, his 
" Introduction," could not forget the terrible defeats which he sustained, 
both in the committee and in the House. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 147 

is aimed. What we have already said will show that the majority 
acted with a degree of prudence as well as of public spirit, 
which seem to have been wanting to the minority. That 
majority conceded nearly all that was asked by the Federal party 
proper, except the grant of five per centum on imports. The 
members of the majority voted to grant to Congress the 
right to lay uniform duties,' which, when we regard the relative 
importance of Virginia in the confederation, was evidently a 
liberal concession. The duties were to be paid into the treasury 
of the State within which they were collected; for even the par- 
tial friends of the Federal Government did not propose to take 
directly from a State, almost overwhelmed with the embarrass- 
ments of a long war, all income from the customs. But it was 
evident that, if the system of uniform duties worked well in 
practice, it would supply the State with the means of honoring 
promptly the Federal requisitions already made or to be made 
thereafter. The majority did refuse to grant the five per centum 
duty to the Federal Government; but it was refused because the 
grant, judging from past experience, seemed nearly equivalent 
to a total surrender of all revenue from imports, while the 
expense of collection was borne by the State, and at a time 
when the State was not only burdened with debt, but when 
entire regions of country were praying to be relieved from the 
payment of taxes. On the other hand, the conduct of the small 
Federal minority was not only "wayward," but it verged to 
faction. This party received nearly all that it asked, with a 
single prominent exception. They had obtained the consent of 
the House of Delegates to cede to Congress the unlimited privi- 
lege of laying uniform duties upon imports. If the system of 
uniform duties had been carried into effect, then, for the first 
time, would Virginia be able to derive the full benefit from cus- 
toms; and it is not improbable that the forward impulse immedi- 
ately given to trade by the tariff laws of the Federal Govern- 
ment under the present Constitution would have been felt under 
the confederation. But the small Federal minority was stub- 
born, and, we had almost said, factious; and instead of availing 
themselves of the advantages proposed by a uniform rate of 
duties, they rejected the scheme in disgust, and, because they 
could not mould the majority to all their purposes, determined to 
do nothing at all. Had it not been for the lucky turn of events 



148 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

in the following two years, the conduct of the Federal party 
proper, in folding their arms when really substantial advantages 
were placed within their reach, would have received the severe 
condemnation of posterity. Upon a fair view of the case it is 
just to conclude that, while the conduct of the minority was 
deficient in judgment and in energy, the disposition of the 
majority of the House on this as on other occasions was emi- 
nently liberal and patriotic. 138 

iss jf ever a body o f men deserved to be held in grateful remem- 
brance by the friends of civil and religious freedom, it was the majority 
which guided the legislative councils of Virginia from 1765 to 1776, and 
from 1776 to the adoption of the Federal Constitution. That majority 
was formed in the Colony when Virginia had no more legal connection 
with any other American Colony than she had with England, Ireland, 
or Scotland ; or, in other words, when her relation to all was the same. 
We are indebted to that majority for the preparation of the public 
mind for independence, which it finally achieved. With independence 
some of the elder members passed from the scene, and their places 
were filled by a set of young and brilliant men who were more forward 
in the field and in the cabinet during the war. But as these young 
men came upon the stage when the Colony had become independent, 
and was bound Fn a union of offence and defence with the other States, 
there was an evident change from the old feeling in their mode of 
viewing public affairs, and they were inclined to view Virginia rather 
as in connection with the other States than as an independent sove- 
reignty standing on her own bottom. But the feeling of the old 
majority still predominated in the Assembly, and especially in the 
House of Delegates ; and though they were sometimes pressed by 
extraordinary emergencies to do some questionable things (of which 
hereafter), yet to their spirit and wisdom we mainly owe the blessings 
we now enjoy. Lest it might be supposed that we except Mr. Madison 
from that majority, it is due to the memory of that illustrious man to 
say that he was from his entrance into public life on many occasions 
one of the leading members. His services in the House of Delegates 
in respect of the revised bills, to omit allusion to his important ser- 
vices in the same theatre in other things, are worthy of all praise. But 
he belonged to the later type of that majority. He began his career 
in the Convention of 1776 at the age of twenty-five, passed in a year or 
two into the Privy Council, which was perpetually engaged with Fede- 
ral topics, and had served a term of three years in Congress at the 
close of the war. He had gradually learned to embrace all the States 
in his political periscope ; and he was more apt to decide upon a 
domestic measure from general than from local considerations. And 
though in no human bosom was ever ambition the minister of a purer 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 149 

Another subject, which ultimately led to important changes 
in our Federal relations, engaged the attention of the House. 
On the 28th of June, 1784, the General Assembly appointed four 
commissioners to meet such as should be appointed by Mary- 
land, and, in concert with them, to frame such liberal and equita- 
ble regulations, respecting the jurisdiction and navigation of the 
river Potomac, as may be mutually advantageous to the two 
States, and to report the same to the General Assembly. 139 On 
the 28th of December, of the same year, the House of Delegates 
resolved that the commissioners appointed on the 28ih of June 
last be further authorized to unite with the Maryland commis- 
sioners in representing to the State of Pennsylvania that it is in 
contemplation of the said two States to promote the clearing 
and extending the navigation of the Potomac, from tidewater 
upwards, as far as the same may be found practicable, to open a 
convenient road from the head of such navigation to the waters 
running into the Ohio, and to obtain from Pennsylvania certain 
immunities in her waters and territory. 140 On the 3131 of 
December, of the same year (1784), the commissioners made a 
report, in part, respecting the opening and navigation of the 
Potomac, which was read, and referred to Grayson, Madison, 
and Page, who duly reported a bill for the purpose, which was 
read a second time, on the ist of January, 1785, and committed 
to the gentlemen who brought it in. On the 3d of January the 
committee reported the bill without amendment, and it was 
ordered to be engrossed and read a third time. On the follow- 
ing day it passed the House, and on the 4th received the assent 
of the Senate. On the I3th of December, 1785, George Mason, 
as chairman of the committee appointed under the resolution of 
the 28th of June, of the preceding year, and charged with fresh 
instructions by a resolution of the House, passed on the 28th of 



patriotism, yet he could not be unconscious of his ample endowments, 
nor feel indisposed to exert them in accomplishing an object which he 
thought indispensable to the ultimate safety of all the States, and even 
of liberty itself. 

139 The commissioners were George Mason, Edmund Randolph, 
James Madison, and Alexander Harrison. 

140 House Journal, December 28, 1784. The resolution was carried to 
the Senate by Mr. Madison. 



150 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

December, of the same year, addressed a letter to the Speaker 
of the House, "enclosing the proceedings of the commissioners 
on the compact between the States of Virginia and Maryland 
respecting the jurisdiction and the navigation of the rivers Poto- 
mac and Pocomoke," which were read and ordered to be com- 
mitted to the Committee of Commerce. On the 26th of the 
same month Mr. Braxton, from the Committee of Commerce, 
reported a bill "to approve, confirm, and ratify the compact 
made by the commissioners appointed by this State to regulate 
and settle the jurisdiction and navigation of Potomac and Poco- 
moke rivers, and that part of Chesapeake bay which lieth within 
the territory of this State"; and the same was received, read the 
first time, and ordered to be read a second time. On the 2jih 
the bill was read a second time, and committed to Madison, Tyler, 
Isaac Zane, Corbin, Braxton, and Simms. On the 29th Madison 
reported the bill, with amendments, which were agreed to by 
the House, and it was ordered, with the amendments, to be 
engrossed and read a third time. A few moments after the 
second reading of the bill a letter from the Governor of New 
Hampshire was communicated by the Executive to the Speaker 
of the House, enclosing an act of the Legislature of that State 
respecting navigation and commerce, which was referred to the 
whole House, on the bill "for imposing certain rates and duties 
upon goods, wares, and merchandise imported into this Com- 
monwealth." On the 3Oth the bill ratifying the Maryland com- 
pact was read a third time, and passed without a division ; and 
Madison was requested to carry the bill to the Senate and desire 
their concurrence, which was given on the 4th of January, 1785, 
and the bill became a law. 

This was a fresh instance of the sincere disposition of the 
General Assembly of Virginia to adopt the regulations of trade 
proposed by the Federal party proper, which were not incon- 
sistent with her position as an independent Commonwealth, and, 
by prudent management of her resources, to maintain her own 
credit, and incidentally the credit of the Union. The House 
had already ordered a bill to be brought in conferring on Con- 
gress the right to regulate duties for the term of thirteen years; 
and if from the perverseness of the Federal minority that whole- 
some and efficient measure was suffered to fall in their pursuit of 
their more extended schemes, it was no fault of the majority. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 151 

A striking illustration of the hostility with which the majority 
of the House was regarded by the minority may be seen in the 
statement of Mr. Madison, who seems to charge that the com- 
pact between Maryland and Virginia was not communicated to 
Congress for its sanction in compliance with the Articles of Con- 
federation. 141 The second section of the sixth Article of Confede- 
ration certainly requires the assent of Congress before any State 
can "enter into a treaty" with another State; but a distinction 
is clear between entering into a treaty that is, making a treaty 
and entering into negotiations which may result in a treaty. If 
the latter were in violation of the Articles of Confederation, Mr. 
Madison and his colleagues, who made the compact with the 
Maryland commissioners, and who, under the excitement of the 
conversations at Mount Vernon, were inclined to go farther in 
their negotiations than were warranted by their instructions, 
were knowingly guilty of a grave error. But it is clear that the 
second section of the sixth article merely forbids the ultimate 
execution of a compact between two or more States without the 
consent of Congress. Now, as the assent of Virginia to the com- 
pact formed by Mr. Madison and his colleagues did not make 
it final until the assent of Maryland was obtained, it is obvious 
that the refusal of the House of Delegates to communicate the 
compact to Congress in its incomplete state was fairly justified 
both by the letter and the spirit of the Articles of Confederation. 
It was also prudent, as Maryland did not give her full assent to 
the compact. Thus, if the Assembly erred in entertaining a 
negotiation, Mr. Madison was blameable for acting as their 
minister in the premises; but, if the Assembly were right in 
entering upon the preliminaries, as it takes two to make a bar- 
gain, they incurred no blame in declining to transmit to Con- 
gress a treaty that, as it turned out, was not " entered into" at 
all. 1 " 

HI Introduction to the Debates in the Federal Convention" (Madi- 
son Papers, Vol. II, 713). From the position of the charge it appears 
plainly to refer to the action of Virginia on the Maryland compact. 

142 Mr. Madison's words are: "From the legislative Journals of Vir- 
ginia it appears that a vote refusing to apply for a sanction of Congress 
was followed by a vote against the communication of the compact to 
Congress." (Madison Papers, Vol. II, 712.) This charge is vague. It 
arraigns Virginia before the Union and before posterity as guilty of a 



152 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

But the majority were now to afford still further proof of their 
urgent wish to promote harmony among the States, to provide 
for the full and early discharge of the public debt, and to place 
the United States on an equal footing with foreign Powers in 
respect to commercial regulations. On the last day of the ses 
sion (January 21, 1786,) a resolution was offered in the House 

most deliberate violation of the letter and spirit of the Articles of Con- 
federation, while it affords no clew by which we may ascertain its date 
and soften its heinousness or remove it altogether. But its date can be 
reduced to a narrow compass. It must have happened since 1781, as 
the Articles of Confederation did not take effect until that year. 
From that date until 1783, Mr. Madison was in Congress, and his gene- 
ral argument excludes what occurred so early as the war. Indeed, 
the gist of his argument was that the Articles of Confederation in their 
last days were not duly respected by the States; and as he was in the 
Assembly in 1784 and 1785, it is certain that his charge, which must 
have been founded on what he saw, as the Journals (as we will pres- 
ently show) contain nothing of the kind, attaches to one of those two 
years. Now, I affirm, from a minute inspection of the Journals, that I 
cannot find the slightest foundation of such a charge. On the contrary, 
I perceive on every page an earnest effort to vest Congress with fresh 
and larger powers than it already possessed. But as the great compact 
of those years was the treaty with Maryland, I have traced most criti- 
cally the progress of the whole affair, and affirm positively that no such 
record can be found in the Journals of the House and of the Senate, 
where, if anywhere, it should appear. Still, I am ready to concede, on 
the authority 6f Mr. Madison, that the motions in question were made 
and rejected; but, if they were made, as they only could have been 
made, respecting the Maryland compact, I think I have shown that 
they were very properly put aside until it was known whether the com- 
pact should be acceded to by the parties to it. So far on the negative 
side of the proof. But there is positive proof that the Assembly did 
recognize to the last the binding force of the second section of the 
sixth article of the Confederation. On the I3th of January, 1786, a 
series of resolutions was reported from the Committee of Commerce, 
one of which was in these words: "That this State should concur with 
the State of Maryland in making a joint application to Congress for 
their consent to form a compact for the purpose of affording in due 
time, and in just proportion between the two States, naval protection 
to such part of Chesapeake bay and Potomac river which may at 
any time hereafter be left unprovided for by Congress," &c., &c., and 
" that the delegates from this State to Congress ought to be author- 
ized and requested to make such application in behalf of this State, in 
conjunction with the delegates from the State of Maryland in Congress." 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 153 

of Delegates, which, if we consider its ultimate results, was one 
of the most memorable in human history. It was resolved 
"that Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Jr., 143 Walter Jones, 
Saint George Tucker, and Meriwether Smith, Esqs., be 
appointed commissioners, 144 who, or any three of whom, shall 

This resolution was doubtless drawn by Madison, as it recognizes the 
propriety of obtaining the assent of Congress in the initiatory stages 
of a compact. Now, what was the action of the House on this reso- 
lution ? It was immediately read a second time, and was unanimously 
agreed to ; and, with others of the series, was taken to the Senate by 
Mr. Braxton, and passed that body, without amendment, on the iyth of 
January So that, if, in some moment of excitement, the motions 
alluded to by Mr. Madison were rejected, the Assembly nobly redeemed 
their character in the adoption of this resolution The series of reso- 
lutions, of which this was the first, consisted of seven, two of which 
were rejected ; and it is possible that Mr. Madison, after a long lapse 
of years, relying only on his memory (for there is no record on the 
Journals in the case that I can find), may have believed that the reso- 
lution asking the consent of Congress to a compact with Maryland was 
one of those that were rejected. (House Journal, January 13, 1786, 
page 140.) What induces me to believe that the resolution in question 
was written by Mr. Madison, who had been three years in Congress 
and entertained the esprit de corps, was the use of the word "requested" 
instead of "instructed," which was invariably used in resolutions 
addressed by the Assembly to the delegates in Congress. Perhaps it 
may as well be stated here that Curtis, in his History of the Federal 
Constitution (Vol. I, 341), following Marshall, dates the appointment of 
the Virginia commissioners "in the spring of 1785." As such appoint- 
ments were only made by the Assembly, which up to this period never 
sat early in the spring (for the Virginia commissioners met in Alex- 
andria in March), I was led to search the Journals with some care to 
ascertain the facts of the case, which are as already narrated in the 
text. 

143 1 have invariably omitted the affix of "Jr." to Mr. Madison's 
name, because, however convenient it was in Orange, it had no signifi- 
cancy in our public bodies. 

144 As all the commissioners, except Saint George Tucker, were 
members of the present Convention, it is proper to say that the time 
and place agreed upon was the first Monday in Septe/nber, 1786, and 
at Annapolis; that Randolph, Madison, and Tucker alone attended; 
that five States only Virginia. Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, 
and New York were represented, and that the commissioners from 
all the States present addressed a letter, written by Alexander Hamil- 
ton, to the States collectively, setting forth the facts of the case, and 



154 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

meet such commissioners as may be appointed by other States 
in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into 
consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the 
relative situations and trade of the said States; to consider how 
far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be 
necessary to their common interest and their permanent har- 
mony, and to report to the several States such an act relative to 
this great object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, will 
enable the United States, in Congress, effectually to provide for 
the same"; and it was also resolved "that the said commission- 
ers shall immediately transmit to the several States copies of the 
preceding resolution, with a circular-letter requesting their con- 
currence therein, and proposing a time and place for the 
meeting aforesaid." The resolution was offered by John Tyler, 
one of the majority of the House, and sustained by him. It 
was twice read, and agreed to by the House without a division. 
But it was the last day of the session, and there was no time to 
lose. General Matthews was immediately ordered to carry the 
resolution to the Senate and desire their concurrence. This 
remarkable resolution was drawn by Madison, and had been 
offered in Committee of the Whole, when the resolution grant- 
ing five per centum of the customs had been summarily rejected; 
but "it was," says Mr. Madison, " so little acceptable that it was 
not persisted in," but "it now obtained a general vote." 

A message was soon delivered from the Senate, by Mr. Jones, 
that the resolution was agreed to, with certain amendments, in 
which that body desired the concurrence of the House. The 
House proceeded to consider the amendments of the Senate, 
some of which were agreed to, and others disagreed to. Gene- 
ral Matthews was ordered to acquaint the Senate therewith. 
That body instantly receded from the amendments which had 
been disagreed to by the House, and the resolution became a 
law. This remarkable resolution was drawn by Madison, and 
had been offered in Committee of the Whole by Tyler, when 



recommending an appointment of commissioners from all the States to 
assemble in Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next, 1787; 
that Virginia, in a law drawn by Madison (Madison Papers, Vol. II, 
704, and Hening, 1786), was the first to appoint commissioners to the 
Convention (of which hereafter). 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 155 

the stipulation granting five per centum of the customs to the 
Federal Government had been summarily rejected. " It was, 
however," says Mr. Madison, "so little acceptable that it was 
not persisted in, but.it now obtained a general vote." " 5 

145 The resolution, as altered by the Senate, contains the names of 
David Ross, William. Ronald, and George Mason, and requires five 
commissioners, instead of three, to be present. Professor Tucker 
informed me that Madison told him that he wrote the resolution. The 
Journal does not mention the name of the mover, nor the fact that it had 
been previously presented. We learn these facts from the ''Introduc- 
tion" of Mr. Madison to the "Debates in the General Convention" 
{Madison Papers, Vol. II, 696). Some months ago John C. Hamilton, 
of New York, wrote to ex President Tyler with the view of ascertain- 
ing from him the precise relation which his father (Judge Tyler) bore 
to the resolution The ex-President did me the honor of consulting 
me on the subject, and I wrote to him in detail the facts of the case, 
and the reasons which induced the selection of his father as the mover. 
In the course of the investigation the original resolution, in the 
archives of the House of Delegates, was examined, and it was ascer- 
tained, as I was told by Mr. Tyler, to be in the handwriting neither of 
Mr. Madison nor Judge Tyler, but of Mr. Beckley, the Clerk of the 
House. Mr. Madison assigns as the reason for its passage " that it was 
the alternative of adjourning without any effort for the crisis in the 
affairs of the Union." Such was, naturally enough, the conclusion of 
Mr. Madison as the representative of the Federal party proper, who 
was disposed to consider nothing done unless in correspondence with 
his wishes ; but the acts of the majority present a very different case. 
The majority had, indeed, rejected the five per centum feature of the 
Federal project; but they cheerfully conceded to the Federal Govern- 
ment the power to establish uniform duties throughout the Union for 
the term of thirteen years; and when they found it vain to satisfy the 
Federal minority without what they deemed the virtual subjection of 
the State at the feet of Congress, they threw the whole responsibility 
of a general regulation of the customs upon those who, claiming to 
be the' special iriends of the Federal Government, had given up the 
subject in disgust. They accordingly ratified with promptness the 
compact already made wfth Maryland, and on the i3th of January, 
1786 eight days only before the adjournment determined to enter 
into a negotiation with Maryland for the regulation of the commerce 
of the two States, and adopted the following resolution: "That it is 
important to the commerce and revenue of the State of Maryland and 
this State that duties, imports, or exports, if laid, should be the same 
on both States; and that it is proper for the Legislatures of the t>aid 
States, at their annual meeting in the autumn, to appoint commission- 



156 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Of the course of Alexander White throughout the session, his 
recorded votes already reported afford incontestible evidence. 
He was appointed a member of nearly all the select committees 
to which general topics were referred; and he presided, perhaps, 
more frequently than any other member in Committee of the 



ers to meet and communicate the regulations of commerce and duties 
proposed by each State, and to confer on such subjects as may concern 
the commercial interests of both States, and within the power of the 
respective States; and that the number of the said commissioners 
should be equal not less than three nor more than five from each 
State; and they should annually meet in the third week in September, 
if required, by the Legislature of each State, or, the commissioners 
thereof, at such place as they should appoint." And, to show still 
further the truly federal spirit of the majority, they ordered the reso- 
lution to be sent by the Governor to the Legislatures of all the States 
in the Union, who were requested to appoint commissioners for the 
purposes therein expressed. This was a great and definite measure 
looking to a general regulation of commerce by all the States and 
was altogether in advance of any legislative measure which had then 
appeared, with the exception of the resolution of Massachusetts 
adopted during the preceding summer (Curtis, Vol. I, 336); and it was 
referred for the consent of the States. In the mean time the Assembly 
revised their custom-house regulations, and passed a stringent law for 
the prompt and economical collection of the customs. They also 
resolved to resent the hostile regulations of Great Britain by laying an 
additional tonnage on British vessels. If intentions are to be gathered 
from acts, we may conclude that the men who adopted this vigorous 
and catholic policy never dreamed of the "alternative" in question, 
but thought that they had marked out for the future a most decided 
and energetic course of action. And this policy received the sanction 
of the Senate four days only before the final adjournment. With this 
view of the facts, I am strongly inclined to think that the resolution of 
the 2ist of January, which called the meeting at Annapolis, was adopted 
after many members had left for their homes, and when, in fact, there 
was hardly a quorum of the House. At the end of the previous ses- 
sion the House adjourned over one or two days to get a quorum, and 
was finally compelled to adjourn sine die without one. The present 
House consisted of one hundred and fifty or sixty members, and we 
have seen from the ayes and noes on important questions during the 
session that barely a quorum was present; and, as the resolution was 
offered by Tyler, who was one of the majority, it is not improbable 
that the members of the majority present may have regarded it as 
designed to carry out the scheme which had been deliberately agreed 
on, and which would require, in due time, the appointment of commis- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 157 

Whole. And it may be recalled as a pleasing reminiscence by 
his descendents, that, as chairman of the Committee of the 
Whole, he reported to the House the bill constituting the State 
of Kentucky, and the bill for establishing religious freedom. 

The General Assembly of 1786-' 87 began it sessions on the 
1 6th of October, but the House of Delegates did not form a 
quorum until the 23d, when John Beckley was appointed Clerk, 
and Joseph Prentis elected Speaker by a majority of twelve over 
Theodoric Bland. Bland was placed at the head of the Com- 
mittee of Religion, Thomas Matthews of Privileges and Elec- 
tions, George Nicholas of Propositions and Grievances, Richard 
Lee of Claims, Thomas Matthews of Commerce, and James 
Innes of Courts of Justice. 146 

The members of the House who were members of the present 
Convention, besides Matthews, Nicholas, and Innes, were James 
Madison, Zachariah Johnston, French Strother, Parke Goodall, 
Thomas Smith, John Pride, William White, Francis Corbin, 
Edmund Ruffin, Miles King, Archibald Stuart, David Stuart, 
Holt Richeson, Richard Cary, John Early, John Prunty, George 
Jackson, Thomas Turpin, John Marr, Christopher Robertson, 
James Johnson, Willis Riddick, John Allen, John Howell Briggs, 
Martin McFerran, Littleton Eyre, John Dawson, Andrew Moore, 
Samuel Jordan Cabell, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), Samuel 



siuners. On the other hand, it should be remembered that Harrison, 
who was one of the majority, and who had more parliamentary expe- 
rience than any other member of the House, was in the chair, and not 
being on very amicable terms with Tyler, who had defeated him in 
Charles City and driven him to take refuge in Surry, would have been 
inclined to have scrutinized closely any independent measure coming 
from such a source. At all events, the "alternative " mentioned by 
Mr. Madison, however it may have appeared to him with his peculiar 
views of Federal policy, does not seem very apparent from the facts 
as they are recorded in the Journal. 

146 Madison had not arrived, and could not consistently with the rules 
of the House be placed on any committee; but Innes in the early part 
of the session was elected Attorney-General in place of Edmund Ran- 
dolph, who was elected Governor, and withdrew to attend the courts; 
and Madison acted as chairman of the committee on many occasions. 
That Madison, who was not a lawyer, was placed at the head of a com- 
mittee consisting of the ablest lawyers in the House, is a fresh proof 
of the universality and accuracy of his acquirements. 



158 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Richardson, Isaac Vanmeter, William Thornton, Binns Jones, 
William McKee, George Clendenin, Meriwether Smith, Cuthbert 
Bullitt, John Trigg, Isaac Coles, Benjamin Temple, and James 
Gordon. 147 

The financial condition of the Commonwealth was the first 
important measure that engaged the attention of the House. 
A motion was made and carried that the Governor be requested 
to lay before the House an exact statement of all the taxable 
property of the State, of duties payable on exports and imports, 
together with the product of said taxes and duties from the ist 
day of January, 1783, to the ist of October, 1786, specifying the 
amount of specie received in each year, and the amount of the 
different species of the public securities, the averages of taxes 
now due, and the sums of money advanced to the several officers 
of government between the ist day of January, 1782, and the 
present time. 148 This motion was immediately followed by 
another to appoint a select committee to take into consideration 
the whole system of finance established by the laws of the Com- 
monwealth, and to report such regulations therein, and such 
amendments to the laws thereto, as may to them seem best cal- 
culated to alleviate the present distresses of the people, and at 
the same time to preserve inviolate the national faith and honor 
of the Commonwealth. This motion was unanimously adopted, 
and Bland, Corbin, George Nicholas, Innes, Lyne, Griffin, 
Eggleston, Matthews, King, Zachariah Johnston, Thompson, 
Richard Bland Lee, Turberville, Strother, Archibald Stuart, 
Campbell, Webb, David Stuart, and Wills composed the com- 
mittee. The number and ability of the members, who were 
selected from the great divisions of the State, show the sense 
entertained by the House of the momentous subject entrusted 
to their charge. On the 2d day of December, 1786, their 

147 Alexander White, a member of the House, did not attend. I 
have, however, continued my review of the sessions of the Assembly 
immediately preceding the Convention as necessary to the under- 
standing of the facts of the times and of the history of many members 
of the Convention. 

148 This interesting report was made on the 25th of November, 1786, 
and is doubtless on file in the office of the Clerk of the House of Dele- 
gates. It ought to be published in the Historical Reporter, and in the 
Southern Literary Messenger. (House Journal i786-'87, page 61.) 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 159 

report was presented to the House by Colonel Bland, and was, 
perhaps, the most elaborate paper on our financial affairs that 
had yet appeared. 149 On the I2th General Matthews, from the 
Committee of the Whole, reported a series of resolutions founded 
upon the report, recommending an increase of taxes and mani- 
festing a firm determination to maintain the credit of the State. 
An additional tax of five dollars a wheel was recommended to 
be laid on all coaches and chariots, three dollars a wheel addi- 
tional on all other four-wheel vehicles, and two dollars a wheel 
additional on all riding -carriages with two wheels. Clerks of 
courts were ordered to account with the treasurer for one- third 
of receipts from their fees. Every practicing attorney was to 
pay down to the clerks of the respective courts one-tenth of all 
the fees allowed by law for the services performed by attorneys. 
Physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries were required to pay an 
annual tax of five pounds each. A tax of twenty pounds was 
imposed on all imported riding- carriages with four wheels, and 
of ten pounds with two. Houses in towns were taxed five per 
centum on the amount of annual rent. Merchants, traders, and 
factors native and foreign were required to take out a license 
to do business, and foreign merchants belonging to a nation in 
treaty with the Union were required to pay less than those who 
did not. These recommendations were adopted, with the excep- 
tion of the tax on imported vehicles; and Matthews, Meriwether 
Smith, George Nicholas, and others were ordered to bring in 
bills to carry the scheme into effect. The House had previously 
ordered a bill to be brought in allowing taxes to be paid in 
tobacco; 150 but a new issue of paper money, called for by some 
counties remote from market, was voted down. Bills were 
brought in and passed to amend and reduce into one act the 
several acts for the appointment of naval officers, and ascertaining 
their fees; to place the naval officers on the civil list; to regulate 
the public offices and the mode of keeping the books therein; to 
reduce into one act the several revenue laws of the State, and for 



149 It fills ten or twelve pages of the quarto Journal .of the House. 
(House Journal of i786-'87, page 71, el seq.) 

159 November 13, 1786, House Journal, page 36. On the 23d the 
House rejected the bill on its passage by a vote of seventy-two to 
thirty-three. 



160 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

more effectually preventing fraud and abuses in collecting the 
revenue arising from customs; to call in and fund the paper 
money of the State; to explain, amend, and reduce into one act 
the several acts for the admission of emigrants to the right of 
citizenship, and prohibiting the migration of certain persons to 
the Commonwealth. A bill was passed for the construction of a 
marine hospital, and for preserving the privileges of embassa- 
dors. Kentucky, which had failed from unavoidable causes to 
comply with the requisitions of the act passed at the last session, 
was authorized to become an independent State. 

A bill was also passed to encourage navigation and ship-build- 
ing, and to regulate and discipline the militia. An export duty 
of six shillings was laid on every hogshead of tobacco, and a 
bill passed imposing an additional duty of two per centum, ad 
valorem, on all goods imported into the State. A bill to supply 
the United States, in Congress assembled, with a certain sum of 
money was promptly passed. These measures convey but a 
faint idea of the number and importance of the subjects that 
employed the time of the House. The revised bills, continued 
from the last session, were still under discussion; but, after many 
had been disposed of, it was determined to appoint a second 
committee of revisers to complete an entire revision of the laws; 
for in the interval of the first appointment of the revisors ten 
years had elapsed, and the legislation of that period required to 
be drafted into the Code; and Edmund Pendleton and George 
Wythe, two of the former revisors, and John Blair were 
appointed to perform the work. If no other record of the 
worth, the ability, and the sterling faith of the present Assembly 
existed than the Journal of the House of Delegates, the careful 
historian would pronounce with confidence on their just claims 
to the gratitude and veneration of posterity. 

The leading topics of the session, however, which have sin- 
gled it out for a place in general history, were those pertaining 
to the Protestant Episcopal Church, and to the initiatory measures 
that led to the formation of the present Federal Constitution. 
And first of the Church: At an early day petitions were pre- 
sented from various places complaining of the disposition of the 
churches and glebes, and praying for a repeal of the act to 
incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Church. Those in favor 
of a repeal and a redistribution of the property of the Church, 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 161 

whether we regard the number of the petitions or of those who 
signed them, greatly preponderated. 151 The petitions, as they 
were presented, were referred to the Committee of the Whole. 
On the 2d of November the House went into committee on the 
subject, and, when the committee rose, a resolution was reported, 
and agreed to, that the committee be discharged from the fur- 
ther consideration of the petitions; which were ordered to lie on 
the table. On the 4th of December the petitions were called up 
and referred to the Committee of the Whole on the State of the 
Commonwealth. The subject was discussed in Committee of 
the Whole on the 5th, when Colonel Thruston, who had been, 
at the beginning of the Revolution, a minister of the Episcopal 
Church, reported three resolutions, the first of which recom- 
mended that a law ought to pass to empower all societies formed 
for the purposes of religion to hold such property as they are 
now possessed of, to acquire property of any kind, and to dis- 
pose thereof in any manner that may be agreeable to the said 
societies. The second recommended that so much of all acts 
of Parliament or acts of Assembly as prohibits religious socie- 

151 As a majority of the churches and glebes, in number and value, 
were in Eastern Virginia, the subject of repeal and redistribution, in 
its geographical bearing, will be seen by referring to the places from 
which the petitions came : For a repeal, &c., were Louisa, Henrico, 
Westmoreland, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Dinwiddie, New Kent, Glou- 
cester, Albemarle, Lancaster, Nansemond, King and Queen, Orange, 
Goochland, Pittsylvania, Hanover, Amelia, Halifax, King and Queen, 
Lunenburg, Augusta, Caroline, Essex, Westmoreland, Cumberland, 
Gloucester, King and Queen, Cumberland, Buckingham, Hanover, 
Gloucester, Powhatan, and Chesterfield. Against a repeal, &c., were 
Richmond county, York, Hanover, Louisa, Northampton, Southamp- 
ton, Stafford, King George, York, Elizabeth City, Hanover, Albemarle, 
and Louisa. The Baptist associations presented a memorial in favor 
of a repeal, and the Convention of the clerical and lay members of the 
Protestant Episcopal Church presented a memorial against it, which 
was followed by another from the standing committee of the last- 
named Church. When the name of a county appears more than once 
an additional petition was presented by it. I have given the names of 
the counties in the order -in which they sent in their petitions. The 
latest was presented on the 5th of December. On the 3oth of October 
the Presbyterian Church of Alexandria applied for an act of incorpo- 
ration, as the Otter Peak Presbyrerian Church had done at the pre- 
vious session, but their petitions were rejected, 
n 



162 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

ties from forming regulations for their own government, in any 
cases whatsoever, ought to be repealed, and that it ought to 
be declared that all such societies have full power to form regu- 
lations for their own government. The third recommended a 
repeal of the act to incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Church. 
These resolutions passed without a division, and a committee, 
consisting of Thruston, George Nicholas, 152 John Page, Corbin, 
Johnston, Archibald Stuart, Isaac Zane, Madison, Briggs, and 
Eggleston, was ordered to bring in bills in pursuance with the 
resolutions. The bill to repeal the act to incorporate the Church 
was duly presented, was read three several times on different 
days, and passed the House without a division. On the gth it 
was returned from the Senate, with amendments, in which the 
House refused to concur, and from which, on the return of the 
bill, it receded. What those amendments were the Journal of 
neither House affords any means of determining. 153 It is singu- 
lar that, while the ayes and noes were frequently called during 
the session on comparatively trivial questions, none demanded 
them on such a question as this. 

The first two resolutions reported by the Committee of the 
Whole were just and proper. They served to carry out and 
enforce the doctrines of the act for establishing religious free- 
dom, and to extend to religious associations the protection and 
aid of legislation. But the passage of the bill to repeal the act 
incorporating the Episcopal Church was of doubtful right. 
This extraordinary act can only be accounted for on the ground 
of a compromise, or of a panic terror which seized upon the House. 
It might have been contended in debate that, at the same time 
the resolution recommending a repeal of the charter of the 
Church was adopted, another resolution authorizing the passage 
of all laws necessary to enable a religious society to hold and 
sell its property received the sanction of the House; and that the 
Episcopal Church, in losing its charter, which it held alone of all 
the religious sects, would lose nothing, while the repeal would 
not affect its title to property which it lawfully held. This 



152 George Nicholas had reported the bill of the last session to repeal 
the charter of the Church. 

153 The original engrossed bill, in the office of the Clerk of the House 
of Delegates, will settle the question. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 163 

ground is not tenable unless it can be shown that the Church 
had approved it; but the memorials of its Convention and of its 
standing committee (which last was presented just before the 
resolution recommending the repeal was adopted), so far from 
approving such a policy, warmly protested against any action in 
the premises. If, then, there was a compromise in the House, 
as there probably was, it was a compromise to which the Church 
did not assent; and without that assent the act of repeal was 
manifestly unjust and unconstitutional. 15 * It has never been 
alleged that the Episcopal Church had by any unlawful practice 
forfeited its charter; but even if it had, the mode of redress was 
not through the Legislature, but through the courts. On the 
other hand, some allowance should be made for the peculiar 
views in respect of the extent of the powers of the Legislature 
then prevalent. On the subject of charters the public jealousy 
in England and in the Colony for a century and a half then past 
was directed to the King, and not towards Parliament. The 
reckless mode of dealing with charters pursued by James the 
Second did more to weaken his hold upon the intelligent and 
religious people of England, and especially upon the Church of 
England, than any other course, which, under the guidance of 
evil councillors, and in pursuit of his mad scheme of converting 
England into a Catholic country, he was driven to adopt. The 
sanctity of charters became one of the slogans of the Revolution 
of 1688. It was specially dwelt upon in the memorial from The 
Hague, which prepared the British mind to accept of a new 
dynasty. But it was the annulment of charters by the King, 
and not by Parliament, that roused the fears of the English peo- 
ple. The King was the grantor of all charters, but he could not 
take them away. The authority of Parliament, however, was 
unrestricted. It could declare the throne vacant, and fill it at 
its discretion; and it would certainly have appeared to the states- 
men of 1688 the height of absurdity to deny to that body the 
right of amending or annulling a vicious charter which James 



154 The fact that the ayes and noes were not called in any of the 
stages of the bill would seem to indicate some agreement between its 
friends and the friends of the Church, or that the friends of the Church 
seeing all contest hopeless, did not care to put their names on record 
for future animadversion. 



164 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

may have bestowed upon his minions. It was in this spirit that 
the General Assembly passed the bill to repeal the charter of the 
Episcopal Church, more especially as on the subject of charters 
the Constitution did not expressly prohibit their repeal. The 
customs and the laws of England from the time of King Wil- 
liam had justly great weight with our fathers. In their early 
troubles they had looked to the Convention Parliament of 1688 
as a guide, and, in imitation of that body, had adjourned over 
from a convention to an ordinary Legislature. 155 It is true the 
Convention Parliament repealed no charters; but it is equally 
true that, if King James before his abdication had not, by 
recalling his new charters and by the restoration of the old, done 
the work for them, they would have done it for themselves. 
But, with all the allowances due from the habits and customs of 
Parliament, the repeal of the Church bill, even on the ground of 
compromise, when the Church proper was not a party, was 
indefensible. 

Nor is the repeal more defensible on the ground of popular 
clamor. The voice of the people is truly the voice of God; 
but it must be uttered in that deliberate and constitutional way 
which the people themselves have prescribed. No statesman 
who consents at the bidding of the popular voice to violate 
vested rights should escape the serious animadversion of pos- 
terity. And this censure attaches with equal severity to the 
opponents as well as to the friends of repeal. No act of legisla- 
tion during the session appears more unanimous on the face of 
the Journal than the act repealing the charter of the Church. 
From first to last from the day when the resolution recom- 
mending its repeal was reported from the Committee of the 
Whole to the passage of the bill through its several stages 
there was not a single division in the House, either on its prin- 
ciple or on its details. All the members are equally responsible 
for its passage; while the conduct of the minority, if controlled 
by fear, is still more to be condemned and deplored. Failing to 
afford posterity the means of knowing, by the ordinary parlia- 
mentary signs, who were the supporters of the bill, its oppo- 

156 1 have already mentioned the fact that the Convention of May, 
1776, which formed our first Constitution, became the first House of 
Delegates under that Constitution, without an appeal to the people. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 165 

nents, if such there were, must share the blame with its friends. 
Moreover, the repeal of the act was a blunder. In the eye of 
the law it was a nullity. The great aim of those who desired 
the repeal was the confiscation of the churches and the glebes. 
Yet it was plain that, if the Church held its possessions lawfully, 
no act of Assembly, which merely deprived it of its corporate 
capacity, could rightfully take them away. The course which 
the Legislature ought to have pursued seems to be simple and 
obvious. The whole question of property belonged to the 
judiciary, and the Assembly might have performed its duty by 
referring the petitioners to the courts, or by instructing the 
Attorney- General or the solicitor to prepare for the courts a 
case which should determine the right of the Church to hold 
the property in question. On the other hand, the course of the 
Church on the repeal of its charter was equally obvious. Its 
friends ought to have pressed the bills carrying into effect the 
two first resolutions of the committee through the House, and 
thus placed the Church on a platform on which it could sustain 
itself in a court of justice; but so far from following up the 
recommendations of the committee, which were adopted by the 
House, they allowed them to sleep on the table. The Church 
should, then, have appealed to the courts, and we know, from 
what occurred when an appeal was ultimately made, what would 
have been the result. It would have protected itself from the 
worriment [sic], vexation, and spoliation of the ten or fifteen years 
that followed the repeal, and retained its property, if held law- 
fully, under the laws existing prior to the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, or under the act of the October session of 1776, or 
under the act of its recent incorporation. And posterity would 
have had the satisfaction of knowing that the act of repeal was 
as inoperative as it was ill-timed and unjust. 

The subject of Federal affairs will now claim our attention. 
On the 3oth of October, 1786, the Speaker laid before the House 
of Delegates a letter from the commissioners appointed by the 
General Assembly at the last session to meet such commissioners 
as might be appointed by the other States in the Union, to take 
into consideration the commerce of the United States, with a 
copy of the proceedings of the meeting. 156 The letter and its 

156 The meeting at Annapolis. 



166 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

enclosures were read, and committed to the whole House on the 
state of the Commonwealth. On the 3d of November the House 
went into committee on the subject, and, when it rose, Matthews 
reported a resolution declaring " that an act ought to pass in 
conformity to the report of the commissioners assembled at 
Annapolis on the 4th of September last, for appointing commis- 
sioners on the part of this State to meet commissioners on the 
part of the other States in convention, at Philadelphia, on the 
second Monday in May next, with powers to devise such further 
provision as shall appear to them necessary to render the Con- 
stitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies 
of the Union; and to report such an act for that purpose to the 
United States, in Congress assembled, as, when agreed to by 
them, and afterwards confirmed by the Legislatures of every 
State, will effectually provide for the same." It was unani- 
mously agreed to by the House, and Matthews, George Nicholas, 
Madison, Nelson, Mann Page, Bland, and Corbin were ordered 
to bring in a bill in pursuance with its tenor. The object of the 
resolution was evidently to amend the Articles of Confederation 
in the form prescribed by them. 

On the 6th of November Matthews 157 reported a bill "for 
appointing delegates from this Commonwealth to a convention 
proposed to be held in the city of Philadelphia in May next, for 
the purpose of revising the Federal Constitution"; which was 
received and read a first time, and ordered to be read a second 
time. On the 7th it was read a second time, and committed to 
the whole House on the following day. But on the following 
day something more than a phantom appeared to the eyes of the 
Federal party. It will be remembered that on the I3th of Janu- 
ary, 1786 a few days before the House of Delegates adjourned 
at the last session a resolution had been deliberately adopted 
which required not less than three nor more than five commis- 
sioners to meet a similar number on the part of Maryland and 
adjust the commercial relations of the two States; but that, at 

157 Alexander Hamilton, who drafted the circular of the Annapolis 
meeting to the States, was a West Indian; and Thomas Matthews, who 
reported the resolution declaring the expediency of appointing com- 
missioners on the part of Virginia to the Convention at Philadelphia, 
and the bill above mentioned appointing the deputies, was also a West 
Indian. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 167 

the last day of the session, when it is probable a quorum was 
hardly present, the Federal party had introduced the Annapolis 
resolution, and appointed delegates to carry its purposes into 
effect. It was now determined by the majority that, in the face 
of the preliminaries for calling a General Federal Convention, 
the commissioners, under the resolution of the i3th of January, 
should be appointed, and should, without delay, effect the con- 
templated meeting. It was also determined to seek the concur- 
rence of Pennsylvania, and to obtain the consent of Congress. 
This fearful resolution passed without a division, was immedi- 
ately transmitted to the Senate by Corbin, and received the 
sanction of that body on the 22d. The House then resolved 
itself into a committee on the bill to call the General Convention; 
and, when it rose, Matthews reported the bill with amendments, 
which were concurred in, and the bill, with the amendments, was 
ordered to be engrossed and read a third time. And on the 
following day it passed the House without a division, was carried 
to the Senate by Matthews, and was concurred in by that body, 
and communicated to the House on the 23d. 158 On the 25th the 
commissioners, under the resolution of the i3th of January, were 
elected by joint ballot, the choice falling on Saint George Tucker, 
William Ronald, Robert Townsend Hooe, Thomas Pleasants, 
and Francis Corbin. And on the 4th of December George 
Washington, Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Blair, 
James Madison, George Mason, and George Wythe were elected, 
by joint ballot of both houses, deputies to the General Con- 
vention. 

At the first glance the appointment of two sets of commis- 
sioners at the same time for what should seem one and the same 
object may appear inconsistent, and the game of two opposing 
parties. That there was deep management on the side of the 
Federalists proper (headed by Madison) is probably true; but it 
was not observed by the majority; or, if observed, it was disre- 



158 There is another illustration of the respect manifested by the 
Assembly to Congress, and shows that the case of disrespect alluded 
to by Mr. Madison must have been isolated, and the result of some 
casual impulse; if (as we have before intimated) Mr. Madison had not 
confounded, after a lapse of years, the nature of the votes on a par- 
ticular occasion. See the proceedings in full in the House Journal, 
November 23, 1786, page 55. 



168 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

garded, as the Federal scheme merely pointed to an amendment 
of the Articles of Confederation in the form prescribed by that 
instrument, and any proposed amendment would be required to 
pass the ordeal of the Assembly. But the truth is, that the 
majority were eminently patriotic. They loved the Union, and 
were willing to make it as efficient as was consistent with the 
independence of Virginia. They well knew that some time 
would elapse before the meeting of the Convention, and still 
more before its work was ended, and yet still more before that 
work could be received and approved by every State in the Con- 
federation. They remembered the delay in ratifying the Arti- 
cles of Confederation, to which Virginia had promptly assented 
as early as 1777, but which did not take effect till 1781. Mean- 
time, the commercial relations of Virginia with Maryland and 
Pennsylvania required immediate attention. The interests of 
those States would be materially advanced by a uniform tariff, 
and those of Virginia most of all. 

The principal occasion on which the two parties came into 
direct collision, and which resulted in the total defeat of the 
Federal party proper, occurred on the 2d of January, 1787, on 
a motion to amend the bill to amend and reduce into one the 
several laws concerning naval officers, by adding a clause in the 
following words: "That the before- mentioned duties shall not 
be demanded or paid until the commissioners appointed on 
behalf of this State to negotiate with commissioners on behalf 
of the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania, for the establishment 
of similar commercial duties and regulations within this and the 
said States, shall have reported to the Executive that the State 
of Maryland has imposed duties similar and equal to those 
before imposed by this act; in which case, the Executive is 
hereby authorized and required to direct, by proclamation, the 
said duties to be paid; and in the mean time the present duties 
shall continue to be collected in pursuance of the laws now in 
force and of this act." 15fl The ayes and noes were called, and the 
amendment failed 'by a vote of seventy-one to thirty-seven ; 



159 House Journal, January 2, 1787, page 135. The ayes and noes in 
full on this amendment well deserve to be studied, if the historical 
student has a wish to note the somersaults which some of the voters 
were to turn in less than eighteen months. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 169 

Madison, David Stuart, Richardson, Marr, Thornton, Temple, 
Gordon, Corbin, Turpin, Bland, Bullitt, and Dawson in the 
minority, and George Nicholas, Pride, Samuel J. Cabell, Johns- 
ton, Trigg, McFerrUn, Strother, Joseph Jones (of Dinwiddie), 
King, Meriwether Smith, Thomas Smith, Clendenin, Isaac 
Coles, Goodall, Prunty, George Jackson, Isaac Vanmeter, 
Robertson, Willis Riddick, McKee, Allen, Briggs, Gary, and 
Matthews in the majority. On the 4th the bill came up on its 
passage, when the Federalists ventured another battle, and were 
again defeated by a vote of seventy-nine to thirty-two. The 
bill was sent to the Senate by Madison, who was one of the 
minority of thirty-two, and received the assent of that body on 
the Qth. 

The design of the Federalists proposing the amendment was 
to postpone any permanent agreement between Maryland and 
Virginia, which, by facilitating the collection of customs, might 
render the adoption of any general system less urgent upon this 
State. The success of the amendment would have laid Virginia 
at the mercy of Maryland, who might impose what duties she 
pleased upon imports, while Virginia might remain helpless and 
without a revenue to meet her ordinary expenses. Moreover, a 
state of commercial embarrassment was more favorable to the 
views of the Federalists than a prosperous system of domestic 
revenue, as it might serve to demonstrate the absence of any 
stringent necessity for an entire change in our Federal policy. 
This vote may be taken as a fair exhibition of the policy of both 
parties and their relative strength. 

The question of the navigation of the Mississippi was one of 
the great topics of the present session. That river once held to 
Virginia a relation as intimate as the Chesapeake and the James 
hold at the present time. The account of the Mississippi 
debate in the Convention, which has been already reported, 
explains the state of public opinion on the subject. Let it suf- 
fice for the present to say that at a moment when the fate of the 
Commonwealth was believed to hang by a single hair, Virginia 
had given a reluctant consent to allow the surrender of the navi- 
gation of that river to become a subject of negotiation with 
Spain; but as soon as the imminent jeopardy was removed she 
returned to her true feelings, and opposed-all negotiation on such 



170 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

a question. 160 It had been recently discussed in Congress, and 
there was an evident design on the part of that body, or of its 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to cede the exclusive navigation of 
the river to Spain for a term of years, embracing an entire gene- 
ration. At this crisis the House of Delegates determined to 
mark out in unequivocal terms the policy which Virginia would 
maintain; and on the 29th day of November, 1786, discussed 
the subject in full in Committee of the Whole. When the com- 
mittee rose, General Matthews reported to the House three reso- 
lutions, the first of which set forth that the common right of 
navigating the Mississippi, and of communicating with other 
nations through that channel, ought to be considered as the 
bountiful gift of nature to the United States, as the proprietors 
of the territories watered by that river and its eastern branches, 
and as morover secured to them by the late Revolution. The 
second declared that the confederacy, having been formed on the 
broad basis of equal rights in every part thereof to the protec- 
tion and guardianship of the whole, a sacrifice of the rights of 
any part to the supposed real interest of another part would be 
a flagrant violation of justice, a direct contravention of the end 
for which the Federal Government was instituted, and an alarm- 
ing innovation in the system of the Union. The third recom- 
mended that the delegates of Virginia in Congress 161 ought to be 
instructed in the most decided terms to oppose any attempt that 
may be made in Congress to barter or surrender to any nation 
whatever the right of the United States to the free and common 

160 See letter of Madison to H. Niles (Madison Papers, Vol. I, Appen- 
dix, No. IV). 

161 The delegates in Congress elected at the present session were 
William Grayson, James Madison, Richard Henry Lee, Joseph Jones, 
and Edward Carrington. Jones having declined, Henry Lee, Jr. 
(Legion Harry) was chosen in his place. It has been seen in the debates 
what an important part some of these gentlemen had to perform. By 
the way, the members of Congress were elected at each session of 
Assembly by the process of bringing in a fresh bill at every election 
appointing delegates to Congress. Leave was asked to bring in the 
bill, and when the bill was reported it passed through the stages of an 
ordinary bill in both houses. When the bill became a law the election 
was held by joint ballot of the houses. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 171 

use of the river Mississippi, and to protest against the same as 
a dishonorable departure from the comprehensive and benevo- 
lent policy which constitutes the vital principle of the confede- 
racy; as provoking the just resentments and reproaches of our 
Western brethren, whose essential rights and interests would be 
thereby sacrificed and sold; as destroying that confidence in 
the wisdom, justice, and liberality of the Federal councils, 
which is so necessary at this crisis to a proper enlargement of 
their authority; and, finally, as tending to undermine our repose, 
our prosperity, and our Union itself; and that the said delegates 
ought to be instructed to urge the proper negotiations with 
Spain for obtaining her concurrence in such regulations touching 
the mutual and common use of the said river as may secure the 
permanent harmony and affection of the two nations, and such 
as the wise and generous policy of His Catholic Majesty will per- 
ceive to be no less due to the interests of his own subjects than 
to the just and friendly views of the United States. These reso- 
lutions were unanimously adopted by the House, and Matthews 
was ordered to take them to the Senate, which body concurred 
in them on the 8th, without amendment. 

These resolutions record an era in human affairs. It may be 
truly affirmed that, if Virginia had cast her weight in the oppo- 
site scale, no American boat, not a bale of American cotton, 
would have rested on the waters of Mississippi for a generation 
to come. The West, all hope of profitable agriculture being 
blasted, would have remained unpeopled; and those strong 
incentives which, in better days and under the auspices of a new 
system controlled by Southern statesmen, led to the purchase of 
Louisiana and the free and perpetual ownership and use of that 
mighty river, would not have existed, nor that public opinion 
which was necessary to sustain that magnificent acquisition. 
Honor to the men who laid the foundation of that great work, 
and whose names, almost forgotten in the land of their birth, it 
is our present purpose and ardent desire to make familiar to 
those who inherit the results of their splendid statesmanship and 
heroic courage. 

A graceful act of the present session was the purchase and 
manumission of the slave James, the property of William Armi- 
stead, of New Kent. The subject was brought before the House 



172 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

of Delegates by a petition from the slave himself, setting forth, 
among other things, a certificate from the Marquis de Lafayette, 
that James had done him essential services while he commanded 
in Virginia, and that the intelligence which the negro had 
received from the enemy's camp was industriously collected 
and most faithfully delivered as a spy; and that he properly 
acquitted himself in some important commissions which the 
Marquis had given him. The bill of purchase and manumis- 
sion passed both houses unanimously. This is the only instance, 
which at present occurs to us, in which a petition from a slave 
was presented to the House of Delegates. 

On the I5th day of October, 1787, the General Assembly 
again came together, and a quorum of both houses appeared on 
the first day of the session. The modest and estimable Prentis, 
who was soon to be called to the bench of the District Court, 
was re-elected Speaker of the House of Delegates without oppo- 
sition an honor the more valuable as he was nominated by 
General Matthews, who was eminent as a parliamentarian, and 
who, at a subsequent date, filled the Speaker's chair for several 
years, and was sustained by Governor Harrison, who had more 
than once presided in the House, had been Governor, and had 
filled the leading posts abroad. 

The members of the House, who were members of the present 
Convention, were William Cabell, Patrick Henry, Benjamin. 
Harrison, William Watkins, Parke Goodall, French Strother t 
Thomas Smith, Andrew Moore, George Nicholas, Thomas Mat- 
thews, Theodoric Bland, Nathaniel Burwell, William Ronald, 
Francis Corbin, James Monroe, Edmund Custis, John Trigg, 
Joseph Jones, Meriwether Smith, Samuel Richardson, John 
Guerrant, Isaac Coles, John Marr, Green Clay, Samuel Hop- 
kins, Willis Riddick, Thomas Turpin, Cuthbert Bullitt, Robert 
Lawson.John Dawson.John Howell Briggs, Thomas Edmunds, 
Zachariah Johnston, Archibald Stuart, Martin McFerran, George 
Mason, David Stuart, John Early, John S. Woodcock, Daniel 
Fisher, Ralph Humphreys, George Jackson, John Prunty, John 
Marshall, William Norvell, Benjamin Temple, Levin Powell, 
Littleton Eyre, James Webb, Archibald Woods, Anthony Walke, 
Walker Tomlin, William McKee, John Allen, Richard Cary, 
Samuel Edmison, Bushrod Washington, Miles King, Samuel 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 173 

Jordan Cabell, David Patteson, William Thornton, Joseph Jones, 
David Stuart, James Gordon, Edmund Ruffin, and Alexander 
White. 

Madison was in- Congress, which was then sitting in New 
York, as his published letters show; but probably at no period 
of our history was the House of Delegates composed of an 
abler body of men. As a characteristic of the times, it may be 
mentioned that Daniel Boone was a member from one of the 
counties of Kentucky. 

Norvell, whose grave demeanor and weight of public service 
well fitted him for the post, was placed at the head of the Com- 
mittee of Religion; Harrison, at the head of the Committee of 
Privileges and Elections; George Nicholas, at the head of the 
Committee of Propositions and Grievances; Patrick Henry, at 
the head of the Committee of Courts of Justice; and Matthews, 
at the head of the Committee of Commerce. 

The Senate was also successful in getting a quorum on the 
first day of the session, and elected John Jones their Speaker 
by a majority of one vote over General Edward Stevens. 162 

Stevens Thomson Mason, John Pride, Walter Jones, and Bur- 
well Bassett, members of the present Convention, were also 
members of the Senate. 163 

The first general business was the re-election of Edmund Ran- 
dolph as Governor, and the choice of James Madison, Edward 
Carrington, Henry Lee, John Brown, and Cyrus Griffin as mem- 
bers of Congress for the following year. The new Federal 



162 General Edward Stevens and General Adam Stephen were fre- 
quently confounded in their own day, and still more frequently in later 
times. General Adam Stephen was a member of the present Conven- 
tion, and is noticed elsewhere. General Edward Stevens was almost 
our contemporary, as he died as late as 1820. He was an excellent man 
and a gallant soldier. He is buried near Culpeper Courthouse, in this 
State. 

163 There were two gentlemen by the name of Burwell Bassett in the 
Assembly at the present session. The one in the Senate, and not the 
one in the House, was a member of the present Convention. Great 
care is necessary in deciding on individuals of the same name. Thus 
there were Cabells and Joneses in both houses, a Paul Carrington on 
the bench, and another in the House. This care is more imperative, as 
the Journals have no index. 



174 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Constitution, which had been promulgated some days before, 16 * 
was now in the hands of most of the members for the first time, 
but did not seem to produce any sensible effect on legislation. 
Several years had elapsed after the ratification of the Articles of 
Confederation by Virginia before they went into operation; and 
it is probable that the members thought that a similar lapse of 
time might occur in the case of the new Constitution. 

The House of Delegates soon adopted three resolutions the 
first of which instructed the Executive to procure several thou- 
sand stand of arms and accoutrements for the use of the militia 
of the State, and to distribute them in the several counties in 
proportion to the number of militia; the second provided that a 
corps of cavalry should be raised out of the militia of each 
county by voluntary enlistment; and the third repealed the laws 
obliging the militia to furnish themselves with arms. These 
resolutions were referred to a committee consisting of Matthews, 
Nicholas, Henry, Ronald, Harrison, Monroe, Archibald Stuart, 
and Marshall nearly all of whom had taken an active part in 
military service during the late war. Leave was given to bring 
in a bill declaring tobacco receivable in payment of certain taxes 
for the year 1787; and Nicholas, Gordon, and Cabell were 
ordered to bring it in. Leave was also given to bring in a bill 
to reduce into one the acts imposing duties on imported articles, 
and another to amend the laws of revenue and provide for the 
support of civil government, and the regular payment of all the 
debts due by the Commonwealth; all of which ultimately became 
laws. 

The subject of the new Federal Constitution came up on the 
25th in the House of Delegates. The House went into com- 
mittee, and, after debate, Prentis resumed the chair, and Mat- 
thews reported a series of resolutions providing that the pro- 
ceedings of the Federal Convention, as transmitted to the General 
Assembly through the medium of Congress, ought to be sub- 
mitted to a convention of the people for their free and full inves- 
tigation and discussion; that every citizen, being a freeholder of 
this Commonwealth, ought to be eligible to a seat in the Con- 
vention, and that the people thereof ought not to be restrained 

164 The General Convention had adjourned on the i7th day of Sep- 
tember. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 175 

in their choice of Delegates by any of those legal or constitu- 
tional restrictions which confine them in the choice of delegates 
to the Legislature; that it be recommended to each county to 
elect two delegates, and to each city, town, or corporation enti- 
tled by law to representation in the Legislature to elect one 
delegate to the said Convention; that the qualifications of the 
electors be the same as those established by law; that the elec- 
tion for delegates aforesaid be held at the several places appointed 
by law for holding the elections for delegates to the General 
Assembly, and that the same be conducted by the officers who 
conducted the elections for delegates, and conformably to the 
rules and regulations thereof; that the election of delegates shall 
be held in the month of March next, on the first day of the court 
to be held for each county, city, or corporation, respectively, 
and that the persons so chosen shall assemble in the State House, 
in the city of Richmond, on the fourth Monday of May next; 
that two thousand copies of these resolutions be forthwith printed 
and dispersed by the members of the General Assembly among 
their constituents; and that the Executive transmit a copy of 
them to Congress and to the Legislature and Executive of the 
respective States. These resolutions were read a second time, 
and the vote was taken upon them. The first, which required 
the Constitution to be submitted to an independent convention, 
was adopted unanimously; the remaining ones were adopted, 
though not unanimously; but no division was called for. Mat- 
thews was ordered to take them to the Senate, which body sent 
them back by Stevens Thomson Mason on the 3ist with amend- 
ments, which were concurred in by the House. A bill contain- 
ing the substance of the resolves was duly reported in the House, 
passed that body and the Senate, and on the I2th of December 
became a law. 165 This act was ordered to be sent to the several 
States in like manner with the resolves. Thus was Virginia not 
only the first to call the General Convention and to appoint 
delegates to attend it, but was the first to provide by law for the 
submission of the work of its hands to the people of a State. 



165 What the amendments of the Senate to the resolves were does 
not appear in the Journal of either house. It is probable that the 
change of the time of meeting to the first Monday in June was the 
most important. 



176 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

A great blunder was committed by the opponents of the Con- 
stitution in allowing the first resolution of the series to be 
adopted. If they ever designed to assail that instrument as 
exceeding the powers of the body which framed it, as was pal- 
pable on its face, then was the time to act. The submission of 
it to the people at once removed all such objections, and estab- 
lished its legitimacy. Motives of delicacy may have operated 
in producing unanimity on the subject; and it is not improbable 
that its opponents relied upon their strength in the proposed 
convention which was substantially the General Assembly under 
another name in which body they had long been ascendant; 
and it may have been that parties, at this early stage, had not 
been distinctly organized. 

This session was distinguished by the number and variety of 
the topics of legislation which were discussed and settled. No 
opinion seemed to have been entertained that a great change 
was impending. On the contrary, the acts embraced the whole 
subject of customs, the construction of a fort, 166 the building of a 
marine hospital for sick and disabled seamen, and other mea- 
sures of a commercial character. One of the leading measures, 
which passed and repassed between the houses more than once, 
was the establishment of district courts. Under its provisions 
Joseph Prentis, Gabriel Jones, Saint George Tucker, and Rich- 
ard Parker were elected judges. An act passed to amend the 
county courts. Appropriations were made to the lunatic hos- 
pital, and one-sixth of the surveyors' fees in the Kentucky dis- 
trict were devoted to the support of the Transylvania Seminary. 
A company was chartered to connect the waters of the Elizabeth 
river with those of the Pasquotank; and the Dismal Swamp 
canal, which has long contributed to the wealth and prosperity 
of Virginia and North Carolina, has been the result. A safety 
fund was provided for the gradual extinction of the public debt. 
All acts which prevented the speedy collection of British debts 
were repealed; and this was done when our negroes, who were 
carried off at York and from the city of New York, were unpaid 
for, and when the Western posts, from which the Indians on our 
borders were supplied with arms, were still retained, in spite of 



166 This fort was built by a man named Richard Chin with. [A cor 
ruption, probably, of Chenowith. EDITOR.] 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 177 

the definitive treaty by Great Britain. Certain persons were 
invested with the exclusive right of running stage-coaches on 
particular routes; and Fitch was allowed the exclusive privilege 
of navigating the waters of the State, by steam, for fourteen 
years. Acts for regulating the customs and the duties of naval 
officers, carefully prepared, were passed, and for the payment of 
all arrearages into the treasury. Tobacco was made receivable 
in payment of certain taxes; and, either by the enactment of new 
laws or by the amendment of the old, the State was never before 
so invigorated in her military, financial, and judicial departments. 
The adjournment of both houses took place on the 8th of Janu- 
ary, 1788. 

A glance at the Treasurer's account of his receipts during the 
year, extending from the i2th of December, 1786, to November 
the 3Oth, 1787, will afford a safe means of comparison with the 
revenues accruing to the Commonwealth under the new Consti- 
tution. The sum total of receipts from all sources was not far 
from one million and a half pounds Virginia currency. 167 This 
sum was made up of arrears of taxes of previous years, amount- 
ing to over thirty-three thousand pounds; the revenue taxes of 
1786 were one hundred and forty-one thousand five hundred 
and twelve pounds; the amount of revenue from the customs, 
including the export duties on tobacco, was near eighty-seven 
thousand pounds. Of course, there was a large amount of cer- 
tificates of the public debt received in payment of taxes; but in 
a few years this source would have been exhausted. There were 
also payments for public lands sold at Gosport, for public prop- 
erty, and for public lands generally. When we recall the fact that 
the duties were almost nominal rarely exceeding five per cent., 
and oftener under, owing to the position of Virginia in respect 
of the custom-houses of Maryland and Pennsylvania just beyond 
her lines it is evident that the revenue from customs, which was 
not far from three hundred thousand dollars, must have repre- 
sented a vast commerce for those days. 

Between the adjournment of the General Assembly, in Janu- 
ary, 1788, and its meeting on the 23d of June following, the 



187 $3- 33 */3 to the pound. The Treasurer's account may be seen in 
the Senate Journal of January 2, 1788, and in the House Journal of 
December 13, 1787. 



178 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Federal Convention held its sittings. The bodies came together, 
for the Convention did not adjourn until the 27th of June, and 
the Assembly met on the 23d. It was, by the proclamation of 
the Governor, made on the I4th of May last, that the Assembly 
was called together. On the first day (23d) neither house formed 
a quorum. The members generally were doubtless attracted 
by the proceedings of the Convention; and the members of the 
Assembly, who were members of the Convention, were unable 
to leave their seats in the latter body. A single vote might 
settle important questions; and it was not until the 26th that the 
final vote on the ratification of the Constitution was taken. On 
the 25th the Senate obtained a quorum, and Humphrey Brooke, 
a member of the Convention, was appointed Clerk; and John 
Jones, a member of the Convention, was, on motion of Stevens 
Thomson Mason, a member of the Convention, unanimously 
re-elected Speaker. The members of the Senate, who were also 
members of the Convention, were, besides Mason and John 
Jones, Burwell Bassett and John Pride and Joseph Jones. Joseph 
Jones had long been a member of the House of Delegates, had 
been a member of Congress, and held a front rank among the 
statesmen of his day. 

The House of Delegates failed to get a quorum on the first 
day, but on the second a number sufficient to organize the House 
assembled, when Colonel Monroe nominated the accomplished 
Grayson as Speaker. This nomination, which at this day we 
should suppose would have been received by acclamation, was 
by no means satisfactory; probably, at first sight, because both 
Monroe and Grayson had warmly opposed in debate the adop- 
tion of the Constitution, the fate of which was not yet settled, 
but rather, I am inclined to think, because both gentlemen had 
been mainly prominent in military and civil stations abroad, and 
were not in the direct line of succession to honorary posts at 
home, especially in the Assembly. Meriwether Smith nomi- 
nated General Thomas Matthews, whose entire public life had 
been spent within the Commonwealth, and who had been long 
deemed one of the best parliamentarians in the House. But it 
seems there was to be be another formidable nomination. Cabell 
of ("Union Hill"), who had long known Benjamin Harrison, 
and had served with him in public bodies for almost thirty years, 
determined to bring him forward for the chair. The House 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 179 

determined to vote by ballot, and, upon a count, it was ascertained 
Matthews had received a majority of the whole House, and was 
declared Speaker. It should seem that our worthy fathers did 
not make party politics an exclusive test in filling the office of 
Speaker, as Smith, who was a decided opponent of the Consti- 
tution, nominated Matthews, who, coming from a commercial 
town, was one of its warmest friends, and voted the day after 
his election by the House of Delegates a majority of which 
opposed the Constitution for the ratification of that instrument. 
There was also perceptible at all times in the House an esprit 
de corps which prompted its members to confer its honors on 
those whose terms of public service were spent on its floor. 
Hence it was that Richard Henry Lee, who was the imperson- 
ator of patriotism, eloquence, and honor, though brought forward 
for the chair repeatedly in the range of thirty years, was always 
defeated by large majorities. 

The members of the Convention who were members of the 
House were besides Monroe, Grayson, Smith, Matthews, 
Cabell, and Harrison Patrick Henry, Zachariah Johnston, 
Theodoric Bland, William Ronald, Cuthbert Bullitt, Miles King, 
French Strother, Francis Corbin, John H. Briggs, Wilson C. 
Nicholas, William Thornton, Levin Powell, Thomas Smith, 
John Dawson, David Stuart, Daniel Fisher, Ralph Wormley, 
William O. Callis, Alexander White, John Early, John S. Wood- 
cock, George Clendenin, John Allen, Samuel J. Cabell, Bushrod 
Washington, Andrew Moore, 168 Walker Tomlin, John Trigg, 
Henry Lee (of Bourbon), Binns Jones, John Guerrant, William 
McKee, Robert Breckenridge, Green Clay, C. Robertson, John 
H. Cocke, Richard Kennon, Thomas Cooper, John Roane, 
Thomas Carter, and Samuel Edmiston. 

One of the first questions that arose in the House was whether 
the members of the Convention, who were members of Assem- 
bly, should receive double mileage and double per diem. This 
matter, which was quite important in a financial view from the 
numbers of those who held seats in both bodies, and from the 
lean state of the treasury, was gravely discussed; and a reso- 
lution was passed by both houses prohibiting the payment of 
double mileage and double pay. So the double members were 

168 Who was elected during the session a member of the Council. 



180 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

no better off than their single brethren. Forty years later this 
question was again started in relation to those who were members 
of the Convention of 1829, and who were at the same time mem- 
bers of the Assembly. The Convention of that year ran for a 
month and a half into the session of the Assembly, and both bodies 
were hard at work at the same time. But the question, though 
propounded in private, never reached the ear of either house, 
each member deciding it for himself. 169 The fact is, that the law 
passed by the Assembly of 1788 was ex post facto, and a nullity. 
Every member of the Assembly and of the Convention was 
entitled under existing laws to his mileage and per diem, and j 
having rendered the service, was entitled to receive the wages 
prescribed by law. How far the Assembly would have been 
justifiable in increasing the pay is another question; but it is 
plain they could no more reduce or abolish the pay of a member 
for services actually rendered than they could reduce or abolish 
the pay of any other officer under similar circumstances. But 
the double members were numerous, the treasury was scant 
of coin, and a law as clearly as unconstitutional as was ever 
enacted passed both houses with apparent unanimity. 

A file of the Richmond papers for the year 1788 is not in 
existence; and, as the Journals of neither house contain a copy 

169 The double members of the Convention and Assembly of 1829 
were some twelve or fifteen. I was one of them; but we needed no 
law to prevent us from receiving double pay. It was a question of 
equity and honor, and but one member asked and received his double 
pay, and he has long since passed to a realm where, it is to be hoped, 
constructive journeys are unknown. That we were not compelled to 
do right by a special law passed in the very teeth of the Constitution 
and Declaration of Rights, at a time when there was quite a plethora 
in the treasury, shows that we were at least as patriotic as our worthy 
predecessors were forced to be. I remember the state of the treasury 
in 1829 from a little incident that happened on the day of the publica- 
tion of the Treasurer's report in the papers. I met with the late Judge 
Philip P. Barbour, the President of the Convention, at our breakfast- 
table at the Eagle, and seeing him tickled at something in the morning's 
paper, inquired about the cause of his mirth He said that he was 
amused at the felicitations of the Treasurer over a surplus of fifty or sixty 
thousand dollars; that in Congress they made nothing of voting a hun- 
dred thousand, or even half a million, at a single breath; and that when 
he thought what would be the effect of such a vote on the keeper 
of the Virginia fisc, he could not resist a smile. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 181 

of the Governor's proclamation calling them together, I am 
unable to state positively the reason of the call. It was certainly 
not on account of the Convention, as the previous Assembly 
had passed all the necessary laws upon the subject, and the 
houses would meet in course in October, and the action of the 
houses had no reference, during their session, to the Conven- 
tion. 170 I am inclined to believe that the call grew out of the 
remonstrance of the judges of the Court of Appeals to some 
details of the new District Court law; for both houses imme- 
diately passed the bill to suspend the operation of the law for 
the present. They, however, kept its bench full; for on being 
informed of the declinature of his seat by Gabriel Jones, 171 one 
of the new judges, they supplied the vacancy by the election of 
Edmund Winston. 172 

On the 3oth of June, after a session of six days, the Assembly 
adjourned. Although the Convention had adjourned three days 
before, and so many of its leading members were members of 
the Assembly, it does not appear that any allusion was made to 
its proceedings. Certainly no action was had on the subject. 

Both houses reassembled on the 2oth of October, 1788; but, 
as was usual, when two sessions of the Assembly were held in 
the same year, no quorum appeared in either house on the first 
day. The Senate did not succeed in obtaining one until the 
28th, but the House of Delegates was able to proceed to busi- 
ness on the second day. The Speaker held over. Johnston 
was put at the head of the Committee of Religion; Harrison, 
of Privileges and Elections; Cabell (of "Union Hill"), of Propo- 
sitions and Grievances; Patrick Henry, of Courts of Justice; 
Richard Lee, of Claims; and John Page (taking the post of 
Matthews, who was Speaker), of the Committee of Commerce. 

An incident occurred on the third day of the session (24th) 
which showed the feelings of the House on Federal affairs. 

170 They made a slight alteration in the fund, from which the expenses 
of the Convention were to be paid; but this was purely accidental. 

171 Gabriel Jones twice declined a judicial office and once a seat in 
Congress. 

172 As Governor Randolph had doubtless made up his mind before 
the date of the proclamation to quit the anti-Federalists, it is not 
likely that he would have convoked an anti-Federal Legislature with- 
out some paramount consideration. 



182 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Colonel Edward Carrington, who had been elected a member of 
Congress the preceding November, and had taken his seat in 
that body, was returned to the present House at the April fol- 
lowing from the county of Powhatan. It was proved that he 
did not hear of his election as a member of the House until the 
last of June, during which month a session of the House was 
held, and that he had resigned his seat in Congress some days 
before. The Committee of Elections reported in favor of his 
holding the seat, but the House reversed the report, and declared 
his seat vacant. 173 This distrust of servants who were called to 
serve two masters was manifested at an early period, and was 
altogether wise and proper. Our early legislation on this sub- 
ject merits a passing review. As early as 1777 an act was passed 
declaring members of Congress ineligible to either house of 
Assembly; but in 1779, evidently for some temporary purpose, 
it was enacted that, should any person holding an executive, 
legislative, or judicial office in the Commonwealth be appointed 
a delegate to Congress, his office shall not thereby be vacated. 
In 1783 an act passed declaring it improper that a delegate to 
Congress should at the same time be a member of Assembly, 
and that if a member of Assembly should accept a seat in Con- 
gress his seat in the Assembly should be vacated. Before the 
passage of the act of 1777 members of Congress were almost 
invariably members of Assembly, and, when Congress was not 
sitting, took their seats in the houses an arrangement which 
was at that early day extremely convenient and beneficial to the 
public service. No newspapers worthy of the name were then 
published in the States; and if there had been, the proceedings 
of Congress, which were secret, could not have been found in 
them. The presence of a member of Congress in the Assembly 
might have a good effect upon legislation; for, although he could 
not directly reveal the proceedings of Congress, unless required 
by a direct vote of the houses, his advice and suggestions were 
valuable and welcome. This policy, however, was put an end 



178 He was sent back immediately by the people of Powhatan, and 
voted throughout the session with the Federal minority. This distin- 
guished patriot, after serving faithfully during the Revolution, particu- 
larly as the quartermaster-general of Greene, and filling many civil 
offices, and declining more (especially a seat in the Cabinet of Wash- 
ington), died in Richmond, October 28, 1810; aged sixty-one. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 183 

to by the jealousy with which a majority of both houses regarded 
Richard Henry Lee, and which led to the momentary ostracism 
of that illustrious patriot. 

On the 27th of October, 1788, both houses for the first time 
held their sessions "in the new Capitol on Shockoe Hill," and 
have continued to hold them there, with the exception of a single 
session, ever since. 

The name of Robert Carter Nicholas, the old Treasurer of 
the Colony, and the first Treasurer of the Commonwealth, was 
brought up on the 3Oth to the consideration of the House. 
It appeared that he had been appointed by one of the Con- 
ventions in 1775 one of a committee to procure gunpowder 
for the use of the Colony; and for this purpose borrowed of 
Messrs. Norton & Sons, of London, the sum of five thou- 
sand six hundred pounds sterling, for which he gave at a time 
when the Colony, not having declared independence, had no 
name of her own his private bond, with a number of gentlemen 
as his securities. The collection of the bond was now pressed 
upon his executor, who was his oldest son, George, a member 
of the House, and relief was asked of the Assembly. It is credi- 
ble to all parties that the bond was instantly ordered to be paid, 
with six per cent, interest until it was paid. 

The absorbing topic which was likely to employ the time of 
the Assembly, and which filled the public mind with doubt and 
apprehension, and even with serious alarm, was the Federal 
Constitution. Both parties were not indisposed to propose 
amendments to that instrument; but the stress was on the mode 
of making those amendments. The Federal party proper con- 
tended that the true mode of amending the Constitution should 
be in accordance with its fifth article; while the opponents of 
that paper urged that the most efficient and thorough means of 
attaining an end deemed desirable by all was the call of a new 
Convention of the States for the purpose. On the 3oth the 
House of Delegates went into Committee of the Whole on the 
State of the Commonwealth, and, when the Speaker resumed the 
chair, reported the following preamble and resolutions: 

" Whereas the Convention of delegates of the people of this 
Commonwealth did ratify a Constitution, or form of government, 
for the United States, referred to them for their consideration, and 
did also declare that sundry amendments to exceptionable parts of 



184 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the same ought to be adopted; and whereas the subject-matter 
of the amendments agreed to by the said Convention invokes 
all the great essential and unalienable rights, liberties, and privi- 
leges of freemen, many of which, if not cancelled, are rendered 
insecure under the said Constitution till the same shall be altered 
and amended 

" Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that, for 
quieting the minds of the good citizens of this Commonwealth, 
and securing their rights and liberties, and preventing those dis- 
orders which must arise under a government not founded in the 
confidence of the people, application be made to the Congress 
of the United States, so soon as they shall assemble under the 
said Constitution, to call a convention for proposing amendments 
to the same, according to the mode therein directed. 

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that a 
committee ought to be appointed to draw up and report to this 
House a proper instrument of writing expressing the sense of 
the General Assembly, and pointing out the reasons which induce 
them to urge their application thus early for the calling the afore- 
said Convention of the States. 

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that the 
said committee should be instructed to prepare the draft of a 
letter in answer to one received from his Excellency George 
Clinton, Esq., president of the Convention of New York, and a 
circular-letter on the aforesaid subject of the other States in the 
Union, expressive of the wish of the General Assembly of this 
Commonwealth that they may join in the application to the new 
Congress to appoint a Convention of the States as soon as the 
Congress shall assemble under the new Constitution." 

When the resolutions were read a motion was made to amend 
the same by striking out from the word " whereas" in the first 
line to the end, and inserting the following words: 

"Whereas the delegates appointed to represent the good 
people of this Commonwealth in the late Convention held in the 
month of June last, did, by their act of the 25th of the said 
month, assent to and ratify the Constitution recommended on 
the I7th day of September, 1787, by the Federal Convention 
for the government of the United States, declaring themselves, 
with a solemn appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the purity of 
their intentions, under the conviction ' that whatsoever imperfec- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 185 

tions might exist in the Constitution ought rather to be examined 
in the mode prescribed therein than to bring the Union into dan- 
ger by a delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments previous to 
the ratification'; and whereas, in pursuance of the said declaration, 
the same Convention did, by their subsequent act of the 2jih of 
June aforesaid, agree to such amendments to the said Constitu- 
tion of government for the United States as were by them 
deemed necessary to be recommended to the consideration of 
the Congress which shall first assemble under the said Constitu- 
tion, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the 
fifth article thereof, at the same time enjoining it upon their 
representatives in Congress to exert all their influence and use 
all legal and reasonable methods to obtain a ratification of the 
foregoing alterations and provisions in the manner provided by 
the fifth article of the said Constitution, and in all congressional 
laws to be passed in the mean time to conform to the spirit of 
those amendments as far as the said Constitution would admit: 

" Resolved, therefore, That it is the opinion of this committee 
that an application ought to be made in the name and on the 
behalf of the Legislature of this Commonwealth to the Congress 
of the United States, so soon as they shall assemble under the 
said Constitution, to pass an act recommending to the Legisla- 
tures of the several States the ratification of a bill of rights, 
and of certain articles of amendment proposed by the Conven- 
tion of this State for the adoption of the United States, and that, 
until the said act shall be ratified in pursuance of the fifth article 
of the said Constitution of government for the United States, 
Congress do conform their ordinances to the true spirit of the 
said bill of rights and articles of amendment." 

A second resolution instructed the Executive to transmit a 
copy of the foregoing resolution to the Congress and to the 
Legislatures and Executives of the States. 

By these resolutions the issue was fairly made up between the 
two great parties, and they were probably debated with unusual 
warmth and ability on the floor; but we can know nothing cer- 
tain on the subject. The question on the amendment was taken 
at once, and it was lost by a vote of thirty nine to eighty-five; 
showing a majority in favor of the opponents of the Constitu- 
tion of more than two to one. The members of the House 
who had been members of the Convention, and who voted for 



186 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

striking out, were Johnston, McFerran, David Stuart, Wood- 
cock, Thomas Smith, Clendenin, Fisher, Thornton, Powell, 
Callis, Corbin, Wormeley, and Allen; and those who voted 
with the majority against striking out were Custis, William 
Cabell, S. J. Cabell, John Trigg, Henry Lee (of Bourbon), 
Conn, Binns Jones, Harrison, Strother, John Early, Joel Early, 
Guerrant, Cooper, Roane, Clay (of Madison, Ky.), A. Robert- 
son, Kennon, Patrick Henry, Bland, Bullitt, Grayson, McKee, 
Carter, Monroe, Dawson, Briggs, Edmunds, and Edmiston. 

The main question was then put of agreeing to the preamble 
and resolutions as reported by the committee, and was agreed to 
without a division. Briggs, Henry, Harrison, Grayson, Bullitt, 
William Cabell, Monroe, Bland, Dawsor., Strother, and Roane, 
all of whom were members of the Convention, were appointed a 
committee to prepare the instrument called for by the report. 

On the i4th of November the House again went into Com- 
mittee on Federal Affairs, and, when the Speaker resumed the 
chair, Bullitt reported a resolution, which, as a deliberate reflec- 
tion of the purposes of the majority of that day, should be read 
by the student of history. Here it is: 

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that an 
application ought to be made in the name and on behalf of the 
Legislature of this Commonwealth, to the Congress of the 
United States in the words following to-wit: 

"The good people of this Commonwealth, in Convention 
assembled, having ratified the Constitution submitted to their 
consideration, this 'Legislature has, in conformity to that act 
and the resolutions of the United States, in Congress assembled, 
to them transmitted, thought proper to make the arrangements 
that were necessary for carrying it into effect. Having thus 
shown themselves obedient to the voice of their constituents, all 
America will find that, so far as it depends on them, the plan of 
government will be carried into immediate operation. 

" But the sense of the people of Virginia would be but in part 
complied with, and but little regarded, if we went no further. In 
the very moment of adoption, and coeval with the ratification of 
the new plan of government, the general voice of the Conven- 
tion of this State pointed to objects no less interesting to the 
people we represent, and equally entitled to your attention. At 
the same time that, from motives of affection for our sister States, 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 187 

the Convention yielded their consent to the ratification, they 
gave the most unequivocal proofs that they dreaded its operation 
under the present form. 

" In acceding to a government under this impression, painful 
must have been the prospect had they not derived consolation 
from a full expectation of its imperfections being speedily 
amended. In this resource, therefore, they placed their confi- 
dence a confidence that will continue to support them, whilst 
they have reason to believe they have not calculated upon it in 
vain. 

" In making known to you the objections of the people of this 
Commonwealth to the new plan of government, we deem it 
unnecessary to enter into a particular detail of its defects, which 
they consider as involving all the great and unalienable rights of 
freemen. For their sense on this subject we refer you to the 
proceedings of their late Convention, and the sense of this 
General Assembly as expressed in their resolutions of the [soth] 
of [October] last."* 

" We think proper, however, to declare that, in our opinion, 
as those objections were not founded in speculative theory, but 
deduced from principles which have been established by the 
melancholy example of other nations in different ages, so they 
will never be removed until the cause itself shall cease to exist. 
The sooner, therefore, the public apprehensions are quieted and 
the Government is possessed of the confidence of the people the 
more salutary will be its operations, and the longer its duration. 

" The cause of amendments we consider as a common cause; 
and since concessions have been made from political motives, 
which we conceive may endanger the republic, we trust that a 
commendable zeal will be shown for obtaining those provisions 
which experience has taught us are necessary to secure from 
danger the unalienable rights of human nature. 

"The anxiety with which our countrymen press for the accom- 
plishment of this important end will ill admit of delay. The 
slow forms of congressional discussion and recommendation, if, 
indeed, they should ever agree to any change, would, we fear, be 
less certain of success. Happily for their wishes, the Constitu- 

m These two blanks for the date were omitted to be filled by an over- 
sight. 



188 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

tion hath presented an alternative by admitting the submission 
to a Convention of the States. To this, therefore, we resort as 
the source from whence they are to derive relief from their present 
apprehensions. We do, therefore, in behalf of our constituents, 
in the most earnest and solemn manner, make this application to 
Congress, that a convention be immediately called of deputies 
from the several States, with full power to take into their conside- 
ration the defects of this Constitution that have been suggested 
by the State Conventions, and report such amendments thereto 
as they shall find best suited to promote our common interests, 
and secure to ourselves and our latest posterity the great and 
unalienable rights of mankind." 

A draft of a letter to Governor George Clinton, of New York, 
the President of the Federal Convention of that State, was pre- 
sented and read, as follows: 

"Sir, The letter from the Convention of the State of New 
York hath been laid before us since our present session. The 
subject which it contemplated had been taken up, and we have 
the pleasure to inform you of the entire concurrence in senti- 
ment between that honorable body and the representatives in 
Senate and Assembly of the freemen of this Commonwealth. 
The propriety of immediately calling a Convention of the States 
to take into consideration the defects of the Constitution was 
admitted, and, in consequence thereof, an application agreed to, 
to be presented to the Congress as soon as it shall be convened, 
for the accomplishment of that important end. We herewith 
transmit to your Excellency a copy of this application, which we 
request may be laid before your Assembly at their next meeting. 
We take occasion to express our most earnest wishes that it 
may obtain the approbation of New York, and of all other sister 
States." 

A draft of another letter, which was addressed to the States, 
requesting their concurrence with Virginia in calling the Con- 
vention, was also reported. 

As soon as the resolution and the drafts of letters were read, 
a motion was made to amend the same by substituting in lieu 
thereof the following form of an application and draft of letters 
to-wit: 

"The Legislature of Virginia to the Congress of the United 
States, sends greeting: The Convention of the representatives of 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 189 

the good people of this Commonwealth, having on the 25th day of 
June last ratified the Constitution, or form of government, pro- 
posed by the Federal Convention on the iyth of September, 
1787, and having declared, in their act of ratification, that any 
imperfections that might exist in the said Constitution ought 
rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein for obtain- 
ing amendments than by a delay, with a hope of obtaining pre- 
vious amendments to bring the Union into danger; and, in order 
to relieve the apprehensions of those who might be solicitous 
for amendments, having resolved that whatever amendments 
might be deemed necessary ought to be recommended to the 
consideration of Congress, which should first assemble under 
the said Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode 
prescribed in the fifth article thereof; and, on the 27th day of 
the same month of June, agreed to certain amendments to the 
said Constitution, which were transmitted, together with the rati- 
fication of the Federal Constitution, to the United States, in 
Congress assembled, which amendments the said Convention 
did, in the name and behalf of the people of this Commonwealth, 
enjoin it upon their representatives in Congress to exert all their 
influence, and use all legal and reasonable methods, to obtain a 
ratification of in the manner provided by the said Constitution; 
and, in all congressional laws to be passed in the mean time, to 
conform to the spirit of the said amendments as far as the said 
Constitution would admit: 

"This Legislature, fully concurring in sentiment with the said 
Convention, and solicitous to promote the salutary measures by 
them recommended, do, in consideration of the unanimity with 
which said amendments were agreed to, and a just sense of their 
utility, earnestly call upon the Congress of the United States to 
take the said amendments under their immediate consideration, 
and also those which may have been submitted by the Conven- 
tions of other States, and to act thereupon in the manner pre- 
scribed by the fifth article of the Federal Constitution, either by 
proposing the necessary alterations to the consideration of the 
States, or by calling a convention to deliberate on the subject, 
as to them shall seem most likely to promote the peace and 
general good of the Union. We pray that Almighty God in 
His goodness and wisdom will direct your councils to such 
measures as will establish our lasting peace and welfare, and 



190 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

secure to our latest posterity the blessings of freedom; and that 
He will always have you in His holy keeping." 

The draft of a letter to the States on the subject was in these 
words: 

" We beg leave to submit to your consideration a copy of our 
answer to the circular-letter from the Convention of our sister 
State of New York, and also a copy of an address, which we 
think it our duty to make to the Congress at their first meeting. 
We flatter ourselves that you will not hesitate in making a simi- 
lar application, the object being to establish our rights and liber- 
ties on the most immutable basis. May God have you in His 
holy keeping." 

This amendment was drawn with greater tact than that which 
was offered on the 3oth of October, and which was rejected by 
such an overwhelming vote. It proposed to make the mode of 
obtaining amendments discretionary with the Congress; while, 
with the view of enlisting the sympathies of some pious mem- 
bers from the West, who, like McKee, had shown a strong 
inclination to side with the anti-Federalists, and who might con- 
sider a reference to a Superintending Power on such an occasion 
altogether wise and becoming, a religious tinge was given to the 
whole. The anti-Federal majority of two to one of the 3Oth of 
November fell to twenty-two, which, though a fair majority in a 
house of one hundred and twenty-two members, was a consider- 
able falling off. The vote on the amendment, which was to 
strike out the report of the Committee of the Whole, and insert 
the Federal programme in its stead, was ayes fifty, noes seventy- 
two. So the amendment failed; and the question recurring on 
the adoption of the original report, was decided in the affirma- 
tive, without a division. 

As the names of the members who had been members of the 
Convention may explain the character of the vote, we will state 
that those who voted for striking out the report of the committee 
and inserting the amendment in its place were the Speaker 
(General Matthews), Wilson Gary Nicholas, Johnston, McFerran, 
David Stuart, Woodcock, Alexander White, Thomas Smith, 
Clendenin, Fisher, Breckenridge, Powell, Callis, Corbin, Worme- 
ley, Ronald, John Stringer, Tomlin, and Allen, and those who 
voted against striking out and in favor of the report of the com- 
mittee were William Cabell, John Trigg, Henry Lee (of Bour- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 191 

bon), Conn, Binns Jones, Harrison, Strother, Joel Early, King, 
John Early, Cooper, Guerrant, Roane, Green Clay, A. Robertson, 
Kennon, Riddick, Patrick Henry, Bland, Bullitt, McKee, Carter, 
Monroe, Edmunds and Edmiston. As soon as the vote was 
declared Bullitt was ordered to carry the instrument to the 
Senate, and request its concurrence. 

There was no difficulty in passing all the laws necessary for 
setting the Constitution in operation. The bill for appointing 
electors to choose a President passed unanimously. The bill for 
electing representatives pursuant to the Constitution of govern- 
ment of the United States passed unanimously, after a smart 
skirmish in the House before its engrossment, on a motion to 
strikeout the words: "being a freeholder, and who shall have 
been a bona-fide resident for twelve months within such dis- 
trict," which was rejected by thirty-two ayes to eighty noes; 
the members of the House who had been members of the Con- 
vention voting as follows: 

AYES Johnston, McFerran, David Stuart, Woodcock, Fisher, 
Powell, Callis, Wormeley, Ronald, Tomlin, and Allen. 

NOES William Cabell, John Trigg, Binns Jones, Harrison, 
Strother, Joel Early, King, Alexander White, John Early, 
Thomas Smith, Guerrant, Cooper, Breckenridge, Roane, Green 
Clay, A. Robertson, Kennon, Corbin, Riddick, Patrick Henry, 
Bland, Bullitt, McKee, Carter, Monroe, Briggs, and Edmiston. 

The striking out the word "freeholder" had no reference to 
the right of suffrage, which has been discussed so freely within 
the last third of a century, but that word, with the qualification 
of residence, was introduced into the bill to prevent prominent 
men from being chosen elsewhere than in the district of their 
domicile. The opponents of the Constitution had been defeated 
by the policy of choosing delegates at large, and were deter- 
mined to put a stop to it; while many of the members present, 
who might aspire to a seat in Congress, probably thought that 
there would be, as there was, plenty of candidates at home, with- 
out inviting others from abroad. A similar motion was made in 
the Senate, and failed by a vote of three to twelve Burwell 
Bassett in the minority, and Pride and Joseph Jones in the 
majority. Stevens T. Mason happened to be out of his seat at 
the calling of the names. 

The election of the senators of the United States in Congress 



192 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

was held on the 8th of November. Richard Henry Lee, Wil- 
liam Grayson, and James Madison were nominated, and, on 
counting the ballots, the first two gentlemen named were declared 
to be chosen. The election of Lee, whose letter opposing the 
adoption of the Constitution was one of the charts of the times, 
and of Grayson, whose exertions in resisting its ratification on 
the floor of the Convention were exceeded by those of none 
other, shows the temper of the Assembly. The result, only of a 
vote by ballot, is to be found in the Journals; but it is stated by 
Wirt, who evidently obtained his information from some of the 
members, that these gentlemen were nominated together by 
Patrick Henry, and received a large majority of the votes. But, 
while the Assembly preferred Lee and Grayson to Madison, it 
was from no feeling of pique against the last named. The 
decision was made on just parliamentary grounds. To show 
that Madison was still held in high esteem by the majority which 
declined to send him to the Senate, when the election of mem- 
bers to the old Congress >\as held a few days before he was 
chosen one of a delegation, consisting of Cyrus Griffin, John 
Brown, John Dawson, and Mann Page, for the term beginning 
the following November and ending the following March, which 
constituted the congressional year. 

A resolution was adopted requesting the Executive to make 
known, by proclamation, the times and places for appointing 
electors to choose a President of the United States; and an act 
was passed concerning the credentials of the senators in Con- 
gress. All the courts of the State were passed in review. An 
act was passed reconstructing the High Court of Appeals; and 
Edmund Pendleton, John Blair, Peter Lyons, Paul Carrington, 
and William Fleming, the former judges, were put through the 
forms of a re election. The right of the Assembly to determine 
the judicial tenure, by repealing the act establishing a court, 
seems to have been taken for granted by both houses, and, in 
the absence of all protests by the judges, we may infer that they 
were of the same opinion. The same men were re-elected the 
judges of the new court; but the wrong, if wrong there was, 
was as flagrant whether the judges were re-elected or not. That 
there could not have been a secret understanding with the 
judges, we may safely conclude from their fearlessness in resist- 
ing unconstitutional legislation, and especially on a memorable 



ALEXANDER WHITE, 193 

occasion when a law interfering with the Court of Appeals was 
pronounced unconstitutional. They would have deserved to be 
cashiered if, believing the judicial tenure could not be determined 
by a repeal of the act creating the court in which the judge held 
his seat, they had quietly allowed themselves to be set aside, 
though assured of a re-election to a seat in a new court. But 
no such assurance could be given, or was given, in the present 
case; for, in the Senate alone, Henry Tazewell, James Henry, 
James Mercer, and Edmund Winston, able and trustworthy men, 
all of whom at one time or other held seats on the bench, and 
two of whom were elected judges of the Court of Appeals not 
long after, were duly nominated in opposition to the old judges, 
and, as their names were not withdrawn, were doubtless voted 
for. What imparts an interest to this election of judges is the 
fact that Stevens Thomson Mason, who was a few years later to 
- play such an important part in the Senate of the United States in 
repealing the judiciary act of i8oo, 175 was at present a member 
of the Senate of Virginia, was at the head of its Judiciary Com- 
mittee, and voted for the new Court of Appeals; and that Wil- 
son Cary Nicholas, who was to be the colleague of Mason in the 
Senate of the United States when the Federal judiciary law was 
repealed, was a member of the House of Delegates, and voted 
for the reconstruction of the Court of Appeals. The District 
Court bill, which had not yet gone into effect, was amended; 
and Richard Cary, James Henry, and John Tyler were elected 
judges of the General Court. An act concerning the Court of 
Admiralty, and the judges thereof, was also passed. As a proof 
of the unanimity with which these necessary changes in the 
courts and judges was received by all parties, it may be men- 
tioned that, while such acts as the act disabling certain officers 
under the Continental Government frpm holding offices under 

175 General Mason, in his speech on the bill to repeal the judiciary act 
of 1800 in the Senate of the United States, in February, 1802, alluded 
to the present action of the Assembly in respect of the judges, and 
said : " Our judges, who are especially tenacious of their rights, did 
not complain. They thought, as I think, that they should not be 
removed from their offices that others might be placed in them, and 
that while they did continue in office their salaries should be continued 
to them.* (Report of the Senate Debates, Bronson publisher, Phila- 
delphia, 1802, page 83.) 

13 



194 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the authority of this Commonwealth, and an act for the relief of 
certain citizens, were subjected, on their passage, to the stringent 
curb of the ayes and noes, the judiciary bills passed without 
even a division. 

One subject bearing upon Federal politics was taken up in 
good earnest by the Assembly. The resolutions which had 
been made in the late Convention on the subject of the surren- 
der of the right of navigating the Mississippi had alarmed the 
people of the West; and, that Congress might be duly impressed 
with a proper sense of the importance of that interest to the 
Southern States, and to Virginia and Kentucky in particular, the 
Assembly unanimously and solemnly resolved that the citizens 
of the United States have an absolute right to the navigation of 
the Mississippi river; that by the principles of the Federal com- 
pact those States more immediately interested in it have a just 
claim upon the National Government for every effort in their 
power for the accomplishment of that important object; and that, 
to merit the confidence and preserve the harmony of the con- 
federacy, the most early measures should be taken by the said 
Government, after it shall be organized, to obtain an acknow- 
ledgment of the said right on the part of Spain, or otherwise 
remove the obstructions that may prevent the free use of it. It 
was also ordered that a copy of the resolution, together with the 
resolutions of the General Assembly of the years 1786 and 1787, 
in support of the said right, be transmitted to the representatives 
of this State in the said Government, and that they be instructed 
to use their unceasing efforts until the free use of the said river 
shall be obtained. This was the first instance in which the 
Assembly undertook to instruct the representatives of Virginia 
in "Congress under the present Federal Constitution. If any 
member of the House had risen in his place and denied the 
right of the Assembly to instruct all the representatives of Vir- 
ginia in Congress, he would have been hooted out of the House. 
The right to instruct under the confederation was perfect, and 
the members could be recalled at pleasure; but the Assembly did 
not foresee that a distinction would soon be taken between the 
senators and the representatives in Congress a distinction, it 
is palpable, that can only be sustained on the ground that the 
present is no longer a federal union. 

Cash was scarce in the days of our fathers; and Virginia, like 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 195 

a tender mother, as she ever was, about to send a child from 
home, looked into the pockets of her sons, who, as senators 
and representatives, were deputed to inaugurate the new gov- 
ernment in the city of New York, and finding them empty, or 
at least large enough to hold a little more than was in them, 
advanced to each one hundred pounds, and took his bond for 
the same. This movement must have been made by the Federal 
party, which might have been sought to keep their opponents 
in good humor at least until the government was set up, or 
while the money lasted. 176 

The House adopted a resolution, without a division, requiring 
the Executive, the chancellors, and the judges to report at each 
session the defects they may discover in the laws when reduced 
to practice. An honest and cordial co-operation of the Execu- 
tive and the judges in the amendment of the law would prove a 
great blessing to the people; but the Senate, probably thinking 
that conflicts in high party times might occur between the judges 
and the Assembly, and, as the right of a mere majority of the 
Assembly to repeal the judiciary system and to set the judges 
adrift was conceded and acted on, rejected the resolution. 

An instance was given af a previous session of the liberation 
of a slave by the Assembly as a mark of meritorious conduct 
during the war. A similar instance occurred at the present ses- 
sion. It appears that a slave named Timothy had rendered 
valuable service during the Revolution, and it was resolved 
unanimously by both houses that the Executive be instructed to 
purchase his freedom at any reasonable price, and to grant him 
an instrument of emancipation. 

The House of Delegates was refreshed by the introduction of 
a new member toward the latter part of the present session. 
Edmund Randolph, having retired from the Executive, was 
returned to the House, evidently with a view to counteract any 
intemperate legislation in respect of the Federal Government. 
He was placed on leading committees, and performed his part 
with his usual ability; but the Federal test questions had been 
decided before he took his seat. The act concerning the cre- 
dentials of the senators, and the act concerning incestuous mar- 



176 House Journal, December 23, 1788, and Senate Journal, Decem- 
ber 24th. 



196 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

riages, were reported by him, and are evidently from his pen. 
General Andrew Moore received from the House a cordial 
recognition of his services lately rendered in the Cherokee 
country, and the Executive was instructed to award him an ade- 
quate compensation. The Senate gave its assent to the measure. 

Besides the acts remodelling the courts, and others already 
noticed, there were some of general interest. Richmond was, 
for the first time, empowered to send a delegate to the Assembly. 
The militia laws were amended. Acts to punish bigamy and to 
prevent bribery and corruption, and to incorporate academies, 
were passed. The act authorizing Kentucky to become an inde- 
pendent State, which was enacted at a preceding session, but 
which, from some informality could not be carried into effect, 
was amended, and that young Commonwealth soon assumed an 
independent position as one of the United States. 

A sketch of the proceedings of the General Assembly at this 
important epoch may fitly conclude with a glance at the finances 
of the past year. The sum total of receipts into the treasury 
from all sources, from the ist day of December, 1787, to the 
24th of November, 1788, was four hundred and seventeen thou- 
sand four hundred and ninety-eight pounds nine shillings and 
eight pence halfpenny, -and the disbursements were three hun- 
dred and seventy-three thousand nine hundred and twenty-one 
pounds three shillings and three pence leaving a balance of 
forty-three thousand five hundred and seventy-seven pounds. 
The arrearages of taxes for past years reached one hundred and 
forty three thousand pounds. The receipts from the customs 
were seventy-four thousand and twenty-nine pounds. 1 " 

Too much honor cannot be accorded to the worthy patriots 
who composed the present Assembly. It commenced its ses- 
sions on the 2Oth of October, 1788, and adjourned on the 3oth 
of December; and the whole time was incessantly devoted to 
public business. Its general legislation was judicious, firm, and 
thorough, and embraced many interesting topics. The ability 
and the judgment with which the entire judicial system was 
remodelled were conspicuous. But it was in the conduct of 
Federal affairs that it merits more particularly the grateful praise 
of succeeding times. Although there was an overwhelming 

177 House Journal, December 20, 1788. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 197 

majority of the members who had been opposed to the adoption 
of the Constitution, and who honestly and truly believed that 
its ratification was in violation of the wishes of a large majority 
of the people, yet they united most cordially with the friends of 
that instrument in passing the necessary laws for carrying it into 
effect. Their hostility to that instrument was not at all abated, 
and they were anxious to secure the call of another Convention 
of the States for its revision; but their schemes were open, can- 
did, and honorable. Had such men as Henry, Grayson, and 
Monroe been factiously disposed, the necessary laws for organ- 
izing the new government would not have been enacted, and the 
new scheme, so far as Virginia was concerned, would have fallen 
still-born. A blast of war from Henry, sustained by the plausi- 
ble and comprehensive reasoning of Grayson and by the sterling 
sense of Monroe, would have swept away all opposition, and 
would have rung and been responsively re-echoed from the 
Atlantic to the Mississippi. But the patriotism and wisdom of 
our great orator were equal to his more splendid qualities; and 
he sought to attain his ends rather by the forms of a law which 
his opponents could not censure, and of which they might 
approve, than by any questionable and precipitate procedure. 
Such, too, were his illustrious colleagues. They were as far- 
seeing as they were able in debate, and for the mode in which, 
at a time of intense excitement, they sought to secure for pos- 
terity those blessing of peace and freedom which they regarded 
as in jeopardy, they deserve the gratitude of their country. 

The year 1789 has not only a peculiar significancy in our own 
history, but relatively in that of the world. The Government 
under the new Federal Constitution had been organized in the 
city of New York in the spring of that year, the President had 
been duly inaugurated, and the Congress had held its first and 
most important session. That session began nominally on the 
4th of March, and ended on the I2th of August; and during its 
continuance laws were enacted which materially changed the 
domestic legislation of the States. The subject of the customs, 
which was the theme of innumerable State laws, and formed one 
of the most perplexing topics of the period intervening between 
the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the 
new Government, was no longer within their reach. The sub- 
ject of foreign affairs was also transferred beyond the direct 



198 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

action of the States; and our relations with the Indian tribes, 
then a subject of a hundredfold greater interest than at present, 
had been assigned by the Constitution to the Congress. Here- 
tofore the members of Congress had been elected annually by 
the General Assembly, but henceforth they were to be elected 
by the people; and the only remnant of the plenary power 
wielded by the Assembly over Congress was in the election of 
two senators at the interval of six years. 

In this altered aspect of affairs the General Assembly began 
its session on the igth day of October, 1789. The Senate 
obtained a quorum the second day, and John Pride, a member 
of the present Convention, was nominated for Speaker by 
Stevens Thomson Mason, a member of the present Convention, 
and was elected by a majority of five votes over Charles Carter, 
who was nominated by Burwell Bassett, a member of the Con- 
vention. The majority was large, when the numbers of the 
body are remembered, for the vote of Pride was nine and that 
of Carter was four. Humphrey Brooke, a member of the Con- 
vention, was appointed Clerk. The member of the Senate who 
had been a member of the Convention beside Mason, Pride, 
and Bassett was Joseph Jones. 

The House of Delegates had a quorum the first day, when 
George Hay then a young man, whose name during the third 
of a century following was connected with Federal affairs as 
district attorney and judge of the Federal Court was appointed 
Clerk, and General Thomas Matthews, a member of the Conven- 
tion, was re-elected Speaker without opposition; Richard Lee 
presenting his name to the House, and Francis Corbin, a mem- 
ber of the Convention, seconding the nomination. 178 

Norvell was made chairman of the Committee of Religion; 
Benjamin Harrison, of Privileges and Elections; Edmund Ran- 
dolph, of Propositions and Grievances; Patrick Henry, of Courts 
of Justice; and Richard Lee, of the Committee of Claims. One 
eloquent change was apparent: The Committee of Commerce, 
which had for thirteen years guarded with zealous care an 



1T8 So many members of the Convention were still members of the 
Assembly that, in order to avoid repeating in the memoir of each the 
same facts and votes, I shall continue to present them in one view as 
they appeared in the Assembly. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 199 

interesting department of our affairs, was no longer called into 
existence. 

The members of the House who had been members of the 
Convention beside Matthews, Corbin, Harrison, Randolph, and 
Henry were Miles King, Tomlin, McKee, Jackson, Robertson, 
Edmiston, Carter, John Marshall, Wilson Cary Nicholas, Briggs, 
Henry Lee (Legion Harry), Hopkins, Allen, Samuel Jordan 
Cabell, Temple, Riddick, Wormeley, Thomas Smith, Kennon, 
Crockett, Edmunds, Guerrant, Conn, Binns Jones, Logan, Woods, 
Richardson, Gaskins, McClerry, Bell, Green Clay, Prunty, Stro- 
ther, Stringer, Custis, John Trigg, Cooper, John Roane, A. 
Robertson, Walton, and Vanmeter. 

Formal messages from the Governor to both houses had not 
yet come into fashion; but that officer usually transmitted a let- 
ter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, informing him of 
any circumstance which might be deemed worthy of public atten- 
tion. When the House was organized the Speaker announced 
that he had received a letter from -the Governor, stating various 
matters for the consideration of the houses; and another letter 
from that officer, enclosing one from Richard Henry Lee and 
William Grayson, senators from the Commonwealth in Congress; 
and it was ordered that they lie on the table. On the following 
day the letters were referred to a Committee of the Whole on 
the State of the Commonwealth. 

A graceful act marked the session of the second day in the 
House. A resolution was unanimously adopted appointing a 
committee to prepare an address to the President of the United 
States, "declaring our high sense of his eminent merits, con- 
gratulating him on his exaltation to the first office among free- 
men, assuring him of our unceasing attachment, and supplicating 
the Divine benediction on his person and administration." Henry 
Lee, Turberville, Harrison, Edmund Randolph, Corbin, Edward 
Carrington, Dawson, and Nicholas were appointed by the Chair 
to prepare the address on the part of the House. The Senate 
promptly approved the resolution, and appointed Carter, Bassett, 
Hugh Nelson, and Southall to unite with the committee of the 
House. The address was reported by Henry Lee on the ayth, 
was recommitted, and reported on the following day without 
amendment, and was unanimously adopted. It is short; its 
topics are judicious and well-timed; but the last clause is not 



200 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

wholly free from objection. Old men do not care to be told that 
they are soon to die, and still less do they like to be told that the 
people are already laying in a stock of consolation for the event 
when it occurs. 179 

On the aist the House went into committee on the letters from 
the Governor; and, when the Speaker resumed the chair, Miles 
King reported progress, and asked leave to sit again. The fol- 
lowing day the House again resolved itself into committee; and, 
when the Speaker resumed the chair, Turberville reported several 
resolutions, which were twice read and agreed to. One of them 
recommended that an address be prepared to the President of 
the United States, expressing the confidence of the House in the 
measures taken by him for the defence of the Western frontiers 
of this State, and containing the information given by the repre- 
sentatives of those frontiers on the subject of Indian hostility; 
and, to demonstrate the anxiety of the Assembly to co-operate 
with the Federal Government in the most vigorous exertions 
against the savages, declaring their readiness to share in those 
expenses which may be incurred in prosecuting the same. And 
a committee was appointed, consisting of Turberville, Patrick 
Henry, McClerry, Edmund Randolph, Corbin, Scott, Briggs, 
Jackson, Robert Randolph, Larkin Smith, Dawson, and Worme- 
ley. The tenor of this resolution will strike those acquainted 
with the present mode of transacting Federal affairs. It is 
addressed to the President, and not to our senators in Congress; 
it proposes to furnish the President with information on Indian 
matters, and it pledges the co-operation of Virginia in the 
efforts to repress Indian incursions, and her readiness to bear a 
part of the expense. The address was duly reported and adopted 
by both houses. Other resolutions were reported with the above 
mentioned by the Committee of the Whole; but, with the excep- 
tion of one requiring a bill to be brought in conformity to a reso- 
lution of Congress for the safe-keeping of the prisoners of the 
United States in the jails of the Commonwealth, are not within 
the range of this review. 180 

"'House Journal, October 27, 1789. 

180 Committees were appointed to draft the bills called for by the 
resolutions, and Turberville was placed at the head of them all. When 
we recall the fact that Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Mar- 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 201 

The first question which involved a very decided difference of 
opinion in the House was the propriety of furnishing the Chicka- 
saw Indians with two thousand pounds of powder, and lead in 
proportion, to enable them to repel the attacks of the Creeks. 
It seems that a warm friendship existed between the Chickasaws 
and the Virginians; that the former had been wantonly attacked 
by the Creeks, who menaced them with further hostilities; and 
that, as the distance to the seat of the Federal Government 
was too great for them to travel at that advanced season, they 
applied to Virginia for assistance. The vote was taken on the 
resolution by ayes and noes, and carried eighty- one to thirty- 
four. Those who had been members of the Convention and 
who voted in the affirmative were Patrick Henry, Edmund Ran- 
dolph, Custis, John Trigg, Conn, Binns Jones, Bell, Strother, 
King, Richardson, Guerrant, Cooper, Roane, Green Clay, Hop- 
kins, Kennon, A. Robertson, Wormeley, Walton, Gaskins, 
Woods, Tomlin, Carter, Dawson, Edmunds, and Henry Lee; 
and those who voted in the negative were Samuel J. Cabell, 
Harrison, Prunty, Jackson, Corbin, McClerry, Stringer, and 
Allen. A second resolution was adopted, instructing the com- 
mittee appointed to address the President on Indian affairs to 
represent to him that the Assembly had interposed under the 
circumstances with a full conviction that their course would be 
acceptable to the Federal Government, and that the Federal 
Government would not be averse to make restitution for the 
advances on the occasion. Patrick Henry, who probably advo- 
cated the resolution on the floor, was ordered to carry it to the 
Senate and request its concurrence, which was duly granted. 

The change effected in our institutions by the establishment of 
the Federal Constitution rendered many acts of Assembly of no 
avail; and the opportunity was embraced of including all our 
laws in a general revision. On the 24th of October the subject 
was discussed in Committee of the Whole; and, when the Speaker 
resumed the chair, Edward Carrington reported a resolution 
which set forth that many penal as well as other statutes of the 

shall, Corbin, Wormeley, and such men were on the committees, 
it is a striking proof of the wealth of our early councils in able men 
that Turberville was placed in such a position ; and yet, of those who 
read this paragraph, such is the oblivion into which the names of our 
early statesmen have fallen, how few has ever heard of the name of 
George Lee Turberville. 



202 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

English Parliament, though in force in the Commonwealth, have 
never been published in any collection of the laws thereof; and 
some of them, having been improved by other statutes subse- 
quent to the fourth year of James the First, remain, with respect 
to Virginia, as they stood before that era; that the acts of the 
General Assembly contained in the revisal of 1768 are difficult 
to be procured, and a large majority of those acts do not exist 
at all, or have been partially repealed, or are of a private and 
local nature; that a considerable proportion of the ordinances 
and acts in the revisal of the year 1783, and of those acts which 
have been passed since, either do not exist at all, or have been 
partially repealed, or are of a private and local nature; that the 
bills of the Revised Code having been drawn without special 
repealing clauses, from an expectation that a general repealing 
law would be passed, and a part only of those bills been adopted, 
there was great danger of misconstruction; that many entire 
laws are, from the present circumstances of the Commonwealth, 
unfit to be continued; that the rolls and printed copies of those 
laws which were private, local, temporary, or occasional have 
been lost or destroyed by the accidents of war, or other causes; 
and that a great variety of laws upon the same subject, which 
ought to be reduced to one, are dispersed in different books; 
that the rule which prescribes that the repeal of one law which 
repeals another, revives that other without express words, may 
revive obsolete laws not in the meaning of the Legislature; that 
laws passed during the same session are often found to clash; 
that resolutions of a public nature have been seldom published 
with the laws, &c. This preamble ended with a resolution to 
appoint a committee to make special inquiry on the subjects 
mentioned, and to report the same to the House. The labor 
enjoined by such a resolution was enormous, and might well 
employ the time of many men for many days. It was referred 
to Edward Carrington, Edmund Randolph, Henry Lee, Turber- 
ville, Hopkins, Dawson, Wormeley, Stringer, Riddick, John 
Marshall, Burnley, Ludwell Lee, Page, Buchanan, Preston, Briggs, 
and Thruston. 181 

On the 3ist Carrington made an elaborate report, of which 



181 As a proof of the fact that the history of the members of the Con- 
vention may be best traced in the Assembly, it will be seen that nine 
members of this grand committee were members of the Convention. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 203 

our limits will only afford room for a very general review. The 
committee say that they have attentively examined the British 
statutes, which are either penal in their nature or relate to penal 
proceedings, and are in force in the Commonwealth; and they 
furnish a catalogue of fifty-one acts of Parliament anterior to 
the fourth year of James the First, and running back to the 
times of the Richards, the Henrys, 'and the Edwards under the 
operation of which the citizens of this Commonwealth are in 
danger of capital executions, attainders, corruption of blood, 
escheats and forfeitures of estates, imprisonment, pecuniary 
mulcts, and other punishments, without scarcely a possibility of 
access to those immense folios, in which their fate is concealed 
from the eyes of all but professional men. The committee then 
consider the different heads of the subjects entrusted to them at 
great length and with extraordinary research, and conclude by 
recommending the appointment of a committee to take the sub- 
ject in hand, and report to a subsequent Assembly. 

The report and resolutions were referred to the Committee of 
the Whole House on the 2d of November; and, when the com- 
mittee rose, Booker reported that no amendment had been made 
to them, and they were adopted without a division. Those parts 
of the report which were recommended to be carried into 
effect immediately were referred to Booker, Edmund Randolph, 
Briggs, Henry Lee, Johnston, Lawson, Hopkins, Preston, Walker, 
Breckenridge, Philip Pendleton, Turberville, Buchanan, Brent, 
Holmes, and Bassett; and during the session bills were accord- 
ingly reported and became laws. 18 * 

The authorship of the report, reflecting as it does abilities of a 
high order and a fullness of research which, if not made at second- 
hand, must have consumed many days of severe toil, may be 
fairly attributed to the brilliant and accomplished Edmund Ran- 
dolph. Carrington, who was more of a soldier than a civilian, 
was placed, from courtesy, at the head of the select committee; 183 



182 House Journal, October 31 and November 2, 1789, where the 
report and resolutions may be seen in full. It was stated in the repot 
that certain gentlemen were willing to arrange and revfse the laws free 
of expense to the State, but the House seemed to have thought it inex- 
pedient at that time to refer the subject to them. 

183 It was customary to make the chairman of the Committee of the 
Whole the chairman of the committee to draft bills called for by the 
report. 



204 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

and the name of Marshall, who was five years younger than 
Randolph, would have been prominent, had he been the author 
of the report, on the committee which was charged with the 
office of drawing the bills. It is evident that Randolph, in the 
spirit of true patriotism, and under the impulse of a generous 
ambition, had prepared his work long before the beginning of 
the session. 

The circulating medium was the source of constantly concur- 
ring difficulties in our early legislation. Gold and silver were 
hardly to be seen, and, when offered in payment of the public 
taxes, were received by weight into the treasury. Certain certifi- 
cates of the public debt were also received in payment to the 
Commonwealth, but with the people at large taxes in kind were 
most heartily approved. On these last the annual loss to the 
State, from accidents and depreciation, was always large, and 
they afforded the means of most profitable speculation to the 
collectors of the revenue. During the war, when there was no 
outlet by sea, and when there was no specie in the Common- 
wealth, it was a matter of necessity that the taxes should be paid 
in the products of the labor of the people. Patrick Henry had 
the credit of being the author of a scheme, which was evidently 
the dictate of necessity rather than the result of invention; and 
he certainly was its foremost champion. At the expiration of 
the war, however, there was a small party which sought to bring 
about gradually the payment of taxes in specie, and which had 
increased in numbers with the development of the resources of 
the State. Now that a new Federal Government was established, 
the duties under which must be paid in coin or its equivalent, it 
was believed by the friends of a sound currency that Virginia 
should make a serious effort to require specie or its equivalent 
in payment of. taxes. The subject was discussed in Committee 
of the Whole, and Briggs reported, as the opinion of the com- 
mittee, that the taxes of the present year ought to be paid in 
specie only, or in warrants equivalent thereto, and that the taxes 
on lands, slaves, and other property, and the taxes imposed by 
an act entitled "an act imposing new taxes," ought to be reduced 
in the proportion of one-fourth less than the last year. A 
motion was made to strike out the specie clause and insert that 
"hemp,and tobacco ought to be made comrnutable in the pay- 
ment of the public taxes for the year 1789," and was lost by a 
decisive vote the ayes being fifty-one and the noes eighty-eight. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 205 

As this was a strict party question for many years, I annex the 
votes of the members of the House who had been members of 
the Convention: 

AYES Patrick Henry, Binns Jones, Bell, Strother, King, 
Richardson, Temple, Pawling, Green Clay, Wormeley, Gaskins, 
Briggs, Henry Lee (Legion Harry), and Dawson. 

NOES Edmund Randolph, John Marshall, Johnston, John 
Trigg, Benjamin Harrison, Guerrant, Prunty, Jackson, Vanme- 
ter, Smith (of Gloucester), Hopkins, Kennon, Corbin, McClerry, 
Crockett, Riddick, Stringer, McKee, Carter, Allen, Edmunds, 
and Edmiston. 18 * 

The resolution was then adopted without a division. The 
vote deserves to be studied as showing that geographical con- 
siderations did not wholly control the members. The truth was 
thai the State was in such a condition that she could not be 
relieved from it without the adoption of a measure which must 
necessarily press with greater or less severity upon all the people. 
The only question was a question of time; and we are bound to 
believe that a majority of both houses decided wisely. Still we 
hazard little in saying that the exaction of the taxes in specie 
gave an additional impulse to that fearful emigration of our peo- 
ple, which took place at this time, to Kentucky and other West- 
ern territories. What would be the effect of the exaction of 
taxes in specie in distant counties may be inferred from the fact 
that the rich counties of Cumberland and Buckingham presented 



18 *As many of the members of the House, though not members of 
the Convention, afterwards became distinguished, I will give the votes 
of some of them for future reference : 

AYES Peter Randolph, Sterling Edmunds, Robert Boiling, Jr., George 
Booker, Richard Banks, Robert Randolph, William Payne, Jr., Mordecai 
Cooke, Henry E. Coleman, William Terry, Miles Selden, Abner Field, 
William Roane, John Taliaferro, Sterling Niblett. Samuel Taylor, Bur- 
well Bassett, Jr., John Macon, George Lee Turberville, John W. Willis, 
and Robert Shield. 

NOES Hugh Caperton, Clement Carrington, Francis Walker, Wil- 
liam Cabell, Jr., Philip Pendleton, James Breckenridge, John Clarke, 
Robert White, Samuel Hairston, Isaac Miller, William Heath, Francis 
Boykin, Francis Preston, John Giles, Willis Wilson, John Hodges, 
Edward Carrington, Henry Washington, Alexander Henderson, Dennis 
Dawley, Thomas Lawson, John Bowyer, George Baxter, Andrew 
Cowan, George Brent, Thomas West, and William Tate. 



206 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

petitions setting forth that, in consequence of the great scarcity 
of specie, the low price of produce, and the unfortunate destruc- 
tion of the crops of tobacco and corn in the fall, they believe 
that it will be impossible for them to pay their present taxes. 185 

It is not an unprofitable task to record the action of our fathers 
on religious questions, which, at intervals, are still discussed in 
the South, and in the South only. Congress had requested the 
President of the United States "to issue a proclamation to the 
people to set apart a day of thanksgiving and prayer for the 
many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording 
them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government 
for their safety and happiness" and the 26th day of November 
was specified for the purpose. The House acceded to the propo- 
sition without a division, and resolved that its chaplain be 
requested to perform divine service and to preach a sermon in 
the Capitol before the General Assembly, suitable to the impor- 
tance and solemnity of the occasion, on the appointed day. 18 * 
The public and formal recognition of an over-ruling Providence 
was frequently made by our fathers during the Revolution; and 
if the measure (as we know it was in one instance at least) was 
proposed by politicians for effect, it plainly showed their convic- 
tion of the religious sensibilities of the people. 

It was resolved at the last session to build a marine hospital 
at Norfolk, and certain funds accruing from the customs were set 
apart for that purpose. 187 But the regulation of commerce had 
been committed to the new Government, and neither the antici- 
pated revenues for the construction of the building were forth- 
coming, nor had the State any further need for such a structure. 
A sum of five hundred pounds had already been appropriated 

185 House Journal, November 16, 1789, pages 64, 65. The crops had 
been destroyed by a terrible gust in September. 

186 This probably was the first instance of a religious meeting being 
held in the Capitol, and was a very proper inauguration of the new 
building. It afterwards became a regular place for preaching before 
churches were built in Richmond. 

187 This hospital, beautifully situated at the head of the harbor of 
Norfolk, was forthwith constructed. During the period when my 
friend, Dr. E. O. Balfour, was its surgeon, it was greatly improved by 
his energy and taste trees were set out, and the grounds were 
enriched and adorned. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 207 

on the subject, and the senators from this State were requested 
to communicate the facts to Congress. 

The amendments of the Federal Constitution, which had been 
recommended by Congress to the adoption of the States, were 
discussed in Committee of the Whole on the i3th of November, 
when it was agreed to ratify the first twelve of them as being in 
accordance with those recommended by the Convention; and it 
was also resolved that the procceedings of the House upon 
them should be published and distributed throughout the Com- 
monwealth. The resolutions of the House were sent to the 
Senate. That body immediately read them the first time and 
referred them to the Committee of the Whole, in which they 
were discussed daily .until the 8th of December, when the com- 
mittee rose and reported an amendment, which was in substance 
that the third, eighth, eleventh, and twelfth amendments be post- 
poned till the next session of the Assembly for the consideration 
of the people. A warm debate had evidently been held in com- 
mittee on each vote striking out a specific amendment, and the 
votes were repeated in the House by ayes and noes. Those in 
favor of striking out the third amendment were John Pride, 
Turner Southall, John S. Wills, Mathew .Anderson, Stevens 
Thomson Mason, Joseph Jones, William Russell, and John 
Pope, and those in the negative Alexander St. Clair, John P. 
Duval, Nicholas Cabell, John Kearnes, Levin Joynes, James 
Taylor, and Hugh Nelson. Five times in quick succession the 
roll was called; and when the questions were carried, the 
majority made a request which, as far as my researches have 
extended, stands alone in our records. The request was that 
they might be allowed to record in the Journal the reasons 
which induced them to postpone the amendments in question, 
and their opinion of those amendments. This request was 
granted by a majority of one ascertained by a call of the roll; 
the ayes seven, the noes six. On the i2th the majority recorded 
their opinions at length upon the Journal, signed with their 
names. This step was immediately followed by a protest from 
the minority against the right and policy of the majority to put 
their opinions on record, which was signed by the members 
composing it. The House of Delegates refused to concur in the 
amendments of the Senate, and the Senate refused to recede; 
and a committee of both bodies met in the conference chamber. 



208 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Mason, Pope, and Anderson represented the Senate, and 
Edmund Randolph, Henry Lee, Corbin, John Marshall, Johns- 
ton, Edward Carrington, Zane, and Wilson Gary Nicholas 
appeared on the part of the House of Delegates. 188 The discus- 
sion was doubtless animated and eloquent; but the conference 
could not agree, and the Senate resolutely adhered to their 
amendments by a majority of one the vote being seven to six. 
Against this decision the minority of the Senate protested on the 
technical ground that the bill and amendments had not been 
returned from the House of Delegates, were presumed to be 
under the consideration of the House, and were not open to a 
vote by the Senate. 

On the 5th of December the House of Delegates again went 
into committee on the subject of the amendments proposed by 
Congress to the Federal Constitution; and, when the Speaker 
resumed the chair, two resolutions were reported, the first of 
which set forth "that the General Assembly, in obedience to the 
will of the people, as expressed by the Convention by which 
certain alterations in the Constitution of the United States were 
recommended, ought to urge to Congress the reconsideration of 
such as are not included in the amendments already adopted by 
this Commonwealth"; and the second, which declared that a 
representation ought to be made to Congress in pursuance of 
the foregoing resolution. As soon as the first resolution was 
read a motion was made to strike out from the word " resolved " 
to the end of the resolution, and insert in lieu thereof the follow- 
ing words: "That a communication from the Legislature of this 
State to the Congress of the United States ought to be made, 
expressing their ardent desire that such of the amendments of 



188 Randolph and Mason, as the representatives of their respective 
houses, must have made a brilliant display. The reader is reminded 
of the famous committee of conference of the British Parliament on 
the resolution of 1788 declaring the throne vacant, in which Notting- 
ham on the part of the Lords, and Somers and Maynard on the part of 
the Commons, put forth their strength. Had the manuscript history of 
Virginia, written by Edmund Randolph (which was destroyed by fire 
in New Orleans some years ago), been in existence, we might have 
learned the details of the conference meeting. [This MS., the property 
of the Virginia Historical Society, has been committed by it to the 
well-known writer, Moncure D. Con way, for publication. EDITOR.] 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 209 

the Virginia Convention as have not been proposed by the Con- 
gress 19 the several States, to be established as a part of the 
Constitution of the United States, be reconsidered and complied 
with." The motion to strike out was lost by a tie vote, the 
Speaker declaring himself with the noes. The members of the 
Convention who voted in the affirmative were John Trigg, Binns 
Jones, Benjamin Harrison, Strother, A. Robertson, Riddick, 
Richardson, Guerrant, Temple, Pawling, Hopkins, Carter, 
Briggs, Edmunds, and Edmiston. Those who voted in the nega- 
tive were Wilson Cary Nicholas, Johnston, King, Prunty, Van- 
meter, Corbin, McClerry, Tomlin, McKee, Allen, Henry Lee, 
Edmund Randolph, and John Marshall. The distinction 
between the reported resolution and the proposed amendment 
is apparently slight, the latter being somewhat more peremptory 
in its tone; but the majority of the House, hitherto easily tri- 
umphant, sustained a defeat. 189 The second resolution prevailed 
without a division. 

The legislation of the Assembly on domestic topics was judi- 
cious and extensive, and apparently unanimous. Many of the 
irregularities and deficiencies in the laws, which had been 
pointed out in the able report already described, were corrected 
by special acts. Among these were acts concerning the benefit 
of clergy; against fogery; repealing a part of an ordinance by 
which certain British statutes were allowed to be in force in Vir- 
ginia; concerning jeofails and certain proceedings in civil cases; 
to provide against an appropriation of money by a resolution 
of the two houses; concerning perjury; directing the mode of 
proceeding in impeachments; for the manumission of certain 
slaves for good conduct during the war, and to amend the act 
preventing the further importation of slaves. The act offering 
to Congress a territory for the seat of government passed with- 
out a division, as well as an act ceding to the United States the 
site of a light-house. The resolution instructing the senators in 
Congress to vote for admitting the people to hear the debates in 



189 The vote was sixty-two to sixty-two, making a House of one hun- 
dred and twenty-four members, when the full number was about two 
hundred. In the absence of Patrick Henry the eloquence of Randolph 
and Marshall prevailed. 



210 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

their body was also unanimous. 190 Kentucky, which had for 
several sessions received an act authorizing the formation of an 
independent State, was again empowered to carry that object 
into effect. Liberal appropriations were made for the comple- 
tion of the Capitol in Richmond. 

On his return from France, Mr. Jefferson had reached the city 
of Richmond. Both houses passed a resolution congratulating 
him on his return and expressive of their high sense of the ser- 
vices which he had rendered to his country, and appointed a 
committee to wait upon him. He received the deputation most 
graciously, and made a handsome acknowledgment, which was 
reported to the House. 191 

A memorial from the Baptist associations was presented to the 
House, praying that a law might pass to authorize the free 
use of the Episcopal churches by all denominations; but, after 
the subject had been fully discussed, it was determined on the 
9th of December, by a vote of sixty-nine to fifty-eight, to post- 
pone the further consideration of the memorial to the 3ist of 
March next. 192 

A remarkable resolution on the subject of a call of a Conven- 
tion to revise the Constitution of the State was presented by a 
member to the House. 193 It was offered by a friend of the Fede- 
ral Constitution. The recent action of the Assembly on Federal 
affairs was attributed by the minority to the basis of representa- 
tion on which that body rested; and the conduct of the Senate, 

190 The Assembly had received the Journals of Congress, and ordered 
five hundred copies to be printed for distribution in the State. Among 
the elections made during the session were that of James Mercer to 
the Court of Appeals, in place of John Blair, who had been appointed 
a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States; Beverley Randolph 
was re-elected Governor, and Jaquelin Ambler, Treasurer; and Cyrus 
Griffin, John Howell Briggs, Thomas Madison, and Charles Carter as 
members of the Council. 

191 House and Senate Journals, December 8 and 9, 1789. 

192 Consult the House Journal of November 27, 1789, where an argu- 
ment, in the shape of an amendment to the report of the Committee 
of the Whole, in defence of the right of the Episcopal Church to its 
houses of worship, will be seen. 

193 House Journal, December 8, 1789. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 211 

which had postponed the adoption of several of the amendments 
to the Federal Constitution that had been adopted by the House, 
excited, the wrath of some of the prominent upholders of that 
instrument. The resolution was elaborated with uncommon 
skill; it analyzed the departments of the government, as estab- 
lished by the Constitution of the State, with stern severity; and 
concluded with a recommendation that the people take the sub- 
ject into consideration, and instruct their delegates to act upon 
it at a subsequent session. When the resolution was read, a 
motion was made to strike out all after the word " resolved " and 
insert the words "that the foregoing statement contains state- 
ments repugnant to republican government and dangerous to 
the freedom of this country, and therefore ought not to meet 
with the approbation of this House, or be recommended to the 
consideration of the people." While this amendment was pend- 
ing a motion was made to postpone the subject to the 3ist of 
March next, and was carried without a division. 194 

A glance at the proceedings of the General Assembly which 
met on the i8th day of October, 1790, will show the gradual 
development of parties in the Commonwealth, not so much in 
respect of the true nature of the Federal Constitution as of the 
legislative measures adopted by the new government. The 
Senate again chose John Pride as their Speaker. Beside Pride 
and Humphrey Brooke (the Clerk of the House), the members 
of the Senate who had been members of the Convention were 
Stevens Thomson Mason, Burwell Bassett, and Thomas Gaskins. 
The House of Delegates re-elected General Matthews Speaker 
without opposition; and Norvell, Harrison (of Charles City), 
Henry Lee (of the Legion), 195 John Marshall, and Richard Lee 

19 *This resolution presents an analysis of the Constitution, which fills 
more than two of the quarto pages of the Journal, and is done in a 
masterly manner. Its obnoxious feature, as denounced in the amend- 
ment, was probably its protest against annual elections of members of 
the Assembly, which it enforces by the same arguments that brought 
about our present biennial sessions. From the views expressed 
respecting the clashing of the Declaration of Rights and the Consti- 
tution, as well as from internal evidence, it is evidently the production 
of Edmund Randolph. 

195 As there were two Henry Lees in the Convention, and as few 
readers would identify them by the names of the counties from which 



212 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

were placed at the heads of the standing committees. Some of 
the members of the last House, who had been members of the 
Convention, had withdrawn from the scene. Edmund Randolph 
had been appointed the first Attorney- General of the United 
States (as he had been the first Attorney- General of the Com- 
monwealth); but, beside Matthews, Harrison, Henry Lee, and 
John Marshall, already named, were Patrick Henry, Johnston, 
McFerran, Westwood, Prunty, Logan, McClerry, Ronald, Tom- 
lin, McKee, Carter, John Trigg, Conn, Binns Jones, John Jones, 
Bell, Strother, John Early, Thomas Smith, Jackson, Cooper, 
Roane, Kennon, Walton, Edmunds, and Andrews. 

The assumption of the debts of the States by the Federal 
Government was the first act of legislation which called forth a 
distinct expression of political opinion from the people of Vir- 
ginia. The senators of the State in Congress had transmitted 
a copy of the assumption act to the Governor, who enclosed it 
in a letter to the Assembly. It was immediately referred to the 
Committee of the Whole, and on the 3d of November, 1790, the 
House of Delegates took it into consideration. When the com- 
mittee rose, Selden reported a resolution declaring "that so 
much of the act of Congress, entitled ' an act making provision 
for the debt of the United States,' as assumes the payment of 
the State debts, is repugnant to the Constitution of the United 
States, as it goes to the exercise of a power not expressly 
granted to the Federal Government." 

As soon as the resolution from the committee was read, a 
motion was made to strike it out and insert in its stead an amend- 
ment which contained an ingenious and elaborate exposition of 
the injustice and impolicy of the assumption act, but which 
adroitly avoided the constitutional question. This amendment 
was rejected by a vote of eighty-eight to forty-seven ascertained 
by ayes and noes. The members of the House, who had been 
members of the Convention, voted on the question to strike out 
and insert as follows: 

AYES John Marshall, Johnston, McFerran, Westwood, Prunty, 
Logan, McClerry, Ronald, Tomlin, and McKee. 

NOES Thomas Matthews (Speaker), Patrick Henry, John 



they came, I have thought it best to give Henry Lee (of Westmore- 
land) his Revolutionary cognomen. 



ALEXANDER WHITE. 213 

Trigg, Conn, Binns Jones, John Jones, Bell, Strother, John Early, 
Thomas Smith, Jackson, Cooper, Roane, Ke,nnon, Corbin, Wal- 
ton, Edmunds, and Andrews. 

The main question was then put, and was decided in the 
affirmative by a vote of seventy-five to fifty-two ascertained 
by ayes and noes. As the vote to strike out merely tested the 
sense of the House on the constitutional question, and might 
have been given on parliamentary grounds by some who 
approved the policy of assumption, I annex the result of the 
call of the roll : 

AYES Mr. Speaker (Matthews), Patrick Henry, John Trigg, 
Conn, Binns Jones, John Jones, Bell, Strother, John Early, 
Jackson, Cooper, John Roane, Kennon, Corbin, Walton, 
Edmunds, and Henry Lee. 

NOES John Marshall, Johnston, McFerran, Westwood, 
Thomas Smith, Prunty, Logan, McClerry, Ronald, Tomlin, 
McKee, Carter, and Andrews. 

The resolution was carried to the Senate, and was in due 
time adopted by that body; but, as the roll was not called, the 
ayes and noes cannot be given. 196 

196 As this was the most memorable party vote in our early annals, 
and was frequently referred to in party contests, I annex some of the 
names of the members that were afterwards prominent : 

AYES John Cropper, James Upshaw (of Caroline), Peterson Good- 
wyn, Robert Boiling, Jr., George Booker, Pickett, Cooke, Henry E. 
Coleman, Miles Selden, Joseph Martin, Francis Boykin, John Camp- 
bell, John Taliaferro, Sr., George William Smith (afterwards Governor, 
and burned in the theatre), John Clopton, Richard Evers Lee, Travers 
Daniel, Jr., Richard Lee, Charles Scott, John Craig, and Robert Shield. 

NOES Francis Walker, William Boyer, C. H. Clark, James Brecken- 
ridge, John Clark, Mathew Page, W. Norvell, John Miller, A. Crockett, 
John Jouett, Benjamin Johnson (of Orange),* William Patton, Matthew 
Clay, John Macon, Richard S. Blackburn, George Baxter, Benjamin 
Blunt, Francis Thornton, Jr., William Digges, William Nelson, and 
David Talbot. 

For the memorial to Congress, drawn in pursuance to the resolution 
(which was from the pen of Corbin, and presented by him), see House 
Journal, December 16, 1790. It is well done, and has a peculiar flavor 
as coming from Corbin, who was a trenchant friend of the Federal 
Constitution. 



* Subsequently represented by his accomplished grandson, Benjamin Johnson Barbour, 
of Orange. 



214 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

The death of the lamented William Grayson made a vacancy 
in the Senate of the. United States, which was to afford another 
test of the State strength of parties, and which the Assembly, 
on the Qth of November, proceeded to fill. James Monroe and 
John Walker were the only candidates, and, upon counting the 
ballots, Monroe was declared to be duly elected to fill the unex- 
pired term of Grayson in the Senate of the United States. He 
was afterwards elected for the full term. 197 

I now conclude my review of the members of the Convention 
as they appeared in a group in the legislative councils imme- 
diately subsequent to the adjournment of that body, and will 
proceed to treat in detail the life and services of a statesman, 
who, in war and in peace, achieved a reputation which during 
his life was^ the pride of Virginia, but which, sharing the fatality 
that has befallen the memory of nearly all his contemporaries, 
has been allowed to fade almost insensibly away. Descending 
the Blue Ridge eastwardly, and almost in its shadow, we approach 
the home which he inherited from his father, in which he spent 
most of his days, and from which he went forth at the call of his 
country. 198 

197 Some of my readers, who have numbered their three-score years 
and ten (and I hope I may have many such), may recall the ballad 
which was written on the occasion of the election of Monroe over 
Walker. I remember the chorus, but it is rather too pungent for 
modern ears. As I now close my review of the sessions of the Assem- 
bly, I state the fact, lest I might lead astray, that Kentucky was still 
represented at the present session when several acts were passed 
respecting her, and George Nicholas was elected her attorney-general 
in place of Harry Innes, declined. But I must leave this matter to 
others. 

198 Near Leesburg. 



THOMSON MASON. 



Stevens Thomson Mason was the senior representative of 
Loudoun in the Convention. His ancestor, George Mason, the 
first of the name, had held a seat in the British Parliament; had 
commanded a troop of horse in the army of Charles at the battle 
of Worcester, which sealed the fate of the Stuart dynasty during 
the life of Cromwell; had emigrated with a younger brother to 
Virginia, and landed, in 1651, in Norfolk, then even a flourishing 
town, which had been honored not long before with a royal 
charter, and which, with its domestic and foreign shipping, pre- 
sented a cheering appearance to the eyes of an industrious and 
enterprising emigrant. In the vicinity of the town his younger 
brother, William, selected a home, and lived and died and was 
buried on the banks of a creek, which still bears his name. 199 
George, however, removed to Accohick creek, which flows into 
the Potomac near Pasbitaney, where, with the remains of his 
once ample estate in Staffordshire, 200 he purchased a farm, settled 
it, and, with his family that shortly came over to Virginia, spent- 
the remainder of his life upon it. In 1676, the year of. Bacon's 
Rebellion, he commanded a volunteer force against the Indians, 
and held a seat in the House of Burgesses.' 01 It is to him that 

199 He intermarried with the Thoroughgoods, a respectable family 
for more than a hundred years in Norfolk and Princess Anne counties, 
though the name is now almost extinct. A son of his removed to 
Boston, where, or in other parts of New England, some of his descend- 
ants are still living. 

200 The family was originally from Worcestershire, not Warwick- 
shire, as the Old Churches, <Sfc., have it. So say the Mason manu- 
scripts. [There is a grant of land, of record in the State Land Registry, 
of 1,250 acres, in Elizabeth City county, to Francis Mason, dated August 
31, 1642. Captain George Mason was granted 900 acres in Northum- 
berland county March 25, 1656. EDITOR.] 

201 See the account of "T. M." in the Virginia Historical Register, 
Vol. Ill, 61; Rice's Magazine, Vol. Ill, 128. I first saw this valuable 
tract in the Richmond Enquirer of 1804, September i, 5, 8. It is also 
published in Forceps Tracts, Vol. I. 



216 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Stafford county owes its name. He had a son called George, 
who married Mary, a daughter of Gerard Fowke, of " Gunston 
Hall" in Staffordshire, England. The eldest son of this mar- 
riage was also called George, the third of the name, and lived 
and died, and, with his grandfather and father, was buried on 
Accohick creek. He had a son called George, who married a 
daughter 202 of Stevens Thomson, of the Middle Temple, Attor- 
ney-General of the Colony of Virginia in the reign of Queen 
Anne. He was drowned in the Potomac by the upsetting of a 
boat, but his body was found and buried at Doeg's Neck. He 
left two sons and a daughter George Mason, the author of the 
Declaration of Rights and of the first Constitution of Virginia 
(of whom I have already spoken, and shall speak at length here- 
after), and Thomson Mason, the father of Stevens Thomson 
Mason of the present Convention. 

Before we speak of the son, the patriotism and worth of the 
father, now almost forgotten, should not pass wholly unrecorded. 
Thomson Mason was born at Doeg's Neck, on the Potomac, in 
1730, was taught at home by the rector of the parish or by a 
private tutor; entered the College of William and Mary, and 
thence passed to London, where he studied law at the Temple. 
His abode in England gave a decided impulse to his character, 
for his associates in the Temple, and the illustrious men then on 
the stage of active life, were well calculated to inspire a clever 
young man with a love of eloquence and learning. He probably 
heard the brilliant but fated Yorke in his first efforts at the bar. 
Lord Hardwicke was then on the woolsack, and was expounding 
daily, in the marble chair, that code of equity which has made 
his name immortal. 203 The Earl of Mansfield and the Earl of 
Chatham then plain William Murray and William Pitt were 
waging their life-long struggle in the House of Commons; and 
Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden), Yorke, Thurlow, Wedderburne, 

202 She was a niece of Sir William Temple. 

203 It may have been through the influence of Mason that the Earl of 
Hardwicke was elected Chancellor of William and Mary College. 
Unfortunately the appointment did not reach England until after the 
death of the Earl. It is noticed by one of his biographers, but has 
escaped Lord Campbell. Before this period it was common to elect 
the Bishop of London the Chancellor of William and Mary, evidently 
from the influence of Commissary Blair. 



THOMSON MASON. 217 

and Dunning were leaders at the bar. He attended, beyond 
doubt, sedulously the courts and the Parliament; and, if we may 
judge from subsequent developments, he rather sided with Pitt, 
Pratt, and Dunning than with Murray, Wedderburne, and 
Thurlow. 

Returning to Virginia, he began the practice of his profession, 
both in the county courts and at the bar of the General Court. 
In February, 1766, he signed the stringent and strenuous reso- 
lutions of the Westmoreland Association, and in the following 
May took his seat for the first time in the House of Burgesses, 
and was one of that majority which separated the office of Trea- 
surer from that of the Speaker. He rose gradually in reputa- 
tion and in position, and in 1769 he was placed on nearly all the 
standing committees of the House. During this session he voted 
for those four memorable resolutions ' m which embraced the great 
questions of the times, and which caused a dissolution of the 
Assembly by the Governor; and when the members adjourned 
to the Apollo and adopted the non-importation agreement, 
which had been drawn by his brother (George), and brought to 
Williamsburg by Colonel Washington. In 1774 he was again a 
member of the House of Burgesses; but he must have retired 
at the close of that session, as he was not a member of the Con- 
vention of 1775, or of that of 1776, which were but another 
name for the House of Burgesses, and which were illumined by 
the genius of his illustrious brother. 

Before I proceed further, I ought not to omit a more distinct 
allusion to the services of Thomson Mason, in the year 1774. i n 
opposition to the policy of taxing America. Allusion has already 
been made to the Westmoreland memorial,' 205 which was drawn 
by Richard Henry Lee, and signed by the most respectable 



204 For a copy of the four resolves, see Burk, Vol. Ill, 343; and for a 
copy of the Articles of Association, which were signed by every mem- 
ber, and the names of the signers, see page 345. 

205 It may be seen in the Virginia Historical Register, Vol. II, 15, 
and in Bishop Meacte's Old Churches, &c. As Mason was a member 
of the House in 1769, and as we are told all the members of that House 
were returned at the following election, he must have been a member 
in 1770, and, it is probable, continuously until 1774, where we again 
begin to trace him. My set of the Journals of the House do not include 
the period from 1769 to 1774. 



218 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

citizens of the Northern Neck and of the neighboring country. 
There, in company with the names of William Grayson, Meri- 
wether Smith, the Washingtons, the Lees, the Monroes, the 
Carters, the Roanes, Parker, Turberville, Woodcock, and others, 
then and still respectable for the patriotism of those who bore 
them, stands the name of Thomson Mason. But Mason was 
determined to do something more than pledging his name to the 
sound doctrines contained in that paper, and he wrote a series of 
letters at a time when the issue was drawing near (1774), which 
defended the right and duty of resistance to Great Britain, upon 
principles of law as well as of right, and which denounced, with 
all the force of argument and with great vigor of expression, 
the injustice and the impolicy of taxing the Colonies by the 
legislation of the mother country. These articles were published 
under the signature of "A British American," and attracted 
great attention from their intrinsic value; but, willing to assume 
all the responsibility of their authorship at a time when England 
was placing her mark upon the froward men of the Colony, and 
to give to the letters the sanction of his name (which then stood 
in legal matters second to none other), he concludes the last 
number with this honorable avowal : 

"And now, my friends, fellow-citizens, and countrymen, to 
convince you that I am in earnest in the advice I have given 
you notwithstanding the personal danger I expose myself to in 
so doing; notwithstanding the threats thrown out by British 
aristocracy of punishing in England those who shall dare to 
oppose them in America; yet, because I do not wish to survive 
the liberty of my country one single moment; because I am 
determined to risk my all in supporting that liberty, and because 
I think it in some measure dishonorable to skulk under a bor- 
rowed name upon such an occasion as this I am neither afraid 
nor ashamed to avow that the letters signed by ' A British 
American ' were written by the hand and flowed from the heart 
of Thomson Mason." 206 

He did not hold a seat in the first General Assembly under 
the Constitution which met in Williamsburg in October, 1776, as 
that body or rather the House of Delegates was, in fact, the 



m The letters may be seen in the American Archives (fourth series^ 
Vol. I, 418, 495, 519, 541, 620, 654. 



THOMSON MASON. 219 

Convention of 1776 held over by adjournment; but, in 1777, he 
was a member of the House of Delegates. As he did not take 
his seat until the i7th of November, when the House had been 
nearly a month in session, and had been absent at a call of the 
roll, he appeared, as was usual under such circumstances, in the 
custody of the sergeant-at-arms; but, upon showing that he had 
been engaged in the interval in the service of the House, he was 
excused without the payment of fees.' 207 As soon as he took his 
seat he was placed on a committee to examine and report the 
state, progress, and expense of the salt-works belonging to the 
State, and he was assigned (with his brother George) to the 
committee for preparing a bill to establish a Court of Appeals. 

The Articles of Confederation had just been framed by Con- 
gress and submitted to the States; and on the gth of December 
those articles were received by the House and spread in lull on 
the Journal. After a deliberate investigation of the articles they 
were unanimously approved by the House, and the delegates of 
the State in Congress were instructed to ratify them in the name 
and in behalf the Commonwealth. 208 On such an occasion, 
which was so congenial to his character and talents, he probably 
bore a conspicuous part in debate; but there is no notice of the 
scene that is extant. One of the great topics of the session was 
the establishment of the General Court and the Court of Appeals; 
and Thomson Mason, Joseph Jones, John Blair, Thomas Lud- 
well Lee, and Paul Carrington were appointed judges of the 
General Court. At the session of the House in October he 
appeared in his seat, and engaged with great zeal in furthering 
the measures for defence and for local purposes. It is believed 
that he drafted the bill establishing the county of Illinois now 
the State of that name and on the passage of the bill he was 



207 The expense incurred by the sergeant-at-arms in sending for 
George and Thomson Mason was sixteen shillings and ten pence each. 
Cuthbert Bullitt, Edmund Ruffin, and Willis Riddick were not so for- 
tunate as to have a good excuse for absence, and had to pay their 
fines. 

1108 The Journal of the House states that the articles were agreed to 
netnine contra dicente ; but Patrick Henry says, in a letter addressed 
to R. H. Lee, dated December 18, 1777: "The Confederation is passed 
nem. con., though opposed by those who opposed independency.'' 
The Senate were also unanimous. 



220 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

requested by the Speaker to carry it to the Senate and request 
their concurrence. 

He seems now to have changed the place of his residence and 
become an inhabitant for a short time of Elizabeth City county. 
He was through life at intervals a martyr to the gout, and it is 
not improbable that he chose his new place of abode from its 
proximity to the sea, as a salt atmosphere and salt bathing have 
been frequently found beneficial to the health of invalids suffer- 
ing from that disease. At all events, his great reputation had 
preceded him, and he was immediately returned to the House of 
Delegates from Elizabeth City. He took his seat in May, 1779; 
but having since his election again removed to another county, 
he addressed a letter to the Chair, in which he stated the fact of 
his removal from Elizabeth City since his election, and that the 
House had decided in the case of Peter Poythress that a mem- 
ber under such circumstances could not hold his seat, he ten- 
dered his resignation; which, however, the House, in courtesy to 
his extraordinary abilities, declined to accept, and he remained a 
member during the session.* 09 At the October session he found 
himself unable to attend; and, to make his resignation certain, he 
accepted the office of coroner, which, ipso facto, vacated his seat 
in the House. As he was appointed a judge of the General 
Court at a previous session, he must either have delayed to 
qualify or resigned the appointment. 

At the session of May, 1783, he was returned to the House of 
Delegates from Stafford, and was placed at the head of the Com- 
mittee of Courts of Justice, on which was also placed his son, 
Stevens Thomson Mason, the present session being the last but 
one of the father and the first of the son. A smart debate arose 
on a motion to strike out from the tax bill the word "Novem- 
ber," and insert the word "October" as the time to which dis- 
tress to be made for the public taxes was proposed to be limited; 
and the question was taken by ayes and noes, and decided in the 
negative the father in the negative and the son in the affirmative. 
His skill in the law was often called into requisition, and when it 
was determined to bring in a bill to amend an act declaring 
tenants in lands or slaves in tail to hold the same in fee simple, 



209 House Journal, June 9, 1779, where the letter is spread upon the 
Journal. 



THOMSON MASON. 221 

he and Alexander White were appointed to draft it. The bill 
was reported, and became a law. A test question was made on 
the passage of a bill for the relief of sheriffs, and he voted in a 
minority of seventeen the ayes and noes having been asked by 
himself. Another test question of ^he session was a motion to 
postpone to October the bill declaring who shall be deemed 
citizens of the Commonwealth, when father and son voted in 
rather a meagre minority the House deciding to postpone by a 
vote of fifty-six to twenty-seven. On a motion to strike out 
that part of a resolution concerning the public buildings, which 
fixed their site permanently on Shockoe Hill, and to insert "that 
the seat of government ought to be removed to Williamsburg," 
father and son voted with the majority against striking out. 110 
When the vote was called on several occasions he was not in the 
House; but the frequent recurrence of his name in presenting 
reports and bills from the Committee of Courts of Justice and on 
select committees leads us to believe that, though temporarily 
absent, he was closely engaged in his duties as a member of the 
House. 

At the opening of the October session of 1783 he was placed 
second on the Committee of Elections and at the head of Courts 
of Justice, of which last his son (Stevens) was also a member. 
On the nth of November a bill was reported, and read the first 
time, to explain and declare the privileges of members of the 
General Assembly. This has ever been a mooted question in 
the history of parliaments; and the present Lord Chancellor of 
Great Britian 211 has expressed the opinion that such a bill in 
respect of the British Parliament is an impossibility. The pres- 
ent bill, however, was sustained by Henry Taze-vell, John Taylor 
(of Caroline), and others, was opposed by Thomson Mason, 
Patrick Henry, and Archibald Stuart, and was defeated by a 
majority of two to one. When the engrossed bill to repeal the 
act declaring who shall be citizens of the Commonwealth was 
read a third time, Mason, whose policy was to invite emigration, 
and to bury the local feuds kindled by the past war in families 

210 There is an error in the House Journal in recording this vote, the 
words "affirmative " and "negative " being transposed, and leading to 
error without a close inspection. 

711 1859- 



222 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

and neighborhoods, voted in its favor along with his son, with 
John Tyler, with Joseph Jones, and with the Speaker; but the 
measure was at that moment unpopular. Some of our patriots 
thought it too soon to allow those who had quitted their country 
in the hour of trial to come in and enjoy the fruits of the labors 
of a brave and devoted people, and enter at once upon all the 
rights and privileges of citizenship; and of this opinion was 
Henry, and Tazewell, and Alexander White, and Isaac Coles, 
and George Nicholas, and the fearless French Strother. The 
bill was lost by a majority of nineteen. At this day the decision 
would be pronounced wrong; for, as the treaty of peace had 
established a political amnesty between Great Britain and the 
United States, it was unwise to cherish a domestic feud in direct 
contravention of its spirit, and to turn away an intelligent and 
wealthy set of people, connected with us by blood and associa- 
tion, which, though deluded in the past, was now deeply repent- 
ant, and ready to come and aid us in clearing our woods and 
in paying our taxes. The same subject was discussed on the 
1 3th of December, on the passage of a bill to prohibit the 
migration of certain persons to this Commonwealth, which was 
passed by an overwhelming majority. 

The health of Mason, which was affected by the same disease 
which, at intervals, worried his brother George, who led an 
active life (and which we may fairly presume to have been 
inherited), was becoming seriously impaired, and at the close of 
the present session he withdrew finally from public life. 

We wish it was in our power to record many acts of useful- 
ness performed by this worthy man, and a life of learned repose 
enjoyed by him in his retirement; but the curtain was soon sud- 
denly to fall. He died in 1785 at " Chippawamsic," his seat in 
Stafford, near Dumfries, at the early age of fifty-five. He 
inherited nothing from his father beyond the means of obtaining 
the best education then within his reach; but this was enough 
for Mason. Had such a man been blessed with health, he would 
at that day have made a splendid fortune. But he was not 
entirely deprived of an inheritance, as he and his sister received 
from his mother large tracts of land in Loudoun, 812 which, 



212 A part of this land is still owned by the Hon. Thomas Swann, of 
Baltimore, a direct descendant of the only sister of Mason, and by Mr. 



THOMSON MASON. 223 

though bought originally for a small sum, became valuable; and 
he added to his possessions by his own industry and skill. He 
was rather above than below the ordinary size, with blueish-grey 
eyes and dark hair, and an embrowned complexion. He was a 
ready and exact speaker, eschewing embellishment, and relying 
on the force of logic for effect. His great excellence was his 
skill in the law, and he stood somewhat in the same relation to 
his contemporaries as that held by Theophilus Parsons toward 
his associates at the bar of New England. Laudari a laudato, 
especially when the praise comes from a competent and unpre- 
judiced judge, and is uttered long after its object has been con- 
signed to the tomb, is no unfair measure of worth; and we are 
told by Saint George Tucker, the eldest of the name, who had a 
near observation of all the great lawyers of the Revolutionary 
epoch, and who held a seat on the bench of the Court of Appeals 
near the time of the death of Mason, that " Thomson Mason was 
esteemed the first lawyer at the bar." 213 

He was buried in a clump of trees on " Raspberry Plain," his 
estate near Leesburg; but no stone marks his grave. A venera- 
ble descendant, still living, says that he had blue eyes. He was 
married a second time to Mrs. Wallace, of Hampton, formerly 
Miss Westwood. When the old gentleman who, by the way, 
was not more than forty at the time married his second wife, 
his son, John Thomson, used to say jocosely that his father had 
brushed his hair and burnished himself so sprucely that he could 
hardly recognize the old fellow. This lady long survived him, 
and died in 1824, 2U preserving to the last those endearing quali- 
ties of mind and character that fascinated the great lawyer. She 
was accustomed to say that she was just sixteen when her future 
husband took his seat in the House of Burgesses, and that he 
was the handsomest and most eloquent member of the House. 
She delighted to describe him as a devoted husband, sitting by 

Temple Mason, a son of Thomson Mason. It was from the fact that he 
received his property from his mother that her maiden name of Thom- 
son was given to all his children. By the law of entails the property of 
his father descended to the eldest son. 

213 Letter to Wirt in Kennedy's Life, Vol. I, 317. The Judge, in the 
same letter, states that Peyton Randolph was President of Congress to 
the day of his death ; in which, however, he is mistaken. 

1H For a description of this lady, see Old Churches, &c., Vol. II, 230. 



224 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

her side and recognizing in her fading features the beauty that 
adorned them in youth. She spoke with grateful warmth of 
his excellence as a stepfather. He wrote a paraphrase of the 
Song of Solomon, adapted to the praise of his wife, which was 
much admired, and is still in existence. A venerable descend- 
ant, still living, 215 says he always contributed liberally to the 
army in provisions and by the hospitalities of his house; that he 
was one of the kindest of men, but was apt to be regarded with 
fear by those who did not know him well. He had a stern eye, 
which it was not pleasant to look at when he was in a severe 
mood. Dr. Wallace, his stepson, says that during the Revolu- 
tion a quartermaster's deputy came to his room when he was ill 
with the gout and asked for a contribution of corn. Mason 
instantly directed his servant to give him half of all the corn he 
had. The deputy tauntingly replied, " Half, indeed ! I must 
have the whole." Mason, forgetting his gout, leaped from the 
bed, seized the poker, and cudgelled the fellow out of the house. 
The Doctor remembers that he was fond of his gun, and on one 
occasion, being short-sighted, blazed away at some stumps nearly 
covered with water, which he mistook for wild ducks. 

I have thus endeavored to recall some of the details of the life 
of Thomson Mason. To have said more would not have been 
justified by the scope of this work, or by the materials in my 
possession, perhaps in existence; to have said less would have 
been ungenerous to the memory of a pure and intrepid patriot, of 
a great lawyer, and of one of the wisest statesmen of the Revo- 
lutionary era. I now pass to his accomplished son. 



215 Mrs. Emily Macrae, a granddaughter. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 



Stevens Thomson Mason, who was destined to invest his 
honored patronymic with a brilliancy it had not yet known since 
the emigration of the first George, was born at "Chippawamsic," 
in Stafford county, in the year 1760, and was the eldest of a 
family of five sons and one daughter.* 16 

I am unable to say what were his opportunities for improve- 
ment in early youth; but the school of the parish was the com- 
mon resort in those days, and the rector was commonly a 
graduate of an English or Scotch college; and, if not altogether 
such a priest as James Blair or Jarratt, was almost invariably a 
good classical scholar, was moderately versed in mathematics, 
and cherished a taste for polite letters not at all incompatible 
with an occasional fox hunt, or with a game at dominoes or 
cards, or with the love of a glass of old wine. Young Scotch- 
men were at that time easily obtained as tutors, who, unversed in 
the common decencies of society, were enthusiasts in classical 
learning, and who, in their almost servile condition, inspired 
their pupils with a love of excellence that often led to the most 
favorable results. These were the men whose teachings formed 
those educated and able men whose eloquence shone in our early 
councils, and whose skill drafted the State papers of that age. 
It may be presumed that, when the oldest son was the favored 
child, the father was frequently his guide and instructor. 

When Stevens entered William and Mary College he was 
quite as well prepared, as is shown by the result, as any modern 
matriculate, and engaged with zeal in the prosecution of his 
studies. He was quickened in his career by one of those acci- 
dents which are sometimes more important in deciding the des- 
tinies of young men than the mastery of the immediate studies 
that constitute their chief work. Our clever Virginians almost 
always appear in groups; and Mason was at once introduced to 

116 The day of the month, or the month, I cannot find out. His 
mother's name was Mary Barnes, of Maryland. 



226 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

a number of young men of bright parts, with some of whom he 
preserved pleasant and intimate relations, personal and political, 
during the whole of his future career. Of this group William 
Branch Giles, the amiable and lamented Hardy, Littleton Eyre, 
John H. Cocke, the Carters (of Shirley), William Cabell (the 
son of the patriarch of "Union Hill"), John Jones (of the Sen- 
ate and of the present Convention), Richard Bland Lee, William 
Nelson (the future Chancellor), John Allen (of Surry), John 
Brown (a member of the Senate and of the old Congress), Spen- 
cer Roane, William Short {Charge at the French Court, and 
Minister to Spain and to The Hague), the Brents (of Maryland 
and Virginia), Richard Booker (of Amelia), Beckley (who was 
continuously the Clerk of the Senate, the successor of Edmund 
Randolph as the Clerk of the House of Delegates, and the first 
Clerk of the House of Representatives of the United States) : Z1T 
these, and others, were his contemporaries at college. Of this 
number no less than six were members of the present Con- 
vention. 

In regarding this collection of young men we are reminded 
of another that nearly trod upon their heels in the same venera- 
ble institution, and intermingled with them in public life. Little- 
ton Waller Tazewell, Robert Barraud Taylor, John Randolph, 
James Barbour, William Henry Cabell, and the lamented John 
Thompson caught the mantles of their predecessors as they fell. 
Poor Thompson held the same painful relation to his group that 
Hardy held in his brilliant, profound, and suddenly snatched 
away. And hardly had this group disappeared ere another, 
which was destined to strive with them for the honors of an 
entire generation, appeared in their places. I feel as if I were 
pressing the sod of new-made graves when I pronounce the 
names of Benjamin Watkins Leigh, of Chapman Johnson, of 
Robert Stanard, of Philip Pendleton Barbour, and of Henry 
E. Watkins. When the fame of all these gallant young men 
is to be weighed, who can estimate the effect of association 
with their fellows in the same institution ? 

Young Mason had a strong military turn, and, after leaving 

217 Beckley served during the eight years of Washington's adminis- 
tration, was turned out during Adams's, and was reinstated in 1801, 
serving till 1807 fifteen years. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 227 

college, determined to take a part in the war, which was not yet 
concluded. He served with credit through several grades, and 
commanded a Virginia brigade at the evacuation of Charles- 
ton." 8 

In the year 1783, as stated in the memoir of his father, he 
became a member of the House of Delegates from the county 
of Loudoun, and continued to hold his seat for two or three ses- 
sions, when he withdrew, and never held a seat in that House 
again. His votes on leading questions have already been 
detailed elsewhere. 219 

His legislative career, which was almost unsurpassed in splen- 
dor and effect, was now about to begin. After a short interval 
he was returned to the Senate of Virginia from the counties of 
Loudoun and Fauquier, and took his seat in that body for the 
first time at the October session of 1787. His first act was to 
vote for Edmund Randolph as Governor, with whom he was 
soon to be intimately connected with in the present Convention, 
in the House of Delegates, and as Attorney-General of the 
United States, of which he was ere long to be a senator; and to 
send his quartermaster-general (Edward Carrington), Henry 
Lee (his colleague in the war of the South), and his classmate 
(John Brown) to the Congress of the Confederation, along with 
James Madison, with whom he acted in unison in Federal affairs 
to the day of his death. Another classmate (Thomas Lee) was 
his colleague in the Senate. 

On the 26th of October the Senate received from the House 
of Delegates a series of resolutions declaring that the Federal 
Constitution, which had been published to the world the month 
preceding, and which had been forwarded by Congress to the 
Assembly, should be submitted to a Convention of the people of 
the Commonwealth, and entering into other specifications on the 
subject.** These resolutions were critically examined in the 
Senate, were amended in several respects, and on the 3oth were 

218 Mason manuscripts. 

119 In the review of the legislative sessions, and in the preceding 
sketch of his father. 

MO See the review of the session of 1787, ante. These resolutions 
were afterwards embodied in a bill which passed both houses, and may 
be seen in Hening. 



228 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

adopted by the body. Mason was ordered to carry the amended 
resolutions to the House of Delegates, which adopted them 
forthwith. This was his first prominent movement in Federal 
affairs, which he may be said to have controlled almost entirely 
in both houses as long as he remained in the Senate. 

The subjects discussed during the session included many 
grave and perplexing questions, which were managed by Mason 
with tact and ability. Some of those questions have partially 
lost their interest; but it is easy to see, in tracing the progress 
of measures through the Senate, that many fierce battles 
were fought between their friends and opponents. Such mea- 
sures as the establishment of the boundary line of North Caro- 
lina; the construction of the Dismal Swamp canal; the acts 
declaring tobacco receivable in payment of the taxes of 1787 (a 
subject which involved a discussion of the currency); establish- 
ing a district court on the western waters; concerning moneys 
paid into the public loan office in payment of British debts; pro- 
viding a sinking fund for the redemption of the public debt; 
repealing all acts preventing the collection of the British debts; 
discriminating commercially in favor of those nations which had 
acknowledged the independence of the United States; prescribing 
the mode of proving wills; imposing duties and regulating the 
customs : such acts, and many others equally intricate and 
embarrassing, passed under his review, and were, in many 
instances, essentially modified by him. And when a conference 
was called by the houses, as was often the case at this period, 
the honor and the responsibility of representing the Senate most 
commonly fell upon him. His decision of character, his know- 
ledge of human nature, his ready elocution, his skill in law, and 
his familiar acquaintance with the military and political measures 
of the Revolution, made him uncommonly apt and useful in 
settling those multitudinous and anomalous questions which 
sprang up between the close of the war and the adoption of the 
Federal Constitution, and which seriously perplexed the bench 
as well as the Senate. 

The Senate adjourned on the 8th day of January, 1788, and, 
on the first day of the following June, he took his seat in that 
Federal Convention which forms the theme of the present work. 
Although he had discussed in public the true nature of the Fede- 
ral Constitution, and was one of the readiest, most able, and 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 229 

most fertile speakers of the day, he did not participate in the 
debates of the Convention; for, as before observed, it was then 
not deemed incumbent upon any man of mark to make a speech, 
partly because, as is the custom of the British Parliament, it was 
usual to defer to the prominent leaders, whose effective aid was 
thought sufficient to attain the end in view; partly because, from 
the habits of the Colony, in which there were neither reporters, 
nor papers large enough to hold reports, the incitements to much 
speaking had not become chronic; and, I may add, because the 
duration of the session of the Convention was limited by the 
approaching session of the Assembly. 221 

Yet, such was the wealth of the Convention in talent, had the 
members who made speeches not been present, others would 
have arisen on both sides of the House who would have filled 
their places, would have commanded the respect and the 
applause of the people, and would have given a new cast to the 
reputations of that epoch. Mason, who was skilful as a par- 
liamentarian (then fresh from the task of revising the rules and 
orders of the Senate), was doubtless consulted by the opponents 
of the Constitution, and he manifested his opinions by voting in 
favor of previous amendments and against the ratification of that 
instrument without them. 222 

When the Convention adjourned he passed at once into the 
Senate, and performed the grateful office of nominating his class- 
mate, John Jones, to the chair of that body, and of seeing him 
elected by a unanimous vote. When the subject of the district 
court bill was settled, the Senate, after a session of six days, 
adjourned. 

The Assembly met on the 2ist of October following, but the 
Senate did not form a quorum till the 28th. The first business 

sn The Assembly had been convoked by a proclamation of the Gov- 
ernor to meet on the 23d of June. It accordingly met on that day, 
and, after adjusting some difficulties in the bill establishing district 
courts, adjourned on the 3oth, to meet on the third Monday of October 
following. The approaching session of the Assembly had an effect, 
whether designed or not, in shortening the session of the Convention; 
for the members of the latter body had not the audacity of the Con- 
vention of 1829, which sat a month and a half alongside of the Assem- 
bly. 

222 See his votes on the ayes and noes, ante. 



230 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

relating to Federal affairs was the appointment of members to 
the old Congress; for it was necessary that the old organization 
should remain entire until it was superseded by the new. 
Strange as it may appear, there were more candidates for the 
five seats in the old Congress at the present session than at any 
previous one; and the explanation may be found in the excited 
state of parties, each being anxious to gain the influence of 
Congress, whatever it might be, in its favor. The candidates in 
nomination were Madison, Cyrus Griffin, John Brown, John 
Dawson, Ralph Wormeley, Mann Page, John H. Briggs, John 
Page (of "Rosewell"), Wilson Cary Nicholas, and John Mar- 
shall. Wormeley was withdrawn before the balloting began. 
The result was that Griffin, Brown, Madison, Dawson, and Mann 
Page were chosen. On the 8th of November the Senate pro- 
ceeded for the first time to choose senators of the United States. 
Three persons only were in nomination in either house Madi- 
son, Grayson, and Richard Henry Lee; the first named repre- 
senting the friends of the Constitution, the two last its oppo- 
nents. Lee and Grayson were easily elected. 223 

The Senate received from the House of Delegates, on the loth 
of November, the bill "for the appointment of electors to choose 
a President, pursuant to the Constitution of government for the 
United States "; which was referred to the Committee of the 
Whole, was discussed on the nth, I2th, and I3th, and, having 
received several amendments, was ordered to be read the third 
time; and on the i4th it passed the body without a division. 
Hugh Nelson was ordered to convey it to the House of Dele- 
gates, which agreed to all the amendments of the Senate except 
one, from which that body receded. 

The bill for the election of members of the House of Repre- 
sentatives was received by the Senate on the nth, was read the 
first and ordered to be read the second time. On the I5th it 
was read a second time, and committed to the whole house on 



228 It is well known that Patrick Henry nominated Lee and Grayson 
at the same time, but the Journals merely give the names of the per- 
sons nominated. It has been frequently said that George Mason was 
elected a senator of the United States on this occasion, and declined. 
His name was not mentioned. (House Journal, and particularly Senate 
Journal, November 8, 1788.) 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 231 

the 1 8th, when it was discussed; but the Senate declined 
receiving the report of the committee till the following day, when 
it was duly received, and a motion made to strike out the words 
; ' being a freeholder, and who shall have been a bona-fide resi- 
dent for twelve months within such district." The design of the 
bill as it stood was to prevent, partly, the selection of a group 
of men from the metropolis, and, partly, the choice of a member 
by another district who had been, or was likely to be, excluded 
from his own. The motion to strike out failed by a vote of 
twelve to three. 224 The bill and amendments were then agreed 
to without a division, and Thomas Lee was requested to return 
them to the House of Delegates; which body, on the 2Oth, con- 
curred in them all. 

The Senate also proposed amendments to the bill calling a 
new Federal Convention, in which the House of Delegates con- 
curred. The bill authorizing the Executive to make known, by 
proclamation, the times and places of appointing electors to 
choose a President was likewise amended by the Senate; and in 
all its amendments the House of Delegates concurred, with the 
exception of one, from which the Senate receded. The resolu- 
tions respecting the navigation of the Mississippi, which had 
especial reference to the debate in the Convention on the subject, 
were agreed to by the Senate, as well as by the House of Dele- 
gates, unanimously. 

Mason was one of the first of our early statesmen to condemn the 
policy of insufficient salaries for the highest functionaries of the 
State a policy which prescribed as a fit reward for the services 
of a Wythe a sum a modern day-laborer might earn in the 
course of a year. 2 * 5 When the bill allowing travelling expenses 

124 As this vote shows the political complexion of the Senate at that 
time, I annex it: 

AYES Burwell Bassett, John Page, and Hugh Nelson. 

NOES John Pride, Turner Southall, John S. Wills, John Coleman, 
Matthew Anderson, Robert Rutherford, Joseph Jones, John Pope, John 
P. Duval, Paul Loyall, Nicholas Cabell, and Thomas Lee. 

Mason was out of the house when his name was called. Of these 
Joseph Jones, Pride, and Bassett were members of the present Con- 
vention. , 

M5 The policy of low salaries for judges prevailed in Massachusetts 
also until Story gave it a death-blow in the House of Representatives 
of that State, and the genius of Parsons settled the question. 



232 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

to the judges of the General Court, &c., was before the Senate, 
he voted to amend it by enlarging the per diem of the judge 
while holding his court, and by raising the standard of remune- 
ration in other respects. He was sustained by a large majority 
in striking out sixpence and inserting a shilling; but the other 
amendments prevailed by a single vote. The bill and amend- 
ments were returned to the House of Delegates, which refused 
its concurrence, and sent the bill back to the Senate. Mason, 
who had only carried the amendments by a single vote, saw that 
all further effort at that time was vain; and they were receded 
from without a division. 

This session was memorable for the remodelling of the Court 
of Appeals and the displacement and re-election of all of its 
judges. The subject has already been alluded to, 2W and is only 
mentioned here as bearing upon the course which Mason followed 
in the Senate of the United States on the repeal of the judiciary 
bill of 1800. 

At the October session of 1789 he appeared in his seat on the 
2Oth, and nominated John Pride with whom he had served in 
the Convention as Speaker of the Senate, and was sustained 
by a majority of the House. He took an active part in all its 
proceedings; but I shall allude at present only to his course on 
the resolutions ratifying the amendments proposed by Congress 
to the Constitution of the United States, which were sent to the 
Senate from the House of Delegates on the 2d of December. 
They were read a first time and ordered to be committed to the 
whole House on the following day. They were put off from day 
to day till the 5th, when they were discussed in committee, which 
rose before a decision was made respecting them; and on the 
following day they were considered with the same result. On 
the 8th they were reported to the House; and a motion was 
made to strike out sundry words and insert that "the third, 
eighth, eleventh, and twelfth amendments adopted by Congress 
be postponed to the next session of the Assembly for the con- 
sideration of the people." A vote was taken seriatim on each 
amendment, and recorded in the Journal. There was a majority 
of one in favor of the first, of two in favor of the second, of one 
in favor of the third, of six in favor of the fourth, of one in 
favor of the fifth, and of six in favor of the sixth; the vote on 

226 In the review of the session of 1788, ante. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 233 

the seventh was unanimous. And the question recurring that 
the Senate agree to the resolutions as amended, it was agreed to 
without a division. On each vote Mason was with the majority. 
The resolutions as amended were returned to the House of 
Delegates. 

Mason was fully conscious of the weight of responsibility 
which devolved upon him; and he knew that his conduct would 
be not only critically scanned in his own time, but would be 
examined by posterity when the passions of the day would be 
forgotten, and when it would stand on its own merit alone. 
Hence, he was altogether conservative. He did not seek to 
reject the proposed amendments ferfunctorily and finally, but to 
subject them to the deliberate examination of the people. So 
solicitous was he do right, and so anxious that in future time his 
reasons should be fairly known and not left to inference, he and 
those with whom he acted made the extraordinary request, which 
was granted, that the views of the majority might be recorded in 
the Journal. 227 On the i2th a paper containing the reasons of 
the majority, and signed by Mason, Pride, Anderson, Wills, 
Joseph Jones, Russell, Southall, and Pope, was presented and 
recorded in the Journal of that day. It is evidently from the 
pen of Mason, and forcibly maintains those doctrines which 
Virginia has upheld ever since. After* analyzing the several 
amendments which he sought to postpone, he concludes by say- 
ing "that of the many and important amendments recommended 
by the Conventions of Virginia and other States, those propo- 
sitions contain all that Congress is disposed to grant; that all 
the rest are by them deemed improper, and these are offered in 
full satisfaction of the whole; that, although a ratification of part 
of the amendments that have been prayed for by Virginia would 
not absolutely preclude us from urging others, yet we conceive 
that, by the acceptance of particular articles, we are concluded as 
to the points they relate to. Considering, therefore, that they 
are far short of what the people of Virginia wish and have asked, 
and deeming them by no means sufficient to secure the rights of 
the people, or to render the Government safe and desirable, we 
think our countrymen ought not to be put off with amendments 

227 Senate Journal, December 8, 1789; and lor the reasons of the 
majority, see December i2th, which deserve to be studied. 



234 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

so inadequate; and, being satisfied of the defects and dangerous 
tendency of these four articles of the proposed amendments, we 
are constrained to withhold our consent to them; but, unwilling 
for the present to determine on their rejection, we think it our 
duty to postpone them till the next session of the Assembly, in 
order that the people of Virginia may have an opportunity to 
consider them." 

The House of Delegates sent back the amendments to the 
Senate on the nth, having disagreed to the first, second, and 
third, and agreed to the fourth. The Senate insisted on their 
amendments, and Mason was sent to carry their determination 
to the House of Delegates. On the i4th the House determined 
to adhere to their disagreement. 

The acts referring to the judiciary establishment especially 
the bill to amend the District and General Court which were 
passed during the session, brought about some clashing between 
the two houses, and were mainly under the control of Mason, 
who was the first lawyer of the body. 

We will pass rapidly over the proceedings of the Senate, which 
began its next session on the i8th day of October, 1790. The 
Federal Congress had held its sessions, and a sadness was cast 
upon the Assembly by the unexpected death of Colonel Gray- 
son, who had been one of the two first senators of the United 
States, and was performing the duties of his office with diligence 
and ability, when, after the close of the second session, he was 
about to resume his seat, he died on the way. 228 

James Monroe was elected over John Walker for the unex- 
pired term, and for a full term of six years thereafter. The first 
and leading question on Federal affairs at the present session, as 
heretofore detailed, 229 was in relation to the act of Congress 
assuming the debts of the States. The House of Delegates 
passed resolutions declaring the act repugnant to the Constitu- 
tion of the United States, unjust, and impolitic. These reso- 
lutions assailed alike the constitutionality and expediency of 

228 Grayson's humor brightened to the last. I have heard very old 
men say that, when the proper title for the Vice-President was dis- 
cussed in the Senate at its first session, he proposed that it should be 
" His Limpid Highness," or " His Superfluous Excellency." 

229 Re view of the session of 1790, ante. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 235 

the measure; and were conveyed to the Senate, on the 2ist of 
November, by Henry Lee (of the Legion). They were referred 
to a committee of the whole house on the following Monday, 
when they were put off to Wednesday, and then to the following 
Monday, and thenceforth were discussed and postponed till the 
2ist of December, when they were amended and agreed to. As 
soon as they were passed, Mason asked and obtained leave of 
absence for the remainder of the session. What Chapman 
Johnson clarum et venerabile nomen was in the Senate of 
Virginia at a subsequent day, Stevens Thomson Mason was, 
during the time he held a seat in that body, perhaps with this 
distinctive difference springing from the temperament of the two 
men, from the caste of their characters, and from the peculier 
circumstances of the respective eras in which they lived, that 
Johnson devoted his critical skill and his wide experience of 
affairs to the domestic legislation of the Commonwealth, and 
that Mason, who also watched with the strictest vigilance the 
development of our judicial and general policy, and who was a 
foremost champion at an extraordinary crisis, believed that the 
rights and liberties of the people were placed in jeopardy by 
the refusal of Congress to accept the amendments to the Federal 
Constitution proposed by the Convention of Virginia, and that 
the sternest rule of the interpretation of the powers of that 
instrument was the only peaceful remedy. 

The course pursued by Mason on Federal topics was alto- 
gether acceptable to the people of Virginia, and when a vacancy 
occurred in the Senate of the United States by the appointment 
of Mr. Monroe to the Court of France, he was chosen to fill his 
place. 280 On the Qth of June, 1795, he appeared in his seat in 
the Senate at the opening of the session; and although some of 
the measures of the administration most obnoxious to the South 
had already been disposed of, others were soon to follow which 
placed him in a delicate and responsible position. In common 



230 November 18, 1794. Henry Tazewell was elected a senator the 
same day in place of John Taylor (of Caroline), resigned, and took his 
seat on the 29th of December following, and on the aoth of February 
was chosen President of the Senate. I have no copy of the Journal of 
the Senate at hand, but I do not see the name of Mason in Benton's 
Debates till the time specified in the text. He must, however, have 
taken his seat when Tazewell took his. 



236 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

with all Virginians, and especially with those who had been 
engaged in military service during the Revolution, he cherished 
the warmest love and veneration for Washington; but he had 
been impelled by a sense of duty to oppose, with a large 
majority of the people of Virginia, many of the leading mea- 
sures of his administration. He was now to oppose with all his 
ability a measure which at the time was deemed by its friends a 
hardjone in its effects upon the whole country, but which was 
believed to be exceedingly injurious to the interests of the South- 
ern States, and to those of Virginia in particular. The famous 
treaty with England had been signed by Mr. Jay and the British 
Minister in London the day after Mason's election by the Assem- 
bly to a seat in the Senate, had been received by our own Gov- 
ernment on the jth of March following, was communicated to a 
called Senate on the 8th of June, and was ratified on the 24th 
by a bare constitutional majority. A single vote would have 
defeated it. Every motion made by the Republican minority to 
amend the objectionable articles of the treaty was voted down; 
the enormous losses sustained by Virginia and other Southern 
States in the abduction of slaves, in the face of solemn treaties, 
were not only not recognized by the present, but were virtually 
abjured forever; and the West India trade, which had always 
been a source of profit to Virginia, was substantially sacrificed. 
Both these last topics were sore subjects to Virginia. Some of 
the members of the present Convention had repaired to New 
York before the evacuation of that city by the British, and had 
earnestly beseeched the British general to surrender to them 
their slaves in his possession; but, so far from granting their 
requests, he had sent the negroes off while the Southern claim- 
ants were present in the city; and the West India trade, which 
had been affected by orders in council soon after the peace of 
1783, and which had been brought before the Assembly for 
several years by the petitions of our merchants, had become a 
subject of sensitive interest to the people at large. Of these 
important interests the treaty was regarded as a final sacrifice. 
Even after its ratification by the Senate, Washington was in 
serious doubt respecting the course he ought to pursue. The 
exact stipulations of the treaty were not as yet generally known, 
but enough had got abroad to excite the most serious apprehen- 
sions. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 237 

But, apart from the specific provisions of the treaty, there was 
a well-founded conviction in Virginia that it was one of a series 
of measures calculated, if not designed, to injure the South and 
materially check her future development. A bold and well-nigh 
successful movement had been made a few years before by some 
of the same men now in power, and especially by Mr. Jay (the 
negotiation of the. obnoxious treaty to surrender the right of 
navigating the Mississippi to Spain for a period of thirty years), 
and this fatal scheme might be renewed at any moment, and with 
the certain prospect of success. Moreover, the practical mea- 
sures of Federal policy, which had resulted in concentrating a vast 
moneyed capital in the Northern States, had been injurious to the 
South, and were likely to prove more fatal in the process of 
time. Added to these considerations, was a deep sense of wrong 
felt by Virginia in the stern refusal of the Northern States to 
accept those amendments to the Federal Constitution which 
Virginia had pressed both by her Convention and by her Assem- 
bly in the most solemn manner, and without a belief in the 
ratification of which that instrument would have been rejected 
by a decisive majority. 

When the treaty was before the Senate two propositions were 
made by its opponents one from the North (by Burr), the other 
from the South (by Henry Tazewell) and both were rejected. 
The resolutions of Tazewell which received the sanction of 
Ma?on, and were softened and modified to conflict as tenderly as 
possible with the views of the majority were as follows: 

"That the President of the United States be informed that 
the Senate will not consent to the ratification of the treaty of 
amity, commerce, and navigation between the United States 
and his Britannic Majesty, concluded at London on the igth of 
November, 1794, for the reasons following : 

" i. Because so much of the treaty as was intended to terminate 
the complaints flowing from the inexecution of the treaty of 1783 
contains stipulations that were not rightfully or justly requirable 
of the United States, and which are both impolitic and injurious 
to their interest; and because the treaty hath not secured that 
satisfaction from the British Government for the removal of 
negroes, in violation of the treaty of 1783, to which the citizens 
of the United States were justly entitled. 



238 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

"2. Because the rights of individual States are, by the ninth 
article of the treaty, unconstitutionally invaded. 

"3. Because, however unjust or impolitic it may generally be 
to exercise the power prohibited by the tenth article, yet it rests 
on legislative discretion, and ought not to be prohibited by treaty. 

"4. Because so much of the treaty as relates to commercial 
arrangements between the parties wants that reciprocity upon 
which alone such like arrangements ought to be founded, and 
will operate ruinously to the American commerce and navigation. 

"5. Because the treaty prevents the United States from the 
exercise of that control over their commerce and navigation, as 
connected with other nations, which might better the condition 
of their intercouse with friendly nations. 

"6. Because the treaty asserts a power in the President and 
Senate to control, and even annihilate, the constitutional right of 
the Congress of the United States over their commercial inter- 
course with foreign nations. 

" 7. Because, if the construction of this treaty should not pro- 
duce an infraction of the treaties now subsisting between the 
United States and their allies, it is calculated to excite sensations, 
which may not operate beneficially to the United States. 

" Notwithstanding the Senate will not consent to the ratification 
of this treaty, they advise the President of the United States to 
continue his endeavors, by friendly discussion with his Britannic 
Majesty, to adjust all the real causes of complaint between the 
two nations." 

The vote rejecting these resolutions was the same as that by 
which the treaty was ratified. 281 

Up to this period, while Washington, excited by some recent 
acts of the British Government, was hesitating about the course 
which he ought to pursue, Mason forwarded, on the 2Oth of 
June, an abstract of the treaty to the editor of a Philadelphia 
paper; and in an instant there was an explosion of public senti- 
ment against the treaty, then without a parallel in our history, 

231 The vote was twenty to ten exactly two-thirds. Neither the 
resolutions of Tazewell nor the more downright and pungent ones of 
Burr are to be found in Bentori 's Debates, but may be seen in the Sen- 
ate Journal, and in a small volume containing the treaty and the memo- 
rials and documents appertaining to it, published by Matthew Carey at 
the date of the treaty. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 239 

and only equalled by the exasperation excited at a later day by 
the attack of the Leopard upon the Chesapeake. 132 For a time 
public opinion appeared to be unanimous against the treaty.* 38 
Public meetings were not as common then as now, but all the 
commercial cities protested against the treaty as fatal to the 
prosperity of the country. In Virginia there seemed to be but 
one opinion on the subject, and the treaty was denounced as 
unjust and injurious; for it not only deprived her merchants of a 
trade which they had enjoyed in a greater or less degree for 
more than a hundred years, but compelled them, with others, 
to pay their debts to the British in coin, while the British were 
relieved virtually of all counter claims founded upon the negroes 
carried off, not by the prowess of war, but in the face of the 
treaty of 1783. 

There was, after a season, a slight reaction in favor of the 
treaty, and Mason was denounced as a man who had violated 
the decencies of life, had wantonly dishonored himself by vio- 
lating the pledge of secrecy as a senator, and had made any 
future effort to secure an advantageous treaty with a foreign 
power impracticable. 

On the other hand, his course was applauded with equal zeal 
by the opposition. Boston, Baltimore, Trenton, and Norfolk not 
only applauded the act, but bestowed on its author the loftiest 
panegyric. 23 * Mason was sustained by the General Assembly of 

232 Judge Marshall thus alludes to the publication of the treaty : 
"Although common usage, and a decent respect for the Executive 
and for a foreign nation, not less than a positive resolution, required 
that the seal of secrecy should not be broken by the Senate, an abstract 
of this instrument, not very faithfully taken, was given to the public; 
and on the 29th of June a senator of the United States transmitted a 
copy of it to the most distinguished editor of the opposition party in 
Philadelphia, to be communicated to the public through the medium 
of the press." (Life of Washington, revised edition, Vol. II, 364. 

M3 Judge Marshall says: "In fact, public opinion did receive a con- 
siderable shock, and men, uninfected by the spirit of faction.'felt some 
disappointment on its first appearance." (Ibid, 364.) The intensity of 
party feelinir at that day may be judged by the fact that so cool a man 
as the Chief Justice, in revising his account of the affair forty-five years 
afterwards, could brand with the epithet of factions a large majority of 
the statesmen and of the people of the last century. 

1134 Boston, in a special resolution, offered by Mr. Austin, extolled 
Mason's " patriotism in publishing the treaty " ; Baltimore gave a vote 



240 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Virginia by a direct vote and by a re-election to the Senate 
of the United States. His conduct was approved not only by a 
large majority of the people of Virginia, but of the Union; and, 
as the subject was fully canvassed, the decision was as deliberate 
as it was almost unanimous. 

While the judgment of a man's contemporaries is an impor- 
tant element in deciding upon his worth, still, as the subject is 
as interesting now as it was sixty-four years ago, the question 
recurs whether Mason was excusable for disclosing the outline 
of the treaty to the people in violation of the rules of the Sen- 
ate. None will deny that, as a general principle, the rules of a 
deliberative body especially in relation to the provisions of a 
treaty not yet definitely concluded should be faithfully observed; 
and none probably will deny that a case is possible when it would 
become the duty of a patriot to expose the proceedings of a 
body which were, in his opinion, in manifest violation of the 
Constitution and hostile to the integrity of the States, though an 
order of that body enjoined secrecy upon its members. Mason 
was a Virginian, and was intimately acquainted with the practice 
of Virginia on such a subject. She had, again and again, called 
her members of Congress before the Assembly, and required 
them to discourse of public affairs in Congress, when the pro- 
ceedings of that body were always as strictly secret as were those 
of the Senate on particular occasions; and the members appeared 
and made their representations without scruple. A vote of 
thanks was given to Meriwether Smith on such an occasion. 
But the most remarkable case occurred during the session of the 
present Convention. The right of the navigation of the Missis- 
sippi had been placed in imminent jeopardy by the Congress; 
and the Convention, regarding the question as of vital interest 
to Virginia, whose borders were washed by that stream, in the 
waters of which she claimed the right of use, called upon the 
members of Congress to state their proceedings in full, and they 



of thanks "to the virtuous minority in the Senate, and to Stevens 
Thomson Mason, for the patriotic service rendered his country by the 
disclosure"; Norfolk declared that Mason "is entitled to the thanks 
of every good citizen and real friend to the Constitution of the United 
States for his patriotic and independent conduct in rending the veil of 
senatorial secrecy," &c.; Trenton resolved that Mason "is entitled to 
the highest veneration, respect, and esteem of his countrymen " for 
making the disclosure, &c., &c. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 241 

disclosed them without hesitation. 235 The question, then, would 
seem to have been decided in Virginia that a representative is 
bound, at the bidding of his constituents, to disclose all his 
doings in their behalf, even though a rule of the body to which 
he belonged might be violated by the disclosure. It may be 
alleged that Mason was not called upon by the Assemby to 
make a disclosure, but acted on his own responsibility. But if a 
disclosure at the bidding of the constituent body is justifiable, it 
is justifiable on the ground of extreme necessity; and of this 
necessity it may happen as in the present case that the repre- 
sentative only can be the judge. He alone can know exactly 
the impending dangers; and, if he believe the danger to be so 
imminent as to involve the dearest rights of his constituents, the 
mode of proclaiming that danger to them is, at best, a choice of 
means, and may be as well perhaps more effectually done by 
a publication in a paper of wide circulation as by a letter to the 
Governor at a time when the Assembly was not in session, and 
when a day's delay might be fatal. That the stipulations. of the 
treaty were believed seriously to impair the rights and interests 
of Virginia, has already been shown ; and Mason might fairly 
presume that, if a rule of the Senate were regarded as an obliga- 
tion incapable of being annulled but by a vote of the body itself, 
no danger menacing a right or possession of the South could be 
disclosed until the treaty had become a law, and the disclosure 
was vain. None will wish that such cases should become fre- 
quent ; but when they do occur, the great and essential interests 
of a whole community will more completely control the action 
of a representative than the rules of the body to which he 
belongs. Each case must be decided on its own merits. Certain 
it is that the course of Mason was sanctioned by those to whom 
he looked for justification and approval. 

When the British treaty was ratified by the Senate, an article 
was added providing that so much of the twelfth article as 

235 Madison boggled, as he knew the disclosures might seal the fate 
of the Constitution in the Convention, but made the disclosure. It is 
plain that, in a strictly federal system, it would be absurd to deny the 
right of the Government to ask explanations from its ministers and 
servants in relation to a public matter. An inviolable rule of secrecy 
would sever all connection between the representative and the con- 
stituent body. 

16 



242 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

related to the intercourse with the West Indies should be sus- 
pended, and that fresh negotiations should be entered into on 
the subject. 236 At the same time Gunn (of Georgia) offered a 
resolution requesting the President further to negotiate concern- 
ing the payment of the value of the slaves carried off by the 
British army in violation of the treaty of 1783. This resolution 
was so modified as not to interfere with the treaty; but it was 
promptly rejected. The result was, as was predicted at the 
time, that the West India trade would never more be placed on 
its old footing, at least for a generation to come;" 7 and that the 
stolen negroes would never be paid for; nor have they been to 
the present hour. 238 

At the December session of 1795 the Senate proceeded, as 
was then customary, to prepare a response to the President's 
communication a practice borrowed from the British Parliament 
and long since disused, and ever ill-timed, as calculated to antici- 
pate opinions and to stir party feuds on the threshold of a 
session. The address inclined to take too favorable a view of 
our foreign affairs, and Mason moved to strike out the fourth 

236 When Mr. Jay made the treaty he was not aware that cotton had 
become an article of export from the United States. 

237 It was secured during General Jackson's administration. 

238 My maxim in respect of foreign powers is that of the Declaration 
of Independence, " Enemies in war, in peace friends"; and that of 
still higher authority, " Peace on earth and good will to men "; but it is 
the province of history to record the delinquencies of nations, and 
those of Great Britain towards us have been formidable. If a bill with 
accruing interest were made out of the value of our slaves purloined 
in the face of a solemn treaty, of our commerce sequestered by orders 
in council which the British tribunals have since pronounced illegal, of 
the labor of our seamen pressed on board of British ships, of the 
amount of losses sustained by our embargo and non-intercourse regu- 
lations into which England forced us, and of the expenses of the war 
which she compelled us to wage in defence of the common rights of 
human nature if all these sums with interest were made into a bill, 
and that bill placed into the hands of some future senator from Oregon, 
fresh from his jaunt of five thousand miles by land or fifteen thousand 
by water, it is quite probable that, to simplify matters, he would pro- 
prose at once to take possession of the little island, substitute a Terri- 
torial Legislature for her Parliament, make her a coaling-station for our 
steamers, and award her, as a matter of extreme grace, the privilege 
of sending a territorial delegate to Washington. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. . 243 

and fifth paragraphs. Pierce Butler was disposed to go further, 
and contended not only for striking out, but for inserting a coun- 
ter statement. The motion failed by a vote of eight to fourteen ; 
and the entire address as reported was adopted by the same 
vote. The slight synopsis which has come down to us of the 
debates of this session shows several instances in which the roll 
was called; but Mason does not appear to have been present at 
the time. 

On the I2th of January, 1797, he took his seat in the Senate, 
and was immediately placed at the head of a committee to which 
the notification of the House of Representatives of the election 
of Mr. Jefferson as Vice- President of the United States was 
referred, and he drew a form which the President was requested 
to forward to that gentleman, stating his election to the office in 
question. On the 2ist of February a bill to accommodate the 
President was discussed and passed by a vote of twenty-eight to 
three, Mason in the minority and Tazewell in the majority. 

When the proposition was made in May, 1798, to allow Gene- 
ral Thomas Pinkney, our Minister to Spain, to receive the cus- 
tomary presents from His Catholic Majesty on the negotiation of 
a treaty, it was carried by a vote of seventeen to five Mason and 
Tazewell in the negative. On the 25th of June, when the bill to 
declare the treaties between the United States and the Republic 
of France null and void was on its passage, Mason opposed it; 
but it passed by a vote of fourteen to five. On the 27th, when 
the notorious bill to define more particularly the crime of treason, 
and to define and punish the crime of sedition, came up, a motion 
was made to commit it, which prevailed Mason and Tazewell 
in the negative; and on the 29th a motion was made to amend 
the bill authorizing the President to prevent and regulate the 
landing of French passengers and other persons who may arrive 
in the United States from foreign places, so as not to prohibit 
the migration or importation of such persons as any State may 
think proper by law to admit. Mason voted in the affirmative in 
a minority of three. The bill passed the Senate with the usual 
majority. When the bill from the House of Representatives 
providing for the valuation of lands and dwelling-houses, and 
the enumeration of slaves was discussed, Mason moved to add 
to the end of the eighth section the words: "except such slaves 
as from fixed infirmity or bodily disability may be incapable of 



244 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

labor"; and his amendment prevailed by a vote of eleven to 
eight. When the treason and sedition bill again came up Mason 
moved to expunge the words: "Or shall in manner aforesaid 
traduce or defame the President of the United States or any 
court or judge thereof, by declarations tending to criminate their 
motives in any official transaction"; but he lost his motion by a 
vote of fifteen to eight; and when the second and leading section 
of the bill was read, a motion was made to strike it out, which 
failed by a vote of eighteen to six. And the question on the 
final passage of a bill, which was destined to overthrow an 
administration and to blast for years the popularity of its sup- 
porters, was carried by a vote of eighteen to six, Mason, Taze- 
well, Anderson, Brown, Howard, and Langdon constituting the 
minority. 

The bill for encouraging the capture of French armed ves- 
sels by armed ships or vessels owned by citizens of the United 
States was opposed by Mason; but, like its kindred measures, it 
prevailed by a vote of sixteen to four Mason, Tazewell, Brown, 
and Langdon being the minority. On the passage of the bill 
for making further appropriations for the additional naval arma- 
ment, he was in a minority of three his colleague, Tazewell, and 
Anderson alone standing by him. 

One of the first duties which Mason was required to perform 
on taking his seat at the December session of 1799 was to com- 
mit to the grave the remains of his esteemed colleague and 
friend, Henry Tazewell, who died on the 24th of January. 
Tazewell had taken his seat in the Senate three days before, but 
was suffering from an inflammatory attack which had seized him 
on his route from Virginia. He was seen to be ill, but none 
believed that his end was near. He was in his forty-eighth year. 
He entered the Convention of December, 1775, and had con- 
tinued in that body till the Declaration of Independence by Vir- 
ginia and the formation of the first Constitution of the Common- 
wealth. Throughout the war and after its close he remained in 
the House of Delegates, always maintaining an eminent position 
in the debates of the House and in the deliberations of the early 
patriots, until he was called to the bench of the General Court. 
On the bench of that court he acquired the reputation of an able 
and learned judge, and had been elevated to the Court of 
Appeals a short time before he was called upon by the Assembly 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 245 

to take a seat in the Senate of the United States. His reputa- 
tion had preceded him; and during the first session of his attend- 
ance he was chosen its president pro tempore, an honor which 
was conferred a second time upon him at the following session. 

When the death of Tazewell was announced to the Senate 
Mason was associated with Brown and Marshall (of Kentucky) 
in superintending his funeral, which was attended to the place of 
interment by the Senate in mourning. As he wept at the grave 
of Tazewell,' 239 how little did Mason dream, radiant with health 
as he then was, and quickened by the intellectual contests in 
which he was daily engaged, that in less than four years he was 
to die in the same city! But we must not anticipate. 

The act further to suspend commercial intercourse with France 
(from the House of Representatives) came up in the Senate on 
the 6th of February, but, after several ineffectual motions by the 
Republicans to amend it, it passed by a vote of eighteen to ten 
Mason, of course, in the minority. On the 23d he opposed the 
bill to augment the salaries of the principal officers of the 
executive departments, which prevailed by a vote of twenty- 
two to three; Langdon and Livermore voting with him. I wish 
he had voted with the majority, as the salaries were very low, 
that of the Secretary of State not exceeding three thousand 
dollars, though three thousand dollars then were equal to six 
thousand now. 

The session of the Senate of the United States beginning in 
December, 1799 was occupied for many days by a subject 
which tended as much, perhaps, as any other to precipitate the 
downfall of the party which governed its deliberations. At this 
day it seems wonderful that a party consisting of so many pure, 
able, and honorable men should have been so completely con- 
trolled by leaders who thought that in a free country conciliation 
was no part of the policy of statesmen, and who believed that 
the best mode of securing the affections of the people was by 

M9 Judge Tazewell was buried in Christ church yard, corner of Fifth 
and Arch streets, Philadelphia, a few feet from the western wall, and 
about a fourth of the distance of the entire length of the wall from 
Arch. A white marble slab, formerly on pillars, but now on the sur- 
face, protects his remains. The grave of Colonel Innes is near by. 
For a notice of Judge Tazewell, see my work on the Virginia Conven- 
tion of 1776, page 79, et seq. 



246 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

inspiring them with the terrors of the law. Had the Federal 
party acted with ordinary prudence during the period when the 
publication of the correspondence of our Envoys to France had 
made a general impression in their favor, it is probable that John 
Adams would have been re-elected, and its members who were 
soon to be scattered to the winds might have received a new 
lease of life. But the war upon foreigners seeking our shores, 
and upon the press, alarmed intelligent men, who saw that, 
under the guidance of such leaders, the liberty of speech, of 
person, and of the press would soon be as much endangered in 
a free country as in the despotisms of Europe. The great and 
absorbing event of the present session was the persecution of an 
editor. It appears that Colonel Duane, of the Aurora (news- 
paper), had written and published an article which was distaste- 
ful to the ruling majority of the Senate; and that body sum- 
moned him to appear at its bar to answer for the contempt. He 
appeared once; but, as the Senate refused him the full aid of 
counsel, he declined to appear a second time. This case, in its 
various stages, consumed a great deal of time, and without any 
definitive action. It is to the credit of Mason that he opposed 
this effort to gag the press in all its stages, and on the final pas- 
sage of the order. On one of its phases Mason uttered these 
words of warning: 

"He recommended to gentlemen to explore well the ground 
which the motion of the gentleman from Connecticut had taken, 
and consider seriously the consequences to which they would be 
led in pursuing their object. What was to be the course of their 
proceeding? What were the embarrassments likely to arise 
therein ? He called the House to view the delicacy of the situ- 
ation in which they would be involved while defining their 
newly-discovered privileges and subverting the old acknow- 
ledged privileges of the liberty of the press he said the delicacy 
of their situation, because he considered it a delicate one; for he 
was far from believing that the privileges of the Senate were as 
unlimited as tha gentleman from Connecticut contended they 
were; if so, and they proceed to touch the liberty of the press 
which they may discover in the end to be secured against the 
invasion they will be compelled to retrace every step they are 
now taking, which will redound neither to their honor nor their 
discernment. They should be careful how they expose them- 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 247 

selves to popular scrutiny in cases respecting their own power 
for the public mind had already been considerably agitated at 
what many believed to be an unconstitutional exercise of power. 
If, session after yession, attempts were made to fetter the freedom 
of the press, the people of the United States would watch with 
anxious regard every movement of this body. A measure which 
originated in the Senate, and was subsequently acceded to by 
the other branch of the Legislature, had been just ground of 
alarm. It is no wonder they watch our bills as well as our laws; 
for it must be recollected by many of the gentlemen who hear 
me that the bill called the Sedition Bill was first introduced 
here, and that, instead of being what it afterwards became, it 
was a bill more particularly to define treason and sedition. The 
good .sense of the House during the time it was upon the table 
and undergoing a political dissection cut off from it manv of 
those monstrous excrescences which at first disfigured it, and at 
last trimmed it into a shapely form; but, after all, it was removed 
below stairs in a condition not fit to meet the eye of our con- 
stituents even obliged to undergo a decapitation ; the head or 
title of it was struck off, and instead of being a bill defining trea- 
son which is a thing totally out of our power, the Constitution 
having declared in what alone treason should consist instead of 
being denominated a bill against sedition, it took the obnoxious 
head of being a bill to amend the law for punishing certain 
crimes against the United States." 

As Duane would not appear, and as the majority were deter- 
mined to punish him, it was resolved on the eve of adjournment, 
by a vote of thirteen to four, that the President of the United 
States be requested to instruct the proper law officers to com- 
mence and carry on a prosecution against William Duane, editor 
of the newspaper called the Aurora, for certain false, defamatory, 
scandalous, and malicious publications tending to defame the 
Senate of the United States. 

The famous judiciaryact the repeal of which will be presently 
recorded was discussed by the Senate at the present session. 
When the bill to permit slaves, in certain cases, to be brought 
into the Mississippi territory was on its final passage, it does not 
appear that there was much discussion on its merits; but it was 
rejected by a vote of five to fourteen Mason one of the majority. 

At the session of the Senate in December, 1800, the first bill 



248 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

on which Mason was called to vote was a bill to erect a mau- 
soleum to Washington. He sustained it in company with his 
new colleague, Wilson Gary Nicholas. The vote was not unani- 
mous, for there was a minority of nine; the choice between a 
statue and a tomb making the difference among the members. 
He consistently opposed the policy of shrouding the proceedings 
of public bodies in secrecy; and when it was proposed in the 
Senate that no person should be admitted into the gallery while 
the votes for President and Vice-President were counted, he 
objected to the proposition, but was left in a minority. The 
debates of the Senate are so meagre, as reported by Colonel 
Benton, that we cannot say anything about the course of Mason 
during the session. Its great event was the election of Mr. Jef- 
ferson to the Presidency; and when, on the 3d of March, the 
Senate adjourned in its legislative capacity it was convoked in its 
executive; and Mason had the pleasure of voting into office his 
old colleagues who had fought with him against such formidable 
odds ever since the adoption of the Federal Constitution. From 
the time when he took his seat in the Senate to the close of the 
present session, he was in a small minority, but his ability and 
courtesy conciliated the respect of his opponents, while his 
heroic devotion to his party, which he believed to be the party of 
freedom and of union, received the cordial applause of a majority 
of the people. 

In the evening of his honored life, when Thomas Jefferson 
was led to recount those acts by which he had rendered essential 
service to his country, he referred with confidence to the term of 
his presidency in the Senate of the United States, during which 
he was compelled to endure in silence a course of proceedings 
which he believed to be in open violation of the spirit and letter 
of the Constitution. Let others apply the same test to the ser- 
vices of Mason, who, for a longer term than four years not only 
beheld those unconstitutional acts in question, but grappled with 
their supporters, and who, though voted down at the time by a 
"steady, inflexible, and undeviating " majority, 240 made the vic- 
tories of his enemies distasteful to them at first, and ultimately 
disastrous, and his measure of fame will be full. 

We are now to regard Mason as the leader in the Senate of 

840 Mason's own words. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 249 

the great party of which Mr. Jefferson was the chief; and I only 
regret that my materials as well as my limits will enable me to 
do him but small justice. His first grand effort was on the 
repeal of the judiciary act of 1800. On the 8th of January, 
1802, the Senate proceeded to consider the resolution offered by 
Breckenridge (of Kentucky) on the 6th, in the following words: 
"That the act of Congress passed on the I3th day of February, 
1801, entitled an act to provide for the more convenient organi- 
zation of the courts of the United States, ought to be repealed." 
That gentleman opened the debate on his resolution with a speech 
of uncommon power and massive strength, in which he sought 
to demonstrate the utter inexpediency of such a bill as the one 
in review, by referring to the decreasing number of suits in the 
Federal court, and from the certainty of a further decrease; and 
he sustained the constitutional power of Congress to repeal the 
act in question. He was followed by Jonathan Mason, of Massa- 
chusetts, in reply; and when J. Mason resumed his seat, Gov- 
ernor Morris rose and with consummate tact endeavored to 
break the force of Breckenridge's speech. When Morris ended, 
the Senate adjourned. On the i2th the discussion was renewed 
by a frank and argumentative speech from General Jackson, of 
Georgia, in favor of the resolution, who, with Tracy, occupied the 
floor for that day. On the I3th the discussion was continued by 
Stevens Thomson Mason, who made one of the most brilliant 
displays of his parliamentary career. He was present when the 
act passed the Senate and was familiar with all its details; and 
he not only upheld the inexpediency of its passage at the time, 
and the right and duty of Congress to repeal it, but brought the 
charge of unconstitutionality, if such a charge was just, home 
upon the authors of the act which abolished a court, set the 
judges adrift, then took them up and placed them in another 
court, much to their inconvenience and discomfort. 

After dwelling for some time on this view of the subject, we 
can imagine the effect, the tone, and the gesture with which he 
rebuked his opponents as he uttered these words: 

"Where, then, were these guardians of the Constitution, these 
vigilant sentinels of our rights and liberties, when this law passed ? 
Were they asleep on their post? Where was the gentleman 
from New York (Morris'), who has on this debate made such a 
noble stand in favor of a violated Constitution? Where was the 



250 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Ajax Tdamon of his party or, to use his own more correct 
expression, of the faction to which he belonged? Where was 
the hero with his seven-fold shield not of bull's hide, but of 
brass prepared to prevent or punish this Trojan rape which he 
now sees meditated upon the Constitution of his country by 
a wicked faction? Where was Hercules, that he did not crush 
this band of robbers that broke into the sanctuary of the Con- 
stitution ? Was he forgetful of his duty ? Were his nerves 
unstrung? Or, was he the very leader of the band that broke 
down these constitutional ramparts?" 

After tracing in detail the history of the passage of the bill 
through the Senate, he continued: 

"Various amendments were offered, some of which were 
admitted to be proper. But they were not received. One, 
indeed, proposed by a member from Connecticut, who was 
chairman of the committee, and was then hostile to the plan, did 
pass in the early stages of the bill; but on the third reading it 
was expunged. All amendments proposed by the minority were 
uniformly rejected by a steady, inflexible, and undeviating 
majority. I confess that I saw no passion, but I certainly did 
see great pertinacity; something like what the gentleman from 
Connecticut had termed a holding fast. No amendments were 
admitted; when offered, we were told no. You may get them 
introduced by a rider or supplementary bill, or in any way you 
please, but down this bill must go; it must be crammed down 
your throats. This was not the precise phrase, but such was the 
amount of what was said. I will say that not an argument was 
urged in favor of the bill not a word to show the necessity or 
propriety of the change. Yet we are told that there was great 
dignity, great solemnity in its progress and passage! 

"But there is something undignified in thus hastily repealing 
this law in thus yielding ourselves to the fluctuations of public 
opinion! So we are told. But if there be blame, on whom 
does it fall? Not on us who respected the public opinion when 
this law was passed, and who still respect it; but on those who, 
in defiance of public opinion, passed this law after that public 
opinion had been decisively expressed. The revolution in pub- 
lic opinion had taken place before the introduction of this 
project; the people of the United States had determined to com- 
mit these affairs to new agents; already had the confidence of 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 251 

the people been transferred from their then rulers into other 
hands. After this exposition of the national will, and this new 
deposit of the national confidence, the gentlemen should have 
left untouched this : mportant and delicate subject a subject on 
which the people could not be reconciled to their views, even in 
the flood-tide of their power and influence; they should have 
forborne until agents, better acquainted with the national will, 
because more recently constituted its organs, had come into the 
government. This would have been more dignified than to 
seize the critical moment when power was passing from them to 
pass such a law as this. If there is error, it is our duty to cor- 
rect it; and the truth was that no law was ever more execrated 
by the public. Let it not be said, postpone the repeal till the 
next session. No; let us restore these gentlemen to private life 
who have accepted appointments under this law. This will be 
doing them greater justice than by keeping them in office 
another year, till the professional business which once attached 
to them is gone into other channels." 24) 

This speech, the technical part of which we have omitted, pro- 
duced a sensible effect on the body and on the public, and called 
forth a deliberate reply from Morris, which exhibited great 
ingenuity and afforded at its close a fine specimen of declama- 
tion; but he was unable to turn the edge of a single fact or argu- 
ment urged by Mason, and the speaker seemed more inclined to 
defend the reputation of the Federal party in relation to the act 
than the act itself. The question was taken on the 3d, and the 
bill founded on the resolution passed by a vote of sixteen to 
fifteen. 242 

Ml The best report of Mason's speech will be found in the small 
volume printed in Philadelphia by Bronson in 1802. But all the reports 
are synoptical, and convey but a feint impression of his logical vigor 
and of the fire of his eloquence. All pass over with a mere allusion 
that admirable part of his speech in which he portrayed the action of 
Virginia on a similar occasion. 

142 As the ayes and noes will show who Mason's colleagues were in 
this great debate, I annex them : 

AYES Anderson, Baldwin, Bradley, Breckenridge, Brown, Cocke, 
Ellery, T. Foster, Franklin, Jackson, Logan, S. T. Mason, Nicholas, 
Stone, Sumter, and Wright. 

NOES Chipman, Calhoun, Dayton, D. Foster, Hillhouse, Howard, 



252 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

On the real worth of the judiciary act of 1801 it is a delicate 
subject to pass an opinion. Great confidence ought unques- 
tionably to be placed in the judgment of the statesmen who 
repealed it and in the public opinion which sustained the repeal. 
With our present knowledge of the extent of our country and 
its unparalleled development in population and resources, the 
small number of the district judges and their meagre salaries 
seem almost insignificant. The act increased the number of 
judges to sixteen, and the cost of maintaining the system slightly 
exceeded thirty thousand dollars; and the propriety and even 
necessity of establishing Federal courts for the convenience of 
the people in the various sections of a thinly settled country 
should seem to be apparent. Even Mason stated of his own 
knowledge that his friend, Judge Innes, one of the old judges 
promoted to be one of the new, would be compelled to travel 
hundreds of miles through a region beset by Indians in the per- 
formance of his duties. And Mason knew the country, for he 
had lately travelled through it, had lost his baggage, which was 
stolen by the Indians, and had narrowly escaped a fight with the 
savages. When, too, we consider that direct taxes were then an 
important part of the Federal revenue, and that land titles 
might require to be settled in Federal courts, the expediency of 
an extended judiciary would appear to be obvious. The hos- 
tility which caused a repeal of the act was evidently founded as 
much on the circumstances of its progress and passage as of its 
expediency. One good result may have flowed from the repeal. 
No political party has since attempted to perpetuate itself or to 
provide for its supporters by wholesale legislation on judicial 
subjects. 243 

J. Mason, Morris, Ogden, Olcott, Ross, Sheafe. Tracy, Wells, and 
White. 

Of these able men I knew personally but one the venerable Hill- 
house whose fame is almost lost in that of his son, the great dramatic 
poet of his country, whom I also knew, and who has passed away. 

243 The judges appointed under the act were Richard Bassett, Egbert 
Benson, Benjamin Bourne, William Griffith, Samuel Hitchcock, B. P. 
Key, C. Magill, Jeremiah Smith, George Keith Taylor, William Tilgh- 
man, and Oliver Wolcott. On the 27th of January, 1803, they presented 
to the Senate a memorial, in which they state that the law of i8or, 
under which they v ore appointed, had been repealed; that no new law 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 253 

While the bill to purchase a place of deposit near the mouth 
of the Mississippi was before the Senate, a series of resolutions 
on the same subject was introduced by Ross (of Pennsylvania). 
The mover was an opponent of the administration; and the 
obvious effect, if not the true design, of his resolutions was to 
embarrass the Executive in its action in pursuance of the bill 
which had received the sanction of the Senate. They set forth 
that the United States have an indisputable right to the navi- 
gation of.the Mississippi and to a place of deposit on its banks; 
that the late infraction of their right*" is hostile to their interest 
and their honor; that it did not consist with the dignity and 
safety of the Union to hold so important a right by so frail a 
tenure; that it concerned the people of the West and the dignity 
and safety of the Union; that the United States obtain complete 
security for the full and peaceable enjoyment of their absolute 
right; that the President be anthorized to take immediate pos- 
session of such places on the said island of Orleans or elsewhere 
as he may deem proper, and to adopt such other means of 
attaining the object as he might think expedient; that he be 
authorized to employ fifty thousand militia to be drafted from 
certain contiguous States, together with the whole military and 
naval forces of the United States, for effecting the objects above 
mentioned, and that the'sum of five millions of dollars be appro- 
priated for the purpose. This was a most ingenious scheme for 

has since passed assigning to them judicial functions; that they are 
judges of the United States, and entitled to their salaries during good 
behavior; and that they desire a review of the existing laws that their 
duties may be properly defined. The paper is marked by self-posses- 
sion and dignity. It was referred to a committee, of which Governor 
Morris was chairman, and which reported a resolution requesting the 
President of the United States to cause an information, in the nature of 
a quo warranto, to be filed by the Attorney-General against Richard 
Bassett, one of the petitioners, for the purpose of deciding judicially 
on their claims. The resolution was discussed fully, and was rejected" 
by a vote of thirteen to fifteen. If the judges possessed the talents 
and the worth of George Keith Taylor, they would have been, and 
doubtless were, worthy of their stations. My love for the memory of 
Taylor leads me to wish that 1 could make a more pleasant mention of 
him. 

2U Spain had ceded Louisiana to France without any allusion or 
acknowledgment of our right to a place of deposit, &c. 



254 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

defeating the policy of the administration. The resolutions 
plainly pointed to an immediate war with Spain and France; and 
while they would receive the unanimous support of the Federal 
party, they were calculated to excite the warmest sympathies of 
the Western and Southern States, on which the Government 
mainly depended for parliamentary support. The speech of 
Ross on moving them was highly imprudent and inflammatory; 
and his speech was echoed by Governor Morris in a still more 
warlike tone. Breckenridge made a strong speech against the 
resolutions, and concluded by offering a substitute which left 
substantially any act of reprisals and the calling out of the 
militia at the discretion of the Executive, and which appropriated 
funds for the purpose. DeWitt Clinton then rose and made > 
perhaps, what was his maiden speech in the body, in which he 
admitted the importance of the right of deposit and the free 
navigation of the Mississippi; but demonstrated that the resolu- 
tions offered by Mr. Ross involved an immediate declaration of 
war, and the inexpediency of such a measure at that time. 
General James Jackson followed in a bold and sensible speech, 
in which he showed that the honor of the country, on which his 
opponents had laid such a stress, was the true interests of the 
country; and narrated with admirable effect the anecdote of 
Count D'Estaing, who, having been wounded at the attempted 
storm of Savannah, was visited in his chamber by Governor 
Rutledge and others, who told the Count that his own honor 
and the honor of France were concerned in his remaining and 
taking the city; when the Count mildly replied: "Gentlemen, if 
my honor is to be lost by not taking the city, it is lost already ; 
but I deem my honor to consist in the honor of my country, and 
that honor is my country's interest." Jackson was followed by 
Wells (of Delaware), who, in a speech in which sophistry was 
ingeniously mingled with sound argument and passionate declam- 
ation, was fierce for war. Anderson followed in reply to Wells, 
and when he closed Mason rose to speak. The subject of the 
Mississippi he was well qualified to discuss. He had spoken 
upon it more than once in the Assembly and in Congress, and he 
always regarded it, and now more than ever, as Virginia had no 
longer a direct interest in its decision, not as a local or party 
question, but on principles of the broadest statesmanship. But, 
unfortunately, he was indisposed, and stated in the outset that 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 255 

his physical condition would not suffer him to go as much at 
length into the discussion as he otherwise would have done. 
After a short preamble he said that he had heard in the debate 
many professions of confidence in the Executive. He was very 
glad to hear such unusual expressions of confidence from that 
quarter. However, it was entitled to its due weight what that 
was he would not inquire; but this he would say, that this unex- 
pected ebullition of confidence went very much farther than he 
should be disposed to carry his confidence in any man or Presi- 
dent whatever. Gentlemen tell us that they are willing to entrust 
to the Executive the power of going to war or not at his dis- 
cretion. Wonderful, indeed; is this sudden disposition to confi- 
dence! Why do not gentlemen give away that which they have 
some authority or right to bestow? Who gave them the power 
to vest in any other authority than in Congress the right of 
declaring war ? The framers of this Constitution had too much 
experience to entrust such a power to any individual; they early 
and wisely foresaw that though there might be men too virtuous 
to abuse such a power, it ought not to be entrusted to any; and 
nugatory would be the authority of the Senate if we could 
assume the right of transferring our constitutional functions to 
any man or set of men. It was a stretch of confidence which he 
would not trust to any President that ever lived or ever will live. 
He could not as one, without treason to the Constitution, con- 
sent even to relinquish the right of declaring war to any man or 
men beside Congress. 246 

"We are told," he said, "that negotiation is not the course 
which is proper for us to pursue. But to this he should reply 
that such was the usage of all civilized nations; and however 
gentlemen might attempt to whittle away the strong ground 
taken by his friend from New York (Clinton), he had shown, 

445 This argument was not answered in the debate, but it is not sound. 
The assent of Congress to a measure which it was obvious would lead 
to war, and which was to be carried into effect by arms, and the 
equipping of the President with men and money for the purpose, is in 
itself a declaration of war. If there was a precise formula on the sub- 
ject of a declaration of war, Mason's argument would be good; but 
there are as many ways of declaring war as there are for prosecuting 
the war when it is begun. The President was instructed to do a certain 
thing, peaceably if he could, but to do it at all events. 



256 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

in a manner not to be shaken, that negotiation, before a resort to 
the last scourge of nations, is the course most consistent with 
good policy as well as with universal practice. The gentleman 
from Pennsylvania had indeed told us that Great Britain had 
departed from that practice; unfortunately for Great Britain and 
the gentleman's argument, he told us at the same time that she 
had sustained a most serious injury by her injustice and precipi- 
tation. She went to war to seek restitution, and after fighting a 
while she left off, and forgot to ask the restitution for which she 
went to war. And this is the example held up for our imita- 
tion! Because Great Britain violated the laws of nations, we are 
called upon to do so too! 

"We are also told that Great Britain commenced war during 
our Revolution against the Dutch without any previous notifica- 
tion; that she did the same in the late war with France, and in 
both cases seized on their ships in her harbors that is, like a 
professional bully, she struck first, and then told them that she 
would fight them. And this is the gracious example held up 
to us. 

"The merits of the different propositions consisted in this, 
that by the amendments we propose to seek the recourse of 
pacific nations to follow up our own uniform practice; we pur- 
sue, in fact, the ordinary and rational course. The first resolu- 
tions go at once to the point of war. This was openly and fairly 
acknowledged by the gentleman from New York (Morris). The 
gentleman from Pennsylvania told us, indeed, that it is not war; 
it was only going and taking peaceable possession of New 
Orleans. He did not before think that the gentleman felt so 
little respect for the Senate, or estimated their understandings so 
much inferior to his own, as to call such measures an act of 
peace. How did the gentleman mean to go, and how take 
peaceable possession ? Would he march at the head of the 
posse comtiatusf No; he would march at the head of fifty 
thousand militia, and he would send forth the whole naval and 
regular force, armed and provided with military stores. He 
would enter their island, set fire to their warehouses, and bom- 
bard their city, desolate their farms and plantations, ar.d, having 
swept all their habitations away, after wading through streams 
of blood, he would tell those who escaped destruction: We do 
not come here to make war upon you; we are a very moderate, 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 257 

tender-hearted kind of neighbors, and are come here barely to 
take peaceable possession of your territory! Why, sir, this is 
too naked not to be an insult to the understanding of a child. 

"But the gentleman from New York (Morris) did not trifle 
with the Senate in such a style: he threw off the mask at once, 
and in a downright, manly way fairly told us that he liked war; 
that it was his favorite mode of negotiating between -nations; 
that war gave dignity to the species; that it drew forth the most 
noble energies of humanity. That gentleman scorned to tell us 
that he wished to take peaceable possession. No. He could not 
snivel; his vast genius spurned huckstering; his mighty soul 
would not bear to be locked up in a petty warehouse at New 
Orleans; he was for war terrible, glorious havoc! He tells you 
plainly that you are not only to recover your rights, but you 
must remove your neighbors' from their possessions, and repel 
those to whom they may transfer the soil; that Bonaparte's 
ambition is insatiable; that he will throw in colonies of French- 
men, who will settle on your frontier for thousands of miles round 
about (when he comes there); and he does not forget to tell you 
of the imminent dangers which threaten our good old friends, 
the English. He tells you that New Orleans is the lock, and 
you must seize the key and shut the door against this terrible 
Bonaparte, or he will come with his legions, and, as Gulliver 
served the Lilliputians, wash you off the map. Not content in 
his great care for your honor and glory as a statesman and a 
warrior, he turns prophet to oblige you (your safety in the pres- 
ent year, or the next, does not satisfy him); his vast mind, 
untrammelled by the ordinary progressions of chronology, looks 
over ages to come with a faculty bordering on omniscience, and 
conjures us to come forward and regulate the decrees of Provi- 
dence at ten thousand years' distance. 

"We have been told that Spain had no right to cede Louisi- 
ana to France; that she had ceded to us the privilege of deposit, 
and had therefore no right to cede her territory without our con- 
sent. Are gentlemen disposed to wage war in support of this 
principle? Because she has given us a little privilege a mere 
indulgence on her territory is she thereby constrained from 
doing anything forever with her immense possessions ? No 
doubt, if the gentleman (Morris) were to be the negotiator on 
this occasion, he would say: You mean to cede New Orleans? 

17 



258 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

No, gentlemen; I beg your pardon, you cannot cede that, for we 
want it ourselves; and as to the Floridas, it would be very indis- 
creet to cede them, as, in all human probability, we shall want 
them also in less than five hundred years from this day; and 
then, as to Louisiana, you surely could not think of that, for in 
something less than a thousand years, in the natural order of 
things, our population will advance to that place also. 246 

"If Spain has ceded those countries to France, the cession 
has been made with all the encumbrances and obligations to 
which it was subject by previous compact with us. Whether 
Bonaparte will execute these obligations with good faith, he 
could not say; but to say that Spain had no right to cede is a 
bold assertion indeed. The people of America will not go along 
with such doctrines, for they lead to ruin alone. We are also 
told that the power of the Chief Consul is so great that he puts 
up and pulls down all the nations of the Old World at discretion, 
and that he can do so with us. Yet we are told by the wonderful 
statesman who gives us this awful information that we must go 
to war with this maker and destroyer of governments. If, after 
the unceasing pursuit of empire and conquest which is thus 
presented to us we take possession of his territory, from the 
gentleman's own declarations, what are we to expect? Only that 
this wonderful man, who never abandons an object who thinks 
his own and his nation's honor pledged to go through with 
whatever he undertakes will next attack us ? Does the gentle- 
man think that this terrible picture which his warm imagination 
has drawn is a conclusive argument for proceeding to that war 
which he recommends ? 

"The Senate, Mr. President, at this moment presents a very 
extraordinary aspect; and, by those not acquainted with our 
political affairs, it would appear a political phenomenon. Here 
we see a number of people from the Eastern States and the sea- 
board filled with extreme solicitude for the interest and rights of 



246 If Mason had survived twenty years he would have seen, not only 
the Floridas, but all Louisiana, belonging to the United States ; but 
his argument is honorable to him as showing that he thought the Ten 
Commandments were still binding, and that nations no more than indi- 
viduals should covet their neighbors' possessions. Had he survived 
six months he would have read and ratified the treaty of Paris, which 
ceded to the United States the territory of Louisiana. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 259 

the Western and inland States; while the representatives of the 
Western people themselves appear to know nothing of this great 
danger, and to feel a full confidence in their government the 
former declaring that the Western people are all ready for revolt 
and open to seduction; the latter ignorant of any such dispo 
sition, and indignant at the disgrace which is thrown on their 
character. In their great loving kindness for the Western peo- 
ple, these new friends of theirs tell them that they are a simple 
people, who do not know what is good for them, and that they 
will kindly undertake to do this for them. From the contiguous 
States of South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky 
(those States from which the gentleman from Pennsylvania pro- 
poses to draw the militia), every member of this House is opposed 
to war; but from the East (and one can scarcely refrain from 
laughing to hear the all-important representatives of the State of 
Delaware, in particular), such is the passion for the wonderful or 
the absurd, there prevails the liveliest sensibility for the Western 
country." 

The question was put on striking out the resolutions of Ross, 
and decided in the affirmative by a vote of fifteen to eleven; and 
the substitute of Breckenridge was then adopted by a unanimous 
vote ascertained by ayes and noes. 

The course of the Federal party on this occasion deserves 
severe censure. To force the nation into a war with France and 
Spain without a resort to negotiation was as unwise and impolitic 
as it was suicidal to those who proposed so rash an expedient. 
It was unwise, as the object in view might be accomplished as 
it afterwards was by the ordinary means of settling difficulties 
among nations; it was impolitic, as it committed the Federal 
party to the most violent measures which the Administration 
might be induced to adopt, and would thereby deprive that 
party of a legitimate ground of attack at the future stages of the 
proceedings; and it was suicidal, as the boisterous vehemence of 
their orators would be used argumentatively abroad in aid of 
those negotiations which it was their wish to embarrass, and as 
they had placed themselves, by their harangues, in the wrong 
before the country, and particularly before the very people 
whose rights and interests they assumed to defend against their 
own representatives, and whose influence they sought to win. It 
is a subject of congratulation that Mason and Nicholas the 



260 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

senators from Virginia in Congress took the ground in this 
debate which posterity, with one accord, pronounces to be just, 
honorable, and wise. 

And when the States which rest or depend on the Mississippi 
shall begin to rear statues in commemoration of the past, they 
will be sadly unmindful of truth and history if the marble image 
of Virginia, who among the earliest, through good and evil 
report, upheld the right of navigating their noble stream, and 
whose great son finally confirmed that right gloriously and for- 
ever, is not the first to adorn their halls. 

Mason made this speech under bodily suffering; and, roughly 
reported as it is, it serves to show the vigor, the sprightliness, 
and the freedom which marked his style of debate. It compares 
favorably with the speeches of the most eloquent British speakers 
of the era ending with the American Revolution, as those 
speeches are reported in the public debates, and it has much of 
their freshness and savor. It was essentially the speech of a 
debater, who seizes at once upon the salient points of his adver- 
sary's arguments, and turns them against their authors. Like 
most of our great statesmen who flourished, or who begun their 
career during the last century, Mason never wrote or wrote out 
a speech before or after delivery; but, in the remains of his 
speeches that are left us, it is apparent that he spoke well and 
readily, holding back nothing, fearing nothing; and, if not 
weaving for himself a living crown of oratory with posterity, yet 
accomplishing all that could be accomplished by eloquence in 
his then day and generation. 

It was on the 25th of February that Mason made his speech 
just quoted, and in less than three months lator he was laid in 
his grave. He had probably inherited from his paternal ances- 
try a gouty diathesis, which developed itself in a dropsy, for the 
relief of which he sought the city of Philadelphia, where he died 
on the loth of May. Thus, in his forty-third year, in the prime 
and pride of his intellectual powers, passed away a statesman 
whose memory ought to be cherished with fond affection by his 
country at large, and by Virginia in particular. He belonged 
to a class of statesmen who were born at the early stages of the 
troubles with the mother country, who have all passed away, and 
who can never appear again. They were old enough to have 
engaged in the latter part of the war of the Revolution, to have 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 21 

served in the Assembly in the interval between the close of the 
war and the adoption of the Federal Constitution, to have 
fought the great battle in the public councils and on the rostrum 
to which that Constitution led, to have watched its operation 
with the strictest scrutiny, and in due time to bear a conspicuous 
part in the practical administration of the Federal Government. 
Mason's political beau -ideal was Virginia as a free, independent, 
and intelligent Commonwealth, committing, for the sake of con- 
venience, her foreign affairs to her Federal agents, but retaining 
unimpaired all the rights and privileges of an integral empire. 
It was in this spirit he refused to accept the amendments to the 
Federal Constitution proposed by Congress, because, though 
some of them were better than nothing, yet they were not those 
that Virginia had proposed, and which she had a right to demand 
and to receive. Not having been abroad in the Federal coun- 
cils anterior to the adoption of the Constitution, his affections 
were entire, and he had not been broken to the tune of a strong 
central government, which fascinated the ears of some of his 
compatriots and which insensibly led them to regard without 
much aversion the trenching of the new government upon the 
rights of the individual States. Hence, on all interesting Federal 
questions, though courteous and respectful of the opinions of 
others, he leaned towards the States, and opposed some of the 
prominent measures of the Washington and Adams administra- 
tions. He bore along with him throughout his career the 
almost unanimous approbation of the Assembly and of the peo- 
ple, who delighted to express their confidence in his abilities, in 
his integrity, and in his patriotism by the usual marks of public 
favor. In his thirty-fourth year he had been elected to the 
Senate of the United States, in which he remained till the hour 
of his death, his finest effort on the floor of that House being 
his last; participating in all interesting discussions of foreign or 
domestic topics with an effect that was acknowledged by a hos- 
tile and exulting majority; and, latterly, swaying at will the 
decisions of his own party under the fire of a strong opposition, 
led by a wily, unscrupulous, but uncommonly able statesman. 
His last scene on the floor of the Senate was a great triumph. 
It required unusual prudence on his part to prevent the flame 
kindled by the Federal party in favor of the supposed rights of 
the Western States from spreading among the representatives of 



262 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the West, and the loss of a single vote might have settled the 
question; while he grappled directly and openly with Morris, 
whose abilities as an orator were formidable, whose knowledge of 
foreign affairs was exact and comprehensive, and whose hatred 
of the administration of Jefferson impelled him to seek its over- 
throw by plunging the country, without necessity and in viola- 
tion of the usages of nations, into a war with the greatest mili- 
tary power then or now existing. Mason succeeded. The 
policy of his opponents was prostrated; his own favorite scheme 
was adopted even by his enemies; and, when he passed the 
doors of the Senate for the last time, the whole country was 
applauding his eloquent harangue, little dreaming that it was his 
last. 

In stature Mason was below six feet. He was very stout, 
and is said to have attained his full growth at a very early age. 
His countenance, as presented in his portrait, was open and 
manly; his hair was dark, his eyes were large and of a deep 
gray color; his nose and chin regular and good. His mouth 
was vdry large and the lips compressed a characteristic trait of 
the Masons, it is said. His forehead was very broad, open, and 
intellectual. He was neat in his apparel; and, as he wore silk 
stockings, he might have taken in a somewhat personal sense 
the reflection of the Northern man on the silk-stocking gentry. 
His hair was well dressed, with the usual queue closely bound 
with a black ribbon. His appearance on canvas is highly 
imposing, and is not unbecoming his general reputation. 248 

One trait of Mason, which, if not the secret of his great popu- 
larity, contributed to its diffusion and to its intensity, was his 



MI Mr. William Brent said that Mason was distinguished for his elo- 
quence and wonderful powers of sarcasm. He once heard him in 
Philadelphia reply to a Northern man who uncourteously alluded to 
the Southern members as "the silk-stocking gentry "; and he said he 
should never forget the effect of his oratory and the force of his sarcasm. 
It was terrific. Had Mason lived six months longer he would have 
read the treaty of Paris, which ceded to the United States the whole 
of Louisiana. 

248 There is a portrait of General S. T. Mason in the possession of his 
granddaughter, Mrs. Emily Mason; and there is one of his father, T. 
Mason, in the possession of Judge John T. Mason, of Baltimore. The 
portrait of Thomson Mason presents a countenance remarkably benign, 
regular features, and compressed lips. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON. 263 

fearless and cordial support of his political friends, especially 
when they were in trouble. He sat by the side of Judge 
Cooper when that extraordinary man was prosecuted under the 
sedition law during the whole of his trial; and when that sen- 
tence of fine and imprisonment was pronounced against him, 
Mason instantly rose in open court and congratulated his friend. 
Fenno, the Federal editor, animadverted with stern severity upon 
the conduct of ftjason, whom he charged with committing an 
. outrage on the face of Justice ; but Duane, of the Aurora, came 
to the rescue, and twitted Fenno for mistaking the bacon face of 
the presiding judge for the face of Justice. 2 * 9 

The following account of the funeral of Stevens Thomson 
Mason, Esq., is taken from the Philadelphia Aurora of Satur- 
day, May 14, 1803, and has reached me through the kindness 
of the Hon. William J. Duane the son of the editor who was 
present at the burial as the adjutant of the Militia Legion, under 
General Shee: 

"On Tuesday evening last the remains of the late General 
Stevens Thomson Mason, of Virginia, were interred in the bury- 
ing-ground of the Protestant Episcopal church, in Arch street, 
between Fourth and Fifth streets, and deposited near those of 
the late Henry Tazewell, Esq., a senator of the same State, and 
in his lifetime a colleague of General Mason. At 5 o'clock P. 
M. the procession moved from the house of Mr. James O'Ellers, 
corner of Fourth and Spruce streets, in the following order: 

"i. The Militia Legion, commanded by General Shee, with 
reversed arms, in advance of the whole. 

" 2. The clergy of the city, of every denomination. 

"3. The corpse, borne by watchmen and supported by six 
pall -bearers; magistrates and officers under the Federal and 
State governments. 

"4. The chief mourners, immediately following the hearse. 

"5. Private friends of the General as mourners, with the 
attending physicians. 

"6. The Governor of Pennsylvania, the Minister of Spain, 
and other diplomatic characters now in the city. 

"7. Officers of the General Government. 

349 On the authority of Mr. Dickerson, of New Jersey, who sat on the 
other side of Cooper during the trial. 



264 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

" 8. Officers of the State Government. 

" 9. Corporate councils of the city. 

" 10. The members of the Board of Health. 

"u. Officers of militia, in uniform. 

" 12. Private citizens. 

" Every degree of respectful attention was paid by the con- 
course of citizens who attended and followed the procession 
during the movement to the place of interment and the perform- 
ance of the burial service by Bishop White; and there has been 
seldom witnessed in this city a more solemn and affecting scene, 
evincing a general testimonial of respect for the exalted virtues, 
public and private, which so conspicuously marked the character 
of the deceased." 

I sincerely trust that the relatives of General Mason will cause 
a plain slab to be placed over his remains.* 50 

250 As to the personal appearance of Stevens Thomson Mason, Mr. 
Temple Mason did not think him handsome, but his granddaughter, 
Mrs. Mason, thought that he was ; " that he had the bulk, with the spirit 
of a king," and that he had "a princely crest." Both agree that he was 
very large. His uncle, Colonel John Barnes, of Maryland, saw none 
of the poetry of person or of bearing that struck the female eye, but 
described his nephew as "bein^ blown up like a bladder." 



ARMISTEAD THOMSON MASON. 



Mason left a widow, three sons, and three daughters. The 
maiden name of his widow was Mary Armistead, daughter of 
Robert Armistead, of Louisa county. She survived him twenty 
years. 251 His eldest son was Armistead Thomson Mason, who 
was born in 1786, was educated at William and Mary College, 
served with credit in the second war with Great Britain, and was 
elected a senator of the United States by the General Assembly 
of Virginia in 1815. In 1817 he resigned his seat in the Senate 
to become a candidate for the House of Representatives, in oppo- 
sition to Charles Fenton Mercer, and was defeated. Out of this 
contest sprang the difference which brought on his duel with his 
cousin, Colonel John Mason McCarty, in which he fell at Bladens- 
burg on the 6th day of February, 1819, at the age of thirty- 
three. His death Virginia bemoaned with no passing grief. In 
his character he united in a singular degree the qualities of an 
orator, a soldier, and a statesman; and he was the idol of the 
Democratic party, to which he belonged. All the honors which 
Virginia could bestow he had either received, or they awaited 
him. He was a major general, had been a senator of the United 
States, was a member of the Board of Public Works, and would 
have been the next Governor had he survived. His death was 
lamented by the press throughout the Union. The Leesburg 
Genius of Liberty echoed the general voice when it said: " All 
who knew him mourn his fate and lament his loss. As a citizen, 
neighbor, and friend he stood unrivalled. As a warrior he was 
firm and undaunted, deliberate and humane. As a statesman he 
was deep, clear, and penetrating. In short, he bade fair to 
become one of our brightest ornaments, both as a private citizen 
and public officer." The same journal adds: "In the fall of 
General Mason Virginia has lost one of her most esteemed sons. 



K1 She died on the estate of her husband, near Leesburg, on the I2th 
of February, 1824; aged eighty-four years. Her obituary may be seen 
in the National Intelligencer of that date, in which she is described as 
a very remarkable woman. 



266 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Although he had numbered but thirty-and-three years, he had 
risen high in popular favor. On the military list he had been 
promoted to the office of major-general, and the highest civil 
appointment, that of a senator of the United States, had been 
conferred upon him." It describes his burial as follows: "On 
the day of his funeral the most heartrending scenes were wit- 
nessed. His numerous and faithful blacks crowded around his 
grave, dissolved in tears and frantic with despair. The tender 
sensibilities of those tawny sons and daughters of Africa would 
have done honor to whiter complexions. To see an aged nurse, 
whose head was blossoming for the grave, approaching the 
corpse through the crowd, crying 'Oh, my master, my master !' 
must have awakened sympathetic feelings in the most adamant- 
ine heart. We have seldom witnessed in this town on any occa- 
sion so numerous a concourse of the people as were present at 
the funeral obsequies of this excellent man. Distinguished by 
his energy, his firmness, and activity, General Mason enjoyed 
that confidence and favor of his native State, which he appeared 
to inherit from his ancestors." 

He fell on the 6th of February, and on the gth of the same 
month both houses of the General Assembly passed resolutions, 
in which they say " that they esteem the death of General Mason 
a public loss, and entertain the deepest sympathy on that 
untimely event." 

Just before Mason took the field he wrote to his uncle Judge 
John Thomson Mason, of Hagerstown, Md. the following 
letter, the original of which is before me : 

"Mv DEAR UNCLE, I have just time to recommend my 
unhappy and helpless family to your paternal oare. You have 
been a father to me; I know you will be one to them. 

" I am your most sincerely affectionate nephew, 

" ARMISTEAD T. MASON. 

"City of Washington, 5th February, 1819." 

One incident connected with the descendants of General 
Mason and his opponent Colonel McCarty tt2 would seem to 

363 A full account of the duel between General A. T. Mason and Colo- 
nel McCarty may be seen in the January or February No. of Harper's 
Magazine for 1858. [See. also, Sabine's Notes on Duelling and Tru- 
man's Field of Honor. EDITOR.] 



ARMISTEAD THOMSON MASON. 267 

protract a painful catastrophe to a second generation. Each of 
them had an only son a pair of promising and noble young 
men. The son of Colonel McCarty was on a hunting excursion, 
and for the first time !n his life, impelled by the pursuit of game, 
crossed over on General Mason's land. In alighting from the 
fence his gun was accidently discharged and killed him instantly. 
When the war with Mexico broke out young Stevens Thomson 
Mason, the son of the General, entered the service, and at Cerro 
Gordo, while commanding a company of mounted rifles, fell 
mortally wounded. Thus have these two families become extinct 
in the male line. 

General Mason was about five feet eleven inches in height, 
rather stout in stature, of florid complexion, light eyes, free and 
easy in his manners, and was usually generous, mild, and amia- 
ble in his intercourse with every one. He was quick and impetu- 
ous in temper as ready to forgive as to resent an injury. He 
is buried in the Episcopal grave-yard at Leesburg, where his 
only son reposes by his side. Each grave is marked by a slab. 



268 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



JOHN THOMSON MASON. 5 



Besides Armistead, who so richly inherited the virtues of his 
father, General S. T. Mason left two other sons John Thomson 
and Thomson. 254 The last-named died young. John Thomson 
settled in Kentucky, and became a public man. He was Secre- 
tary of the Territory of Michigan, and a commissioner to adjust 
claims with the Indians. He left an only son, Stevens Thomson 
Mason, who was born at Leesburg on the 27th of October, 
1811, was educated at Transylvania University, at an early age 
removed to Michigan (then a Territory), and was elected, when 
the Territory became a State, the first Governor, and re-elected 
in 1837. He had served two gubernatorial terms before he was 
twenty-eight years of age. He married an accomplished lady 
of the city of New York, and removed thither in 1840, where he 
was very successful at the bar; but after an illness of four days 
he died on the 4th of June, 1843, leaving an only son, who has 
since died. Thus has every male representative of General 
Stevens Thomson Mason passed away. 255 

253 Thomson Mason wrote on a blank leaf in Burrows 's Reports "that 
he had often heard it said that a child at two and a half years old was 
just half as tall as he ever would be My son, John Thomson Mason, 
is this day just two and a half years old, and is two feet ten inches and 
a half high; and I can thus ascertain the truth of the remark." John 
became about five feet nine, or thereabouts. 

254 General S. T. Mason also left three daughters, the eldest of whom 
married George Howard, territorial Governor of Missouri, but at the 
time of his marriage member of Congress from Kentucky ; the second 
married Colonel William T. Barry, afterwards Postmaster-General and 
Minister to Spain; and the youngest married her cousin, William 
McCarty, subsequently the representative of the Loudoun district in 
Congress, and who is still living (August, 1859). 

255 Thomson Mason, the father of General S. T. Mason, had two 
other sons John Thomson and Temple. The last-named is still living 
in Washington (August, 1859), i his eighty-fifth year, and has reached a 
greater age than any of those who have borne the name. John Thom- 
son was born in Stafford county in 1764, and was educated at William 



ALEXANDER WHITE SUPPLEMENTAL. 266 



In the review which I have made of the sessions of the Assem- 
bly the name of Alexander White has been used as a thread of 
connection through the whole; but, as so many members of the 
Convention were also members of the Assembly, and as the 
votes and opinions of public men on the great questions of their 
times, which were discussed and settled by them in the public 
councils, are their most faithful biography, I have presented at 
the same time the votes of his colleagues in the interval in ques- 
tion. In the course of the session just concluded White was 
conspicuous in all its proceedings. He was not present as was 

and Mary. In early life he removed to Maryland, and settled at Hagers- 
town, where he intended to practice law, but for three years he did 
not obtain a single client. This was thought at the time an unlucky 
omen, but it turned out to his advantage, for he made himself a good 
lawyer. He afterwards removed to Georgetown, where his practice is 
said to have included one or the other side of every case on the docket. 
There and in Maryland he maintained many a hard-fought battle with 
Chase, Pinkney, Martin, Key, Harper, Winder, and others, and acquitted 
himself handsomely. In the celebrated case of Hampton vs. Harper, 
said to be one of the hardest-fought legal battles in Maryland, he 
gained great tclat. The counsel on one side were Mason, Pinkney, 
and Johnson, and on the other Martin, Key, and Harper. On one 
occasion, when Pinkney had been written to for an opinion in a case in 
which Mason had furnished a carefully-prepared one, he returned the 
following answer: "If my opinion should concur with that of Mr. 
Mason, it could add no force to it; and it would be extremely hazard- 
ous for any one to venture an opinion in opposition to one from so pro- 
found a source." He was appointed Attorney-General of the United 
States by Mr. Jefferson, and afterwards by Mr. Madison, but declined 
the appointment on both occasions. He was chosen Chief Justice of 
Maryland; but, though he held the appointment a few weeks, did not 
take his seat on the bench, and resigned it. 

256 [The perplexity of the editor in arranging in just connection the 
manuscript of this volume may be imagined in the statement that the 
author used paper of different colors, and not only neglected to num- 
ber his pages, but was not uniform in his use of the paper writing 



270 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

too often the case with members who lived at a distance from 
Richmond at the beginning of the session, and could not be 
placed on the standing committees at the time of their organiza- 
tion; but he was assigned to the most important on his arrival, 
and was a member of various select committees, the drafting of 
whose reports generally fell upon him. His votes may be found 
in the list of the ayes and noes already recorded. It will there 
be seen that on the test question of striking out the report of 
the Committee of the Whole, which presented the anti-Federal 
programme for obtaining amendments to the Constitution, he 
voted in the affirmative; but on the motion to strike out the 
qualifications of members of Congress, in respect of freehold and 
residence, he voted with the majority, of which Henry was the 
chief. On several calls of the ayes and noes he was not in his 
seat as, indeed, was almost invariably the case with at least one- 
fourth of the House. 

His term of service in the House of Delegates closed with the 
present session. He was returned to the first House of Repre- 
sentatives of the United States from the Frederick district, and 
was the only member of the House from Virginia who was 
present in his seat on the 4th day of March, 1789 the first day 
of the session. An oath must be drawn up to be taken by the 
members, in pursuance of the sixth article of the Constitution, 
and White was appointed chairman of a committee of which 
Madison was a member to report a proper form. When Madi- 
son proposed (April 6th) to regulate duties according to the 
scheme presented in 1783 by the Congress, White, under the 

sometimes on single leaves, sometimes on sheets, and at other times 
upon several sheets continuously, as held together in book form. 
Many sheets and half-quires of paper had been reversed in their 
arrangement by being folded in the opposite way. The whole mass 
had become disarranged, and, to aggravate the torture of rearrange- 
ment, many sheets, from the dampening of the sizing, adhered together. 
This last evil was occasioned by the manuscript having been buried 
during the war of i86i-'65, to ensure its safety from destruction by the 
Federal army. Portions of the manuscript had to be soaked apart. 
The sequence of all was as justly fixed as the apprehension of the 
editor enabled. It may be inferred that Mr. Grigsby intended to revise 
and readjust his matter before committing it to press. This is offered 
in explanation of the resumption of the consideration of the career of 
a character so lengthily treated before. EDITOR.] 



ALEXANDER WHITE SUPPLEMENTAL. 271 

impression that an immediate vote was desired by the mover, 
urged delay for a more full consideration of the subject, and was 
told by Madison that he did not desire an immediate decision. 
On the following day he objected to the variety of articles sub- 
jected to specific duties, and upheld the policy of Madison in 
opposition to the scheme proposed by Fitzimons. He urged, 
with his colleague (Andrew Moore), the propriety of a duty on 
hemp, as that article could be cultivated to any extent in the 
South and West, and the lands of the Shenandoah and its con- 
secutive streams could produce the article in abundance. He 
argued that a duty on hemp would do more to promote ship- 
building than a bounty on ships. 

He was inclined to favor the laying a duty on salt; but as that 
article was consumed to such an extent by the poor he thought 
it good present policy to let it pass free; that, as it was used by 
all, all would feel the tax, and some might deem it oppressive; 
that some taxes were odious from opinion, and as government 
was founded upon opinion it should abstain from laying those 
taxes which were offensive to the people. 

On the i8th he made a report from the Committee of Elec- 
tions, which declared that every member was duly returned. 

On the 1 5th of May he presented to the House an important 
resolve of the General Assembly of Virginia, offering to the 
acceptance of the Federal Government ten miles square of terri- 
tory, or any lesser quantity, in any part of that State which Con- 
gress may choose, to be occupied and possessed by the United 
States as the seat of the Federal Government; which was read 
and ordered to lie on the table. That he was selected to present 
the resolution to the House is an honorable mark of the estima- 
tion in which he was held by his distinguished colleagues. 

Although he voted to ratify the Federal Constitution, he was 
determined to confine its practical working to the strictest letter 
of its meaning. He saw that if discretion or policy was to be 
the rule of its interpretation, the restrictions and limitations 
which it contained were not worth the paper on which they were 
written. Hence, when the engrossed bill laying' a duty on 
imports was reported to the House from the committee, a motion 
was made by Madison that a clause limiting the time of its con- 
tinuance should be added at the end. The object of Madison 
was altogether practical; for he knew, from his acquaintance with 



272 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

commercial affairs, that if the merchant was not assured that 
there was stability in the tariff he would not send his ships on a 
distant voyage and subject their cargoes to a rate of duty which 
might be ruinous on their return. But White, who also saw the 
practical bearing of the proposition, took another view of the 
case. He argued that he had no jealousy of the Senate or of the 
Executive; but that, as the House alone had the power of origi- 
nating money bills, we should be careful in parting with the 
power for any long period; that, as the Constitution declared 
that no appropriation should be for a longer term than two 
years, it virtually limited the duration of a revenue law to that 
period. The following day the amendment offered by Madison 
again came up, and the ayes and noes were called upon it. 
White, after expressing himself sarcastically on the policy of 
calling the ayes and noes in the stages of a bill, 257 went into a 
masterly argument against the amendment, which, near seventy 
years later, was applauded by an able parliamentarian and poli- 
tician for its ability and wisdom. Madison, with his usual tact, 
substituted another amendment in the place of the one he had 
offered, and which was in substance that the act should not con- 
tinue in force after a certain day, unless otherwise provided in 
the act for the appropriation of the revenue. This proposition, 
although it recognized the propriety of limitations, yet, if the 
duration of the act exceeded two years, did not entirely accord 
with the sound doctrine laid down by White; but, in a spirit of 
compromise, he voted for it, and it prevailed by a vote of forty- 
one to eight. 258 

The right of the President to remove public officers, whose 
tenure of office is not prescribed by the Constitution, was dis- 
cussed at an early day, and the doctrine advanced by White in 
the first day's debate has been sanctioned by the uniform prac- 

257 But for the calling of the ayes and noes what would have become 
of the name of Alexander White ? Posterity would hardly have known 
that he ever was a member of the Assembly, as the Journal of the 
House of Delegates contains no other record of the full names of its 
members, or any other obvious means of identifying them, than the 
ayes and noes. 

458 See the note of Colonel Benton on White's speech, in which are 
enumerated the difficulties that have arisen since the adoption of the 
Federal Constitution by a departure from the rule advocated by White. 



ALEXANDER WHITE SUPPLEMENTAL. 273 

tice of the Government to this time. He said that the President 
appointed the officers, and that he conceived that the party who 
appointed ought to judge of the removal, always excepting those 
cases specified in the Constitution. At a later day, when the 
bill establishing a department for foreign affairs was discussed, 
he reiterated the sound doctrine that the appointing power had 
the right of removal; but, confounding the advisory power of 
the Senate in relation to the appointment, which is mainly for the 
purpose of record and identification, with the power of appoint- 
ing, he argued that the Senate ought to be associated with the 
President in removing incumbents from office a doctrine that 
strikes at the very root of executive vigor and availability. 
At a still later day he seconded the motion that impeachment 
was the only mode of removing a public officer. He said that 
impeachments were to be employed in the case of officers who 
held their employment for a term of years or during good 
behavior. He intimated that they might be used when the Presi- 
dent insisted on retaining an officer who ought not to be retained. 
The judges were to be removed by impeachment. These, he 
said, were the three cases in which impeachment was the remedy. 
I am afraid that, if his views on the subjest of removal had pre- 
vailed, he would have made a very considerable deduction from 
the good which would have arisen had his opinions respecting 
the limitation of public acts been acted upon. To bring a tide- 
waiter from Oregon or California across the Isthmus or by the 
Cape to be impeached by the House and to be tried by the 
Senate, with the train of witnesses, and to consume the public 
time and money in the trial, would involve so much inconvenience 
and expense that we would soon find it a better plan to send the 
culprit a check for fifty thousand dollars, and beseech him to 
make for parts unknown. As he ultimately voted against a simi- 
lar bill on constitutional grounds, I wish he had argued that as 
the appointing power was vested by the Constitution in the 
President, and with it the power of removal, the conferring upon 
the President by act of Congress a right which he possessed 
under the Constitution might lead to mistakes in our future 
legislation and furnish a bad precedent. Such was doubtless 
the view of Madison; but, seeing the temper of the House, and 
anxious for the passage of so important a bill as that estab- 

18 



274 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

lishing a State Department, he was willing to regard the clause 
conferring a power upon the President which he already pos- 
sessed as mere surplusage, and voted for the bill. 

He opposed a fixed salary for the Vice-President, contending 
that he should be paid according to the amount of public ser- 
vice rendered. Accordingly, he moved to strike out a clause in 
the bill concerning that officer, which fixed the salary at five 
thousand dollars; and said that if his motion prevailed he would 
move an amendment allowing that officer the pay of the President 
when he acted as President, and a daily pay during the time 
that he acts as President of the Senate. During the debate he 
said that the Vice-President had personal advantages from his 
position, which holds him up as the successor of the President. 
The voice of the people is shown to be considerably in his favor, 
and, if he be a deserving person, there will be but little doubt of 
his succeeding to the presidential chair. 259 His motion to strike 
out failed, and so did the motion of Page, who moved to strike 
out five thousand dollars with the view of inserting eight thou- 
sand dollars. 260 

He strenuously opposed the distinction between the pay 861 of 
the senators and that of the members of the House of Repre- 
sentatives, and was joined by his colleague, Andrew Moore (and 
opposed by Madison), on the ground that as the Constitution 
made no distinction on the score of services between one mem- 

259 The succession of the Vice-President to the chair of the President 
continued in the two instances of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; 
then the State Department became within the line of safe precedents. 
Now that is eschewed, and, perhaps, at present the chances of selec- 
tion are in favor of those who hold no office at all. 

260 It was on the motion of John Page that the President's salary was 
fixed at twenty-five thousand dollars. He had previously moved to 
fill the blank with thirty thousand dollars. 

261 In all the early debates about fixing the wages of a member of 
Congress no other mode than that of a per diem was hinted at. When 
many years later an annual salary was allotted to the members, the 
scheme was scouted by the people. Any other mode than that of a 
per diem is plainly against economy and the very nature of a Parlia- 
ment. Yet the rate of an annual salary has recently been adopted. 
The remedy is to raise the per diem, but still cling to the per diem as 
the life and substance of a representative system. 



ALEXANDER WHITE SUPPLEMENTAL. 275 

her of Congress and another, legislation should make none, and 
that the members of both houses ought to be paid in proportion 
to the service rendered by them. Here he has been sustained 
by the public opinion of our own times. He opposed the pro- 
position of Vining for a home department, and argued with 
great plausibility against it. 'In this opinion, however, though 
he was probably right in his day, he is not upheld at the present 
time, as the comparatively recent creation of the Department of 
the Interior clearly shows. 

A question of intense interest at the first session of the Con- 
gress was the location of the seat of government. The House of 
Representatives had, by a decisive majority, selected some place 
on the banks of the Susquehanna; but at the heel of the session 
the Senate sent back the bill with an amendment striking out 
the Susquehanna, and proposing " a district of ten miles square, 
bounded on the south by a line running parallel at one mile's 
distance from the city of Philadelphia on the east side of the 
river Delaware, and extending northerly and westerly so as to 
include Germantown." The amendment kindled a blaze in the 
House. The Southern members opposed it in a body. Theo- 
doric Bland thought that the bill was so materially changed by 
the amendment as to warrant the House in postponing its con- 
sideration, and he made a motion to that effect. He said that 
he trusted the House would not be affected by the fact that the 
Senate had kept back the appropriation bill as a hostage for the 
passage of the bill before them. Page seconded the motion to 
postpone. White objected to the Senate's amendment, as virtu- 
ally changing the tenor of the bill and as introducing a new sub- 
ject; and, as the House would not allow the introduction of a 
new subject by one of its own members at this late hour, so the 
rule should apply to the new measure, though it proceeded from 
the Senate. Madison, with exquisite skill, opposed the intro- 
duction of an entirely new place for the seat of government, on 
the ground that it had not been named before the people; that 
all the other places had been deliberately brought to the notice 
of the country; that two of them had been examined by the old 
Congress and had received a favorable decision, and that to adopt 
in a moment a rival place never before contemplated was risking 
an improper and a dissatisfactory decision. The question on 



276 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Eland's motion was taken by ayes and noes, and was rejected 
by a vote of twenty-nine to twenty-five all the Virginia mem- 
bers voting in the minority. 262 

At the beginning of the second session of Congress, in Janu- 
ary, 1790, the members from Virginia were nearly all in their 
seats. One of the first questions 1 discussed in the House was 
respecting the reporters. During the previous session these 
useful gentlemen, to whose labors history is more indebted than 
to the labors of the professed historians, were placed behind the 
Speaker's chair, whence they could see and hear to great advan- 
tage; but at the present session they had been removed to the 
gallery. Page brought the subject up informally before the 
House, spoke very handsomely in favor of the reporters, and 
thought that they ought to be restored to their old seats. White 
acknowledged the general fidelity of the reported debates and 
the readiness of the reporters in obtaining from the speakers 
their exact expressions in debate, and thought that it was well 
enough to admit them within the bar of the House; but he said 
that if the House went further it would seem to give an official 
encouragement to the reporters, and to hold the House in some 
degree responsible for their reports. No question was taken, 
but the cheerfulness with which the members approved of the 
publication of the debates is the more praiseworthy, as the old 
Congress always sat with closed doors, and as the Senate fol- 
lowed their examble, and it was not long before that the publi- 
cation of the debates in the House of Commons had ceased to 
be a breach of privilege. Even at this day, in the House of 
Lords, there are some restrictions on the right to publish without 
the consent of their House. 263 

262 The Virginia members were Isaac Coles, James Madison, Theodo- 
ric Bland, Alexander White (who were members of the present Con- 
vention), John Page, Richard Bland Lee, Samuel Griffin, Josiah Parker, 
and John Brown. Bland died during the second recess of Congress, 
and was succeeded by William Branch Giles. 

268 Lord Campbell says that before he could venture to offer to the 
world his Lives of the Lord Chancellors he was legally estopped by a 
standing order of the House of Lords, of ancient date, which declared 
"that no one should presume to publish the lives of any lords, spiritual 
or temporal, deceased, without the permission of their heirs and execu- 



ALEXANDER WHITE SUPPLEMENTAL. 277 

The discrimination among the public creditors was another of 
the difficult problems of our early legislation. That a capitalist 
who had purchased from a poor soldier his certificate of one 
hundred dollars for five or ten should receive the original amount 
was monstrous; and the report of the Secretary of the Treasury 
recommended a modified discrimination. When that report 
came up in Committee of the Whole, Madison proposed a scale 
of modification, which was earnestly and ably supported by 
White. His speech on the occasion was probably the ablest he 
ever delivered in Congress, and displays a perfect knowledge of 
his subject, clear and conclusive argumentation, and no incon- 
siderable learning. Moore also supported the motion of Madi- 
son at great length, and with a seriousness in keeping with the 
magnitude and the delicacy of the subject. But the arguments 
of White, Moore, and Madison are too much in detail for our 
present purposes. 264 

The report of a committee on a Quaker memorial concerning 
slavery was discussed (March ijth) in the Committee of the 
Whole, when White moved to strike out the first proposition, 
because he was opposed to entering at that time into the con- 
sideration of the powers of Congress on the subject. He 
objected to other propositions contained in the report, which he 
proposed to offer in a different form.* 65 He concluded by 
observing that his wish was to promote the happiness of man- 
kind, and among the rest those who were the subjects of the 
present consideration; but this he wished to do in conformity to 
the principles of justice and with a due regard to the peace and 
happiness of others. He would contribute all in his power 
to the well-being and comfort of slaves; but he was fully of 
opinion that Congress had no right to interfere in the business 
any further than he proposed by his two propositions as modi- 



tors" ; and as he was about to publish the lives of Thomas a Becket, 
Michael de la Pole, and other early Chancellors, and, as he could hardly 
think of hunting up their heirs and executors, he was led to move a 
repeal of the order. This was within the last ten or twelve years. 
(Lives of the Lord Chancellors^ Vol. V, 88.) 

264 Consult in the index of the first volume of Benton's Debates the 
names of White, Moore, Madison, &c. 

265 The Debates do not give the report, and I cannot state the exact 
nature of its recommendations. 



278 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

fied. If Congress had the power to interfere, he did not think 
the essential interests of the Southern States would suffer. 
Twenty years ago he supposed the idea he now suggested would 
have caused universal alarm. Virginia, however, about twelve 
years since, prohibited the importation of negroes from Africa, 
and the consequences apprehended were never realized. On the 
contrary, the agriculture of that State was never in a more pros- 
perous condition. 266 

In the course of a debate on the subject White expressed his 
views of the policy of bounties on the occupations of individuals. 
A bill had been reported entitled an act for the encouragement 
of the bank and other cod fisheries, which allowed a bounty of 
so many dollars on the tonnage of the vessels engaged in the 
trade. Giles moved to strike out the first section of the bill, and 
made a strong speech on the impolicy of granting bounties to 
any particular class of persons. White, conscious of the neces- 
sity of building a commercial marine, had no objection to give 
the trade a proper degree of encouragement; but he did not 
relish the idea of granting bounties; but he said that if any gen- 
tleman would prepare an amendment, so as to make them draw- 
backs in fact as well as in words, he would consent to the 
measure. 

He was in his seat at the opening of the session in November, 
1792, and was called on to give a vote on a subject which has been 
long since settled, but which was then not decided. A motion 
was made to inform the Secretary of the Treasury and the Sec- 
retary of War that the House of Representatives would on the 
following Wednesday take into consideration the report of a 
committee appointed to inquire into the causes of the failure of 
the late expedition under General St. Clair, to the end that they 
may attend the House and furnish such information as may be 

J66 This testimony of an able and honest friend of the Federal Consti- 
tution in favor of the prosperity of Virginia at the period of the ratifi- 
cation of that instrument is in strong contrast with the gloomy pictures 
of decay and desolation which were held forth by his associates in the 
Federal Convention of Virginia. White's attention had probably been 
called recently to this subject, as he had been appointed a year or two 
before one of a committee to inquire whether the number of slaves in 
the State had increased or diminished since the passage of the act 
prohibiting the importation of slaves. 



ALEXANDER WHITE SUPPLEMENTAL. 279 

conducive to the due investigation of matters stated in said 
report. Williamson moved to strike out that part of the reso- 
lution requiring the presence of the Secretaries, and Venable 
followed in a short and decisive speech in support of the motion. 
White followed Venable, and took the ground that would be 
taken at the present day. Madison and Giles followed on the 
same side, and the motion to strike out prevailed. 267 

He voted in the majority with Andrew Moore, against Madi- 
son, Giles, Venable, and Parker, in favor of preventing a reduc- 
tion of the army at that time, which was one of the party 
questions of the day. He voted against the bill to create the 
Department of Foreign Affairs, on the ground heretofore men- 
tioned; his colleagues (Isaac Coles, Josiah Parker, and John 
Page) voting with him, and Madison, Moore, Lee, and Griffin 
against him. He voted in common with the whole Virginia 
delegation against the scheme for fixing the seat of the Federal 
Government on . the Susquehanna, and with Madison, Giles, 
Moore, and Parker against the bill incorporating the Bank of 
the United States. When the President returned the bill for 
apportioning representatives among the several States to the 
House of Representatives, with his reasons for not assenting to 
its passage, he voted with his colleagues (Madison, Giles, Griffin, 
Brown, and Moore) in the negative, and defeated that measure. 
He approved the famous act respecting fugitives from justice and 
persons escaping from the service of their masters, and voted in 
the majority of forty-eight to seven. In the minority of seven 
were two of his colleagues John Francis Mercer and Josiah Par- 
ker; but the grounds of their vote it is impossible now to ascer- 

267 While the presence of the secretaries in the House of Commons 
is the life and soul of the British polity, it is wholly inapplicable to our 
institutions. In the colonial government of Virginia the Treasurer 
always held a seat in the House of Burgesses; indeed, the Treasurer 
and the Speaker were usually, though not invariably, the same person, 
until 1765, when the two offices were prohibited by law from being 
held by the same person. The Treasurer continued to be a member of 
the House, and afterwards of the Conventions held prior to Declara- 
tion of Independence. At the first session of the General Assembly 
(October, 1776), it was decided that the Treasurer could not hold a 
seat in either house, and Robert Carter Nicholas, who had been regu- 
larly re-elected since 1766, preferring to hold his seat in the House of 
Delegates, resigned the office of Treasurer. 



280 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

tain. When several test questions were taken he appears to 
have been absent from his seat. 

Having served four years in Congress, he withdrew from 
public life, maintaining to the last a high place among the most 
distinguished members of the body. He does not seem to have 
been a partisan on either side, but voted with either, according 
to his sense of propriety and his views of the Constitution. 
Eager to organize the new government, he opposed the act to 
establish the Department of Foreign Affairs, because it con- 
tained, in his opinion, an unconstitutional provision; and on the 
same ground, though favorable to the eminent man at the head 
of the Treasury, he opposed the favorite scheme of a bank of the 
United States. 

His long and honorable career was drawing to a close. He 
had devoted the prime of his life to the public service, and 
in his latter days he was assigned the duty of supervising the 
construction of the buildings which were designed to accommo- 
date the Federal authorities in the new city of Washington, 
which had been established by his vote on the banks of the 
Potomac. 268 And at Woodville, in the county of Frederick, in 
the year 1804, and in the sixty-sixth year of his age, he departed 
this life. 

The character of White must be determined by his acts, and 
these we have endeavored to lay before the reader. In all the 
public bodies of which he was a member, whether at home or 
abroad, his ready information, his eloquence, and his decision 
placed him in the front rank. His public qualifications were 
enhanced by his virtues, among which were a deep and ever- 
present sense of an overruling Providence, and a firm belief in 
the truth of the Christian religion. 

268 A letter from General Washington to White, dated March 25, 1798, 
would lead me to believe that the latter held the trust mentioned in the 
text. . ( Writings of Washington, Vol. IX, 334.) In Lanman's Dictionary 
of Congress, Alexander White is confounded with a person of the same 
name from North Carolina, who was a member of the old Congress in 
May, 1786, but who was not a member of Congress during Washing- 
ton's administration. White of Virginia was never a member of the 
old Congress. 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 



Continuing our course in the shadow of the Blue Ridge, we 
enter the county of Albemarle, the red soil of which is reputed to 
be fertile of official dignitaries, and which certainly contributed 
to the Convention two very remarkable men in the persons 
of George and Wilson Gary Nicholas. They were brothers, 
and acted together in political affairs while they both lived; but, 
for twenty years after the death of George the name of Wilson 
Gary, in his capacity as a member of the House of Delegates, of 
the Senate, and of the House of Representatives of the United 
States, and as Governor of Virginia, was well known and read 
daily from one end of the country to the other. 

And first of George. Allusion has been repeatedly made 
already to his course in the Assembly in our review of the ses- 
sions to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and the 
striking figure which he made during the debates in the present 
Convention has been exhibited at full length; but such was the 
force of his character, such was the vast influence in Virginia and 
in Kentucky until the close of the last century, that a more 
deliberate notice of his character is due to his memory; and I 
perform this office with the less reluctance, as there is not, so far 
as I know, any record of his career in print, and as if neglected 
now it may be overlooked hereafter. 

He was the son of Robert Carter Nicholas and of Anne Gary, 
his wife.* 69 Of the father it may suffice to say that he was 
esteemed for his abilities as a lawyer, for his sterling qualities as 
a statesman and a patriot, and, at a time when religion in its 
devotional aspects had almost faded away among the great, for 
his pure and ardent piety. He was a member of the House of 
Burgesses from the county of York as early as 1758, holding a 
place on all the important committees, and in 1766, on the death 
of Speaker Robinson, when the office of Treasurer was separated 
from that of the Speaker, he was chosen by the House of Bur- 

269 R. C. Nicholas married Miss Gary in 1754. 



282 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

gesses to the former office. He performed the duties of his 
office with great satisfaction to the public until the first session 
of the General Assembly held in October, 1776, when, in conse- 
quence of a decision of the House of Delegates, of which he was 
a member, that the offices of a delegate and of the* Treasurer 
were incompatible, he resigned the latter in a short address to 
the House, in which he said that he resigned his office " with 
honest hands at least with empty ones," and received the unani- 
mous approbation of both houses of the Assembly for his integ- 
rity, fidelity, and honor in the discharge oi his duties. On the 
first organization of the judiciary he was elected one of the 
judges. of the General Court; but, as the war kept the courts 
closed, it is probable that he did not take his seat on the bench , 
or, if he did, that it was but for a short time that he performed 
the duties of a judge, which he was so well qualified to discharge. 
It was at the bar and in the House of Burgesses that he acquired 
the great reputation which he enjoyed among his contempo- 
raries, and which was acknowledged by his appointment to the 
office of Treasurer, and to the office of President of the Conven- 
tion of July, 1775, on the retirement of Peyton Randolph. That 
he was the equal and rival of such men as Thomson Mason, 
Wythe, Pendleton, Peyton Randolph, and his brother John, and 
others of a similar stamp, is praise enough with posterity. He 
did not live to hail the recognition of the independance of his 
country by Great Britain, but died at his seat in Hanover, in 
1780, in the fifty-second year of his age. 270 

270 In the Discourse on the Convention of 1776, page 67, where a fuller 
account of Robert Carter Nicholas may be seen, I state erroneously 
that he died in his sixty-fifth year; but since the publication of that 
work I have received from one of the descendants of Nicholas a small 
slip of paper, being a copy of the original, which contains the date of 
his birth, and which was obtained by Nicholas himself from Robert 
Fry, the clerk of Bruton parish, on the 26th of December, 1777. The 
slip is endorsed by Nicholas, and has these words: "Robert Carter 
Nicholas, son of Dr. George and Elizabeth Nicholas, was born January 
28, 1728." This paper had been laid away seventy years and more, 
when it was found by a fair correspondent of mine and transmitted to 
me. And I must confess here that I have received much valuable aid 
from the female descendants of my characters ; and their zeal in behalf 
of the memory of their ancestors gives me a livelier notion of what 
their grandmothers were than I had before I began this work. 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 283 

It is said that clever men may be traced to their mothers; and, 
although in a physiological view the notion cannot be sustained, 
it is certain that George Nicholas is not an exception to the rule. 
His mother was Anns Gary, daughter of Colonel Wilson Gary, 
of "Richneck," and sister of Colonel Archibald Gary, who, 
as chairman of the Committee of the Whole, reported to the 
Convention of 1776 the memorable resolution instructing the 
delegates of Virginia in Congress to propose independence, and 
who was the chairman of the select committee which reported 
the Declaration of Rights and the first Constitution of a free 
Commonwealth. She is said to have been of small stature, to 
the eye exceedingly fragile, but possessed of untiring energy. 
A correspondent, whose sources of information are unquestion- 
able, thus describes her: "Fully imbued with the spirit of the 
times in which she lived, she early instilled into her sons that 
republicanism and love of country which had distinguished their 
father; and, herself a woman of high cultivation, she beguiled 
the tedium of an almost constant confinement to her couch by 
awakening in them a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading, 
more necessary to be roused at a period when war had closed 
all the institutions of learning. Her labors were requited by 
the celebrity of four of her five sons. When the war broke out, 
in 1775, Mrs. Nicholas retired to the country, probably to avoid 
the excitement and the alarms of which the seat of government 
was the scene. Her place of retreat was a farm of her husband's 
in Hanover, called the 'Retreat,' where, in 1780, her husband 
died and was buried. Here she resided when Lord Cornwallis, 
crossing the James, fixed his headquarters in the immediate 
neighborhood of that estate. On the report of the enemy's 
approach, she concealed her plate and jewels in the chimney; 
but one of the children disclosing the place of deposit, Corn-v 
wallis, 1 " who was present, entreated her with a smile not to feel 
any alarm on the score of her property a subject which, how- 



871 1 record with pleasure the liberal conduct of Cornwallis on this 
occasion, but it is in strong contrast with his doings at other times in 
Virginia. And even here there is another version of the story, which 
renders it probable that the plate was carried off after, as is stated by 
Bishop Meade (Old Churches, &c., Vol. I, 185). where may also be 
found the capital advice addressed by Mrs. Nicholas to her son, Wilson 
Gary. 



284 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

ever engrossing at another time, then hardly occupied her 
thoughts, as she had just observed from her door a chase in 
which her son, John, thanks to the fleetness of his horse, had 
made his escape from the British dragoons. She had no reason 
to complain of the treatment received from Lord Cornwallis; 
but, being wholly unprotected, she moved to Albemarle, where 
her husband had purchased large estates on James river. She 
lived to see her sons rise to distinction, and to address to one of 
them about to embark in public life some sage advice, which 
may well be heeded even at the present day." 

Robert Carter Nicholas and Anne Gary had five sons George, 
John, Wilson Gary, Lewis, and Philip Norborne; and two daugh- 
ters Elizabeth, who married Edmund Randolph, and another 
who married John H. Norton, of Winchester. George Nicho- 
las, the subject of this sketch, was born in Williamsburg in or 
about the year I755, 272 attended the grammar school of William 
and Mary College, and in 1772 entered the college as a regular 
student, having for his associates James Innes, with whom he 
served in the army, in the Assembly, and in the present Con- 
vention; William Nelson, the future chancellor; St. George 
Tucker, the future commentator of Blackstone, and judge of the 
Court of Appeals; James Madison, the future bishop; Beverley 
Randolph, the future Governor; Samuel Jordan Cabell, the 
future member of the present Convention and member of Con- 
gress; Benjamin Harrison, of " Brandon," and other young men 
who became conspicuous in after life. At the breaking out of the 
war he obtained a captain's commission, and conducted himself 
with credit at Hampton. He attained the rank of colonel in Bay- 



271 All the genealogies in my possession make George the oldest son; 
and if he was, he must have been born a year or so after the marriage 
of his parents, which took place in 1754; but in the catalogue of Wil- 
liam and Mary College, under the year 1766, there is a Robert Carter 
Nicholas, "son of the Treasurer." If this youth was the son of the 
Treasurer, he could only have been eleven or twelve in 1766, when in 
college. I make no doubt the error is in the catalogue, and that if 
there was such a person at that time he must have been the son of 
another man. It is hardly probable that the name and memory of 
such a youth, if he was the son of the Treasurer, should not appear 
in the family records. If, however, the youth was a son of the Trea- 
surer, he was the oldest son, and we must put the birth of George in 
1756 or 1757. 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 285 

lor's regiment; and it was at a ball given to the American officers 
in Baltimore, in 1778, when he had reached the rank of colonel, 
that he saw for the first time Mary Smith, the lady who was to 
become his bride. She was the sister of General Samuel Smith, 
then a colonel, long distinguished as a member of the Senate of 
the United States, and of Robert Smith, who was successively 
Secretary of the Navy and of the State Department. Court- 
ships were rapid during the Revolution; and during the same 
year, in which he saw her for the first time, Mary Smith became 
the wife of Colonel Nicholas. Withdrawing from the army, he 
studied law and entered the Assembly. 

During the session of 1781, at a time when the cavalry of the 
enemy were roving through the State and driving the Assembly 
before them, and when immense losses were suffered from hostile 
depredations, Nicholas, then a young man of five-and-twenty, 
and the representative of the county in which the Governor of 
Virginia resided, moved an inquiry into the conduct of that 
officer. It is easy to imagine the feelings of a gallant young 
patriot in beholding the whole Commonwealth at the mercy of a 
squad of dragoons, and it was his first impulse to move an 
inquiry into the conduct of the Executive. Such an investiga- 
tion might be right and proper, whatever may have been the 
innocence or guilt of the Governor. It was due to all parties 
that the facts of the case should be fully known; and it is certain 
that, if a becoming investigation had then been held, and the 
results committed to paper, we should have had a valuable con- 
tribution to our history. The inquiry was properly postponed 
to the following session, when Mr. Jefferson appeared in the 
House of Delegates as a member from Albemarle. On the day 
set apart for the investigation that gentleman rose in his place 
and avowed his readiness to answer any questions on the sub- 
ject. Nicholas was absent, but Mr. Jefferson read the objections 
received from Nicholas and his own answers. No further pro- 
ceedings followed, and both houses of Assembly adopted a 
resolution, in which they declare the high opinion which they 
entertained of Mr. Jefferson's ability, rectitude, and integrity as 
Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth, and that they mean, by 
thus publicly avowing their opinion, to obviate and remove all 
unmerited censure. 

When Nicholas became convinced, upon mature deliberation, 



286 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

that his motion for an inquiry was founded on a misapprehen- 
sion of the true state of affairs, he made the amende honorable ; 
which was the more magnanimous, as it was already seen that 
the same intrepid spirit which impelled him to originate the 
inquiry was not to be swayed by fear or favor. 173 

In the interval between the close of the war and the adoption 
of the Federal Constitution he was frequently a member of the 
House of Delegates, and by his skill in law and by his vigorous 
powers of debate exerted great influence in all its decisions. 
With the subject of the Western lands, most of the laws respect- 
ing which he aided in framing, he was most intimately acquainted; 
and when Kentucky became a State he removed to that country, 
and connected his destinies with the new Commonwealth. 

He took up his residence in his new home about 1790, not 
leaving Virginia until the adoption of the Federal Constitution 
had been secured. It was in the present Convention, called to 
decide upon that instrument, that he displayed in the greatest 
perfection his wonderful ability in debate, and reared for himself 
the most durable monument of his fame. His general course in 
that body has been detailed with some minuteness. To say that 
it was distinguished would convey a faint impression of its 
efficiency. He was the Ulvsses as well as the Ajax Telamon 
of the hosts which upheld the Constitution. Tongue and tact, 
as well as brawn and vigor, were his characteristics. Clear as 
was the logic, convincing as were the ample and apt illustrations 
of Madison, their effect was equalled, probably surpassed, by the 
exhibitions of Nicholas. His powerful voice, which could be 
heard with ease over the hall, and even at the head of a bat- 
talion (a rare quality in a close reasoner); his profound acquaint- 
ance with the intricate local legislation of the State, in which he 
had so large a share; his perfect knowledge of his opponents 
of their plans and of their modes of thought and action derived 
from long experience at the bar and in the Assembly; his famili- 
arity with law and with British political history, which enabled 
him to detect unerringly any incongruity in the arguments urged 



" 3 For a masterly review of this subject, consult Randall's Life of 
Jefferson, Vol. I, 349, et seq. The eighth and ninth chapters of the 
first volume will richly repay the student of the Revolutionary history 
of Virginia. 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 287 

in debate; the advantages resulting from an intimate association 
with the people, whose manners, habits, and prejudices had been 
observed minutely by him ever since his entrance into public life; 
the wonderful readiness with which he marshalled his resources, 
and the utter fearlessness with which he ventured into the field 
of debate with his strongest adversaries qualities in which he 
was not excelled by friend or enemy fully justified the choice of 
his party in consigning to him the province of opening the grand 
discussion on the practical merits of the new Constitution. He 
bore the brunt of the battle, assisted, indeed, by eloquent and 
powerful colleagues, and by none more than by Madison, whose 
sphere, exalted as it was, was rather in a forum of philosophers 
than in a vast congregation of planters, whose passions and 
prejudices were to be cunningly soothed or dexterously assailed, 
not only by pure reasoning, but by strength of utterance, by 
vehement gesticulation, and even by personal daring. 

Having thus given an outline of the life of Nicholas, I turn to 
particular parts of his career as detailed by a venerable man, 
who, having studied law in his office, and observed him critically 
in his public and private relations in Kentucky, undertook, in 
his eightieth year, when he had lost his sight and wrote by the 
hand of an amanuensis, to reduce his recollections to writing. 274 

After some prefatory remarks concerning the ancestry and 
birth of Nicholas, which have been treated more at large and 
more accurately already, our reminiscent continues: 

"At the close of the war of the Revolution Colonel Nicholas 
removed to the village of Charlottesville, in Virginia, and com- 
menced the practice of the law in that place and in the surround- 
ing courts. He soon rose to a high eminence, and became the 
most distinguished lawyer wherever he practiced. He was par- 
ticularly successful and distinguished at the bar of Staunton, a 
place then at which much legal business concentrated, and where 
the celebrated Gabriel Jones resided, and had long been monarch 
at the bar. Jones soon became a great admirer of Nicholas and 
his talents, and threw his patronage upon him. He (Jones), 
having accumulated a large fortune by the practice, had deter- 



274 Robert Wickliffe, Esq., of Kentucky, whose death is announced 
in the Richmond papers received while I was writing this memoran- 
dumSeptember 7, 1859. 



288 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

mined upon withdrawing from it altogether; and Colonel Gam- 
ble relates an anecdote that one of Jones's old clients and 
friends, having a suit depending of much interest, he directed 
his client to associate Nicholas with himself in the prosecution 
of it. In the argument of the case Nicholas displayed great 
ability, and the cause was gained; on which Jones's client asked 
Nicholas his charge, and was told he must pay him a guinea. 
Jones, meeting his client, asked him what he had paid Nicholas. 
He informed him, and Jones said, 'Go and give him two more.' 
The man accordingly went and told Colonel Nicholas what Jones 
had said; but the Colonel refused to take the two guineas, saying 
to the man, 'You have paid me my charge.' The man inform- 
ing Jones that Nicholas would accept no more, he told the man 
to deliver him the guineas, and that Nicholas should accept 
them. This anecdote not only illustrates the character of Nicho- 
las's mind, but also the principles on which he practiced in the 
early part of his career. 

"When the reminiscent, a student of Nicholas's, a few months 
before his death, was about to return to his home to enter upon 
the practice of law, he waited upon Colonel Nicholas to take his 
leave, and found him in his office, alone. Nicholas, before he 
took his final leave, said to him : ' You are about to practice 
where you will find the courts often ignorant and incompetent. 
You will owe it to your own personal respect, as well as to your 
interest, to treat the judges with a deference and respect due to 
the judiciary of the land, and never to wound the feelings of a 
judge by intimating that he is incompetent from ignorance. 
With your clients be ever candid and sincere, and never, by 
exciting their fears or hopes, extort an additional farthing to 
your fee. Some lawyers, after bargaining for a fee, and getting 
their clients in their power, refuse or fail to do their duty until 
their fees are enlarged. Such conduct is base, as well as unlaw- 
ful. A lawyer should be reasonable in his charges and faithful 
in his duties, and no honorable gentleman of the profession will 
ever make the size of his fee dependant upon the ignorance or 
credulity of his client; in fine, he should consider himself the 
friend and the trustee of his client. Make no enemies, if you 
can help it, and do not depend with too much confidence on the 
professions of friendship for your success in life; but while 
friends may wish you well, and are certainly necessary to success 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 289 

in life, when it comes to a question whether a friend will give his 
business to a competent or incompetent lawyer, he will not be 
long in deciding to give it to a competent lawyer.' 

"Colonel Nicholas, while he practiced law in Kentucky, was 
the most moderate lawyer in his charges and the most laborious 
in his duties to his clients. His regular fee in chancery was five 
pounds, Kentucky currency, and in a common-law case about 
three. 

"About the year 1787 (1789 or 1790) Colonel Nicholas 
removed from Charlottesville to the county of Mercer, and set- 
tled on a farm near Danville, then the seat of justice of the 
Supreme Court for the district of Kentucky. He was no sooner 
settled than he was crowded with business, and considered 
decidedly the best lawyer in the county so long as he remained 
at the bar. His competitors at the Supreme Court for the dis- 
trict were of the best talents the country then afforded. When 
the district was turned into a State, and the Supreme Court was 
substituted by the Court of Appeals, in civil cases, and the court 
of Oyer and Terminer, in criminal cases, here Colonel Nicholas 
met not only the first men of the bar of Kentucky, but competi- 
tors equal to those of any bar in the United States. Among 
them were the late John Breckenridge, James Hughes, William 
Murray, Thomas Todd, James Brown, and Joseph Hamilton 
Daveiss. These men were not only distinguised for learning, but 
for their eloquence and highly honorable bearing as a bar. At 
the head of this bar was George Nicholas. All his brethren 
deferred to him; and the courts as well as the people at large 
listened and were instructed in the great displays which he often 
made in the important causes with which the Court of Appeals 
was crowded. 

"Colonel Nicholas seems to have commenced his political life 
and services at the close of the Revolutionary War, always taking 
a decided and active part in the political questions that agitated 
his native State, as well as those that concerned the Confedera- 
tion of the States, and when he was always the advocate for a 
more strong and energetic government than the Confederation 
States had. So that when the present Constitution of the United 
States was submitted to a Convention of the people of Virginia 
for ratification, it found in him an able and active advocate. In 
defence and explanation of it he often addressed the people at 



290 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

large, before his election to the Convention. On the assembling 
of the Convention, though believed to be the youngest member 
elected, 275 he took the lead in opening the debate in favor of the 
adoption of the Constitution. His speech upon the subject has 
been preserved among the debates of that distinguished body, 
and has ever been considered an able exposition and defence of 
the Federal Constitution. 

"Shortly after the ratification of the Constitution in Virginia 
Colonel Nicholas, as before stated, removed to the district of 
Kentucky, where he found the district in a state of great excite- 
ment upon the subject of the separation of the district from Vir- 
ginia, and an election of a Convention to form a Constitution for 
the new State. He brought with him a great reputation, both 
as a lawyer and a statesman, which induced several of the lead- 
ing gentlemen of the district to apply to him to become a candi- 
date for the Convention about to be elected. He expressed his 
willingness to do so, but his doubts of the propriety of his 
becoming a candidate on account of his non-acquaintance with 
the people, and the weight of private and professional business 
that was pressing upon him. To this the applicants replied that 
he need not have any apprehension of his election, nor waste 
his time in becoming acquainted with the people before his elec- 
tion; that they would advocate his claims, and had no doubts ol 
being able to secure his election. He was accordingly announced 
a candidate, and, instead of making a canvass, he devoted his 
time, from his becoming a candidate to the meeting of the Con- 
vention, in drafting a form of a Constitution for the proposed 
State. On his being elected and taking his seat he laid before 
the Convention his plan of a Constitution, which was finally 
adopted, and passed by the Convention with scarcely an altera- 
tion. While his draft was being discussed an incident arose in 
the Convention which serves in some measure to illustrate the 
character of Colonel Nicholas's mind. Some one of the Con- 
vention had the indelicacy to intimate to him that he was a 
stranger to the people, and had come in under the popularity 
and influence of others; upon which he arose, tendered his 

275 There were many much younger. If born in 1755, he was thirty- 
three in 1788 the same age of John Marshall, and a year older than 
Legion Harry Lee. 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 291 

resignation, and went home. The Convention proceeded no 
longer with the Constitution, but ordered a new election in a few 
days. The people of the county in which he lived, spontane- 
ously and without any exertion of his own, re-elected him; and 
he again took his seat, and remained in the Convention until it 
not only adopted his Constitution as offered, but closed its entire 
business. 

" The people of Kentucky were the first that applied to be 
separated from a mother State and become an independent 
State, and the Constitution drafted by Nicholas is believed to be 
the first Constitution formed for a new State. Happy would it 
have been for the people of Kentucky had they perpetuated its 
existence. It was a perfect Constitution in all its parts, entirely 
conservative, and the powers of government were well sustained 
by checks and balances, whereby one branch of the government 
was forbidden to trench upon the powers of either of the other 
branches. It was perfect in all its forms; its language clear and 
perspicuous; each line had its appropriate meaning, and each 
word in the line its appropriate place. So that the whole instru- 
ment manifested itself to be the work of an able and accom- 
plished statesman, well acquainted with the condition of the 
people who were to be governed by it. The Constitution lasted 
not quite nine years. Under it the people of Kentucky enjoyed 
law and liberty; no people ever obeyed their constitutional 
injunctions more faithfully, and under the laws of their land 
lived more happily; but in some evil hour, for some objections 
to minor parts in the Constitution, the people consented to go 
into a Convention to amend their Constitution. The Conven- 
tion assembled, but Nicholas was not there, but in his grave. 
His Constitution went into the hands of the new Convention, 
and did not come out of it until juvenile lawyers and unfledged 
politicians made sad work of its most valuable and conservative 
principles. 

"During the continuance of the old Constitution, Kentucky 
knew nothing but thrift and prosperity, and, as far as a people 
could be under any form of government made, happy. During 
all which time Colonel Nicholas seemed to take but little part in 
the State government; but by his conversation arid conduct 
indicated that he thought it was best to let well enough alone. 

"About the year 1796 he retired from the practice, sold his 



292 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

farm in the county of Mercer, removed his family to the Iron- 
Works Company's property, of which company he was a mem- 
ber hoping by a residence on the property to give a change to 
the administration of its affairs by the company, which were 
then in a bad condition. He remained there, however, little 
more than a year, when he look up his final residence in the 
town of Lexington. General Washington's administration had 
expired, and his successor, Mr. Adams, had put his administra- 
tion in hostile array against the Republic of France by calling 
into existence a standing army, passing alien and sedition laws, 
and, to sustain the extraordinary expenses of his administration, 
bringing to his aid stamp acts and direct taxation; and, to deter 
the friends of the Constitution and human liberty from resisting 
his tyrannical and unconstitutional measures, caused prosecu- 
tions against those who wrote or published what were deemed 
seditious libels, until the jails were not only filled with citizens, 
but some members of Congress. Early in the year 1797 
George Nicholas took the field against these high-handed and 
tyrannical pleasures of the Federal Government. He not only 
spoke to the people and brought unto his aid the co-operation 
and much of the talent and worth of the country, but kept the 
few papers then published well supplied with his essays arraign- 
ing the conduct of the administration, and forewarning the peo- 
ple of the imminent danger in which their liberties were, and 
calling upon them to wake up to their danger. 276 

"These calls were not lost upon the people of Kentucky. 
Public meetings were held in the most prominent parts of the 
State, and by proper preambles and resolutions the measures of 
the administration were denounced as unconstitutional and 
tyrannical. These proceedings in Kentucky were justly ascribed 
by the administration to George Nicholas, and the administra- 
tion, it is said, contemplated having him arrested for sedition; 
but before proceeding to execute their designs President Adams 
sent the Hon. James Ross, then a member of the Senate of the 
United States, a confidential agent, to Kentucky to ascertain and 
find out the extent and nature of the opposition, who were its 



276 One of his essays was signed "A Friend to Peace," in six num- 
bers; another series was signed "By a Lawyer Who Does Not Wish to 
Be a Judge." 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 293 

leaders, and what were their designs, especially to ascertain the 
purposes Nicholas had in view; and what acts of a seditious 
character, if any, he had been guilty of. Ross, who was an 
honorable gentlemen, of great legal knowledge, and the origi- 
nal friend to the administration, possessed a character too ele- 
vated to be its dupe or instrument. Fortunately for him and the 
country he was an old and intimate friend of Colonel James 
Morrison. Morrison was a friend and relation of Nicholas, and 
in daily communication with him. Ross frankly disclosed to 
Morrison the object of his visit, and received from him perfect 
satisfaction that Colonel Nicholas was sincerely attached to the 
Union, and that his only object was a reformation of the policy 
of the administration and to produce a repeal of the laws 
which he believed to be unconstitutional; and, in addition to 
other facts, he communicated in still confidence that he had it 
from Colonel Nicholas himself that the Spanish Government, 
through their agent, Thomas Perrei, tendered to Colonel Nicho- 
las and two other gentlemen two hundred thousand dollars one 
hundred thousand to be to their own use, and the rest to be 
used in carrying out the measure to use his and their influence 
in producing a separation of Kentucky from the Union and 
annexing it to the Spanish province; that Colonel Nicholas and 
the other gentlemen not only refused it, but positively assured 
the agent that no considerations could induce them to desire a 
separation from the Union or accept a compensation for their 
political services from any foreign government. When Morri- 
son communicated to Nicholas his conversation with Ross 
Nicholas replied that he was glad Morrison had made the com- 
munication of the facts to Ross, and that the Government would 
now be informed through its agent of the designs of Spain. 

"Colonel Nicholas was continually assailed by the adminis- 
tration papers, particularly by that of Cobbett, and the essays 
of anonymous scribblers and pamphleteers of the Federal party, 
in which threats of arrest and punishment were not unfrequent. 
He, however, sustained himself by letters to his friends and 
appeals to public opinion through newspapers, until about the 
month of August, 1798, when he made an appointment through 
the newspapers to address the people of Kentucky on the con- 
dition of the country. On the day of appointment a vast 
assemblage of people from all parts of the State met at Lexing- 



294 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

ton in pursuance of the notice. There being no house, public 
or private, large enough to contain the crowd, the people were 
assembled to the amount of thousands on the College lawn, 
when Colonel Nicholas addressed them for four hours in a strain 
of eloquence and power scarcely ever equalled, and certainly 
never surpassed. In his speech he laid open to the people their 
Federal Constitution, the nature of their Union, their value and 
importance to the protection of the States and the liberties of 
the people of the States; then laid bare the maladministration 
of President Adams, its crimes, its follies, and its cruel oppres- 
sions. He drew a strong picture of the sufferings of the country, 
and the victims under the alien and sedition laws. He, how- 
ever, warned them against violence as a means of redress, but 
urged them to take the constitutional means through the ballot- 
box, their only remedy of changing the administration and 
restoring the Constitution to its supremacy, thus relieving the 
country of their oppression under the Stamp Act, direct taxa- 
tion, and unconstitutional persecutions. 

"This speech overwhelmed the Federal party in Kentucky, 
and established the cause of the opposition. Colonel Nicholas 
was now at the highest of his popularity; but his political diffi- 
culties were not yet at an end. The Federal administration had 
infused into most of the religious societies a horror of French 
infidelity, and denounced Nicholas, Jefferson, and others of the 
opposition as infidel Democrats. And while Nicholas was 
engaged in overturning the power of the administration, his 
adversaries, and those of the Democratic party, set on foot an 
opposition to the State Constitution, principally on the ground 
that it tolerated negro slavery, and finally succeeded in having 
acts passed to call a Convention; and for a season it appeared 
obvious that the Abolitionists would throw a majority of their 
party into the Convention, and the slaves would be emancipated. 
From some cause Colonel Nicholas seemed to pay no attention 
to the movements of the Abolitionists until the month of Febru- 
ary preceding the election of members to the Convention, which, 
by law, was to take place on the first Monday in May. Seeing 
that an effort upon the town of Lexington would be ineffectual, 
the Abolitionists being too strong in the town, he called a meet- 
ing of the people in the county, at Bryan's Station, where he 
had a meeting of the country people, and addressed them at 



GEORGE NICHOLAS. 295 

large upon the propriety of their voting for conservative men, 
and particularly for supporting men opposed to turning the 
negroes loose upon the country. This speech was well received 
by the thinking classes of the community north of the Ken- 
tucky, and was decisive of the question with the people in every 
part of the State; so that when the people met there was but 
one emancipator elected. 277 

"Colonel Nicholas was not only a politician, and exerted, as 
such, a great influence over the public men of Kentucky; he was 
also an agriculturist and a political economist; and by his moral 
writings, lectures, and conduct contributed much to regulate 
public sentiment in favor of all the branches of labor. He not 
only devoted himself to this object, but had his office filled with 
students of law, to whom he lectured and whom he prepared for 
the profession with a success rather astonishing, as scarcely one 
of his students failed in the profession, and most of them rose to 
high eminence, both at the bar and in the councils of the State 
and the nation. He did not live to reap his full share of the 
benefits resulting from his labors for his country. He died in 
the month of June, 1799, in the forty-sixth year of his age, 278 and 
in the midst of his usefulness, to the loss of his country and the 
irreparable misfortune of his widow and numerous family. He 
was a man of low stature, not exceeding five feet seven inches 
high, of a fair complexion, large, glowing blue eyes. His head 
was very large for his stature; his hair (what remained of it) 
was red. He became before his death almost entirely bald, from 
which circumstance, and from other indications of age, for more 
than six years before his death, he was called Old Nicholas. 279 
He was a man of taciturn habits in mixed company, but in pri- 
vate circles ; and especially at his own house and fireside, he was 
a most interesting companion, and sometimes both humorous 
and witty. He was remarkable for his hospitality, and in all the 
relations of husband, father, and master his character was per- 
fect. He was universally loved by the gentlemen of the bar, and 



J77 The reader will regard these views of Mr. Wickliffe as embracing 
the opinions of himself and of Nicholas only. 

278 Forty-four only, if born in 1755. 

279 Every clever fellow by the name of Nicholas soon gets the title of 
"Old Nick." 



296 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

looked up to by the greatest lawyers and sages of the age. His 
eloquence was of a very high order, and his reasoning most 
powerful. As a criminal advocate in his day he had no equal in 
Kentucky. This is proved by his success both as a civil and 
criminal advocate. At the time of his death he was the employed 
counsel of the unfortunate Fields, who was accused of the mur- 
der of his wife. Nicholas died before his trial, and the unfortu- 
nate man was condemned to the gallows, although he was ably 
defended by the late Chief-Justice Marshall. Fields was a man 
possessed of many able qualities, and had many friends out of 
his own family; and his family in Kentucky and Virginia among 
the most numerous and respectable in America, many of whom 
loved him and stepped forward to rescue him from the fate that 
awaited him. He continued to declare himself innocent from 
the moment of his arrest to the moment of his death; and the 
last words he uttered under the gallows were that he was inno- 
cent, and knew not how his wife came by her death. Had 
Nicholas survived, no one acquainted with his powers and influ- 
ence as a counsellor doubts that the fate of the unhappy man 
would have been very different. Nicholas was not only a benevo- 
lent and kind-hearted man, but an encourager of every branch 
of labor; and to the poor he was courteous and kind. The whole 
State was shocked at his death, and the Legislature that suc- 
ceeded his death, in gratitude and remembrance of his great 
talents and services, named the county of Nicholas after him." 

I have only a few words to add to these reminiscences. It 
was to Nicholas Mr. Jefferson communicated the celebrated 
Kentucky resolutions, which received the sanction of that State, 
and played an important part at a memorable crisis. 180 The 
course of Nicholas in the Virginia Assembly may be seen in 
the review of their sessions heretofore given. 

His last days were serene and honorable. On his removal to 
Lexington he occupied a commodious house, which became the 
centre of refined and intellectual society. Here his relatives and 
friends from abroad received a courteous and cordial welcome, 
and formed a favorable opinion of the West; and many were 
induced to make that land of promise their permanent abode. 



""^Jefferson's Works (Randolph's edition), Vol. IV, 344, and Randall's 
Life of Jefferson, Vol. II, 448. 






GEORGE NICHOLAS. 297 

Few men excelled him in the graces and courtesies of social life. 
His varied experience in human affairs, his intimate familiarity 
with all the great men and great questions of his times, his 
sterling practical sense, and his easy flow of speech made him 
most instructive and most interesting in conversation. A long 
and honored life seemed to stretch away before him. Although, 
like most of his family, he lost his hair in early life, and appeared 
older than he was, his constitution was unbroken, and when he 
smiled his pure white teeth displayed the freshness of youth. 
He died after a short illness, and was buried in the family burial- 
ground, in the eastern part of the city of Lexington, about a 
quarter of a mile from the court-house. His grave has no stone, 
but is enclosed by a substantial wall; and within that enclosure, 
seven years later, was deposited the body of his wife. It is said 
that the mourning and wailing of his slaves (who were mostly 
native Africans), as his coffin was lowered in the grave, was a 
strange and startling sight. The wild gestures and frantic 
sounds with which they gave vent to their sense of bereavement 
on the death of their master, we are told, inspired a supernatural 
awe. 

He left several sons, of whom Colonel Robert Carter and 
Major Gary Nicholas engaged in the war of 1812; Smith was 
bred a merchant in the house of Smith & Buchanan, in Balti- 
more, and died young on a trip to the East Indies; John Nelson 
studied law, and died at the age of thirty-three; George Wilson, 
a naval officer, died at sea; Samuel Smith studied law, and is the 
present Judge Nicholas of Louisville, Kentucky, and is the only 
son who ever married. Colonel Nicholas left also seven daugh- 
ters Maria, Anne, George Anne, Margaretta, Elizabeth Ran- 
dolph, Hetty Morrison, and a seventh, whose name has not 
reached me. 281 

Length of life is sometimes as important an element in consti- 
tuting the reputation of the statesman as in amassing the wealth 
of the capitalist. George Nicholas died at the age of forty-four. 



281 The Saunders paper in the Nicholas manuscripts. I confess my 
obligations to Miss Ellen Wayles Randolph (now Mrs. William B. 
Harrison, of " Brandon,") for valuable materials relating to the life of 
George Nicholas, especially for the Wickliffe and Saunders manuscripts, 
and some printed documents. 



298 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Had he attained the term reached by some of his associates at 
the bar and in the Assembly by Marshall, by Monroe, and by 
Madison how different might have been the story which the 
historian would be required to record! What he might not or 
might have been, it is impossible to divine. He might not have 
been other than he was the master-spirit of the young Com- 
monwealth (which was mainly fashioned by his hands, and which 
holds his dust), moulding her young men to his own high stand- 
ard of abilities and character, and guiding her politics by his 
judicious and temperate counsels. He might have been placed 
on a loftier pedestal, and have transferred the sceptre of the 
presidency a quarter of a century earlier to the West. Had 
Marshall died in 1799, what a blank there would be in that 
career which now looms so grandly before us! He would have 
been remembered by a few old men as a clear-headed lawyer of 
slovenly appearance, or as an unlucky minister plenipotentiary. 
The fame of the great speech in the case of Jonathan Robbins 
would not have been his. 282 Had Monroe died in the same year 
his name would be found on the list of the Governors of Vir- 
ginia, and of the Ministers to France and to England, and there 
only. Had Madison died at the same time, the report of ninety- 
nine would have been unwritten; his part in the General Federal 
Convention and in the present would be remembered by the 
studious, and his career in the House of Representatives for a 
few years would be known to some of the higher order of politi- 
cians, but all else of his long and honored life would be wiped 
away. And fully as fair as any of these stood George Nicholas 
when he descended to the tomb. 

282 This speech was delivered in the House of Representatives on the 
yth of March, 1800. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 



If the sun of George Nicholas was eclipsed at meridian, the 
light of the genius of his brother, Wilson Gary Nicholas, if less 
dazzling, shone not less effectively for a score of years to come. 
The course of George, except in a military capacity, never 
extended beyond the limits of Virginia and Kentucky; but much 
of the career of his younger brother was spent abroad in one or 
other of the houses of Congress; and from the adoption of the 
Federal Constitution almost down to the close of his natural 
life he was the main-spring of the party organizations of the 
day. He exerted, directly or indirectly, no little influence on 
all the political questions that arose in the interval above defined, 
either in a minority, as was the case in the earlier part of his 
course, hanging heavily on the skirts of his foes, or when in a 
majority, as he was from the commencement of the century, 
arranging the tactics of the hour, composing the tender griefs of 
great men who sometimes thought themselves overlooked by their 
party, and bidding them soothingly to bide their time, assigning 
the tasks of duty to each individual with a strict regard to his tastes 
and to the breadth of his shoulders believing, as he did, that 
the rule of Horace was quite as applicable to politics as to poetry; 
engaging in debate with his strongest opponents with sound 
arguments, with practical rather than with figurative or learned 
illustrations; and, above all, with that delicate tact which made 
him say neither more nor less than was needful at the time, and 
which prevented him from offending an adversary who might 
be likely to be won over at no distant period, any more than 
seemed indispensable to the conduct of his argument, to the 
gravity of his theme, or to the bounding pulses of his more fiery 
coadjutors. If his life could have been written in full, there 
would be seen the history of the most adroit political manage- 
ment of the last or the present century. His manners and 
deportment contributed to his success. In his apparel he was 



300 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

exceedingly plain; he was serious and even solemn in his aspect; 
his words were few, unless in the presence of intimate friends, 
but they were well studied, were never uttered to the wrong per- 
son, always sank deep in the minds of men, and were never 
forgotten. He read at a glance the thoughts of men; and when 
he saw a young recruit, and had looked into his performances, 
he at once allotted him a special place in the machinery of his 
party, and made him an active and willing adjutant. The talents 
of Nicholas were invaluable to his party at a time when coali- 
tions were the order of the day; when a numerous and able 
party, but recently triumphant, and though wincing under a 
terrible defeat, ready to coalesce with old friends and with their 
old enemies, were dogging the footsteps of his own, and when 
members of his own party even, which had become too strong 
and was beginning to fritter, were courting their Federal ene- 
mies and were looking to them for smiles and votes, Nicholas 
was equal to the emergency. He could not prevent a small 
squad of clever friends, who could not be satisfied with anything 
short of despotic rule and a full enjoyment of choice offices, from 
starting a little opposition of their own, nor could he control 
their forked tongues; but he utterly deprived them of all influ- 
ence in affairs, forced them to doff their uniform and to drop the 
glorious war-cry of past victories, and drove them in the face of 
the country to take shelter in the camp of the enemy. His man- 
agement was altogether successful. If he could not extract the 
fangs of the asp, he neutralized its poison. Its very victims, 
instead of dying, flourished fairer than ever, grew fat, laughed at 
the sinuous motions of their recreant enemy, and at last put 
their heels upon its head. The leading measures advocated by 
Nicholas were founded on the best interests of his country; and 
it was the fault of his enemies that his singular skill in the tactics 
of party were called into exercise. And wherever, these quali- 
ties of his were required there they were instantly brought into 
play. Yesterday he was in the Senate of the United States; 
to-day he is in the House of Delegates; to-morrow would find 
him in the House of Representatives, and the day after he would 
be the Governor of Virginia. If lesser spheres were to be 
looked into, he became the president of the branch bank of the 
United States at Richmond, or the collector of the port of Nor- 
folk; loving no office for its own sake, holding none but for a 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 301 

short time, 283 and always eager to return to "Warren," his 
seat on the banks of the James, and surpass his practical neigh- 
bors in making corn, wheat, and tobacco. 

He carried the Sta.te with him and the people in all his move- 
ments. He seemed to combine in a wonderful degree the good 
qualities of Sir Robert Walpole and of Talleyrand without their 
bad. Like the former, his policy was as pacific as it was practi- 
cable; and in a time of extraordinary embarrassment in our 
foreign affairs, which appeared to render warlike demonstrations 
essential to the interests and honor of the country, he cooled 
down the bellicose and the demonstrative of his own party, out- 
witted the machinations of his wily opponents, and secured the 
adoption of measures which, while they postponed actual war, 
tended seriously to incommode and annoy our foreign enemies. 
Like Talleyrand, he was versatile or inscrutable, as the occasion 
required a weigher of mystic words and of looks more weighty 
than words, or indulging in a honeyed flow of transparent talk; 
retentive of his own secrets, but disclosing enough to secure the 
secrets of others; in debate on topics of great concern frequently 
silent, or speaking but little, but turning with fatal facility the 
fairest flowers of speech, yet fragrant with the dew of hostile 
lips, into dust and ashes; and in the various complications of 
parties and of circumstances, purposely designed to put him off 
his guard and to confound him, so much a master of himself, so 
entirely poised, as not only to circumvent the schemes that were 
laid to betray him, but to lead his opponents into the belief that 
he thought them much better and wiser than they felt them- 
selves to be; and, unlike Talleyrand, he never used other 
weapons than those with which truth, reason, and honor sup- 
plied him. He would have been a prince among diplomatists; 
and every foreign mission was open to him, but his family 
engagements and his tastes bound him to his home. 

In the business of ordinary life he was very generally regarded 
as an infallible, almost an inspired, oracle. The confidence of the 
people was as unlimited in his integrity as in his wisdom; his 
friends shared liberally in his ventures; and although he was, 



W3 The political enemies of Nicholas used to say that he held the 
different offices to keep unpopular candidates out of them and until 
the right man of the party should turn up. 



302 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

from peculiar circumstances which were beyond the control of 
individual action, but rather the results of political arrangements, 
unforeseen or improbable at the time, to the last degree unfortu- 
nate, and more unfortunate still in involving his friends in mis- 
fortune, he retained their sympathy and confidence to the end. 
And when the cloud burst, had he thrown off the trammels of 
politics and position and directly engaged in commercial affairs, 
he might have retrieved a false step, reimbursed his own losses 
and those of his friends, and established his character by the not 
unfrequently false but ever-flattering test of success, instead of 
affording, by his conduct, an ever-memorable example of the 
extreme danger which the most prudent and the wisest men 
incur when they turn their backs upon their regular business, 
and, forsaking the farm and the rostrum, embark in schemes 
which, if successful, may add to their thousands, but which will, 
if unfortunate (as such schemes, from the nature of the case, are 
almost always apt to be), overwhelm them and their friends in 
one universal ruin. 

But it is time that we begin to trace more minutely the events 
in the life of Wilson Gary Nicholas. He was the son of Robert 
Carter Nicholas and Anne Gary, of both of whom some mention 
has already been made. 28 * The characteristics of his revered 
father were integrity, wisdom, piety, and unalloyed devotion to 
his country qualities which environ this name to this hour with 
a bright and unfading halo. The mother of Nicholas was a 
sister of Archibald Gary, that fierce and daring man, who bore 
the sobriquet of "Old Iron"; who reported to the Convention of 
1776 the resolution instructing the delegates of Virginia in Con- 
gress to propose independence; who brought forth in the Con- 
vention the Declaration of Rights and the first Constitution of 
an independent Commonwealth; who threatened to plant his 
dagger in the bosom of any man who should assume the office 
of dictator ere the setting of the first day's sun; who, at the time 
of his death in 1786, when he was the Speaker of the Senate of 
Virginia, was heir-apparent 288 of the English barony of Huns- 



284 In the sketch of George Nicholas, ante. 

1(85 Discourse on the Virginia Convention of 1776, page 91, where the 
fact is stated, as well as other things concerning Colonel Gary. The 
late Richard Randolph, Esq., is my authority about the position of 
Gary in respect of the barony in question. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 303 

<Jon a man and a statesman whom neither interest, fear, nor 
favor could swerve from the cause of his country. 

Wilson Gary Nicholas was born in the city of Williamsburg 
on the 3ist day of January, 1761, when Governor Fauquier had 
fairly inaugurated his popular reign. He saw, in his eighth year, 
the august obsequies which were performed at his grave; had 
attended with his father the Treasurer the meetings of the 
Council when the mild and enlightened John Blair, the elder, sat 
as its president; had seen the splendid equipage in which Bote- 
tourt drove up the York road when he made his first entrance 
into the city; had visited with his father that amiable nobleman, 
and been driven in his coach drawn by his spanking grays, and 
'had been present when the body of that lamented man, in the 
presence of a weeping audience, was lowered into the sepulchre 
of the Randolphs, to await its transportation to England; had 
seen William Nelson take the seat of the departed peer in the 
Council; had gone with his father to pay his respects to the Earl 
of Dunmore and his interesting family on their arrival from the old 
country, and had heard the uproar when it was known one bright 
April morning that the Earl had purloined the power of the Colony 
and conveyed it on board a man-of-war. Before fourteen he 
had wrestled with the sons of Dunmore on the palace green, 
had hunted hares and gathered chinquapins with them, and at the 
dancing school had tripped a hornpipe or cut a pigeon-wing in 
the presence of his popular and pretty daughters. Kt 

Meantime Wilson attended the grammar school of William 
and Mary College, and was about to enter that institution when, 
in 1775, the troubles of the Colony began in earnest, and the 
tramp of armed men began to be heard in the hitherto peaceful 
metropolis. The delicate health of his mother required a less 
exciting scene, and she removed, with her younger sons, to the 
"Retreat," an estate of her husband's in Hanover, and there 
superintended their education. When Wilson Cary attained 
his eighteenth year a gloomy period of the war he entered 
the army, and, having served several campaigns, returned to 

286 The residence of Judge Nicholas was opposite the public green 
and in the rear of the magazine from which the powder was taken. 
Lord Dunmore had three sons at William and Mary in 1775 George 
Viscount Fincastle, the Hon. Alexander, and John Murray. 



304 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

"Warren," a paternal seat in Albemarle, to which his mother had 
removed after the visit of Cornwallis to the "Retreat," an 
account of which has been detailed in the life of George. Under 
the guidance of his mother he spent his time in reading, his 
father having died in 1780 at the " Retreat" before the departure 
of his mother. Such was the progress which he made in his 
studies, and so high did he stand with the people of his adopted 
county, that in 1784 in his twenty-third year he was chosen 
by a flattering vote to a seat in the House of Delegates. When 
his mother, who had probably returned to her home in Williams- 
burg, heard of the election of her son, she addressed him a letter 
which, with the allowances every intelligent reader will make for 
her early prejudices and prepossessions, may be studied at the 
present day by politicians, old as well as young. It is in these 
words: 

" DEAR WILSON, I congratulate you on the honor your county 
has done you in choosing you their representative with so large 
a vote. I hope you are come into the Assembly without those 
trammels which some people submit to wear for a seat in the 
House I mean, unbound by promises to perform this or that 
job which the many headed monster may think proper to chalk 
out for you; especially that you have not engaged to lend a last 
hand to pulling down the Church, which, by some imperti- 
nent questions in the last paper, I suspect will be attempted. 
Never, my dear Wilson, let me hear that by that sacrilegious 
act you have furnished yourself with materials to erect a scaffold 
by which you may climb to the summit of popularity; rather 
remain in the lowest obscurity; though, I think, from long obser- 
vation, I can venture to assert that the man of integrity, who 
observes one equal tenor in his conduct who deviates neither 
to the one side nor the other from the proper line has more of 
the confidence of the people than the very compliant time-server, 
who calls himself the servant and, indeed, is the slave of the 
people. I flatter myself, too, you will act on a more liberal plan 
than some members have done in matters in which the honor and 
interest of this State are concerned; that you will not, to save a 
few pence to your constituents, discourage the progress of arts 
and sciences, nor pay with so scanty a hand persons who are 
eminent in either. This parsimonious plan, of late adopted, will 
throw us behind the other States in all valuable improvements, 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 305 

and chill, like a frost, the spring of learning and spirit of enter- 
prise. I have insensibly extended what I had to say beyond 
my first design, but will not quit the subject without giving you 
a hint, from a very good friend of yours, that your weight in the 
House will be much greater if you do not take up the attention 
of the Assembly on trifling matters nor too often demand a 
hearing. To this I must add a hint of my own that temper and 
decorum are of infinite advantage to a public speaker, and a 
modest diffidence to a young man just entering the stage of life. 
The neglect of the former throws him off his guard, breaks his 
chain of reasoning, and has often produced in England duels 
that have terminated fatally. The natural effect of the latter 
will ever be procuring a favorable and patient hearing, and all 
those advantages that a prepossession in favor of the speaker 
produces. 

"You see, my son, that I take the privilege of a mother in 
advising you, and be assured you have no friend so solicitous for 
your welfare, temporal and eternal, as your ever affectionate 
mother, 

"ANNE NICHOLAS. * T 

" Williamsburg, 1784." 

It now remains to be seen how far he followed, in a political 
career of thirty-five years, the suggestions of his estimable parent. 

The first act on taking his seat in the House of Delegates in 
May, 1784, was to vote for the re-election of John Tyler as 
Speaker, whom he had frequently seen in his childhood in Wil- 
liamsburg, who had long known and esteemed his father, and 
with whom he was to be associated under a new Federal Gov- 
ernment for many years to come. The nomination of Tyler was 
seconded by French Strother, whom our young politician had 
also seen in his early youth, who had proved himself a sterling 
patriot in our civil conflicts, and with whom he was to fight 
under the same standard many a sharp battle before the close of 
the century. As he looked over the House, he recognized many 
faces which he had seen in his youth, and beheld a number of 
young men who, like himself, were new members, and with 
whom he was to engage earnestly on the field of politics for 
more than the third of a century to come. Among the older 

287 Old Churches, Vol. I, 184. 

20 



306 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

members were Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, William 
Grayson, Henry Tazewell, Madison, John Taylor (of Caroline), 
Jones (of King George), and others; and among the younger 
ones were John Marshall, Alexander Stuart, and others who 
were destined to acquire reputation in the Assembly, in the Con- 
gress, and under the new Federal Government. His brother 
John was his colleague, and sat by his side. His relative, Wil- 
son Miles Cary, was chairman of the Committee of Religion, 
which at that particular conjuncture was the most interesting of 
the standing committees. Nicholas was placed on the Com- 
mittee of Propositions and Grievances, of which Tazewell was 
chairman, and on the Committee of Courts of Justice, in which 
Jones (of King George) presided. 

As a general outline of the proceedings of this session has 
already been given, it will be only necessary to state the occa- 
sion when some test question of the times was presented for his 
vote. The first test question was on the engrossing a bill for 
adjusting claims for property impressed or taken for public ser- 
vice. As the bill was lost, we cannot ascertain its details; for it 
is plain that it was in some detail of the bill and not in its nomi- 
nal object that it was disapproved by the House. Nicholas 
voted for the rejection with Henry, Madison, Taylor (of Caro- 
line), Marshall, Jones (of King George), and his brother, John. 
The bill was defeated by five votes. 

The next test question was one of the most exciting that was 
agitated in the Assembly before the adoption of the present 
Federal Constitution. The definitive treaty with Great Britain 
stipulated that the debts due British subjects before the Revo- 
lution should be paid in full. The right of a State to confiscate 
a debt due to the public enemy was as clear as the right to take 
any other kind of property, or even life itself, if it were deemed 
expedient so to do; and Virginia had exercised this right by 
requiring the British debtors to pay their several amounts into 
the public treasury. The subject had been deliberately acted 
upon, and was regarded as settled forever; to open it afresh was 
thought by the majority of the people of that era as imprudent 
and as unjustifiable as it would be to require the restoration of 
any other property taken from the British. But the public 
aversion to the measure was increased by the absence of all 
reciprocity on the part of the British, though that reciprocity 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 307 

was enjoined by the treaty. Negroes had been taken off at the 
evacuation of New York not only in violation of the treaty, but 
in spite of the demands of their owners, who were present in 
person at the time of their embarkation. The payment of the 
debts due by the citizens of Virginia to British subjects was, 
beyond dispute, decreed by the treaty; yet it was urged by the 
majority that, though those debts would have to be paid, it was 
prudent to delay payment until every fair effort could be made 
to secure the rights of our own citizens. Great Britain could 
not complain, unless she consented to perform her own part of 
the bargain; and it was plain that she not only did not intend to 
pay for our slaves, but designedly kept possession of those forti- 
fied places which she had agreed to evacuate, and from which 
she could annoy us most readily in case of war. On the other 
hand, it was urged by the members of the minority, of whom 
Nicholas was one, that our first office was to do justice, and that 
if England did not fulfil her part of the treaty in good faith we 
should adopt the means of redress which the laws of nations 
pointed out. The form in which the present question came up 
was this: A motion was made that the House adopt a resolu- 
tion declaring that all acts of Assembly incompatible with the 
definitive treaty ought to be repealed. The previous question, 
"Shall the question to agree to the resolution be now put?" was 
called, and was negatived by a vote of thirty-seven to fifty-seven. 
In other words, the House refused to come to a direct vote on 
the resolution at that time. Nicholas voted in the minority with 
Madison, Marshall, Richard Henry Lee, Corbin, White, Taze- 
well, and Edmunds (of Brunswick); while the majority included 
Patrick Henry, Crocker, Strother, John Trigg, Vanmeter, Zane, 
Ruffin, Edmunds (of Sussex), Matthews, Porter (the colleague of 
Madison), Riddick, Thomas Smith members who came from 
the extreme West as well as the extreme East, and who clearly 
voted on general grounds. 

The proper site for the seat of government of the Common- 
wealth was long a subject of dispute in our early councils. It 
had been removed from Williamsburg during the war, when, 
from the position of that city (between two navigable streams), 
an attack might at any moment be made upon it, and lands had 
been purchased in Richmond; but Richmond was far from being 
in the centre of the State, and, at a time when men could travel 



308 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

on horseback only, it was deemed a long distance from the inte- 
rior to the falls of the James. At the present session a resolu- 
tion was reported from the Committee of the Whole, declaring 
that all the public lands in Richmond not necessary for the pur- 
poses of government should be sold, and the proceeds thereof 
applied to the erection of public buildings in Richmond, pursu- 
ant to the act for the removal of the seat of government. When 
it came up a motion was made to strike it out and insert that it 
was expedient that measures should be taken to ascertain the 
opinion of the people as to the place to be fixed on for the seat 
of government. The amendment was negatived, and the origi- 
nal resolution was agreed to by a vote of sixty-three to fifty- 
seven. It is probable that the vote on the adoption of the 
resolution was the direct reverse of the vote in favor of the 
amendment; and if this supposition is true, then Nicholas voted 
with Patrick Henry, Madison, Marshall, and Strother, and against 
White, Tazewell, Prentis, Richard Henry Lee, King, Ruffin, and 
Matthews in other words, against the Williamsburg interest, 
which on such occasions was always upheld with ability by the 
delegate from that city, who was generally an able and clever 
tactician, and who at this time was the mild and venerated 
Prentis. 

I now come to a vote given by Nicholas on a subject which 
seriously perplexed the thoughts of our early statesmen during 
the period which elapsed between the close of the war and the 
adoption of the Federal Constitution. In that interval Virginia 
was truly and practically a sovereign State. In main respects 
she regulated her own commerce at her own discretion; laid 
duties on exports and imports; had or might have a navy of her 
own; did have her revenue cutters, and collected her marine 
dues in her custom-houses or by her officers on board the ships. 
This independent position involved important responsibilities, 
none of which was greater than that of building up a commercial 
marine. From the earliest times the British vessels traded up 
our bay and the larger streams, and discharged and received 
their cargoes at the landings, and sometimes almost at the barn- 
doors of the planters; and the result was a virtual proscription 
of the existence of any ships owned by Virginians, and a facility 
for smuggling which a large navy if a large navy had been 
practicable could not have entirely prevented. When, at the 



AVILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 309 

close of the war, it became necessary to levy duties on imports, 
and also on exports, it was seen that the facility of eluding all 
the regulations of revenue was such that the State would be 
compelled either tc establish innumerable places of deposit and 
entry the expense of which would almost entirely consume the 
amount derived from the customs or, in justice to the fair 
dealer, who would be ruined by the smugglers, to give up the 
scheme of a revenue from commerce altogether. At this con- 
juncture it was determined that a few places of deposit and entry 
should be chosen, as such a policy would not only secure the 
safe and speedy collection of the revenue, but tend to rear a 
commercial marine of our own. The transportation of freight 
to and from the specified ports would soon call into existence a 
class of men accustomed to the water and ready to man our 
ships, when they should be built, to foreign ports, and especially 
able to defend our coasts in time of war. The sagacity of 
Madison had embraced the whole subject, and he determined to 
bring the matter before the Assembly. 288 But there were many 
strong prejudices and powerful local interests to encounter. It is 
a trait of the Anglo-Saxon family derived, perhaps, from their 
piratical ancestors to hate taxes of all sorts, especially those 
accruing from the sea, and to love smuggling; and it was also a 
trait of our British forefathers of a later day, who were mainly 
agricultural, to hate towns, as interfering with their interests in 
more regards than one. Even since the accession of the Prince 
of Orange to the British throne there have been repeated efforts 
in Parliament by the county members to prevent the growth of 
London, and severe taxes have been proposed on every new 
building in the metropolis. The same prejudice existed in Vir- 
ginia, and, from obvious geographical considerations, to a much 
greater extent than in England. Our noble bay and our nume- 
rous rivers, though affording invaluable advantages to the farmer, 
are fatal to the existence of any large town, unless their naviga- 



288 1 have no authority derived from the Journals to sustain my asser- 
tion of the primacy of Madison on this subject ; but I have often heard 
old men, who lived thirty years ago, speak of Madison's scheme for 
building up towns and creating a coasting trade, etc. The present bill 
passed both houses, but was assailed and amended at every session, 
until the whole subject was transferred to the Government under the 
Federal Constitution. 



310 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

tion is controlled by stringent laws; and a large majority of a 
rural people, in deciding between the personal and immediate 
benefit derived from the free use of their streams by ships, 
foreign as well as domestic, and the apparently remote advan- 
tages springing from an economical collection of the revenue, and 
an efficient marine in case of war, appeared to dread a change. 

At the present session on the lyth of June the subject was 
presented on the passage of a bill to restrict foreign vessels to 
certain ports within the Commonwealth. The bill passed by a 
vote of sixty-four to fifty-eight; Patrick Henry, Madison, Strother, 
Corbin, Eyre, Mann Page, Jones (of King George), Edward 
Carrington, Philip Barbour, Prentis, Matthews, and others in the 
affirmative, and Nicholas, with Grayson, Marshall, Ruffin, White, 
and others in the negative. Tazewell and Richard Henry Lee 
were absent. I wish I could have recorded the name of Nicholas 
on that side of the question which posterity has substantially 
approved, but it must not be forgotten that he strenuously 
upheld the adoption of the Federal Constitution, which estab- 
lished the existing arrangement; as it was, I can only say that he 
voted in very decent company. 

The next vexed question which he had to encounter was the 
propriety of calling a Convention to revise the Constitution of 
the State. A few weeks after the adjournment of the Convention 
which formed that instrument, Wythe, in a letter to Jefferson, 
expressed himself in a way that would lead at first sight to 
the opinion that he believed an ordinary Legislature compe- 
tent to amend that instrument at pleasure, and a design was 
seriously meditated during the war of undertaking the office 
of revisal. 239 The attack made on the Constitution in the 
Notes on Virginia was not yet generally read, but it is proba- 
ble that the opinions of Mr. Jefferson had been uttered freely 
in conversation, and that his friends and among them Nicho- 
las knew what they were. The question now came up in 

289 In a review of the Life of Jefferson by Randall, in the Richmond 
Enquirer of isth of January, 1858, the language of Wythe is examined, 
and shown to be the result of forgetfulness for the moment, and not 
conflicting with the doctrine afterwards laid down by him, that an act 
of Assembly in conflict with the Constitution is void. A letter of 
George Mason's, deprecating the attempt to revise the Constitution by 
the Assembly, may be seen in the Virginia Historical Register. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 311 

the House on agreeing with the opinion of the Committee of 
the Whole, to which the Augusta petition in favor of calling a 
Convention had been referred, and which opinion was adverse to 
the prayer of the petition. The resolve set forth that the peti- 
tion should be rejected, " such a measure (as the call of a Con- 
vention) not being within the province of the House of Delegates 
to assume; but, on the contrary, it is the express duty of the 
representatives of the people, at all times and on all occasions, 
to preserve the same inviolable until a majority of all the free 
people shall direct a reform thereof." 

A motion was made to strike out the part quoted above, and 
was negatived by a vote of forty-two to fifty-seven. Nicholas was 
so much interested in the question that he rose and demanded 
the ayes and noes. He voted in the minority that is, in favor 
of striking out with John Taylor (of Caroline), Madison, Mar- 
shall, Stuart, Jones (of King George), Prentis, and Tazewell; 
while Henry, White, Strother, King, Eyre, Ruffin, Matthews, 
and his brother John were in the majority. The decision of the 
majority was that the Assembly had no right to call a Conven- 
tion, or to meddle with the matter, unless instructed by a majority 
of all the free people of the State; and it is presumed that the 
minority thought that the Assembly did possess the power of 
calling one without any formal instruction from the people. The 
opinion held forty four years later, when a Convention was 
called, seems to be intermediate between the opinions held by 
both parties on the present occasion. The Assembly then passed 
an act affording facilities for the expression of the wishes of the 
people on the subject, and, having learned that a majority of 
votes was cast in favor of calling a Convention, carried the public 
will into effect. 

He voted with the majority on the passage of the bill to amend 
the several acts concerning marriages, which was opposed by an 
able minority, headed by Tazewell, Grayson, Matthews, and 
others; and he witnessed the amusing scene, already described, 
which occurred when John Warden was brought before the House 
for a contempt. And he had the pleasure of voting for that statue 
to Washington, with the inscription on its base by Madison, 
which, so finely executed by Houdon, has for more than seventy 
years adorned the Capitol of Virginia. The session adjourned 
on the 3Oth of June. 



312 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

The House of Delegates reassembled on the i8th day of Octo- 
ber, but could not obtain a quorum for several days. The roll 
was called, the absent members were noted, and the sergeant-at- 
arms was instructed to take them into custody. In due time 
Nicholas, Henry, Madison, Adam Stephen, and Grayson were 
produced at the bar in custody of the sergeant, and were required 
to make their excuses for their delay in attending the session. 
Nicholas appeared on the 3oth. and was placed on the Commit- 
tee of Religion of which Norvell was chairman and on the 
Committee of Propositions and Grievances, with Tazewell at its 
head. 

The great question concerning religion came on the nth of 
November in the shape of a resolution from the Committee of the 
Whole, "that the people of the Commonwealth, according to 
their respective abilities, ought to pay a moderate tax or contri- 
bution annually for the support of the Cnristian religion, or of 
some Christian church, denomination, or communion of Chris- 
tians, or of some form of Christian worship." It has been com- 
mon to regard the assessment recommended by this resolution 
as the evidence of a lingering attachment to a church establish- 
ment; but nothing can be further from the true state of the case. 
To require all the sects of a Christian community, such as 
Virginia then was, to make a contribution to their respective 
churches was a measure which, so far from tending to consoli- 
date the sects and rear an establishment, was the most efficient 
that could be devised for rendering an establishment impractica- 
ble. It was essentially a measure of moral police, deemed advisa- 
ble at a time when the voluntary system had not been tried, 
except on a very small scale, and no more trenched on religious 
freedom than the setting apart of the first day of the week, 
under severe penalties, as a day of rest alike to Jew and Gentile, 
can be regarded as an infringement of religious liberty. The 
House happened to be thin when the question was taken, but 
the resolution was carried by a vote of forty-seven to thirty-two; 
Patrick Henry, Jones (of King George), Tazewell, Prentis, Coles, 
King, Wray, Edmunds (of Sussex), Edmunds (of Brunswick), 
Riddick, Eyre, and Allen voting in the affirmative, and Nicholas, 
with Madison, Strother, Johnston, Stuart, Spencer Roane, John 
Breckenridge, Porter, Russell, and Matthews, in the negative. A 
committee was appointed to bring in a bill in pursuance of the 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 313 

resolution, consisting of Henry, Corbin, Jones (of King George), 
Coles, Norvell, Wray, Jones (of Dinwiddie), Carter H. Harri- 
son, Tazewell, and Prentis. 

On the i yth of November the question concerning religion 
came up a second time on two resolutions, reported by the 
Committee of the Whole, which declared, first, that so much of 
the petition of the Presbytery of Hanover, and of the Baptist 
Association, as prays that the laws regulating the celebration of 
marriage, and relating to the construction of vestries, may be 
altered, is reasonable; and, secondly, that acts ought to pass for 
the incorporation of all societies of the Christian religion which 
may apply for the same. The first passed without a division, 
but the second excited a warm debate. White called for the 
ayes and noes, and we are thus enabled to learn how each mem- 
ber voted on the subject. The resolution, enforced as it was by 
-tbe eloquence of Henry, passed by a vote of sixty-two to 
twenty-three largely over two to one; Patrick Henry, Stuart, 
Spencer Roane, Jones (of King George), and Matthews voting 
for its passage, and Nicholas, with Madison, John Taylor (of 
Caroline), Strqther, White, Johnston, and John Trigg, against it. 
Of this resolution it may be said that it contained nothing exclu- 
sive. It offered equal facilities to all Christian sects. Matthews, 
Henry, Madison, and Others were appointed a committee to bring 
in a bill pursuant to the first resolution; and leave was immedi- 
ately granted to bring in a bill to incorporate the clergy of the 
Protestant Episcopal Church, and Carter H. Harrison, Henry, 
Thomas Smith, William Anderson, and Tazewell were ordered 
to prepare it. 

A bill was reported from the Committee of the Whole on the 
26th respecting the extradition of criminals, when a motion was 
made to strike out all after the enacting clause and insert a more 
explicit enactment instead. The motion prevailed; Madison, 
Tazewell, Eyre, Ruffin, Marshall, and Matthews in the affirma- 
tive, and Nicholas, with John Trigg, Strother, and Prentis, in 
the negative. The amended bill then passed without a division. 

It was on the 22d of December, 1784, that the engrossed bill 
incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church came up on its 
passage; and as soon as the blanks were filled the question was 
taken, and the bill passed by a vote of forty-seven to thirty- 
eight; Madison, Marshall, Grayson, Tazewell, and Jones (of King 



314 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

George) voting in the affirmative, and Nicholas, with Johnston, 
Porter, Stuart, and Roane, in the negative. John Taylor (of 
Caroline) was absent. To have a true notion of this bill, the 
reader will remember that it sprang from a resolution which 
accorded equal privileges to all sects, and that he has only to 
strike out the words "the Protestant Episcopal Church" and 
insert "the Baptist" or "the Presbyterian," and the case will be 
identically the same. Madison was doubtless the author of the 
bill, and while drawing it had in his possession (certainly under 
his guardianship) the famous bill concerning religious freedom, 
and a few months later drew the celebrated memorial, which was 
signed by thousands and returned to the Assembly by a large 
number of counties; and it is plain that if he had deemed the 
present bill hostile in any respect to the cause of religious free- 
dom, instead of drafting it and of voting for it, he would have 
been its warmest opponent. 

On the 24th another aspect of the religious question was pre- 
sented. The bill establishing a provision for the teachers of the 
Christian religion came up on its passage, and a motion was 
made to postpone its consideration until the fourth Thursday of 
November next, and was carried by a vote of forty-five to thirty- 
eight; Nicholas, with Madison, Johnston, Trigg, Stuart, Strother, 
Spencer Roane, Porter, and Matthews, voting in favor of post- 
poning, and John Marshall, Cropper, Benjamin Harrison, Jones 
(of King George), Eyre, Ruffin, Corbin, Willis Riddick, and 
Tazewell against it. The postponement was made with a view 
of consulting the opinions of the people upon it; and the bill 
was published in hand-bills, with the ayes and noes on postponing 
it annexed, copies of which were furnished to every member, 
who was instructed to obtain full information of the public will 
on the subject. 

It has been seen that Nicholas encountered all the leading 
religious questions of the day, and, although attached to the 
Episcopal Church, and urged by the eloquent persuasion of his 
pious mother against all hostile movements aimed at the Church 
of her affections, he steadily upheld in its broadest sense the 
doctrine of a disconnection of the State with religious affairs, 
passing a bowshot beyond Madison himself, and deserves all the 
credit that flows from such a course of action. On the other 
hand, it is due to the cause of justice to say that the policy of 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 315 

the majority was not only fair and liberal, but tended to multiply 
and strengthen individual sects instead of aggrandizing any one 
of them at the expense of others; and that in affording the 
people an opportunity of deciding whether a contribution should 
be levied for the support of any particular form of Christian wor- 
ship which the tax-payer preferred, they acted with deliberation, 
prudence, and wisdom. 

Although the session was occupied with many interesting sub- 
jects, those already specified embrace the only occasions on 
which the vote of Nicholas was recorded in the list of ayes and 
noes. It may be said, however, that in the main he belonged to 
the younger branch of the great party, of which Henry had long 
been the leader, engrafting upon the old trunk certain vigorous 
and fruitful scions from the gardens of " Montpelier" and "Mon- 
ticello." 

He was returned to the House of Delegates at the April elec- 
tion of 1785, and in the following October took his seat in the 
body. He was now to be present and to bear an honorable part 
in the deliberations of a session which, in the number of distin- 
guished men who composed the House, in the variety and mag- 
nitude of the subjects which were discussed and settled, and in 
the absorbing interest which it naturally excited among the 
people of all conditions and denominations, civil and religious, 
was hardly ever exceeded in our annals. It was, indeed, a 
glorious school for a young politician. We can readily imagine 
the sense of responsibility felt by Nicholas when, a few days after 
taking his seat, he saw Madison rise in his place and report, 
from the Committee of Courts of Justice (of which he was chair- 
man), a budget of one hundred and seventeen bills, contained in 
the Revised Code, and not of a temporary nature, and heard 
him recite deliberately the title of each.* 90 To maintain and 
defend so many important bills was a gigantic task, which no 
statesman had hitherto attempted, but which Madison, then in 
his thirty-fifth year, and in the prime and pride of his great 
powers and flushed with the glory he had won in the Congress 



290 This happened on the 3oth of October, 1785. The bills were seve- 
rally read a second time, says the Journal ; but. as a matter of fact, 
they were not read at all, except in a parliamentary sense, and were 
referred to a committee of the whole House on the following day. 



316 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

of the Confederation not only undertook, but carried through, 
with the skill and tact and that ever-abounding illustration that 
he always brought to bear upon every serious public exhibition 
of his life. These bills involved almost the entire policy of 
domestic legislation, and their critical examination and discus- 
sion were calculated to call forth the finest faculties of the mind 
and all the wisdom of human experience. Among his associates, 
beside Madison, the Corypheus of the group, were the veteran 
Harrison, who, lately Governor, now filled the Speaker's chair, 
and his old colleague John Tyler, John Taylor (of Caroline), 
and his namesake (of Southampton), Joseph Prentis, Meriwether 
Smith, James Innes, French Strother, Cuthbert Bullitt, Stuart 
(of Augusta) and his venerable colleague Zachariah Johnston, 
Turberville, Henry Lee (of the Legion), S. Jordan Cabell, Isaac 
Coles, the Bowyers, the Carys, and many others, who had either 
attained to distinction or were soon to win it. 

Having already reviewed the proceedings of this session, I 
shall confine myself to a notice of the votes given by Nicholas 
on the different questions as they arose. His two first votes 
reflect credit upon his independence, as he voted to send back 
to the people two prominent men whose elections were contested 
on just and legal grounds. He succeeded in sending Arthur 
Lee home; but he failed in the case of Harrison, who, having 
been beaten by Tyler in Charles City on the first Monday in the 
past April, moved over with a pot-boiler's outfit to Surry, and 
on the fourth Monday offered himself as a candidate for the 
House of Delegates, and was elected. As soon as Harrison took 
his seat in the House he became a candidate for the chair of the 
Speaker, which Tyler had filled the year before, and for which 
his name was now presented to the House, and defeated him. 
Harrison had no title to a seat in the body, and any other per- 
son in his position would have been ejected unanimously; but 
his public services and the Speakership saved him from the fate 
of Lee. 

The subject of the manumission of slaves was discussed on the 
1 3th of December. A report was made from a standing com- 
mittee, which recommended that so much of the petition of sun- 
dry citizens of Halifax as prayed for the repeal of the act to 
authorize the manumission of slaves was reasonable. A motion 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 317 

was made to strike out the words "is reasonable" and insert 
"be rejected," which was lost by the casting vote of the Chair, 
the House being equally divided; Nicholas voting against 
striking out (that is, in favor of the repeal of the act to author- 
ize the manumission of slaves) and Madison voting for striking 
out (that is, against the repeal). The main question was then put 
on the resolution as reported, and, some two or three members 
coming in, it was decided in the affirmative by a vote of fifty- 
one to fifty-two a majority of a single vote. This decision 
would seem to show how equally divided the politicians of that 
day were on the subject of manumission. Present public senti- 
ment sustains the vote which Nicholas gave on this occasion. 

The same subject was renewed on the 24th of December. 
The bill carrying into effect the report of the committee, which 
had been approved by the House, was read the first time, and 
when the question was on its second reading, it was rejected by 
the decided vote of fifty-two to thirty-five Nicholas in favor of 
the second reading and Madison against it. There must have 
been something in the details of the bill offensive to the House; 
for as soon as it was rejected a committee of which Nicholas 
was a member was ordered to bring in a bill to repeal the act 
in question, which was duly brought in and passed, under the 
title of an act concerning slaves, without a division. 

When the celebrated bill for establishing religious freedom 
came up on its second reading, 291 on a motion to strike out the 
preamble from the pen ,of Jefferson and insert the sixteenth 
section of the Declaration of Rights in its stead, Nicholas voted 
with the majority against the amendment; and when the bill was 
read- a third time, on the following day, he was one of the large 
majority (seventy-four to twenty) which voted for its passage. 
And when the bill came back from the Senate again and again, 
with the amendments of that body, he always voted to retain, as 
far as 'possible, the language of its author and its catholic spirit." 2 

Those who voted for the bill for establishing religious freedom 
merit the applause of their country. They gave to the world a 

191 December 16, 1785. 

292 The bill was bandied between the two houses for nearly a fortnight. 
For a correct view of the original bill, with the amendments in a single 
view, see Randall's Life of Jefferson, Vol. I, 219. 



318 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

conspicuous and deliberate example of liberal legislation on the 
question of religion, and showed that, at that early day, they 
fully appreciated the subject in all its bearings. What could 
fairly be done by act of Assembly they accomplished. But 
while history bestows all foir and liberal praise upon the friends 
of the bill, it is due to justice not to visit with harsh censure the 
small minority of members whose votes are recorded against it. 
The truth is that, in a certain sense, the bill came too late. Had 
it been passed when it was written by its author, its effect would 
have been original as well as conclusive. But it had been kept 
back seven or eight years, and until the substantial policy which 
it prescribed was secured by law. The equality of all sects had 
already been recognized and established, and the same privileges 
were offered to all. With this view of the case, those who voted 
against the bill, while they regarded it as effecting no new or real 
change in existing laws, were strongly inclined to interpret the 
language of the preamble as in some instances hostile to the 
orthodox doctrines of the Christian religion. 293 Hence they 
sought to substitute for the long preamble, with its questionable 
theology, the seventh section of the Declaration of Rights, which 
was succinct, thorough, explicit covering the whole ground of 
religious freedom and, from its origin, imparting dignity and 
authority to the act, while it was wholly free from religious 
ambiguity. It is also probable that the minority were favorable 
to the policy of assessments a policy which Patrick Henry, 
George Washington, Richard Henry .Lee, and other illustrious 
patriots approved, and which was not only compatible with the 
bitterest hostility to an establishment, but actually rendered the 
existence of such an institution impossible; and though they 
believed that the bill establishing religious freedom did not 
necessarily condemn the policy of assessments, as recorded in 
the bill, to carry that purpose into effect, yet that such a meaning 
might be placed upon it; and they preferred that the policy of 
assessments should be decided independently and on its own 
merits. A glance at the names of the minority will detect those 



293 It should be remembered that the bill, as we now have it, was 
freed by the Senate from some strong objections which pious men 
might entertain to its details; but when the bill passed the House of 
Delegates, on the iyth, it contained these objectionable parts. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 319 

of some of the purest, most liberal, and most undaunted Repub- 
licans of their times. !9t 

On the nth of January, 1786, an engrossed bill to amend the 
act restricting foreign vessels to certain ports within the Common- 
wealth was put upon its passage, and was carried by a vote of 
fifty to forty-six Nicholas happening to be out of the House at 
the time. With his usual policy Madison sustained the bill. 

Numerous and important as were the subjects discussed and 
settled during the session, one of the most memorable, not only 
in our own State but throughout the Union, was reserved to the 
last day. Soon after the Journal was read John Tyler rose in 
his place and offered the following resolution: 

"Resolved, That Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Walter 
Jones, Saint George Tucker, and Meriwether Smith, Esqs. , be 
appointed commissioners, who, or any three of whom, shall 
meet such commissioners as may be appointed by the other 
States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take 
into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine 
the relative situations and trade of the said States; to consider 
how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be 
necessary to their common interest and their permanent har- 
mony; and to report to the several States such an act relative to 



' m ln my assumed character of attorney for the Commonwealth of the 
past, though I shall not hesitate to condemn any man or measure 
when it is just so to do, I abhor any indirect reflection on the men 
and measures of the early days of the Commonwealth. One of the 
minority against the hill was that sterling patriot, John Page, the class- 
mate of Jefferson and his life long friend the only member of the 
Council of Duhmore who stood up for Patrick Henry in his powder 
foray. Throughout the war he was a true patriot and a thorough 
Republican. As a member of the first Congress under the present 
Constitution, and as a Republican elector of 1800, he rendered most 
efficient service to his country, which was recognized by the Assembly 
when they conferred the office of Governor upon him. His paper, 
addressed to Meriwether Jones, when that gentleman was collecting 
materials for a continuation of Burk, is thoroughly democratic. In 
Church and State he was ever fair and liberal. In private life he was 
so pure that he was requested, as we are told by Bishop Meade, to take 
orders, that he might be elected the Bishop of the Episcopal Church 
of Virginia. He died at Richmond October 11, 1808; aged sixty-four. 
Peace and honor to his gentle and gracious memory. 



320 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

this great object as, when unanimously ratified by them, will 
enable the United Stales in Congress effectually to provide for 
the same." 

It was twice read and agreed to without a division. Matthews 
was ordered to take it immediately to the Senate, which body 
acted on it forthwith and approved it, with certain amendments. 
The House concurred in some of the amendments and refused 
to concur in others. Matthews again took the bill to the Senate, 
which receded from its amendments, and the resolution was a 
law. 295 Annapolis was chosen as the place of meeting; and 
measures were there and then adopted which resulted in the 
call of the General Convention which formed the present Federal 
Constitution. How short is the space traversed by the vision of 
the wisest men! Had Tyler been re-elected at the beginning of 
the session to the Speaker's chair, the loss of which, under the 
circumstances, was deeply mortifying to him, he could not have 
taken the honorable part in debate at this important juncture 
which now confers so much credit upon his character; nor could 
he have made a solitary motion on the floor of the House; and 
he would have forfeited the honor of having offered a resolution 
which may be said to have laid the corner-stone of the Federal 
Constitution, and which will cause his remotest posterity to 
rejoice in the glory of their ancestor. I doubt not that Nicholas, 
who was the neighbor and the intimate friend of Madison 
through life, was privy to the plan of presenting the resolution 
by the hands of a leading member of the majority at this late 
stage of the session; and though he did not offer it himself, he 
cordially approved it, and in this way connected his name honor- 
ably with an extraordinary epoch. 

Having obtained a competent knowledge of the conduct of 
public bodies and of the prominent politicians of the State, and 
having been engaged in the adjustment of some of the most 
delicate and interesting questions of the day, Nicholas now with- 
drew for a season from public life and devoted his attention to 
his private affairs. It was not until the assembling of the pres- 
ent Convention, on the 2d day of June, 1788, that he appeared 
in a public body. He was returned, as the colleague of his 
brother George, from the county of Albemarle; and, though he 

295 See the history of the resolution treated in detail, ante. 



v 

\ 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 

did not engage formally in debate, he was regarded as one of the 
most useful and most effective friends of the new Federal system. 
His votes have already been recorded; and it will suffice to say 
that he opposed the scheme of previous amendments and voted 
in favor of the ratification of the Constitution. When the Con- 
vention adjourned he returned to Albemarle and embarked with 
fresh zest in agricultural pursuits, which, above all the honors of 
political life which he lived to attain, were the source of his 
purest enjoyments. 

The adoption of the Federal Constitution had wrought a 
material change in our political system. The progress of the 
new administration was watched with the strictest vigilance; but 
the subject which more particularly attracted the attention of a 
large majority of the Assembly and of the people was the proba- 
ble fate of the amendments, which Virginia had proposed by her 
Convention, to the Constitution. One session of the new Con- 
gress had been held, and some of the amendments had been 
adopted, but the fate of others was deemed very uncertain. 
The Assembly met on the igth day of October, 1789, and 
Nicholas appeared in the House of Delegates as a member from 
Albemarle. He saw in the chair of the Speaker Thomas Mat- 
thews, with whom he had previously served in the House and 
lately in the Convention; and among the members though 
Tazewell and Prentis had been translated to the bench, and 
Grayson, Lee, Madison, Coles, Page, Moore, White, and Bland 
were in the new Congress-r-were some of the ablest friends and 
of the most uncompromising opponents of the new government. 
Patrick Henry, however, was still a member, and Benjamin Har- 
rison, Edmund Randolph, Dawson, Strother, Henry Lee (of the 
Legion), Wormeley, Richard Lee, Edward Carrington, Briggs, 
Edmunds (of Sussex), Norvell, Marshall, and a number of old 
politicians, who, having flung aside forever (as they supposed) 
the armor of politics, had determined to venture another cam- 
paign and observe the progress of a fresh political organization. 

Hitherto, for the most part, the ruling majority, which, since 
1765, had usually controlled the local and, at a later day, the 
Federal politics of Virginia, had remained unbroken by any seri- 
ous schism; but in the recent struggles consequent upon the 
formation of the new Federal system some of its younger and 

more promising members had favored that scheme, and were in 
21 



VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

a state of isolation in respect of their old friends. Was this state 
of parties to continue, or were the old majority to unite with 
the youthful seceders, or were the youthful seceders to return 
to the fold ? In other words, should the brilliant and accom- 
plished Edmund Rahdolph, who happened to be the latest of 
the seceders, or Patrick Henry, the old and eloquent oracle of 
the Republican hosts, be the leader of the majority ? 

The second day of the session was marked by a deep and 
ingenious design on the part of the Federalists as the friends 
of the Constitution were called. It was proposed that a com- 
mittee be appointed to prepare an address to President Wash- 
ington, declaring the high sense felt by the House of his eminent 
merit, congratulating him on his exaltation to the first office 
among freemen, assuring him of their unceasing attachment, and 
supplicating the Divine benediction on his person and adminis- 
tration. It passed unanimously. Henry Lee, who doubtless 
offered the resolution, was appointed chairman of the committee 
of eight to prepare the address; Nicholas was one of its mem- 
bers. Of the eight, all were Federalists but two. The address 
was reported on the 2yth, was recommitted, was reported with- 
out amendment on the following day, and was unanimously 
adopted. 

On the 5th of November Nicholas was placed on a committee 
to bring in a bill for the cession of ten miles square for the per- 
manent seat of the Federal Government. Henry Lee, who 
offered the resolution, was chairman, and Edward Carrington, 
John Marshall, and Corbin were members. It is remarkable 
that there was not an opponent of the Constitution on the com- 
mittee, which was appointed by the Speaker, who was a Fede- 
ralist. The bill was duly reported, and passed both houses. 
This was the first connection of Nicholas with the ten miles 
square, within which, in the process of time, he was to act a 
conspicuous part. Nicholas opposed the bill for regulating and 
fixing the salaries of the officers of civil government, which pre- 
vailed by a vote of seventy to sixty- five. I hope that the ground 
of his opposition was the meanness of the salaries. When the 
test question concerning the payment of the taxes in specie came 
up on the I3th of November, which seems to have settled the 
subject in favor of hard money, he happened to be out of the 
House. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 323 

The first regular skirmish between the new parties occurred 
on the 5th of December on a resolution reported from the Com- 
mittee of the Whole, which declared that the Assembly ought to 
call the attention of Congress to the propriety of acting on the 
amendments to the Constitution proposed by Virginia, not 
included in those already acted upon. A motion was made to 
strike out the resolution entirely and insert a more stringent one 
in its place, and was negatived by the casting vote of the 
Speaker the vote being sixty-two to sixty-two. Henry was 
absent, and Randolph, Marshall, and Nicholas carried the day 
by the aid of the Speaker. 

The act for establishing religious freedom was not altogether 
conclusive of all the topics connected with the late establishment; 
and the Baptist Association petitioned for a sequestration of the 
glebes. Their memorial was referred to the Committee of Reli- 
gion, which (November 2yth) reported that the disposition of 
church property was a serious question, not to be decided in 
haste, and that it ought to be referred to the people. A motion 
was made to amend the report by substituting in its stead an 
amendment, which declared that the House would uphold the 
act for establishing religious freedom forever; that the contest 
for the glebes, churches, and chapels was not a religious question, 
but should be decided by the rules of private property, etc. 
The report and amendment were then referred to the Committee 
of the Whole, which reported (December 9th) a resolution post- 
poning the Baptist memorial, with its appendages, to the 3ist 
day of March next. The resolution prevailed by a vote of 
sixty-nine to fifty-eight Nicholas, William Cabell, Jr., Edmund 
Randolph, John Marshall, Mann Page, Clement Carrington, 
Norvell, King, Booker, Henry Lee (of the Legion), and others 
in favor of postponing, and Johnston, John Trigg, James Breck- 
enridge, Prunty, Vanmeter, Green Clay, Crockett, McClerry, 
McKee, Hugh Caperton, and others against it. The vote 
plainly indicated a geographical caste, the East voting in the 
affirmative and the West in the negative. When we estimate 
the comparatively small value of the property in question its 
position, the doubt and uncertainty likely to result from the 
contest for its possession, during which the houses would be 
turned into ruins, to say nothing of the public time and money 
spent therein, and the prejudices engendered during the strife it 



324 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

would have been wise to adopt the amendment, which referred 
the right of property in the glebes and buildings to the courts 
of law, where, at this stage of the contest, it certainly belonged; 
and it is to the credit of Nicholas that he took this view of so 
perplexing a question. 

Many grave questions were decided during the session, a view 
of some of which may be seen elsewhere; 296 but I have confined 
myself to those topics in the settlement of which the votes of 
Nicholas are recorded. From the number of select committees 
to which he was assigned it is evident that he was gradually 
taking his place in the front rank of his political associates; and 
it is probable that, in the troubled state of domestic and Federal 
relations existing during his apprenticeship in the Assembly and 
in the Convention, he imperceptibly acquired that knowledge of 
the world, and that intuitive tact in composing feuds or in twist- 
ing them to his purposes, which the good-natured part of his 
opponents were wont, at a subsequent day and in a wider scene, 
to attribute such wondrous effects. 297 

Before we follow Nicholas beyond the limits of the Common- 
wealth we must trace him in a memorable session of the House 
of Delegates, in which he held a conspicuous position. It is 
difficult, at the present day, to estimate the intensity of the 
excitement which raged during the administration of the elder 
Adams. Brother was estranged from brother, father from son; 
the courtesies of life were disregarded, and the stamp of worth 
was looked for not in the moral qualities that compose a vir- 
tuous and honorable character, but in the color of the flag under 
which an individual fought. There was a strong majority of the 
Federal party in both houses of Congress; and the administra- 
tion, having the Legislature in its hands, unwisely determined 
to use it as a means of curbing the spirit of the people. The 
sedition law was passed, and it is a known fact in Virginia that 
every man who made a speech to his neighbors was watched, 
and his words were weighed by his opponents, in the hope of 
finding some expression which could be tortured by the Federal 
courts into an offence to be visited with fine and imprisonment 

298 Review of the session, ante. 

297 Nicholas held a seat in the House of Delegates from 1794 to 1798, 
but our limits will not allow us to trace him at length. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 325 

in a common jail. The alien law was deemed harsh and unjust, 
especially on the seaboard; but in the interior, where aliens were 
comparatively unknown, there were no subjects on which it 
could operate, and it was discussed on grounds of general 
policy. Had the counsels of such pure and able statesmen as 
John Marshall prevailed, the sedition law would not have dis- 
graced the statute-book of a free country. 198 But madness ruled 
the hour, and the majority in Congress resolved to appeal to the 
fears rather than to the affections of the people. The minority 
in both houses was outvoted, but not cast down; and, as all 
opposition on the floor was of no avail upon legislation, it was 
determined to transfer the contest from the Federal Capitol to 
the Legislatures of the several States. Some leading members 
of Congress vacated their seats and entered the House of Dele- 
gates; and resolutions, drawn with eminent skill, and embodying 
what was deemed the true view of the nature of the Federal 
compact, as well as a severe analysis of some of the obnoxious 
measures of the administration, embraced the chart of the cam- 
paign. Those adopted by Kentucky were from the pen of 
Jefferson, and those which produced the memorable debate in 
the House of Delegates of which we shall proceed to give an 
account though offered by- John Taylor (of Caroline), were 
drafted by Mr. Madison. 

It was on the i3th day of December, 1798, that the House of 
Delegates of Virginia went into Committee of the Whole on the 
resolutions of John Taylor. James Breckenridge, whose life, 
protracted almost to our own day, has made his venerable figure 
known to many now living, and who belonged to the Federal 
party, was called to the chair." 99 John Taylor then rose and 
spoke for several hours in support of the resolutions, which were 
believed to be his own. When he ended George Keith Taylor, 
an able and excellent man, too soon snatched away from the 
bar which he adorned by his genius and learning, and from 
society, of which he was a shining light, moved that the com- 
mittee rise; but upon an inquiry from Nicholas whether he 



298 " He gave his vote to repeal the obnoxious clause of the sedition 
act." (Plunder's Lives of the Chief Justices, Vol. II, 395. 

299 In my early youth while travelling on horseback to the West I saw 
General Breckenridge as I was passing his beautiful seat in Botetourt. 
I remember his courteous salutation to an unknown lad, covered with 
the dust of travel. [He died in August, 1846 EDITOR.] 



326 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

designed to prevent any one from speaking who might be dis- 
posed to take the floor, withdrew his motion. But, as no mem- 
ber seemed inclined to speak, the committee rose and the House 
adjourned. On the following day (i4th) George Keith Taylor 
replied at great length and with all his accustomed ability to the 
speech of his namesake from Caroline. Having spoken for 
several hours he took his seat, and was followed by William 
Ruffin in support of the resolutions. He was succeeded on the 
same side by John Pope (of Prince William), who indulged in 
some humorous remarks. John Allen (of James City) then 
spoke in favor of the resolutions until the adjournment. On the 
I7th James Barbour (of Orange), then a very young man, and 
destined in after life to serve with distinction in the office of 
Governor at an eventful crisis, of Senator of the United States, 
of Secretary at War, and of Minister at the Court of St. James, 
addressed the committee, replying in detail to the arguments of 
the gentleman from Prince George and in review of the policy 
of the administration of Adams. His speech was prepared 
with care, and made a favorable impression upon the House. 
At its close the House adjourned. Next morning (i8th) Archi- 
bald Magill (of Frederick) spoke in opposition to the resolu 
tions and in reply to Barbour, and was in turn replied to by 
Foushee (of the city of Richmond), who was followed by 
Edmund Brooke (of Prince William) in opposition until the 
adjournment. On the following day (igth) Pope replied to his 
colleague Brooke, and was followed by William Daniel, Jr. (of 
Cumberland), afterwards known as a distinguished judge of the 
General Court, in an exceedingly able speech, which displayed 
those characteristics of his mind to which he owed his reputa- 
tion. He examined in minute detail and with consummate tact 
and research the arguments of Taylor (of Prince George), and 
showed an ability in debate that must have led to the highest 
political preferment. When he concluded his speech, after 
some conversation between General Henry Lee and Nicholas, 
William Cowan (of Lunenburg) addressed the committee in 
opposition to the resolutions until the adjournment. 800 

300 William Cowan is the " Billie Cowan" who was "to show Patrick 
Henry the law" in the famous beef case at New London. He was an 
able lawyer, a man of pure morals, and, indeed of eminent piety, but 
his manner and the tones of his voice were ludicrously solemn; so that 
when he spoke he always appeared to be preaching a funeral sermon. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 327 

On the 20th General Henry Lee took the floor and spoke with 
much ingenuity and with sober earnestness in defence of the 
alien and sedition laws and against the resolutions; and was fol- 
lowed by Peter Johnston, 801 who had fought gallantly in the war 
of the South under the standard of Legion Harry, whom he now 
rose to answer, and who was afterwards a judge of the General 
Court. He was followed by John Taylor (of Caroline), in reply 
to the arguments which had been urged by him when last up; 
and when he concluded, after a short speech from Thomas M. 
Bayley (of Accomac), against the resolutions, the committee 
rose, and the House adjourned. 

On the 2ist George Keith Taylor replied to his namesake of 
Caroline, and to other speakers who had sustained the resolu- 
tions, in a speech of several hours, which was marked by great 
ability of argumentation and by splendid eloquence, and which 
closed in the following words: " May He who rules the hearts of 
men still dispose us to yield obedience to the constitutional acts 
of the majority; may He avert the mischiefs which these resolu- 
tions are calculated to produce; may He increase the love of 
union among our citizens; may no precipitate acts of the Legis- 
lature of Virginia convulse or destroy it; and, to sum up all in 
one word, may it be perpetual." 

When Taylor finished his speech there was a solemn pause 
for a few moments in the proceedings of the House, when a 
member rose in his place, who seemed to be in the prime of 
manhood, and who, elegantly dressed in blue and buff, booted 
and spurred, and with a riding-whip in his hand, had entered the 
House just as Taylor rose to speak. He placed his hat upon his 
knee, and would now and then use the top of it as a resting- 
place for a small slip of paper, on which he would scribble a 
note. He had entered Congress in 1790, but, until the present 
session, had never been a member of the Assembly; and though 
his fame was diffused throughout the Union, he had never spoken 



He was requested to become a minister of one of the churches, hut he 
wisely declined to change his profession so late in life. See the Life 
of Dr. A. Alexander by his son, James Waddell Alexander, whose 
recent death I deeply deplore as I trace these lines. 

301 [Father of General Joseph Eggleston Johnston, late Confederate 
States Army. EDITOR.] 



328 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

on a great public question in his native State. But on this, as on 
all subsequent occasions to the end of a long life, when he was 
called^upon to address a public body, his simple and sensible 
narrative, his clear and plausible reasoning, the tact with which 
he either spiked the artillery of his opponents or turned its 
thunders against them, and his familiar knowledge of life and 
manners in Virginia, from which he mainly drew his illustrations, 
produced a great sensation in the House, and abated at once and 
by the force of magic the grave argument and the impressive 
declamation of Keith Taylor. Such were the victories William 
Branch Giles was wont to win in the pride of his extraordinary 
powers. He was, more than any man of his generation, a natu- 
ral debater, attaining almost by intuition to the rank which he 
soon reached; relied upon as a forlorn hope implicitly by his 
friends, wresting victory where victory was not hopeless, and 
more dreaded by his ablest opponents than was any other of his 
distinguished contemporaries. 302 

At the close of Giles's speech a motion was made by General 
Henry Lee to strike out a part of one of the resolutions, when 
Nicholas rose and opposed the amendment. After demonstrating 
in some detail the bad effect of the measures of the administra- 
tion of Adams, he repelled the charge of disunion made by 
Keith Taylor, and closed his remarks by declaring " that he had 
been a member of the Convention that adopted the Constitution; 
that he had been uniformly a friend to it; that he considered 
himself as now acting in support of it; that he knew it was the 
artifice of those on the other side to endeavor to attach a sus- 
picion of hostility to the Federal Government to those who dif- 
fered with them in opinion. For his part, he despised such 
insinuations, as far as they might be levelled at him. He appealed 
to his past life for his justification. The friends of the resolu- 
tions yield to none in disinterested attachment to their country, 
to the Constitution of the United States, to union, and to liberty. 
He said he had full confidence that the amendment would be 
rejected, and that the resolutions, without further alteration, 

^Governor Tazewell, who was a member of the House, informed 
me of the appearance of Giles in this debate. By the way, these two 
eminent men never came in collision. Randolph, in the Convention of 
1829, playfully alluded to Giles in debate ; but they never met in a fair 
fight, though.opposed to each other in Congress in high party times. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 329 

would meet the approbation of a great majority of that House." 
Lee replied, and was followed by Samuel Tyler afterwards 
Chancellor in opposition to the amendment (which was rejected) 
and in a general defence of the resolutions. The main question 
was then put, and the resolutions were carried by a vote of one 
hundred to sixty-three. They were immediately sent to the 
Senate, and passed that body on the 24th by a vote of fourteen 
to three. The eighth resolution required the Governor to trans- 
mit a copy of the series to the executive authority of each of the 
other States, with a request that the same may be communicated 
to the Legislature thereof. 303 

The House of Delegates at its present session contained a 
large number of men then eminent, or who subsequently attained 
to distinction in the public service. Besides such as John Tay- 
lor (of Caroline), George Keith Taylor, Giles, Breckenridge, 
Samuel Tyler, Henry Lee, and others of that stamp, there were 
Littleton Waller Tazewell, James Barbour, William Henry 
Cabell (afterwards Governor and president of the Court of 
Appeals), William Daniel, Thomas Newton, Archibald Magill, 
James Pleasants (afterwards Governor, senator, and judge), 
Peter Johnston, William McCoy (long a member of Congress), 
and others of great respectability. A representation of the Con- 
vention of 1788 still appeared in both houses of the Assembly. 
In the Senate were Archibald Stuart, Richard Kennon, French 
Strother, George Carrington, and Benjamin Temple, all of whom 
sustained the resolutions; and in the House were Wilson Cary 
Nicholas, Worlich Westwood, John Prunty, James Johnson (of 
Isle of Wight, the survivor of the Convention), William O. 
Callis, Willis Riddick, Henry Lee, and Robert Andrews, all of 
whom, except the two last named, voted in favor of the resolu- 
tions. 

While the friends of the resolutions were rejoicing at their 
triumphant passage through the Assembly, their feelings were 
shocked by the intelligence of the death of an illustrious states- 
man, who was regarded as one of the ablest champions of their 



303 The resolutions were slightly amended during the discussion. The 
student who wishes to examine the subject in detail will refer t6 the 
valuable little work containing the speeches and proceedings of the 
sessions on Federal matters, issued in 1850 by J. W. Randolph, of 
Richmond. 



330 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

party in the Senate of the United States, and whose ability was 
greatly relied on to uphold the doctrines of the resolutions 
on the floor of that body. Judge Henry Tazewell had been 
exposed during his' journey in mid-winter to Philadelphia, where 
Congress then held its sessions, but was able to take his seat on 
the 2ist of January, 1799. His disease, however, resisted the 
efforts of his physicians, and he died on the morning of the 24th. 
When the Assembly proceeded to fill the vacancy caused by his 
death, Wilson Gary Nicholas was chosen to fill the unexpired 
term. When we count over the names of the distinguished 
men who either had been or were subsequently candidates for a 
seat in the Senate when we recollect that Madison, Giles, Tay- 
lor (of Caroline), Andrew Moore, and others of equal celebrity 
were within the range of selection it plainly shows the estima- 
tion in which Nicholas was held that he was chosen to execute 
such an important trust at that extraordinary epoch in the state 
of parties. 

Nicholas took his seat in the Senate of the United States on 
the 3d day of January, 1800, just after Henry Lee, his associate 
in the House of Delegates, had delivered his eloquent eulogy on 
the death of Washington before both houses of Congress. The 
first vote which he gave was to strike out from a bill to regulate 
disputed presidential elections part of the first clause, which 
assigned certain duties in the premises to the Chief Justice, or, 
in his absence, to the next oldest judge. The motion to strike 
out failed by a vote of eleven to nineteen; and Nicholas had an 
opportunity of knowing, for the first time, how men feel who 
vote in a minority. The next subject he was called to vote upon 
was a resolution, offered by Tracy (of Connecticut), instructing 
the Committee of Privileges and Elections to inquire who was 
the editor of the Aurora newspaper, how he came in possession 
of a copy of the bill prescribing the mode of deciding disputed 
presidential elections, published in one of the numbers of his 
paper, and how he knew this and how he knew that; and to 
report the answers to the Senate. Cocke (of Tennessee) made a 
strong, common-sense speech against it, and was followed in a 
very elaborate harangue by Charles Pinckney, who showed the 
utter futility and inexpediency of making war upon the press. 
When several members had spoken, it was moved to postpone 
the resolution till the following Tuesday; but the motion failed 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 331 

by a vote of nine to nineteen; Nicholas and his colleague, Stevens 
Thomson Mason, in the minority. Nicholas then rose and asked 
for information. Was it intended by this resolution to charge 
the committee with inquiring into a breach of privilege, as it 
respected a majority of this body ? For the resolution itself fur- 
nished no correct idea on this point. He wished also to know 
whether it was intended that the Senate should declare that the 
publication was a breach of privilege. Tracy, the author of the 
resolution, made an evasive reply. Humphrey Marshall then 
proposed to amend it by instructing the committee to make 
similar inquiries about a publication in a Federal paper, which 
he pronounced a hundred-fold more outrageous than the article 
in the Aurora; but his amendment was voted down Nicholas 
sustaining it. 

On the 8th of March the original resolution passed, unamended, 
by a vote of nineteen to eight Nicholas and Mason in the 
minority. The report of the committee was made on the i8th, 
and concluded with a resolution that pronounced the article in the 
Aurora to be false, defamatory, and scandalous, and tending to 
defame the Senate and excite against them the hatred of the 
people of the United States. The resolution was agreed to by 
a vote of twenty to eight Nicholas and Mason opposing it. 
The report in full was adopted on the 2Oth by a vote of eighteen 
to ten Nicholas and Mason in the minority. 30 ' Then a commit- 
tee was appointed to prepare a form of proceedings for the trial 
of Duane, the editor of the Aurora; but, as I have already 
detailed these miserable proceedings in another place, 505 it is 
only necessary to say that Nicholas voted throughout on the 
side of the freedom of the press. Indeed, he must have con- 
trasted painfully the freedom of the press and of speech, with 
which he had been familiar in Virginia, with the odious tyranny 
which was sought to be visited upon an editor by so grave a 
body as the Senate of the United States. 

The next question which the Senate discussed was the amend- 
ment of the judicial system of the Union. A bill to amend the 
act to establish the judicial courts of the United States was 

304 For the report and resolution, and the subsequent proceedings in 
the case, see Benton's Debates, Vol. II, 422. 

305 In the sketch of Stevens Thomson Mason. 



332 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

brought in by Charles Pinckney on the 5th of March, was 
explained and enforced by that gentleman 'with much plausibility 
and at considerable length, and referred to a committee, which 
reported certain amendments. Nicholas in vain strove to modify 
its details, and the bill passed to its third reading. It ultimately 
passed both houses, became a law, and was repealed in 1802, 
when Nicholas was present and voted for the repeal. But I 
must not anticipate. 

The Senate resumed its session on the lyth of November, 
1799, but Nicholas did not appear until the 25th. One of the 
first duties to be performed by the Senate was to examine the 
electoral votes for President and Vice- President. A resolution, 
which was strongly characteristic of the temper of a majority of 
the body, that had spent a large part of its last session in perse- 
cuting a poor printer, was offered February 10, 1800, to pro- 
hibit any person from being admitted into the gallery when the 
two houses shall proceed to count the electoral votes for Presi- 
dent and Vice- President. Why the few people who might hap- 
pen to be in Washington, in which the session of Congress was 
now held for the first time, and which was a sheer wilderness, 
should not be allowed the gratification of overlooking from the 
gallery so interesting a procedure, can only be explained on the 
ground that the Federal majority, which was conscious that the 
sceptre was about to pass from its hands, were fearful of a shout* 
or a smile, or a sneer from the victors. The proceeding was 
the more disreputable, as the two houses were to assemble in the 
Senate chamber, and each had a right to be consulted in the 
premises. The resolution was carried by a vote of sixteen to 
ten Nicholas and Mason voting in the minority, and in favor of 
that policy which prevails with universal acceptance in our 
times. The House of Representatives on the same day notified 
the Senate that they would attend on Wednesday next for the 
purpose of being present at the opening and counting of the 
votes, and that they had appointed Rutledge and John Nicholas 
tellers on their part. The Senate then appointed Wells (of 
Delaware) their teller. On the nth the votes were counted, 
and the result was that Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr had 
received seventy-three each; that John Adams had received 
sixty-five; that Charles Cotesworth Pinckney had received sixty- 
four; and that John Jay had received one. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 333 

As the number of votes received by Jefferson and Burr was 
the same, the office of the Senate was performed, and the decision 
devolved on the House of Representatives. On the i8th that 
House informed tht Senate that Thomas Jefferson had been 
chosen by them as President of the United States for the term 
commencing on the 4th of March next. In this decision Nicho- 
las saw the triumph of the party to which he was attached, and 
in the conduct of which he was to lend his influence till the close 
of his life. 

Though ruled by a stern majority, Nicholas was occasionally 
placed on important committees that were raised during the 
session. He was one of the committee to which was referred 
the bill to prohibit the Secretary of the Navy from carrying on 
any business of trade, commerce, or navigation. He also reported 
the bill providing for a naval peace establishment, with amend- 
ments, which were concurred in by the Senate. The bill passed 
unanimously. On the 3d the session terminated, but the Senate 
was immediately convoked by the new President in its executive 
capacity, and sat for two days. 

When the Seventh Congress assembled in the city of Wash- 
ington, on the yth day of December, 1801, Nicholas appeared in 
his seat on the first day of the session. Heretofore neither him- 
self nor his colleague had been very punctual in their attendance, 
as it was known that no vote of a Republican member was likely 
to affect the fate of any question before the Senate; but the case 
was now altered, and every Democratic vote was needed to sus- 
tain the Government. The first reform of the new administration 
was a personal one, affecting the President as an individual. Up 
to this period it had been customary for that officer to deliver 
his opening speech before the two houses in joint session. The 
speech was responded to by an address from the houses. This 
address called forth a letter of acknowledgment from the Presi- 
dent. But the good sense of Jefferson impelled him to put an 
end to a custom which, however appropriate in a strictly parlia- 
mentary government like that of England, was inconvenient and 
often embarrassing here, and he accordingly accompanied his 
message 806 to the heads of the two houses with an explanatory 

^Though the first message to Congress was delivered orally, all 
other communications from the President during the session were in 
writing. 



334 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

note. Henceforth all the communications between the Execu- 
tive and the legislative departments were to be in writing. 

The first regular skirmish between the rival parties occurred 
on a resolution to admit stenographers within the area of the 
Senate, at the discretion of the President in respect of the place 
in which they should sit. The resolution passed at first without 
a division, but a motion was made to reconsider, which prevailed 
by a vote of seventeen to nine; all the Federal members, in the 
hope of curtailing the privilege, and some of the Republicans, in 
the hope of enlarging it, voting in the affirmative. Nicholas, 
however, opposed the motion, fearing lest, in the nicely-balanced 
state of parties, the liberal purpose of the resolution might be 
trenched upon. Nor were his suspicions vain; for a motion was 
immediately made by a Federal member to exact from each 
stenographer a bond in a certain sum, with two sureties for a 
certain sum, as a pledge for his good conduct. The amendment 
was lost nearly all the Federal and wavering members voting for 
it. The resolution was then amended to include note-takers as 
well as stenographers, by a vote of sixteen to twelve, and ulti- 
mately passed without division. 

It is profitable to recur to the various gradations by which we 
have reached the freedom we now enjoy. Every theory of a 
republican government should seem to involve a public pro- 
cedure of its representatives; as otherwise their actions could not 
be known until it was too late to prevent a mischievous result. 
But our reasoning and experience on this subject had been 
derived from England, where, even to this moment, a standing 
order of the House of Commons, though fallen into disuse, pro- 
hibits the publication of their debates without the formal consent 
of the House itself or of its Speaker. When Lord Campbell 
was about to publish the first volumes of the Lives of the Lord 
Chancellors, he thought it prudent to move the repeal of a rule 
of the House of Lords which prohibited any one from writing 
the life of a lord or officer'of that House without the consent of 
the House or of the representatives of the deceased. As he 
could not easily learn who were the descendents of Augmendus, 
the Chancellor of Ethelbert, or even the representatives of Wil- 
liam of Wickham, without certainly subjecting himself to the 
charge of a breach of privilege, he obtained the abrogation of 
the rule in question. From the commencement of the sessions 
of the Senate of the United States, in April, 1789, to the 2oth of 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 335 

February, 1794 a space of five years that body imitated the 
example of the old Congress, and sat alike in its executive and 
legislative capacity with closed doors. Experience is a wise 
teacher; and we owe .nuch that is permanent and valuable in our 
institutions to the caution which its lessons have enjoined; yet 
there is great difficulty in determining what is taught in a given 
case. It is honorable to the Republican party that, while expe- 
rience and prejudice might seem to lean against them, they 
. opened, without hesitation, the doors of the Senate to the people 
and admitted reporters on its floor. 

The repeal of the judiciary act of the last session was now 
agitated in the Senate. Mason, the colleague of Nicholas, moved 
(January 6, 1802) the reading of that part of the President's 
message relating to the judiciary; and when the reading was 
ended, Breckenridg* rose and moved that the act passed at the 
last session respecting the judiciary establishment be repealed. 
The resolution was considered on the 8th of January a day 
fatal to the Federal party when its author explained his views 
in a speech of unusual ability. He was followed in opposition 
by Governor Morris, who was replied to uy Jackson (of Georgia). 
Tracy followed in opposition, and was succeeded by Mason, 
who, by considerations drawn from the Constitution, from the 
practice of the States, and from public convenience and expedi- 
ency, justified the repeal. He was followed by Olcott in oppo- 
sition, who was replied to by Cocke. Morris again took the 
floor in an elaborate and brilliant oration, mainly in reply to 
Mason. It was not until the 3d of February that the debate 
ended, when the motion to repeal the judiciary act was carried 
by a vote of sixteen to fifteen Nicholas and Mason in the 
affirmative. ^ 

When the vote was about to be taken on referring the bill to 
repeal the judiciary act to a committee a measure recommended 
and enforced by its enemies and after an able appeal by Cal- 
houn (of South Carolina) in favor of reference, Nicholas, whose 
skill as a party manager was held in high respect, rose to speak 

807 1 have made this summary of the debate from Benton's second 
volume; but Mr. Benton's account is very imperfect and cannot convey 
the faintest impression of the interest excited in the several stages of 
the bill. A tolerably fair account may be seen in the little volume pub- 
lished by Bronson in 1802, where the ayes and noes are always given. 



336 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

to the point. He said he flattered himself that the subject was 
well understood by the Senate. "What is now the question? 
The same that has-been so often decided. Gentlemen in oppo- 
sition have said, 'Amend, but do not repeal.' He could say that 
every vote of that House, in every stage of the discussion, had 
said, 'Repeal, and do not amend.' He believed the old system 
required but little amendment. It was the best suited to the 
interests of the United States and of the States. The law of 
the last session was in fact a bar to improvement. Gentlemen 
say why not provide for these judges as you have provided for 
a judge of the Supreme Court. He would reply that the last 
operation was simple and easy of execution; but how were we 
in this new mode to get rid of the circuit judges without having 
these courts in one part of the Union and not in another? The 
gentlemen from New Jersey has said this measure is admitted 
to be bold and violent. By whom is it admitted? Not by me 
or by gentlemen who think with me. As regards the Constitu- 
tion, there is no man here let his boast of federalism be what it 
may that can take stronger ground than I hold. Gentlemen 
profess a great respect for the Constitution; but our principles 
are not to be evidenced by mere professions. They are to be 
evidenced by the series of our actions." "My conduct," said 
Nicholas, "since the formation of the Constitution to this day, 
is known by those who know me, as well as the conduct of 
gentlemen is known by those who know them. To the people I 
appeal. I am not to be alarmed by the tocsin of hostility to the 
Constitution that is so loudly sounded in our ears. I hope, sir, 
we shall have the question." 

When Nicholas took his seat the question was taken on 
referring the bill to a committee, and the vote was a tie fifteen 
to fifteen when the Vice-President gave the casting vote on 
the, affirmative with a distinct declaration that he regarded the 
purposes of its opponents to be sincere; but that if he saw 
that it was only meant to defeat the bill he would vote accord- 
ingly. 808 

At the close of Ogden's speech, after Wright and Jackson had 
made some explanations, Nicholas again rose to speak, with a 
copy of the Constitution in his hand, but seeing that Brecken- 

308 (Debates on the Judiciary Bill, by Bronson, page 256.) 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 337 

ridge had the floor, took his seat. 809 On the 3d of May the 
Senate adjourned. 

In the December session (1802) Nicholas was early in his seat, 
and took an active part in the leading questions of the times. 
The first of a party caste that engaged the attention of the 
Senate was the memorial of the judges who were appointed 
under the judiciary act of 1800, which had been repealed at the 
last session. The form in which it presented itself was that of a 
resolution from a committee, requesting the President of the 
United States to cause an information, in the nature of a quo 
warranto, to be filed by the Attorney-General against Richard 
Bassett, one of the judges, for the purpose of deciding judicially 
on their claims. The resolution, after a long debate, was rejected 
by a vote of thirteen to fifteen Nicholas in the majority. The 
great political topic of the session was the subject of the Missis- 
sippi. Spain had ceded the province of Louisiana to France, 
and our right of deposit at New Orleans had been suspended. 
The Executive communicated the facts to the Senate in a mes- 
sage, which at the same time nominated Robert R. Livingston 
as Minister Plenipotentiary and James Monroe as Minister 
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to France and Spain, to 
arrange the difficulty by negotiation. In a few days a bill came 
up from the House of Representatives making further provision 
for the expenses attending the intercourse between the United 
States and foreign nations. The object of the bill was to author- 
ize the purchase of the island of New Orleans only; for at this 
time the purchase of all Louisiana, though doubtless entertained 
by Mr. Jefferson, had not been communicated to either house. 
The purpose to be accomplished by the bill was of transcendant 
importance to the whole country as closing a troublesome ques- 
tion, likely at any moment to lead to war, and to the Western 
States in particular; but it appealed in vain to the Federal 
minority. The vote on its passage was fourteen to twelve, 
Nicholas and his colleague (Mason) ably sustaining it. Mason's 
speech on its several stages is preserved, but that of Nicholas, 
though referred to in debate, is probably lost. The subject of 
the Mississippi called forth the last speech of Mason, who died a 
few weeks later in Philadelphia; but he could not have spoken 

809 Ibid, page 312. 

22 



338 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

on a grander or more glorious topic, and I could have wished 
that he had lived to learn that by the present bill the vast domain 
of Louisiana was in a few weeks forever secured to his country. 

While this wise and politic measure was under discussion, 
Ross, of Pennsylvania (a Federal member), introduced a propo- 
sition of his own on the Mississippi question, which appeared to 
go far beyond the administration in avenging the wrongs and 
in securing the rights of the West, but which, in fact, was inge- 
niously designed either to force the administration into an 
immediate war with Spain or France, or to expose it to a for- 
feiture of the affection and support of the Western people. No 
member of the Senate was more capable of detecting and 
exposing such a tortuous policy than Nicholas, who, though 
unwell, spoke with his usual tact on the question. The propo- 
sition of Ross was met by one from Breckenridge, which made 
it acceptable to the administration, and which was adopted by a 
strict party vote. Nicholas warmly sustained the amendment, 
and, the question recurring on the resolution as amended, it 
passed unanimously a remarkable instance in which the oppo- 
sition, by seeking to thwart the administration by outdoing it 
on its own ground, was forced to play into its hands and to fur- 
ther its most darling purposes. 

The Eighth Congress assembled in Washington on the iyth of 
October, having been convened by a proclamation of the Presi- 
dent in consequence of the purchase of Louisiana. Nicholas 
was present on the first day, and must have heard, with a just 
pride, the Clerk of the Senate read the message of his friend and 
neighbor, which announced in graceful and modest terms the 
consummation of that great event. John Taylor (of Caroline) 
had succeeded Mason by an executive appointment, and until 
the arrival of his successor, 310 and afforded Nicholas the aid of 
his great abilities at that difficult conjuncture. The first move- 
ment on the subject of the treaty was made by Breckenridge, 
who gave notice on the 2ist that he would ask leave next day to 
bring in a bill to enable the President to take possession of the 
territories ceded by France to the United States by the treaty 
concluded in Paris on the aoth of April last, and for other pur- 



310 Abraham B. Venable, who lost his life at the burning of the Rich- 
mond Theatre on the evening of December 26, 1811. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 339 

poses, which was brought in accordingly, and in due time 
became a law. 

The proceedings of the House of Representatives during the 
late presidential elec.ion, when it was doubtful for some time 
whether the person who had received seventy- three votes a 
majority of all the votes for the office of President should be 
chosen in preference of one who had not received a single bona- 
fide vote for the office, were well calculated to excite alarm, and 
seem to render an amendment to the Constitution indispensable 
to prevent the possible recurrence of such a crisis. A resolution 
was accordingly brought forward by DeWitt Clinton respecting 
an amendment to the Constitution respecting the election of 
President, and was referred to a committee, of which Nicholas 
was a member. When the report came up, on the 23d of 
November, Nicholas moved to strike out all following the seventh 
line of the report to the end, and insert an amendment which he 
held in his hand, and which was substantially the same as that 
subsequently engrafted upon the Constitution. The motion to 
strike out was agreed to unanimously, and the amendment was 
adopted. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of twenty-two 
to ten, was ultimately ratified by the States, and will effectually 
prevent the mischief it was designed to remedy. The debate on 
the bill was very able John Taylor (of Caroline) making the 
closing speech, and winding up by quoting the lines recited by a 
member in the House of Commons in the debate on the bill to 
exclude the Duke of York (afterwards James the Second) from 
the succession : 

" I hear a lion in the lobby roar ; 
Say, Mr. Speaker, shall we shut the door 
And keep him there ? Or let him in, 
To try if we can get him out again?" 

One of the most interesting debates of the session occurred on 
the bill authorizing the creation of a stock of eleven million two 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the payment of the pur- 
chase-money of Louisiana. It was warmly opposed by White, 
Wells, Pickering, Dayton, Tracy, and others, and was warmly 
supported by Wythe, Taylor (of Caroline), Breckenridge, and 
Nicholas. The bill finally passed by a vote of twenty-six to five, 
some of the Federal members having changed their minds dur- 
ing the discussion. Nicholas closed the debate as follows: 



340 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

"The gentlemen on the other side, Mr. President, differ among 
themselves. The two gentlemen from Delaware say that if 
peaceable possession of Louisiana is given, this bill ought to 
pass; the other gentlemen who have spoken in opposition to it 
have declared that if they believed the Constitution not violated 
by the treaty they should think themselves bound to vote for the 
bill. To this Senate it cannot be necessary to answer argu- 
ments denying the power of the Government to make such a 
treaty; it has already been affirmed, so far as we could affirm it, 
by two-thirds of the body. It is, then, only now necessary to 
show that we ought to pass the bill at this time. In addition to 
the reasons which have been so ably and forcibly urged by my 
friends, I will remark that the treaty- making power of this Gov- 
ernment is so limited that engagements to pay money cannot be 
carried into effect without the consent and co-operation of Con- 
gress. This was solemnly decided, after a long discussion of 
several weeks, by the House of Representatives, which made the 
appropriations for carrying the British treaty into effect, and 
such, I believe, is the understanding of nine-tenths of the 
American people as to the construction of their Constitution. 
This decision must also be known to foreigners; and if not, they 
are bound to know the extent of the powers of the Government 
with which they treat. If this bill should be rejected, I ask 
gentlemen whether they believe that France would or ought to 
execute the treaty on her part? It is known to the French Gov- 
ernment that the President and Senate cannot create stock, nor 
provide for the payment of either principal or interest of stock; 
and if that Government should be informed that a bill author- 
izing the issue of stock to pay for the purchase ' after possession 
shall be delivered,' had been rejected by the only department of 
our Government competent to the execution of that part of the 
treaty, they would have strong ground to suspect that we did 
not mean to execute the treaty on our part, particularly when 
they are informed that the arguments most pressed in opposition 
to the bill were grounded upon a belief that the Government of 
the United States had not a constitutional power to execute the 
treaty. Of one thing I am confident, that if they have the dis- 
trust of us which some gentlemen have this day expressed of 
them, the country will not be delivered to the agents of our 
Government should this bill be rejected. The gentleman from 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 341 

Connecticut (Tracy) must consider the grant of power to the 
Legislature as a limitation of the treaty making power; for he 
says that ' the power to admit new States and to make citizens 
is given to Congress and not to the treaty-making power'; there- 
fore, an engagement in a treaty to do either of those things is 
unconstitutional. I cannot help expressing my surprise at that 
gentleman's giving that opinion, and I think myself justifiable in 
saying that if it is now his opinion, it was not always so. The 
contrary opinion is the only justification of that gentleman's 
approbation of the British treaty, and of his vote for carrying it 
into effect. By that treaty a great number of persons had a 
right to become American citizens immediately, not only with- 
out a law, but contrary to an existing law. And by that treaty 
many of the powers specially given to Congress were exercised 
by the treaty-making power. It is lor gentlemen who supported 
that treaty to reconcile the construction given by them to the 
Constitution in its application to that instrument with their 
exposition of it at this time. 

"If," he continued, "the third article of the treaty is an 
engagement to incorporate the territory of Louisiana into the 
union of the United States and to make it a State, it cannot be 
considered as an unconstitutional exercise of the treaty-making 
power; for it will not be asserted by any rational man that the 
territory is incorporated as a State by the treaty itself, when it 
is expressly declared that 'the inhabitants shall be incorporated 
in the union of the United States and admitted as soon as possi- 
ble, according to the ^principles of the Federal Constitution'; 
evidently referring the question of incorporation, in whatever 
character it was to take place, to the competent authority, and 
leaving to that authority to do it at such time and in such man- 
ner as they may think proper. If, as some gentlemen suppose, 
Congress possess this power, they are free to exercise it in the 
manner they may think most conducive to the public good. If 
it can only be done by an amendment of the Constitution, it is a 
matter of discretion with the States whether they will do it or 
not; for it cannot be done 'according to the principles of the 
Federal Constitution' if the Congress or the States are deprived 
of that discretion which is given to the first, and secured to the 
last, by the Constitution. In the third section of the fourth 
article of the Constitution it is said ' new States may be admitted 



342 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

by the Congress into this Union.' If Congress have the power, 
it is derived frqm this source; for there are no other words in the 
Constitution that can, by any construction that can be given to 
them, be considered as conveying this power. 311 If Congress 
have not the power, the constitutional mode would be by an 
amendment to the Constitution. If it should be conceded, then, 
that the admission of this territory into the Union as a State 
was in the contemplation of the contracting parties, it must be 
understood with the reservation of the right of this Congress or 
of the States to do it or not. The words 'admitted as soon as 
possible' must refer to the voluntary admission in one of the 
two modes that I have mentioned; for in no other way can a 
State be admitted into this Union." 

The bill erecting Louisiana into two territories produced a 
long and most animated discussion, but ultimately passed by a 
vote of twenty to five Nicholas sustaining the bill. He also 
voted with the majority (seventeen to twelve) on the bill to 
repeal the bankrupt law. Another act of the session unimpor- 
tant in itself, but frequently referred to was the passage of the 
bill to alter and establish certain post-roads. The last section 
provided that two post-roads should be laid out under the 
inspection of commissioners appointed by the President one to 
lead from Tellico block-house (in the State of Tennessee), and 
the other from Jackson court-house (in the State of Georgia), 
by routes the most eligible and as nearly direct as the nature of 
the ground will admit, to New Orleans. The bill had been 
referred to a committee, of which Nicholas was chairman. The 
vote on adding the last section to the bill was seventeen to ten; 
the minority voting on anti-Louisiana grounds and not from any 
constitutional scruple about the laying out of roads by Federal 
, commissioners. It passed without a division. 

On the I3th of March John Randolph (of Virginia) and Peter 
Early (of Georgia) appeared at the bar of the Senate, and, in 
the name of the House of Representatives and of all the people 
of the United States, impeached Judge Samuel Chase of high 
crimes and misdemeanors; and the Senate took the initiatory 



311 If Governor Nicholas had lived to read the admirable review of 
this doctrine in a report on the American Colonization Society by Gov- 
ernor Tazewell, to be found in the United States Senate Documents of 
1828, he would have taken broader ground on the subject. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 343 

steps for a trial, which took place at the following session. Nor 
should we omit to say, in closing a review of the session, that 
the Senate, on the 2ist of October, resolved to go into a mourn- 
ing of thirty days for Stevens Thomson Mason. 

At the close of the session Nicholas, from the state of his 
private affairs, resigned his seat in the Senate. He fondly 
believed that, in the repeal of the judiciary and bankrupt laws, 
in the final settlement of the Mississippi question, which had, 
ever since the Declaration of Independence, harassed our coun- 
cils State and Federal by the acquisition of Louisiana, and in 
the growing popularity of the administration, which had now 
secured a predominant majority in both branches of the legisla- 
ture, a long period of comparative repose was to be enjoyed by 
his political friends, and that he was fairly entitled to a release 
from public life. He also knew that his seat in the Senate would 
be filled by Mr. Giles, his intimate personal friend, who was fully 
competent to sustain the administration on the floor of that 
body. But these pleasant anticipations were not to be fulfilled 
in all their extent. The extraordinary success of the administra- 
tion in its measures of domestic policy had almost annihilated 
opposition; but the party which had kept together in the face of 
an able and relentless foe was now to disagree within itself and 
to present a divided front to the enemy, which, though over- 
powered, was ever ready to show itself on the least chance of 
success. 3 ' 2 

This is not the place to detail at length the causes which led 
to a split in the Republican party during the administration of 
Jefferson. The measures which the administration was com- 
pelled to adopt, in consequence of the arbitrary and piratical 
conduct of England and France, were the ostensible grounds of 
the schism; but it was then, and is now, believed that private 
griefs had no little share in making the breach. However this 
may be, one of the most eloquent friends of the administration 
became its bitterest enemy, and, leaguing with his old foes, not 
only opposed the measures of the party to which he still pro- 
fessed to belong, but sought most earnestly to involve the country 



812 On resigning his seat in the Senate, Colonel Nicholas accepted the 
appointment of collector of the port of Norfolk and Portsmouth, but 
held it for a short time only. 



344 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF ifSS. 

in a war with Spain, and, from the connection then existing 
between Spain ^nd France, with France also. How far this feud 
might possibly extend it was difficult to foretell; and it became 
important not only in respect of the administration as of the 
establishment of the party throughout the JJnion that the 
policy of the eloquent and able, though meagre, minority should 
be counteracted by efficient management in the House of Repre- 
sentatives. 

At this crisis it was the general wish of his party that Nicholas, 
whose popularity made all offices equally open to him, should 
again appear in Congress. He received intimations of the public 
will from various quarters, and he was pressed by Mr. Jefferson 
in the strongest terms to become a member of the House of 
Representatives, in which " his talents and standing, taken 
together, would have weight enough to give him the lead." 3 " 
And that standing was indeed high. It was well known that he 
had repeatedly declined the most honorable and profitable 
foreign missions, and lately the mission to France, and that he 
could obtain not only any office in the gift of the Executive for 
himself, but could exert a great influence in getting offices for 
other people. He was accordingly returned from the Albemarle 
district in 1808, and his presence was soon felt to some extent in 
debate, but mainly by an efficient management which tended to 
thwart all the cherished plans of the Republican seceders, and 
to fix the Republicans in power for years to come. The seceders, 
who were commonly called tertium quids, felt that their day was 
over, that their real influence was henceforth gone, and that their 
only alternative was, whether they regarded the present or the 
future, to unite themselves permanently with their Federal allies, 
or, caps in hand, to beg readmission into the fold from which 
they had been tempted to stray. But, mean time, their tender 
mercies, when it was safe to bestow them, fell on Nicholas. He 
was a cousin of Sir Robert Walpole and a blood -relative of 
Talleyrand. He was more of an Italian than an Anglo-Saxon, 
and, if not really descended from Machiavelli who had not yet 
been placed rectus in historia he was one of his most danger- 
ous pupils. Posterity can form an opinion of the character of a 
public man from the caricatures and gibes of his enemies almost 

313 ( Jefferson's Works, Randolph's edition, Vol. IV, 66.) 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 345 

as well as from the eulogies of friends, and it is the duty of his- 
tory to preserve the hostile portrait for its reflection and exami- 
nation. A sketch of Nicholas, which originally appeared in the 
Washington Republican, and is drawn by a bitter but witty 
enemy, may amuse the reader: 

" The opinion is certainly entertained, and has been often con- 
fidently advanced by some who knew him well, and who are also 
acquainted with the character of Talleyrand, that our ' Virginia 
woodsman' surpassed the French diplomatist in the talent which 
rendered him most useful to his friends and most formidable to 
his foes. Though he never gave any great proofs of scholarship 
within my knowledge. I am satisfied that he enjoyed the advan- 
tages of a good classical education, at the least, and that nature 
gave him a mind of most gigantic power is doubted by none. 
Mr. Nicholas's ambition knew no bounds; for its gratification 
he sought popularity 'in his own way' with a perseverance and 
a clearness of judgment almost unexampled. He was always 
proverbially plain in his dress and in his manners two of Wis- 
dom's important steps to reach the hearts of the people. He 
was, in general, grave and reserved, and sometimes would 
appear to be even morose and grum infallible means of estab- 
lishing with the public a full credit for all the talents he pos- 
sessed; and the certain means of enhancing, even to fascination, 
the value of an agreeable smile, or marked familiarity, in which 
he occasionally indulged with the happiest success. Our coun- 
try never, perhaps, gave birth to a man better acquainted with 
all the avenues to the human heart; and few have profited 
more than Mr. Nicholas for a long while did by the com- 
mand of that rare and invaluable species of knowledge. The 
wise and the simple, the learned and the unlearned, were 
alike at his pleasure mere automata in his hands. Among 
other endowments he seemed also sometimes to possess the 
power of ubiquity; for often has he been politically seen and 
felt at the same moment in places very different and very distant 
from one another; and, what almost surpasses belief, he found 
in our modern hard times, when standing on the verge of bank- 
ruptcy, no difficulty in laying the wisest and most cautious of 
our citizens under contribution. * * * I will conclude this 
letter with the recital of an anecdote relating to the adroitness 
with which, while in the House of Representatives, he some- 



346 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

times managed certain members of that body. It is said that 
on some occasion of great importance when a measure was 
depending before Congress, the adoption of which Mr. Nicholas 
had much at heart, having just recovered, he said, from a fit of 
the gout, well muffled in an old-fashioned dress, he sallied forth 
in quest of recruits; and no statesman, to be sure, possessed a 
happier talent for enlisting speakers and voters by the exercise 
of what is called out-of-door influence than he did. The first 
boarding-house to which he repaired was filled with members of 
Congress from and . Upon entering the apart- 
ment occupied as a drawing-room by the honorable gentlemen, 
very much in the style of a plain, unceremonious farmer, the 
members, rising, generally welcome their visitor with great polite- 
ness. As soon as he was seated he complained, in a manner 
quite familiar and good-natured, that his worthy friends had 
neglected him whilst afflicted with the gout, declaring at the 
same time he would not have treated them so unkindly. They, 
of course, all apologized, and the sufficiency of their excuses 
was readily admitted. Next, with the seeming artlessness and 
cordiality of a good, well-meaning country gentleman, he inquired 
after their families, and then discoursed of plantation matters 
and on such other subjects as he found to be most agreeable. 
Whilst all were yet charmed by the conversation of their guest 
he rose, and, taking a most friendly leave of the gentlemen 
individually, obtained from each a promise soon to return his 
call. At the threshold of the door, departing, he suddenly 
paused, and turning hastily about, as if just then struck with a 
new thought, which it was his duty as a friend to communicate, 

he exclaimed: *O! Mr. , have you reflected on the great, 

the important question now before Congress?' alluding to the 
very measure which so deeply interested himself. To which Mr. 
replied: 'No, Colonel, I confess I have not.' Where- 
upon Mr. Nicholas rejoined: 'Good God, sir, is it possible that 
a gentleman of your talents, one who ought to take the lead in 
every great question discussed in Congress, one whom I had 
always believed to be remarkably attentive to all subjects of a 
public nature, but more especially to those which immediately 
concerned his own district or State is it possible, sir, that you 
have overlooked this question, important, it is true, to the public 
at large, but more particularly so to the State from which you 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 347 

come?' Then, turning to all the members who were listening 
auribus erectis, he added: 'Aye, gentlemen, in the highest 
degree important to both of your States.' And by a plausible 
short oration Mr. Nicholas proceeded to convince his delighted 
hearers that all which he had said to them was perfectly ortho- 
dox; for the Colonel, like many other politicians of weight, was 
admirably good at a short speech in a small circle, whilst it is 
certain that he never did distinguish himself as an orator in 
either house of Congress. Mr. Nicholas, in fine, had the good 
fortune to obtain from every member whom he thus addressed 
an assurance that he would attend whenever the important mea- 
sure should be called up, and give it, at least, the support of his 

vote. As to poor Mr. , he then for the first time in his 

life, under the light shed upon the subject by Mr. Nicholas, dis- 
covered that his endowments were most rich and splendid and 
his acquirements most valuable and unlimited fitting him as an 
orator for the highest niche in the Temple of Fame. He, of 
course, promised not only to vote, but to speak on the import- 
ant measure. Highly gratified with the result of his visit and 
harangue to so many of the members of two influential States, 
Mr. Nicholas, bowing a second time more profoundly than 
before, again took an affectionate leave of his friends, reminding 
them severally of their promise to return his call. In like man- 
ner, and with like success generally, Mr. Nicholas visited many 
other boarding-houses where members of Congress lodged, and 
in several of them, as in the first he had visited, found those 
whom he convinced by a few judicious remarks and compli- 
ments, exactly suited to the taste and mind of each, that they 
were among the most eloquent of all the members of Congress. 
It was afterwards no difficult task to satisfy each of those inflated 
orators that it was a sacred duty which he owed to himself 
and his country no longer 'to hide his light under a bushel.' 
These novi homines promised, of course, to speak as well as to 
vote in favor of the important measure. Thus had Mr. Nicho- 
las, after recovering from a fit of the gout, under which he 
thought much more than he suffered, in very good time made 
every arrangement necessary to carry his favorite measure. 

" ' He that hath ears to hear let him hear ' is an injunction 
which is believed to have been always as scrupulously observed 
by the celebrated statesman ' of Roanoke ' as any other precept 



348 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

contained in the sacred volume; and he saw and heard enough, 
in relation to^what had passed at the boarding-houses, perfectly 
to comprehend the whole game in all its depth which Mr. 
Nicholas had been playing. Finally the important measure was 
called up, and Mr. Nicholas, his orators, and other friends being 

all in their places, Mr. (of ) rose and addressed 

the House at some length in favor of the measure in a neat 
speech, but more animated than the occasion seemed to require. 

He was followed by Mr. (of ), who spoke with 

considerable ability in opposition. Then, in regular succession, 
one after another, rose some half a dozen more of Mr. Nicholas's 
orators. Such thundering and declamation! On such a ques- 
tion, too! 'Sure, the like was never heard before!' During all 
this time Mr. Nicholas, who felt in reality more solicitude for 
the fate of the question than all Congress besides, with muscles 
unmoved, sat at his desk folding up newspapers and copies of 
documents and addressing them to his constituents, seeming all 
the while to be just as unconcerned as if he were entirely igno- 
rant of the subject under consideration. All this was observed 
by the statesman 'of Roanoke,' who, sitting in his place with 
folded arms, and looking sometimes at Mr. Nicholas and some- 
times at his orators, at length touched a friend near him and 
said, with a point and an energy peculiar to himself : ' The 
master-spirit that acts on this occasion is invisible.' Then, 
pointing carelessly to Mr. Nicholas, with a significant look, he 
added: "Tis Signor Falconi who, from behind the curtain, plays 
off these puppets upon us ' (pointing to Mr. Nicholas's orators). 
The hit was so excellent that, ever afterwards, to the day of his 
death, Mr. Nicholas was known to many persons by his new 
name chiefly. I presume you have not forgotten that, some 
years ago, the eminence of Signor Falconi in conducting puppet 
shows was unrivalled, and that he was acknowledged to be the 
'emperor universal' overall rope-dancers and jugglers wherever 
to be found." 3 " 



^Letters on the Richmond Party, page 15 a duodecimo of forty- 
eight pages. They were published originally in the Washington Repub- 
lican in 1823. Their design is to show that the active members of the 
Democratic party, in office since 1794, were connected by blood or 
affinity with one another, and that their true object was rather a love 
of the loaves and fishes than any particular affection for the principles 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 3 19 

But mark the result ! The orator, whose brilliant eloquence, 
keen wit, and blighting sarcasm held his hearers spell-bound as 
long and as often as he spoke, and not unfrequently against their 
will, rarely or never won a vote ; was, after years of recruiting, 
seldom in command of a larger squad than the boat's crew of a 
custom-house tender and that squad ever ready to run off at 
any moment when the eye of the basilisk was turned from 
them ; gained whatever victories he may be said to have gained 
in contests with his own friends, whose general principles he 
professed to approve, but whom he followed with immortal hate; 
saw the glittering prizes of successful ambition which he would 
have delighted to grasp and sport at St. Cloud, and, above all, at 
St. James's, and, in his excursions through England, at the 
sepulchres of his sires, casting back upon the ancestral dust the 
westering radiance of the name these trophies he saw borne 
off, one by one, from his reach ; was, after years of isolation, 
again united with his old friends, who, when his last sands were 
running, when the "church-yard cough" was racking a frame 
never stout enough for the eagle spirit which it encaged, bestowed 
upon him the empty office, which he accepted, but which he was 
unable to discharge, of appearing at the court of men whom he 
had constantly ridiculed as "ruffians in 'off,'" and of exposing 
a constitution which required the balm of the tropics to the snows 
of the arctic zone. How different was the fortune of Nicholas ! 
He was a plain, substantial farmer, not looking to a public career 
as the staple of life or as a scene of ambition; no orator, in the 
higher sense of the word, though a strong, well-informed, and 
ready speaker, always keeping the main point in view and sitting 
down when he was done, and ever from his sense and position 
uttering well-weighed words and retaining the erect ear of the 
House; yet receiving, during a life running through the third of 
a century, almost every honor which Virginia and the Federal 
Executive could bestow; declining instantaneously the most daz- 
zling of them all, that would take him abroad from his fireside 
and from his fields, and holding those at home only long enough 



which they professed. The letters are written with no inconsiderable 
ability, and with some force and grace of style, and were the source of 
much mirth at their date, and of some severe denunciations from those 
who were honored with the special attentions of the writer. Thirty 
years ago I heard them attributed to Mr. Macrae. 



350 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

to accomplish some important result; and by his wonderful fore- 
cast, by his broad common sense, by his extraordinary tact, and 
by his comprehensive wisdom, composing the stripes and con- 
firming the union of that great party, which, beginning its 
triumphs with the opening century, has ruled, with slight inter- 
vals, the destinies of the country to the present hour, which has 
achieved so many remarkable and glorious results, and which 
owes a debt to the memory of Nicholas that it will be ever ready 
to acknowledge and ever prompt to pay; and, victorious to the 
last, retiring from the chair of the Governor (which he filled at 
a remarkable epoch), while he was yet pressed to remain, to the 
bosom of his lovely family, there to descend in peace to the 
tomb. 

In resuming the thread of my narrative, I borrow the pen of a 
female descendant of Colonel Nicholas, which touches nothing 
that it does not adorn. Alluding to the reasons which led him 
to resign his seat in the Senate, she says: 

"All the great changes contemplated by his party having been 
accomplished, and the dispute about the right of deposit at New 
Orleans adjusted without a war with Spain by the acquisition of 
the whole of Louisiana, Colonel Nicholas thought that he might, 
without any dereliction of duty, resign his seat in the Senate ; 
which step was imperatively demanded by the state of his private 
affairs, now seriously embarrassed. To these he continued to 
devote himself for a time with great assiduity his success in 
agriculture bearing witness to the skill and energy with which its 
operations were conducted. In 1806 he refused a special mission 
to France to ratify, under the auspices of Napoleon, the treaty 
with Spain. But in 1809 the necessity of having some one 
' whose talents and standing, taken together, would have weight 
enough to give him the lead,' brought on him such urgent 
appeals to his patriotism that he was forced to yield. He 
became a candidate for Congress, and was elected without 
opposition. 

"The period was momentous and highly critical. The aggres- 
sions of England in the attack on the Chesapeake, and the exten- 
sion of the orders of the King in council, and afterwards the 
application by France of the Berlin and Milan decrees to our 
commerce, imposed upon us the necessity of resistance. But, 
pursuant to the pacific policy which had governed our councils 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 351 

during a period of unparalleld aggression on the part of Great 
Britain a period extending back as far as 1793 our Government 
proposed an embargo. The country was at that time in a 
wholly defenceless state; we had but the skeleton of an army, 
few or no ships in commission, no military stores, with an 
immense value of property afloat, and our whole seaboard, from 
north to south, open to attack. Under these circumstances Mr. 
Nicholas united cordially in support of the embargo, willing to 
try its efficiency for a while as a coercive measure, but relying 
on it more as giving us time to prepare for other measures. In 
1807 he assured his constituents that, in case of the failure of the 
embargo to produce some speedy change in the policy of France 
and Great Britain, the only alternative offered was of base and 
abject submission or determined resistance. In his circular to 
them, as well as from his seat in Congress, he urged the neces- 
sity of raising men and money, and providing immediately 
everything necessary for war. In the fall of 1808 he wrote to 
Mr. Jefferson urging him in the strongest terms, unless there was 
a moral certainty of a favorable change in our affairs before the 
meeting of Congress, to announce to them in his message that 
our great object in laying the embargo had been effected. 
Having gained that, he said, nothing more was to be effected 
from it, and it ought to be raised, and other measures, such as 
the honor of the State required, resorted to; that our people 
would not much longer bear the embargo, and that we could not 
and ought not to think of abandoning the resistance we were so 
solemnly pledged to make. 

"In 1809 Mr. Nicholas was again elected to Congress, and 
served in the spring session, when the agreement with Mr. Ers- 
kine produced a delusive calm. In the fall of that year, on his 
way to Washington, he had so violent an attack of rheumatism 
that he was compelled to resign his seat, and was confined to his 
room for four months. He was now so convinced of the 
impracticability of enforcing any commercial restrictions, of their 
demoralizing effect upon the people, and their exhausting effect 
on the finances of the country, that he frequently avowed his 
determination never again to vote for any measure of the kind, 
except as preparatory to war, and then to last only a short time. 

"In the month of December, 1814 the gloomiest period of 
the last war with England, when Virginia and the other States 



352 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

were left much to their own resources Mr. Nicholas was elected 
Governor of the State. Nothing but patriotism could have 
induced any man, at such a time and under such circumstances, 
to have undertaken this office; much was risked, with little pros- 
pect of anything being gained. The possibility of being able 
to render service to his country vanquished every obstacle sug- 
gested by discretion, and the post was accepted. Fortunately 
for the country, peace was announced in about three months; 
and the opportunity was not afforded to judge conclusively what 
was the capacity of the new Governor for such a state of things. 
There is reason to believe, however, that his administration would 
have been distinguished by energy, prudence, and indefatigable 
industry. The defence of the State depending mainly upon 
militia who could not be kept constantly in the field, an appro- 
priation was made to enable him to erect telegraphs and to raise 
a corps of videttes, to be so stationed, at his discretion, as to dis- 
tribute his orders with the utmost possible dispatch throughout 
the State. A plan for this purpose was digested, but was ren- 
dered unnecessary by the peace. 

"As an evidence of the great confidence that was put in 
Governor Nicholas by the Legislature, it may be stated that at 
the close of the session, and in great haste, they passed a law, of 
very complicated character, in reference to raising a force for 
the defence of the State. The execution of this law depended, 
in almost every particular, on instructions to be given by the 
Governor. The responsibility thus devolved on him was assumed 
in consideration of the object to be gained, though the execution 
of the law was rendered unnecessary by the termination of 
hostilities. Loans were necessary to pay and equip this force, 
and these were obtained on the most reasonable terms, condi- 
tioned upon a clause not authorized in the act ; but, being recom- 
mended to the legislature by the Governor, this was done at the 
next session, and the desired clause inserted without difficulty, 
and much to the honor of the State. 

"After the peace every claim against the State was paid as 
soon as the account was adjusted; the militia in service were 
discharged in a manner most gratifying to them. They were 
completely paid; provision was made for their return home, and 
for the care of the sick until they could be safely removed. 
All the military stores of a perishable nature were disposed of, 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 353 

and the others, including tents and other camp equipage, suffi- 
cient for an army of ten thousand men, were deposited in the 
State arsenal. The closing the accounts for the expenses of the 
war was pushed on with as much dispatch as was consistent with 
safety in their after-adjustment at Washington. 

" If the war had continued it was the determination of the 
Governor to urge all the able men of the State, with whom he 
could take the liberty, to offer for the next Assembly. The 
return of peace did not prevent this application, but the motive 
was different. Foreseeing that the State would have command 
of considerable funds, he believed it was important to make an 
early effort to induce the Assembly to apply their proceeds to 
the great purposes of internal improvement and education. 
This application, it is believed, had some effect, as in the two 
next Assemblies there appeared many gentlemen who had not 
been there for several years. At the commencement of the 
session the Governor pressed these subjects upon their attention 
with earnestness. They were acted upon, and the means then 
placed at the disposal of the Board of Public Works and of the 
President and Directors of the Literary Fund were appropriated 
to their respective objects, and the foundation laid of a system 
which has added to the intelligence as well as the wealth and 
prosperity of the State. In a review of the messages of Gov- 
ernor Nicholas it will be found that most of the objects recom- 
mended by him were acted upon by the Legislature, and that 
they are all strongly marked by an intimate knowledge of the 
wants and capacity of Virginia. So satisfactory had been the 
administration of the government that he was re-elected with 
the loss of but one vote. 

"The first act of his second term was an attempt to adjust the 
claims of the Commonwealth against the United States, all pre- 
vious efforts at which having proved abortive. After reflecting 
maturely upon the subject, the Governor believed that a different 
course ought to be pursued and an additional agent appointed. 
Upon asking the advice of the Council, some unwillingness was 
expressed to make the change. It was, however, assented to, 
and resulted in a speedy adjustment. As President of the 
Board of Public Works and of the Literary Fund, we find Gov- 
ernor Nicholas displaying the same industry and wise foresight 
as in the other departments of the government. In all his con- 



354 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

tracts for the State, of any sort, the utmost economy was prac- 
ticed and the greatest caution used to preserve the public 
interest. A remarkable proof of this was given in the execution 
of a law providing for a complete map of the State within limits 
which such an object would justify. He anxiously wished it 
accomplished; but he could not authorize, in duty to the State, 
such an expenditure of public money as the entire execution of 
the act would require. After much reflection he gave such 
instructions to the county courts, to govern them in their con- 
tracts, as would keep them within bounds. Having informed 
himself fully as to the value of such surveys, he then divided the 
State into districts and made contracts for the general survey. 
It is believed that more than one hundred thousand dollars were 
saved to the State by this single transaction. 

"At the expiration of his second term of office as Governor 
he served for a few months as president of the branch of the 
United States Bank in Richmond. In the spring of 1819 he 
returned to 'Warren.' He had always been of a very deli- 
cate constitution, and the bodily fatigue and anxiety of mind 
which had marked his later years brought on ill health, and he 
was advised to take a journey on horseback. He left home, but 
got no further than ' Montpelier,' the residence of Mr. Madison, 
when he found himself too unwell to go on, and returned to 
'Tufton,' the residence of his son-in-law, Thomas Jefferson 
Randolph, Esq. Here he lingered from day to day, each day 
hoping to be well enough to return to 'Warren.' Mr. Jefferson 
and Mr. Madison (who was then on a visit to 'Monticello'), both 
of whom had been his intimate personal friends, visited him fre- 
quently here, and all was done which skill or affection could sug- 
gest for his recovery, but to no purpose. On the loth of 
October, 1819, he expired suddenly while in the act of dressing. 
He was buried in the graveyard at ' Monticello.' 

" As regards his wisdom and patriotism, his public life speaks 
too plainly to require a word from his biographer. Viewed as a 
private individual, none could have been purer from every vice; 
and his kind heart and calm temper made him the best father 
and the kindest master and neighbor. He owed his influence in 
the councils of his country more to his moderation and wisdom 
than to his power as a speaker. His style in conversation was 
cool, deliberate, sententious, and forcible, replete with the strong- 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 355 

est views and the wisest opinions. His manners, perfectly 
moulded in the finest school viz., the old Colonial Court of 
Virginia that we have ever had in the United States, combined 
a polished dignity and courtesy with a fascination that won its 
way in the regards of men. His play of feature and its effects 
were most wonderful; his smile had a charm which threw sus- 
picion off its guard and drew persons irresistibly to him. The 
rebuke of his cold, stern eye and the withering curl of his lip 
seemed to congeal the very blood of insolence or arrogance. 
The posts occupied by Mr. Monroe previous to his election as 
President, and which proved the stepping-stones to that high 
station, were all declined by Mr. Nicholas before they were 
offered to Mr. Monroe. Mr. Jefferson saw in the pecuniary 
embarrassments in which his endeavors to prop the failing for- 
tunes of a valued friend had involved him the only obstacles to 
his election to the highest post in the gift of the country." 

It would be unfair to close this account of Nicholas without 
acknowledging the influence wrought on his character by the 
virtues and graces of that sex which, gentle and shrinking in 
prosperity, faces the sternest trials and braves the risks of pesti- 
lence and war with a firmness rarely exceeded by its manlier 
counterpart. Of his pious, intelligent, and patriotic mother, 
who, bereaved of her husband in the darkest period of the 
Revolution, saw his yet unturfed grave trampled by the myrmi- 
dons of Tarleton, and who devoted her time to the education 
and sustenance of her family, I have already spoken. But 
Nicholas was blessed not only with a mother worthy of the 
times in which she lived, and of the gallant sons whom she gave 
to her country; he was equally fortunate in that lovely woman 
whom, meeting with her on a military tour, he fell in love with, 
and whom, when the war was over, he conducted as his bride to 
his paternal seat at " Warren." Her name was Margaret Smith, 
daughter of John Smith (of Baltimore), and a sister of General 
Samuel Smith, whose name for more than the third of a century 
was connected with Federal affairs, and of Robert Smith, for- 
merly Secretary of the Navy, and Secretary of State during the 
administration of Mr. Madison. She was born and lived in Bal- 
timore; but, in order to avoid the dangers to which a seaport in 
time of war was likely to be exposed, she was sent in childhood, 
when she was old enough to remember the leading incidents of 



356 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

the Revolution, to the town of Carlisle, in the State of Pennsyl- 
vania. She was capable of appreciating the dangers to which 
her father was daily exposed as the active chairman of the Com- 
mittee of Ways and Means of the State of Maryland; and she 
saw her three brothers arm in defence of their country. One of 
them, overcome by the fatigue of war, returned only to die. 
Samuel at length returned safe, bearing with him the laurels he 
had earned at Fort Mifflin. " The gentle and amiable Andre, then 
a prisoner on parole, was domesticated in her father's family; and, 
though her childish affections were won by his kindness and her 
mind dazzled by his varied accomplishments, such was her vene- 
ration for the great name of Washington, that she could never be 
induced to condemn the act of stern and unrelenting retribution 
which consigned so many virtues to an ignominious grave." 315 
The love of country was no mere sentiment in her bosom. It 
was a principle, inculcated in early childhood, and fixed by the 
study and reflection of riper years. When, at the age of eighty, 
she was erroneously informed that her son (Colonel Nicholas, of 
Louisiana) had changed his politics, she rose from her chair, and, 
raising her hand, her eye brilliant as in youth and her voice 
tremulous with emotion, she exclaimed: "Tell my son, as he 
values the blessing of his old mother, never to forsake the faith 
of his fathers." 316 She lived to behold and enjoy the honors 
attained by the husband of her youth, and by her descendants; 
blending to the last all the gentleness of woman with a masculine 
judgment and intellect which had enabled her to understand and 
advise with her husband in all the difficulties that arose in the 
complicated political career of his eventful life. 

Such was Wilson Gary Nicholas. Embarking early in public 
life, he exerted a various influence in the passage of many of the 
most important measures, from the treaty of peace with Great 
Britain, in 1783, to the treaty of peace with the same Power in 
1815; and his life extended from the governorship of Francis 

315 If my correspondent does not confound Asgill with Andr, the 
abode of Andrg in Carlisle must have been after his capture by Mont- 
gomery in 1775, at St. John's, and before he was exchanged. 

316 This anecdote is in fine keeping with a similar one told of the 
mother of Lord-Chancellor Erskine in respect of George the Fourth, 
by Lord Cockburn in the Memorials of His Jiine. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 357 

Fauquier to the presidency of James Monroe one of the grand- 
est stretches of American history. If he had devoted more of 
his time to letters and had learned to put his thoughts on paper, 
what a charming narrative could have been unrolled before the 
coming ages! Born in Williamsburg, he might, in early youth, 
have seen his father, and Peyton Randolph, and Wythe bearing 
the pall of Fauquier, and might have told us where the bones of 
that skilful dealer in cards, and elegant scholar, were laid away. 
He had seen the members of the House of Burgesses quit their 
hall and march in procession to the "Raleigh"; and he might 
have peeped in and seen them sign the memorable non-importa- 
tion agreement. He might have seen the statue of Lord Bote- 
tourt, which had'been voted to his memory by a grateful people, 
as it was dragged in huge boxes from the James and placed upon 
its pedestal; and he might have seen that nobleman as he dis- 
tributed, in the chapel of William and Mary, his golden medal- 
lions to the students of each term who excelled in the languages 
and in science, and he could have told us whether the deceased 
Baron was really committed to the vault of Sir John. Nicholas 
was a nephew of Archibald Gary, and was not far from five-and- 
twenty when the old patriot departed. Indeed, when Nicholas 
was a member of the House, Gary was Speaker of the Senate. 
How much he must have heard from "Old Iron"! He must 
have heard from his lips all about the dictator scheme of 1776, 
and whether that famous threat was ever made. Nicholas must 
have heard, again and again, from his brother George, all about 
the inquiry that that brother moved into the conduct of Governor 
Jefferson, and the second scheme of a dictatorship which was 
said to have been meditated at the same session. What an 
interesting account of the state of parties, from 1783 to 1789, he 
could have written out, and, when the new Federal Government 
went into operation, how many things he could have told that 
now we may never know. Was it here that a party existed 
which sought to put aside Jefferson as the leader of the Republi- 
can party, and as the successor of Washington, and take up 
Edmund Randolph in his stead? Why did Nicholas allo-v 
himself, in 1794, to be brought out for the Senate against that 
tried champion of the Republicans, Stevens Thomson Mason ? 
Or was this the first overt act of the new party ? Did Patrick 
Henry really send a challenge to Edmund Randolph by the 



358 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

hands of Colonel Cabell ? 3n What were the precise grounds of the 
charges urged by Randolph against Henry, and afterwards by 
George Nicholas, still more doggedly, on the floor of the Con- 
vention ? Who was the author of those eloquent, but bitter and 
contumelious, letters addressed to Patrick Henry, the first num- 
ber of which appeared in the Virginia Independent Chronicle of 
the yth of January, 1789? Who wrote those other libels on 
Henry under the signature of a "State Soldier" ? And who 
was the writer that dared the authors of those papers to the 
proof of their charges ? And then, at a later day, how many 
questions we would like to ask him: Was Jefferson really 
understood by his own party to include Washington in his 
Mazzei letter? Did the Republican party of- 1800 intend to 
resist the election of Burr or Adams by force of arms ? At 
what precise moment did the scheme of purchasing the entire 
broad domain of Louisiana enter the mind of Jefferson ? What 
was the true cause of the hostility of John Randolph to the 
administration of Mr. Jefferson ? What negotiations preceded 
the visit of Mr. John Quincy Adams to Mr. Jefferson on the 
embargo business, and was not there some other negotiator than 
Mr. Giles ? What was the cause of the temporary hostility of 
Mr. Giles to the administration of Madison ? Did Clay and 
Calhoun really bully Madison into a war and afterwards into a 
bank ? These, and a thousand other questions, no man could 
have answered more authoritatively than he. 

As to his public acts, they embraced the most interesting and 
the most stirring events of the age. He voted to abolish all 
hindrances to the execution of the British treaty of 1783. He 
voted to keep the seat of government in Richmond, but refused to 
sustain the policy of Madison in building up commercial marts in 
the Commonwealth. He saw John Warden before the House of 
Delegates for a contempt, and, after laughing at the shrewdness 
of the wily Scot, voted to discharge him. He voted the statue 
to Washington which Houdon fashioned with such exquisite 

517 1 attach not the slightest blame to the friends of Edmund Ran- 
dolph for seeking to elevate him to the presidency. His position in 
the Virginia Federal Convention, as well as in the General Federal 
Convention, was eminently splendid ; and abroad he was regarded as 
the most efficient person in securing the ratification of the Constitution 
by Virginia. 



WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 359 

skill. He voted on all the exciting religious questions that agi- 
tated our early councils, always leaning to the side of liberty, 
and recorded his name in favor of the glorious act establishing 
religious freedom. He voted for the resolution convoking the 
meeting at Annapolis, and for the ratification of the Federal 
Constitution, to which that resolution may be said to have given 
birth. He was one of the committee to bring in a bill to cede 
ten miles square to the Federal Government as a permanent seat 
of the capital. He sustained the resolutions of lygS-'gg, and 
voted to repeal the judiciary act of 1800. He took an active 
part in securing the ratification of the treaty which ceded Louisi- 
ana to the Union. On these and many other occasions he 
rendered most valuable and efficient service; yet all that he 
could have told about them is lost! 

A friend of Nicholas, in a letter addressed to me in answer to 
one which I had written to him making inquiries of Mr. Nicho- 
las, says: 

" I have no anecdotes of Mr. Nicholas. He was too wise to 
be eccentric, and too calm and prudent in his conduct to excite 
remark. He was on one occasion elected from his county by a 
unanimous vote; and in high political excitements his vote 
always greatly exceeded his party strength. He was loved and 
admired by many of his political opponents. His manners, 
whenever he chose, were playful and bewitching in the extreme." 

Another letter from a most competent judge presents the fol- 
lowing characteristic traits: 

" Mr. Nicholas's private character was most amiable and exem- 
plary, and was such as to attach to him with unbounded devo- 
tion his family and friends. His manners were of that polished 
character of the old Williamsburg Colonial school a mixture of 
grace, benignity, and dignity which won all hearts. His powers 
of countenance were beyond those of any man I have ever 
known. His smile won the confidence and love of all on whom 
it beamed; his sternness repelled all approach or familiarly with- 
out the utterance of a word. As a listener he was unsurpassed. 
His conversation was calm, deliberate, imperturbable, forcible, 
sententious, and pregnant with thought and wisdom. He never 
spoke without reflection. If asked a question he was not pre- 
pared to answer, he would reflect until his queriest might sup- 
pose that he had forgotten his question, and then his reply 



360 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

would come in the exposition of the wisest and most profound 
views. As a debater in public bodies he spoke rarely, but con- 
cisely, deliberately, and with great force. 318 As a manager of 
men he had few equals. When in the House of Representa- 
tives or in the Senate of the United States during the presi- 
dency of Mr. Jefferson, I have often heard Mr. Jefferson say 
that he (Mr. Jefferson) had no trouble; that Mr. Nicholas wielded 
such controlling influence in the party as to keep it in perfect 
agreement with the administration; and that he esteemed him 
capable of filling the highest stations. In early life he became 
embarrassed in some speculations in Western lands, into which he 
had been drawn by General Henry Lee. This, added to losses 
sustained in efforts to aid his brother, George Nicholas (of Ken- 
tucky), and his brother-in-law, Edmund Randolph, marred his 
ability to accept office; and, finally, the financial catastrophe of 
1819 completed his ruin. He died at the house of his son-in- 
law, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Esq., and was buried at 
' Monticello ' ; and was attended to the grave by his friend, Mr. 
Jefferson, who made the remark on that occasion that had it 
not been for his pecuniary embarrassments he would have been 
the President in Monroe's place; that the mission to France, and 
other offices which led to the presidency, had been first pressed 
upon him for acceptance. Of this fact the letters of Mr. Jeffer- 
son, among the papers of Mr. Nicholas, furnish abundant proof. 
Mr. Jefferson regarded him as one of the ablest and purest 
public and private characters he had ever known. Judge 
William Cabell, President of the Court of Appeals, in speaking 
of Mr. Nicholas to a friend after his decease, said that he would 
except no man he ever knew, not even Mr. Jefferson, Judge 
Marshall, or Mr. Madison; but that Mr. Nicholas was the man 
of the most sense he had ever known. Had fortune combined 
with nature to place him in the position to which his virtues and 
abilities entitled him, he would have ranked among the wisest 
and most distinguished of Virginia's sons. Of those who were 
unfriendly towards him he never spoke or alluded to; they were 
as forgotten or dead." 

818 Colonel Nicholas spoke oftener than my correspondent is aware 
of, but always in the manner described by him. 



APPENDIX. 



DELEGATES RETURNED 



TO SERVE IN 



Convention of March, 1788. 



The editor has added the following brief and unpretentious 
biographical notes, in the hope that they may serve those inter- 
ested somewhat as data in the preparation of more adequate 
presentations of the careers of the worthies thus comprehended: 

Accomac EDMUND CusTis, 319 GEORGE PARKER. SM 
Albemarle GEORGE NICHOLAS, WILSON GARY NICHOLAS. 
Amelia JOHN PRIDE, EDMUND BOOKER.*" 
Amherst WILLIAM CABELL, SAMUEL JORDAN CABELL. 
Augusta ZACHARIAH JOHNSTON, ARCHIBALD STUART. 
Bedford JOHN TRIGG, SW CHARLES CLAY. 
Berkeley WILLIAM DARKE, 323 ADAM STEPHEN/" 
Botetourt WILLIAM FLEMING, MARTIN MCFERRAN. 
Bourbon HENRY LEE, 325 NOTLAY CONN. 
Brunswick JOHN JoNES, 828 BINNS JONES. 
Buckingham CHARLES PATTESON,*" DAVID BELL. W 
Campbell ROBERT ALEXANDER, EDMUND WINSTON."* 
Caroline Hon. EDMUND PENDLETON, JAMES TAYLOR. 830 
Charlotte THOMAS READ, 331 Hon. PAUL CARRINGTON."' 
Charles City BENJAMIN HARRISON, JOHN TYLER. 



364 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



Chesterfield DPCVID PATTF.soN, 833 STEPHEN PANKEY, JR. 
Cumberland JOSEPH MiCHAUX, 834 THOMAS H. DREW. 385 
Culpeper FRENCH STROTHER, 386 JOEL EARLY. 837 
Dinwiddie JOSEPH JoNES, 8 ' 8 WILLIAM WATKiNS. 339 
Elizabeth City MILES KiNG, 8 ' WORLICH WESTWOOD. S " 
Essex JAMES UPSHAW, 342 MERIWETHER SMITH. S4S 
Fairfax DAVID STUART, S " CHARLES SIMMS. 845 
Fayette HUMPHREY MARSHALL, 846 JOHN FOWLER. 
Fauquier MARTIN PiCKETT, 347 HUMPHREY BROOKE. 848 
Fluvanna SAMUEL RICHARDSON, JOSEPH HADEN. 
Frederick JOHN S. WOODCOCK, ALEXANDER WHITE. 
Franklin JOHN EARLY, THOMAS ARTHUR. 
Gloucester WARNER LEWIS,"* 9 THOMAS SMITH. 850 
Goochland]on^ GuERRANT, 351 WILLIAM SAMPSON. 
Greenbrier GEORGE CLENDENIN, JOHN STUART. 
' Greene sville WILLIAM MASON, DANIEL FISHER. 
Halifax ISAAC CoLES, 852 GEORGE CARRiNGTON. 353 
Hampshire ANDREW WOODROW, RALPH HUMPHREYS. 
Hanover PARKE GoooALL, 354 JOHN CARTER LiTTLEPAGE. 365 
Harrison GEORGE JACKSON, JOHN PRUNTY. 
Hardy ISAAC VANMETER, ABEL SEYMOUR. 
Henrico Governor EDMUND RANDOLPH, JOHN MARSHALL. 
Henry THOMAS COOPER, JOHN MARR. 
Isle of Wight THOMAS PiERCE, 856 JAMES JOHNSON. 
James City NATHANIEL BuRWELL, 357 ROBERT ANDREWS. 858 
Jefferson ROBERT BRECKENRiDGE, 859 RICE BULLOCK. 
King and Queen WILLIAM FLEET, 360 JOHN RoANE. 361 
King George BURDET ASHTON, WILLIAM THORNTON. 
King William HOLT RicHESON, 362 BENJAMIN TEMPLE. Ms 
Lancaster JAMES GORDON, 864 HENRY TOWLES. 



LIST OF DELEGATES. 365 

Loudoun STEVENS THOMSON MASON, LEVIN POWELL. "^ 
Louisa WILLIAM OVERTON CALLis, 386 WILLIAM WHITE. 
Lunenburg JONATHAN PATTESON, CHRISTOPHER ROBERTSON. 
Lincoln JOHN LoGAN, 367 HENRY PAWLING. 888 
Madison r] OHN MILLER, GREEN CLAY. 369 
Mecklenburg SAMUEL HOPKINS, JR., RICHARD KENNON." 
Mercer THOMAS ALLEN, ALEXANDER ROBERTSON. 
Middlesex RALPH WORMELEY, JR., FRANCIS CORBIN. 
Monongalia JOHN EVANS, WILLIAM MCCLERRY. 
Montgomery WALTER CROCKETT, ABRAHAM TRIGG. 
Nansemond WILLIS RIDDICK,*" SOLOMON SHEPHERD. 
New Kent WILLIAM CLAYTON, 3 ' 2 BURWELL BASSETT.'" 
Nelson MATTHEW WALTON, JOHN STEELE. 
Nor/ot&] AMES WEBB, JAMES TAYLOR. 
Northampton JOHN STRINGER, LITTLETON EYRE. 
Northumberland WALTER JONES,"* THOMAS GASKIXS. 
1 Ohio ARCHIBALD WOODS, EBENEZER ZANE. 
Orange JAMES MADISON, JR., JAMES GORDON. 
Pittsylvania ROBERT WILLIAMS, JOHN WILSON. 
Powhatan WILLIAM RONALD, S75 THOMAS TURPIN, JR. 
Prince Edward PATRICK HENRY, ROBERT LAWSON. 376 
Prince George THEODORIC BLAND,"' EDMUND RUFFIN." B 
Prince William WILLIAM GRAYSON, CUTHBERT BULLITT. ST " 
Princess AnneAxTHON? WALKE, 380 THOMAS WALKE. 
Randolph BENJAMIN WILSON, JOHN WILSON. 
Richmond WALKER TOMLIN, WILLIAM PEACHY. 
Rockbridge WILLIAM McKEE, ANDREW MOORE. 
Rockingham THOMAS LEWIS, GABRIEL JONES. 
Russell THOMAS CARTER, HENRY DICKENSON. 
Shenandoah]ACO* RINKER, JOHN WILLIAMS. 



366 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

Southampton BENJAMIN BLOUNT, SAMUEL KILLO. 
Spotsylvania JAMES MONROE, JOHN DAWSON. MI 
Stafford GEORGE MASON, ANDREW BUCHANAN. 
Surry JOHN HARTWELL CocKE, 382 JOHN ALLEN. 388 
Sussex JOHN HOWELL BRiGGs, 38 * THOMAS EDMUNDS. 385 
Warwick COLE DiGGEs, 388 RICHARD GARY. 387 
Washington SAMUEL EDMISTON, JAMES MONTGOMERY. 
Westmoreland HENRY LEE, BUSHROD WASHINGTON. 388 
York Hon. JOHN BLAIR, 389 Hon. GEORGE WYTHE. 
Williamsburg JAMES INNES. 
Norfolk Borough THOMAS MATTHEWS. 




BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES, 



119 EDMUND CUSTIS was a descendant from John Custis, who, by 
tradition, was a native of Ireland ; had been for some years an inn- 
keeper in Rotterdam, Holland, and settled in Northampton county in 
the earlier half of the seventeenth century, his name appearing in the 
records of that county as early as 1649. The first husband of Mrs. 
George Washington, John Parke Custis, was of the same descent. 
Edmund Custis was a member of the House of Delegates in 1787, 
and perhaps other years. 

320 Of the family of GEORGE PARKER were Robert, George, and John 
Parker, who received patents of land in Northampton county, respec- 
tively, in 1649, 1650, and 1660. Captain George Parker was a Justice of 
the Peace for Accomac county in 1663, and Major George Parker, 
probably his son, a Justice in 1707 and Sheriff in i73O-'3i. It was the 
unwritten law of Virginia, down to 1850, that the prerogative of the 
sheriffalty was vested in the senior magistrate of the county, in rotation, 
and thus, doubtless, Major George Parker succeeded. Sacker Parker, 
Burgess from Accomac county, died in June, 1738. Colonel Thomas 
Parker, of Accomac county, served with distinction in the Revolution 
as Captain in the Fifth Virginia regiment ; was taken prisoner at the 
battle of Germantown, and died in December, 1819. George Parker, 
probably the member of the Convention, for many years a Judge of the 
General Court of Virginia, died July 12, 1826; aged sixty-five years. 
John A. Parker, member of the House of Delegates from Accomac 
county, i8o2-*3 ; General Severn Eyre Parker, member of the House 
of Delegates and member of Congress, iSig-'ai ; and John W. H. 
Parker, State Senator, 1852 and later, are other representatives of the 
family. 

M1 Members of the BOOKER family frequently represented Amelia and 
the neighboring counties in the House of Burgesses and the State 
Legislature. Samuel Booker was a Captain, and Lewis Booker a 
Lieutenant, in the Revolution. 

3M The progenitor of the TRIGG family of Virginia was Abraham 
Trigg, who emigrated from Cornwall, England, about the year 1710. 
He had issue five sons : ABRAM, a Colonel in the Virginia line in the 
Revolution, and member of Congress 1797-1809, and, it is presumed, 
the member of the Convention from Montgomery county ; Stephen, 



368 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

went to Kentucky as a member of the Land Commission in 1779; com- 
manded a regiment in the battle of Blue Licks, and fell there gallantly 
leading a charge; his gallantry is commemorated on the monument 
at Frankfort, and Trigg county was named in his honor; JOHN, the 
member of the Convention, was a Major of artillery in the Revolution ; 
was present at the surrender of Cornwallis, and was a member of the 
House of Delegates 1784-^2 ; a member of Congress 1797-1804, and 
died June 28, 1804; William and Daniel were the remaining sons. Hon. 
Connally Findlay Trigg, Judge of the United States District Court of 
Tennessee died in 1879 was descended from William Trigg, as are 
Hon. Connally F. Trigg, member of Congress from Virginia, and Mrs. 
Edmund D. T. Myers and William Robertson Trigg, Esq., of Richmond, 
President of the Richmond Locomotive and Machine Works. 

323 WILLIAM DARKE was born in Philadelphia county, Pennsylvania, 
in 1736. In 1740 his parents moved to Virginia. He was with the Vir- 
ginia troops at Braddock's defeat, in 1755, and was made a Captain at 
the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He was taken prisoner at 
the battle of Germantown, but being released, was Colonel Command- 
ant of the regiments from Hampshire and Berkeley counties at the 
surrender of Cornwallis. He frequently represented Berkeley county 
in the Virginia Assembly ; was Lieutenant-Colonel of a regiment of 
" Levies " in 1791, and commanded the left wing of St. Clair's army at 
its defeat by the Miami Indians, November 4, 1791. He made two 
gallant and successful charges with the bayonet in this fight, in the 
second of which his youngest son, Captain Joseph Darke, was killed, 
and he himself wounded, narrowly escaping death. He was subse- 
quently a Major-General of Virginia militia. He died in Jefferson 
county November 26, 1801. 

324 GENERAL ADAM STEPHEN died in November, 1791. His grand- 
daughter, Ann Evelina, daughter of Moses Hunter, married Hon. 
Henry Saint George Tucker, and was the mother of the Hon. John 
Randolph Tucker. 

325 HENRY LEE, Kentucky pioneer, was born in Virginia in 1758; died 
in Mason county, Kentucky, in 1846; well educated, and studied sur- 
veying, which he pursued for several years; represented the district of 
Kentucky in the Virginia Legislature ; member of the Convention 
which met at Danville in 1787; was one of the Commissioners that 
located the seat of government at Frankfort, and County Lieutenant 
for all the territory north of Licking river. Studied law, and was 
appointed Judge of the Circuit Court for Mason county ; was also for 
many years President of the Washington branch of the Bank of Ken- 
tucky. He was a sagacious man, of excellent business habits, and 
amassed a large fortune. He was tall and powerfully built, and his 
personal appearance was imposing. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 369 

326 COLONEL JOHN JONES was probably a descendant of Captain Peter 
Jones, the founder of Petersburg. He was a Burgess from Dinwiddie 
county in 1757^58 ; member of the State Senate i776-'87, and Speaker 
i787-'88; County Lieutenant of Brunswick county 1788, and later. 
Hon. John Winston Jones (Speaker of the United States House of 
Representatives), son of Alexander and Mary Ann (daughter of Peter 
Winston) Jones, was his grandson. 

327 CHARLES PATTESON was probably of the same lineage as David 
Patteson, of Chesterfield county. He was a member of the Bucking- 
ham County Committee of Safety, i775-'76, of the Convention of 1776, 
and of the House of Delegates of i787~'88. Other members of the 
family have been prominent in the State annals. Captain Camm Pat- 
teson, of Buckingham, and S. S. P. Patteson, Esq., of Richmond, are 
present representatives. 

328 DAVID BELL was a son of David and Judith (sister of Archibald 
Cary of " Ampthill "} Bell. 

329 EDMUND WINSTON, of "Hunting Tower," Buckingham county, 
Judge of the General Court of Virginia, was a first cousin of Patrick 
Henry, under whom he studied law, whose joint executor he was, and 
whose widow he married. He was the son of William Winston and 
grandson of Isaac and Mary (Dabney) Winston. Isaac, William, and 
James Winston emigrated from Yorkshire, England, in 1704, and set- 
tled near Richmond, Virginia. From them have descended the distin- 
guished Winston family, whose ramifications include nearly every 
family of worth in the Southern States. Edmund Winston wore the 
ermine worthily. He was a sound lawyer, and his character was spot- 
less. He died in 1813, aged more than four-score. A number of his 
descendants reside in Missouri. 

330 COLONEL JAMES TAYLOR was of the family of President Zachary 
Taylor. He was a Burgess i762-'64, member of the Committee of 
Safety of Caroline county i774-'76, and of the Conventions of J775-'76. 

331 THOMAS READ, the son of Colonel Clement Read (see Grigsby's 
Convention of 7776, page 106, et seq.), began life as a surveyor; studied 
at William and Mary College, and was Deputy Clerk of Charlotte 
county, when it was set apart from Lunenburg in 1765, becoming Clerk 
in 1770, holding the office until 1817, "to the approbation of all." He 
was of fine physique, his stature approaching six feet. He died at his 
seat, " Ingleside," February 4, 1817. 

332 PAUL CARRINGTON was the eldest son of Judge Paul Carrington, 
and by the early laws of primogeniture, his father dying intestate, 
inherited the whole estate of the latter. He nobly divided the estate 

24 



370 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

equally with his brothers and sisters. He was a member of the House 
of Burgesses and of the Conventions of i775-'76; appointed, in 1779, 
the second Judge of the General Court of. Virginia ; was Chief Justice 
in 1780; 1789, Judge of the Court of Appeals ; resigned 1807, at the age 
of seventy- five ; died, aged ninety-three years. 

333 DAVID PATTESON, a descendant of David Patteson, who received 
a patent of land in Henrico county (then including Chesterfield county) 
in 1714; was Colonel commandant of Chesterfield county in 1785 and a 
member of the House of Delegates, i79i-'93- Of his descent are Mrs. 
Branch, the widow of the late Colonel James R. Branch, and Mrs. 
McCaw, wife of Dr. James Brown McCaw, of Richmond. 

334 The emigrant ancestor of the MICHAUX family of Virginia was a 
Huguenot, Abraham Michaux ; born at Cadent, France, in 1672, and 
died in Henrico county, Virginia, in 1717. He married Susanna Rochet 
(who escaped from France, in a hogshead, to Holland, and was subse- 
quently known by the soubriquet " Little Night-Cap," from having been 
thus mentioned to friends by her sister to avoid attention and religious 
persecution). Of their issue was JACOB MICHAUX, a Captain in the 
Revolution, who died in 1787. He married Judith Woodson, and had, 
among other issue, the member Joseph Michaux, who died in 1807. 

335 A son of the member, of the same name, THOMAS H. DREW; born 
May 13, 1785, at "Clifton," Cumberland county; died at Richmond, 
Virginia, at the residence of his son-in-law, William D. Gibson, Esq., 
October 9, 1878; was an interesting link with the past. He came to 
Richmond in 1803, and was first employed as a collector by the old 
Mutual Assurance Society, which was founded in 1794, and, though 
the oldest in Virginia, is still among the staunchest. He was deputy 
United States Marshal in 1807, and summoned the famous jury which 
tried Aaron Burr for treason. He subsequently engaged in mercantile 
pursuits, and was the senior member of the firm of Drew, Blair & 
Carroll. He was one of the audience in the Theatre at its lamentable 
burning on Saturday night of December 26, i8n,and one of the movers 
in the building of the Monumental Church on its site. His memory 
was very clear as to the moving events of his long life, and he was a 
delightful raconteur. The family was seated in York county as early 
as 1657, and has been numerously represented in Eastern Virginia. 

336 Slaughter, in his History of St. Mark's Parish, page 169, cites 
General Richard Taylor, late Confederate States Army, son of President 
Zachary Taylor, whose mother was Sarah Strother, as having visited 
the old family burying-ground of the Strothers in the Isle of Thanet, 
County Kent, England, and noted the name in its various transitions 
from its original form, Straathor, to its present authography. Anthony 
Strother, of this derivation, patented, in 1734, a tract of land under the 
Double-top mountain, in what was then St. Mark's Parish, and is now 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 371 

Bromfield, in Madison county ; Jeremiah Strother died, in that part of 
Orange county which now forms Culpeper. in 1741, leaving wife, 
Eleanor, and children, James, William, Francis, Lawrence, Christopher, 
Robert, and several daughters, the marriages of whom are recorded in 
preceding sketches. James, the eldest son, married Margaret, daughter 
of Daniel French, of King George county. Of their issue was FRENCH 
STROTHER, who married Lucy, daughter of Robert Coleman. He was 
a vestryman and church warden of St. Mark's Parish, and as such 
" made himself very popular by releasing a Baptist minister, who had 
been imprisoned at night, substituting his servant man, Tom, in his 
place." He represented Culpeper county in the General Assembly for 
nearly thirty years ; was a member in 1776 and also in 1799, when he 
voted against the celebrated resolutions of 1798 -'99. He was solicited 
to oppose James Madison for Congress, but James Monroe became the 
candidate, and was badly beaten. Monroe had only 9 votes in Orange, 
Madison 216, Culpeper, Monroe 103, Madison 256. One of his daugh- 
ters married Captain Philip Slaughter, of the Revolution. A son, 
George French Strother, was a member of Congress, i8i7-'2o. 

387 The distinguished Jubal A. Early, late Lieutenant-General Con- 
federate States Army, has written me that his ancestor emigrated from 
Donegal, Ireland, early in the eighteenth century, settled in Culpeper 
county, and married a Miss Buford. They had issue three sons: Joshua, 
the great-grandfather of General Early, whose father was Joab, and 
grandfather Jubal Early, "who established his son-in-law, Colonel 
James Callaway, in Franklin county, with the first iron furnace in the 
Piedmont region ; JOEL EARLY, the member, who removed to Georgia, 
and was the ancestor of Governor Peter Early of that State ; JOHN 
EARLY, member from Franklin county, ancestor of Bishop John Early, 
of the Methodist Church South. 

838 JOSEPH JONES, "of Dinwiddie," probably served in the House of 
Burgesses. He was a member of the House of Delegates i784-'87 ; 
Postmaster of Petersburg; a General of militia. He married Jane, 
daughter of Roger Atkinson, of " Mansfield," and left issue. 

339 The WATKINS family of Virginia has been supposed to be of 
Welsh origin. James Watkins was among the emigrants to Virginia in 
1608. John Watkins was granted 850 acres of land in James City- 
county July 3, 1648. An account of the family was prepared by the late 
Hon. F. N. Watkins. He commences his deduction with Thomas 
Watkins, of Swift Creek, Cumberland county, whose will bears date 
1760. He had issue eight children, the eldest Thomas. Another son, 
Benjamin, married Miss Gary, of Warwick county. He was the first 
Clerk of Chesterfield county, in 1749, until his death, in 1779. He was 
a member of the Conventions of i775-'76, and took an active part in 
the affairs of the Revolution. One of his daughters was the wife of 



372 VIRGINIA CONVENTION* OF 1788. 

Rev. William Leigh, and the mother of Judge William Leigh and of 
United States Senator Benjamin Watkins Leigh. Another daughter, 
Frances, married William Finnic, of Amelia county, and her descen- 
dants include the names also of Royall, Worsham, Sydnor, and others. 
WILLIAM WATKINS, member, is presumed to have been the brother of 
Benjamin Watkins. 

"MILES KING was a member of the House of Delegates from Eliza- 
beth City county in 1784. i786-*87, '91, '92-*3, and 1798, and resigned 
in the latter year to accept the county clerkship. Henry King was a 
member of the Virginia Convention of 1776 from Elizabeth City county. 

10 WORLICH WESTWOOD was a Burgess in 1774; member of the Com- 
mittee of Safety of Elizabeth City county i774~'76 ; member of the 
Conventions of i775-*76 ; member of the House of Delegates 1785, 
1790, 1798-1800, i8o2-'3, and Sheriff in 1790. 

| 

** JAMES UPSHAW was a signer of the Resolutions of the Westmore- 
land Association against the Stamp Act, February 27, 1766. His ances- 
tor. John U pshaw, probably from England, born July 21, 1715, was a 
Burgess from Essex i758-'65. Forest Upshaw, who served as Captain 
in the French and Indian war ; Captain James Upshaw, of the Revolu- 
tion, a member of the Virginia branch of the Order of the Cincinnati ; 
John H. Upshaw, member of the House of Burgesses 1809-' 10, were 
all of this lineage. 

* MKRIWETHER SMiTwas born about the year 1730 at " Bathurst," 
Essex county. His mother was a daughter of Launcelot Bathurst, a 
patentee of nearly 8,000 acres of land in New Kent county, Virginia, in 
1683, who was appointed, August i, 1684, by Edmund Jenings, Attor- 
ney-General of Virginia, his deputy for Henrico county. The name 
Bathurst appears as a continuously favored Christian name in the Buck- 
ner, Hinton, Jones, Randolph, Skelton, Stith, and other families. Meri- 
wether Smith married twice first, about 1760, Alice, daughter of 
Philip Lee, third in descent of the emigrant Richard Lee, and widow 
ef Thomas Clarke; and, secondly, September 29, 1769, Elizabeth, 
widow of Colonel William Daingerfield, of Essex county, member of 
the House of Burgesses. Meriwether Smith served Virginia with zeal 
and distinction through a long series of years, and in important sta- 
tions. He appears as a signer to the Articles of the Westmoreland 
Association of February 27, 1766, which, in opposition to the odious 
Stamp Act, was pledged to use no articles of British importation ; and 
on May 18, 1769, was a signer also of the Williamsburg Association, 
which met at the old Raleigh Tavern, in that city, and who bound 
themselves to abstain from the use of the proscribed British merchan- 
dise, and "to promote and encourage industry and frugality and dis- 
courage all luxury and extravagance." In 1770 he represented Essex 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 179 

county in the House of Burgesses. He was a member of the Con- 
ventions of i775-'?6, and in the latter body prepared a draft of the 
Declaration of Rights. He was a representative of Virginia in the 
Continental Congress from 1778 to 1782. He represented Essex county 
in the House of Delegates ijS6- t SS. "He died January 25, 1790. His 
wife, Mrs, Elizabeth Smith, surviving him, died January 24, 1794. They 
are both buried at " Bathurst." A son by the first marriage, George 
William Smith, born at " Bathurst " 1762 ; married February 7, 1793, 
Sarah, fourth daughter of Colonel Richard Adams, the elder, member 
of the Convention of 1776, an ardent patriot throughout the Revolu- 
tion, and one of the most enterprising, public-spirited, wealthy, and 
influential citizens of Richmond. Colonel Adams was a large pro- 
perty-holder, and the Assembly considered for a time the erection of 
the State Capitol upon a site in Richmond, on Church Hill, owned by 
him, and proffered as a gift to the State. George William Smith repre- 
sented Essex county in the House of Delegates in 1794. Soon there- 
after he made Richmond his residence, and in his profession of the law 
speedily took high rank and enjoyed a lucrative practice. He repre- 
sented the city in the House of Delegates from 1802 to 1808, inclusive, 
and in iSio was appointed a member of the State Council, and as 
senior member of that body, or Ueutenant-Governor, upon the resig- 
nation of Governor James Monroe to accept the position of Secretary 
of State in the Cabinet of President Madison, succeeded, December 5, 
iSn, as the Executive of the State. His term was lamentably brief, he 
being one of the victims of the memorable calamity, the burning of the 
Richmond Theatre. December 26, 1811. 

'"Da. DAVID STUART, of " Hope Park " and " Ossian Hall," Fairfex 
county, was the son of Rev. William Stuart, of King George county, 
and a correspondent of Washington. He was a member of the House 
of Delegates i785-"S7; married Eleanor, widow of John Parke Custis, 
and daughter of Benedict Calvert. of Maryland. 

** CHARLES SIMMS is presumed to have been the gallant Colonel of 
that name of the Revolution. 

** HUMPHREY MARSHALL, 5orn in Virginia, about 1756, was a pioneer 
to Kentucky in 1783; married, 1784, Mary Marshall, born in Virginia 
1757; died 1827. He was a relative of Chief-Justice John Marshall. 
He was a member of the Convention which assembled in Danville in 
1787, preliminary to the formation of the State Convention ; a member 
of the Kentucky Legislature for many years, and United States Senator 
1795-1801. He fought a duel with Henry Clay, in which the latter was 
wounded. Author of the first history of Kentucky, published in one 
volume in 1822, and enlarged to two volumes in 1824. He was the 
father of John J. and the Hon. Thomas A. Marshall, and died at the 
residence of the last name<^July i, 1841. 



374 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

347 MARTIN PICKETT was a member of the Convention of 1776, and a 
great-uncle of the late General George E. Pickett, Confederate States 
Army; Sheriff of Fauquier county 



348 ROBERT BROOKE is said to have come to Virginia about 1660. 
Robert Brooke was a Justice of the Peace of King William county in 
1691. Robert Brooke, Sr. ( William Brooke, Humphrey Brooke, and 
George Braxton, Sr., had a joint patent of land in 1720. Brooke mar- 
ried Elizabeth, daughter of George Braxton, Sr. (who died 1748, aged 
seventy-one), and their son was George Brooke. Robert Brooke was 
Sheriff of King and Queen county in 1723. Humphrey Brooke, a 
Justice of the Peace of King William county, died in October, 1738. 
Colonel George Brooke was Burgess from King and Queen 1772^75 ; 
member of the Committee of Safety 1774-^6 ; of the Conventions of 
i775-'76; State Treasurer 1781; Member of the House of Delegates 
1792, and later. Walter Brooke was a Commodore in the Virginia Navy 
of the Revolution, and George Brooke a Colonel, and both received 
bounty lands. HUMPHREY BROOKE, member, was the Clerk of Fauquier 
county and later of, the State Senate, 1791-1802. General George M. 
Brooke, United States Army, and Commodore John Mercer Brooke, 
United States and Confederate States navies, were of this lineage. 

349 This is presumed to be WARNER LEWIS (died December 30, 1791, 
aged forty-four years) son of Warner Lewis, of "Warner Hall," and 
his wife, Eleanor (widow of William, son of Sir William Gooch, and 
daughter of James Bowles), great-grandson of Robert Lewis, from 
Brecon, Wales, and grandson of Augustine Warner. 

S50 THOMAS SMITH was a member of the House of Delegates from 
Gloucester county almost continuously from 1784 to 1840. Whether it 
was the same individual or not, I do not know. Colonel Thomas 
Smith, of " Airwell," Gloucester county, was dead in 1841. 

351 JOHN GUERRANT, of Huguenot descent, was born March 23, 1760; 
member of the House of Delegates i787-'93, and probably later; mem- 
ber of the State Council, and for a time its President, and as such 
Lieutenant- Governor, in 1805. He married Mary Heath, daughter of 
Robert and Winifred (Jones) Povall, and had issue. 

352 COLONEL ISAAC COLES was the son of Major John Coles, an Irish- 
man, who settled in Henrico county early in the eighteenth century, 
and engaged in merchandising. The house in which he resided in 
Richmond, a frame building on Twenty-second between Broad and 
Marshall streets, was demolished in 1871. He was a worthy citizen 
and was long a vestryman of St. John's Church, beneath which he was 
buried. He married Mary, daughter of Isaac Winston, one of the 
three emigrant brothers from Yorkshire, England. Colonel Coles was 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 375 

thus a first cousin of Patrick Henry. He was a member of Congress 
lySo-'Sg and again i793-'97, and voted for locating the seat of govern- 
ment on the Potomac. He married Catherine Thompson, of New 
York, whose sister married Elbridge Gerry. Coles's Ferry, Halifax 
county, perpetuates the name and seat of Colonel Isaac Coles. 

353 LIEUTENANT GEORGE CARRINGTON of the Revolution, and a mem- 
ber of the Virginia branch of the Cincinnati; born June 21, 1758; died 
May 27, 1809. He was the son of George Carrington, born in Barbadoes 
1711 ; died in Virginia February 7, 1785 ; married, 1732, Anne Mayo. 

354 The name GOODALL appears early in the annals of Virginia. 
Michael Goodall patented lands in 1662, and James Goodall in 1740. 
Charles Goodall died in Hanover county in 1766, Samuel Overton 
administering on his estate. PAKKE GOODALL, member, was the son 
of Richard Goodall, of Caroline county, a British subject, whose estate 
was vested in the son by statute. He was an Ensign in the company 
of Captain Samuel Meredith, of Hanover county, which marched 
under Patrick Henry (to whom the command was resigned) to \Vil- 
liamsburg, in 1775, to demand restitution of the powder removed from 
the magazine by Lord Dunmore; was a Justice of the Peace for Han- 
over county in 1782; member of the House of Delegates i786-'89; 
Sheriff in 1809, and subsequently proprietor of the Indian Queen Tav- 
ern, in Richmond. He was latterly termed Major Goodall probably a 
militia title. His two daughters, Martha Perkins (died May i, 1809) 
and Eliza, married, respectively, Parke and Anthony Street, brothers. 
A son, Colonel Charles Parke Goodall, who married Elizabeth, daugh- 
ter of Isaac Winston, and died at " Mayfield," Hanover county, Octo- 
ber 5, 1855, aged seventy years, and a grandson, Dr. Charles Parke 
Goodall, each frequently represented Hanover county in the Virginia 
Assembly. 

355 JoHN CARTER LITTLEPAGE was of the family of the famous adven- 
turer, Lewis Littlepage, Chamberlain to Stanislaus Augustus, King of 
Poland ; served as Captain in the Revolution, and several times repre- 
sented Hanover county in the Assembly. He may have been of the 
descent of the emigrant, John Carter. 

358 By my venerable friend, Dr. John Robinson Purdie, of Smithfield, 
whose dimmed vision caused him to avail himself of the kind services 
of Captain R. S. Thomas as amanuensis, I am enabled to add some 
particulars as to the members from the Isle of Wight county, CAP- 
TAIN JAMES JOHNSON and THOMAS PIERCE. The age of the former 
at death is given me as ninety-one years. He was long a Justice of the 
Peace of the county, and in court was always the presiding magistrate. 
Dr. Purdie states that he sat on the bench of magistrates with him as 



376 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

late as 1843. He was tall and muscular, and retained his vision in a 
remarkable degree. He was fond of field sports and an excellent shot. 
Up to his death he was accustomed to go out deer hunting " with the 
boys," and would drop a buck as often and as surely as any of them. 
Neither he nor his colleague were remarkable for mental vigor, and it 
was matter of surprise that they should have defeated competitors of 
such ability and experience as General John Scarsbrook Wills and 
Colonel Josiah Parker. The former had frequently been in the Assem- 
bly, and was a member of the Conventions of 1775 and 1776. He was a 
Brigadier-General of militia, and resided in the Carroll's Bridge section 
of the county, where are now descendants of his, and his name is com- 
memorated in a venerable church formerly held by the Episcopalians, 
called Wills's Old Meeting-House. Wills and Parker were devoted 
adherents of Patrick Henry, and with him opposed to the ratification 
of the Constitution. They were badly beaten by Johnson and Pierce, 
who favored ratification. ( VI Hening, page 450.) Joseph Bridger, 
a great-grandson of Colonel Joseph Bridger (died 1688), who superin- 
tended the building of the historic church at Smithfield, erected, it is 
claimed, in 1632, married Mary, daughter of Thomas Pierce, and had 
issue Judith, who married Richard Baker, of Burwell's Bay, Clerk 
of Isle of Wight county. They were the parents of Judge Richard H. 
Baker (father of Richard H. Baker, Esq., of Norfolk, Virginia). After 
the death of Thomas Pierce his widow, Mary, married Colonel Josiah 
Parker, and had issue a daughter, Nancy, who married Captain William 
Cowper, and had issue : i, Joseph Parker; ii, Leopold P. C., Lieutenant- 
Governor of Virginia, died unmarried ; Hi, T. F. P. P. (whose children 
are residents of Smithfield and Norfolk); and iv, William Cowper, died 
unmarried. Josiah Parker Cowper's name was changed by an act of 
the Assembly to Josiah Cowper Parker to enable him to inherit the 
estate of his grandfather, Colonel Josiah Parker. Thomas Pierce 
owned a large landed estate, and resided just beyond the limits of 
Smithfield the lands of Smith and Pierce adjoining for the whole 
length of what is now Main street and beyond it. Pierce was wealthy 
and of excellent social position. Both he and Johnson have descend- 
ants living in the county. Colonel Josiah Parker was also a member 
of the Conventions of i775~'76 He commanded a regiment in the 
Revolution, and distinguished himself at the battle of Brandywine. 
He was, unfortunately, of irascible temper. After the battle, applying 
to General Washington for a furlough, and being denied, in irritation 
he resigned his commission an impulsive action, which was ever 
regretted by him. He was subsequently a Judge of the General Court 
of Virginia and a member of Congress i789-'9i, and voted for locating 
the seat of government on the Potomac. 

857 NATHANIEL BURWELL, subsequently of "Carter Hall," Clarke 
county, Virginia, fourth in descent from Major Lewis Burwell (who 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 377 

settled, about 1640, on Carter's Creek, Gloucester county,) and his wife, 
Lucy, daughter of Robert Higginson ; student at William and Mary 
College in 1766; married, first, his cousin, Susanna Grymes ; second, 
Mrs. Lucy (Page) Baylor. 

358 REV. ROBERT ANDREWS, Professor of Moral and Intellectual 
Philosophy at William and Mary College from 1777. In 1784 he served 
with John Page and Bishop James Madison, of Virginia, and Andrew 
Ellicott, of Pennsylvania, in fixing the boundary line between the two 
States. 

359 ROBERT BRECKENRIDGE, pioneer to Kentucky from Virginia; 
married the widow of Colonel John Floyd ; representative from Jeffer- 
son county in 1792, and Speaker; member of the Convention held in 
Danville in 1792, and which formed the first Constitution of Kentucky. 

360 A descendant of WILLIAM FLEET, Gent, a member of the Virginia 
Company, of Chartham, Kent ; married Deborah Scott, daughter of 
Charles Scott, of Egerton, Kent, by his wife, Jane Wyatt. He had 
issue seven sons and one daughter, viz. : George, William, Henry, 
Brian, Edward, Reynold, and John, and Catherine. On July 3, 1622, 
he transferred to his daughter his three shares in Virginia. At least 
four of his sons (Henry, Edward, Reynold, and John) were among 
the early emigrants to Virginia and Maryland. All four of them were 
members of the Maryland Legislature of 1638 the first Assembly 
whose records have been preserved. Captain HENRY FLEET was the 
most noted of this brotherhood in our annals. He, at an early date, 
was captured by the Indians on the Potomac in 1623 ; remained a cap- 
tive until 1627 ; became familiar with the Indian tongue ; an interpreter, 
trader, and legislator in Maryland ; finally settled at Fleet's Bay, in Lan- 
caster county, and represented- the county in the House of Burgesses 
in 1652. His daughter, Sarah, married Edwin Conway. of Lancaster 
county, Virginia. Captain Henry Fleet was first cousin to Dorothy 
Scott, who married, first, Major Daniel Gotherson, of Cromwell's army, 
and about 1655 became a Quaker preacher. She married, secondly, 
Joseph Hogben, and, about 1680, settled at Long Island, New York. 
(Brown's Genesis of the United States, Vol. II, p. 892.) 

361 JOHN ROANE was a Presidential Elector in 1809, and a member of 
Congress from 1815 to 1817, from 1827 to 1831, and from 1835 to 1837. 

362 HOLT RICHESON was a Colonel in the State line in the Revo- 
lution. 

363 LIEUTENANT-COLONEL BENJAMIN TEMPLE, a gallant officer of the 
Revolution. 



378 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 



GORDON, of an ancient Scotch family, was a member of the 
Convention of 1776. Of his lineage is the distinguished family of 
Albemarle county, so often and worthily represented in our legislative 
annals. 

365 LEVIN POWELL was born in 1738; served through the Revolution, 
and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel ; was a member of Con- 
gress 1799-1801 ; died at Bedford, Pennsylvania, in August, 1810. 

366 COLONEL WILLIAM OVERTON CALLIS, son of William and Mary 
(Cosby) Callis, was born March 4, 1756, near " Urbanna," Virginia, and 
died March 14, 1814, at " Cuckoo," Louisa county, Virginia. His mother 
was third in descent from William Overton; born December 2, 1638, 
in England; settled in Hanover county, Virginia, in 1682; married, 
November 24, 1670, Mary Waters, who by tradition was a descendant 
of the famous Nell Gwynne, mistress of Charles the Second. William 
Overton Callis served in the Revolution seven years and ten months 
entering the army as Lieutenant, and promoted Captain, and so badly 
wounded at the battle of Monmouth as to require a trip to the West 
Indies to recruit his health. During 1781 he served on the staff of Gene- 
ral Thomas Nelson, with the rank of Major, being at the reduction of 
Yorktown; served in the Virginia Assembly seventeen years, and voted 
for the Resolutions of i798-*99 ; was twice married first to a daughter 
of John Winston, and second to the daughter of Captain Thomas Price, 
of Hanover connty. Hon. William Josiah Leake, of Richmond, Vir- 
ginia, is his great-grandson. The descendants of William Over- 
ton include the worthy names of Blackford, Barry, Berkley, Carr, 
Clough, Claybrooke, Campbell, Coleman, Gary, Fontaine, Gilliam, 
Garland, Hart, Harris, Holliday, Harrison, Leake, Morris, Minor, Nel- 
son, Terrell, Waller, Watson, and others. 

367 COLONEL JOHN LOGAN, a doughty Indian-fighter. 

36 " HENRY PAWLING was a representative of Lincoln county in 1792, 
under the first Constitution of Kentucky. 

369 GREEN CLAY, son of Charles Clay, was born in Powhatan county, 
Virginia, August 14, 1757. He was of the family of Henry Clay. He 
went to Kentucky when a youth, entered the office of James Thomp- 
son, and became a proficient surveyor. His occupation gave him the 
opportunity to acquire a large and valuable landed estate. He was a 
member of the Convention of 1799, which formed the present Consti- 
tution of Kentucky, and long represented Madison county in each 
branch of the Legislature. Appointed a Brigadier-General March 29, 
1813, he led 3,000 Kentucky volunteers to the relief of Fort Meigs and 
forced the enemy to withdraw. General Harrison left him in the com- 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 379 

mand of Fort Meigs, which he skilfully defended from the attack of 
a large force of British and Indians, under General Proctor and 
Tecumseh. He was the father of Hon. Cassius M. Clay. He died 
October 31, 1826. Clay county, Kentucky, was named in his honor. 

370 GENERAL RICHARD KENNON, third in descent from Richard Ken- 
non, who settled in Virginia, about 1670, at " Conjuror's Neck," about 
five miles below Petersburg, Virginia: entered the army of the Revo- 
lution as Lieutenant in the Fifth Virginia Regiment; promoted at the 
battle of Monmouth ; served throughout the war ; appointed by Presi- 
dent Jefferson first Governor of Louisiana Territory ; died in that State, 
aged forty-four years ; member of the Cincinnati ; married Elizabeth 
Beverley, daughter of Robert and Anne (Beverley) Munford, of " Rich- 
land, 1 ' Mecklenburg county, Virginia. 

311 WILLIS RIDDICK was a member of the Virginia Conventions of 
~'7^ > an d served long in the Virginia Assembly. 



37J WILLIAM CLAYTON was a descendant of John Clayton, a Burgess 
from James City county in 1723; Attorney-General of the Colony in 
1724; Judge of the Court of Admiralty; died November 18, 1737, in 
the seventy-second year of his age. A manuscript volume of his 
opinions has been preserved. William Clayton was a Burgess from 
New Kent in 1769, member of the House of Delegates 1776, and mem- 
ber of the Virginia Convention of 1776. 

373 COLONEL BURWELL BASSETT, JR., of "Eltham," New Kent county, 
Virginia, was a nephew of Mrs. George Washington; member of the 
House of Delegates of Virginia 1789, 1819-' 20; of Slate Senate i798-'99, 
i8o2-'3; member of Congress i8o5-'i3, iSis-'ig, and i82i-'3i ; died 
February 26, 1841, aged seventy-six years and eleven months. 

374 DR. WALTER JONES was born in Virginia in 1745; graduated at 
William and Mary College in 1760; studied medicine in Edinburgh, 
Scotland, and received the degree of M. D.; on his return to Virginia 
he settled in Northumberland county and became eminent as a scholar 
and physician. In 1777 he was appointed by Congress Physician-Gene- 
ral of Hospitals in the Middle Department ; was a representative in 
Congress from Virginia from 1797 to 1799, and again from 1803 to 1811. 
He was at one time a " Free Thinker," but his views were subsequently 
entirely changed, and he embraced the Christian faith, after which he 
wrote a lengthv volume denouncing his former views, and stating with 
clearness the grounds on which he did so. This was done for the satis- 
faction and the gratification of his children. He died in Westmoreland 
county, Virginia, December 31, 1815. 



380 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

S7S WILLIAM RONALD was a native of Scotland and a brother of 
General Andrew Ronald, a prominent lawyer of Richmond, Virginia, 
who was one of the counsel representing the British merchants in^the 
so-called British Debts case, in which the debtors were represented by- 
Patrick Henry. 

876 GENERAL ROBERT LAWSON was a gallant and meritorious officer 
of the Revolution. 

S "THEODORICK BLAND was born in Virginia in 1742, and was the uncle 
of John Randolph, of Roanoke. Graduated M. D. in Edinburgh, Scot- 
land, and practiced his profession for a time in Williamsburg, com- 
bining with it, as was the custom in the towns of Virginia in that day, 
the keeping of an apothecary or dispensary. At the commencement of 
the Revolution he entered the army, and rose to the rank of Colonel of 
Dragoons. In 1779 he had command of the troops at Albemarle 
barracks, and continued in that station till elected to Congress in 1780, 
where he served three years. He was then chosen a member of the 
Virginia Legislature. He was a representative in the first Congress 
under the Constitution. He died at New York June i, 1790, while 
attending a session of Congress. He was the first member of Congress 
whose death was announced in that body ; and although buried in 
Trinity church-yard, the sermon in the church was preached by a 
pastor of the Dutch Reformed denomination. He was present at the 
battle of Brandywine, and enjoyed the confidence of General Washing- 
ton. He was of worthy lineage and a man of culture. His corre- 
spondence with eminent men, under the title of The Bland Papers, 
was edited by Charles Campbell (author of a history of Virginia), and 
published in two volumes, 8vo., in 1843. 

37S EDMUND RUFFIN, fourth in descent from William Ruffin, who was 
seated in the Isle of Wight county in 1666, and died 1693. He was the 
son of Edmund Ruffin by his first marriage with Mrs. Edmunds, nee 
Simmons (he married secondly Elizabeth Cocke, of Surry county), and 
was born January 2, 1744- '45 ; died in 1807 ; was a member of the 
House of Delegates 1777, 1784, 1786, and 1787; County Lieutenant 
1789; Sheriff 1797; married Jane, daughter of Sir William Skipwith, 
Baronet, of " Prestwould," Mecklenburg county. Their grandson, Ed- 
mund Ruffin, of Prince George and Hanover counties, born January 5, 
1794, was the eminent agriculturist, who volunteered in the late war 
between the States, and is said to have fired the first gun in the reduc- 
tion of Fort Sumter. Under mental depression, caused by the failure 
of the Confederacy, he committed suicide June 15, 1865. 

379 CAPTAIN THOMAS BULLITT was a meritorious officer under Wash- 
ington in the French and Indian war. Cuthbert Bullitt was probably of 
the same family. He was a Judge of the State Court. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 381 

380 The ancestor of the WALKE family of Virginia was Anthony Voelke 
(anglicized Walke), who accompanied William, Prince of Orange, to 
England in 1688, and came to Virginia in 1693. His grandson, ANTHONY 
WALKE, the member, was a worthy citizen and pious churchman. He 
built the church still standing near Norfolk and known as Old Donation 
Church He married twice first, Jane, daughter of William Randolph ; 
second, Mary Moseley, a granddaughter of Bishop Gilbert Burnett. He 
died in 1794. His colleague, THOMAS WALKE, was of the same lineage. 

381 JOHN DAWSON graduated at Harvard University in 1782 ; was a 
Presidential Elector in 1793; member of Congress 1797-1814; was fre- 
quently in the Virginia Legislature ; was a member of the Executive 
Council of Virginia ; rendered service in the War of 1812 as Aid to the 
Commanding General on the Lakes, and was appointed bearer of dis- 
patches to France in 1801 by President John Adams. He died in 
Washington, D. C., March 30, 1814, aged fifty-two years. 

382 The progenitor of the COCKE family of Virginia was Richard 
Cocke, who emigrated from Leeds, Yorkshire, England, in 1636, and 
settled at " Malvern Hills," Henrico county, the locality of a san- 
guinary battle of the name during the late war between the States. 
Richard, a grandson of the emigrant, married Elizabeth, daughter of 
Henry Hartwell, who was Clerk of the General Court in 1675, and one of 
the trustees in the charter of William and Mary College, February 8, 
1692, O. S. From this couple was descended the member, JOHN HART- 
WELL COCKE. 

383 The ancestor of the member, JOHN ALLEN, was Major Arthur 
Allen, who patented lands in 1649 in Surry county. He was the grand- 
son of Colonel John Allen, of " Clermont." He was a member of the 
House of Delegates in 1784, '86, '87, '88, and '91 ; a member of the 
Council, and died before 1799. 

384 JOHN HOWELL BRIGGS, the son of Gray Briggs a native of Ireland, 
was a member of the House of Delegates i786-'88, and of the Council 
in 1789. His sister, Eliza, married Colonel William Heth.of the Third 
Virginia regiment, a gallant officer of the Revolution, who enjoyed the 
friendship of Washington, by whom he was appointed Collector of the 
Ports of Richmond, Petersburg, and Bermuda Hundred. He was 
removed in 1802, being succeeded by John Page. He died in May, 
1807. His brother, John Heth, was a Lieutenant in the Revolution ; 
and his sister, Margaret, married General Robert Porterfield. 

^THOMAS EDMUNDS was the son of John Edmunds, who died Febru- 
ary 8, 1770, and who had represented Sussex in the House of Burgesses 
from' the creation of the county. William Edmunds (probably the 
father of John Edmunds) died in Sussex, March 9, i739~'4O. 



382 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

386 COLE DIGGES was the grandson of Cole Digges, a Burgess in 1718 ; 
member of the Virginia Council in 1724, and subsequently it's President, 
and who was the son of Edward Digges (fourth son of Sir Edward 
Digges, of Chelburn, Kent, England, Master of the Rolls and M. P.), 
President of the Council of Virginia, and Acting Governor of the 
Colony, i665-'66. His son, Edward Digges, also served in the Council, 
and his daughter, Mary, was the first wife of Nathaniel Harrison, of 
"Wakefield." 

387 RICHARD GARY was born in Elizabeth City county. He is said to 
have served for a time in the Revolution, on the staff of Washington ; 
Judge ol the Court of Admiralty of Virginia in 1777, and subsequently 
of the Court of Appeals. He was a man of cultivated tastes, and was 
fond of botanical studies, in which he acquired much proficiency. 

388 It may be of interest to note that of the forty-nine members of 
the Phi-Beta-Kappa Society, organized at William and Mary College 
December 5, 1776, nine were members of the Convention of 1788: 
John Jones, John Stuart, Littleton Eyre, John Allen, BUSHROD WASH- 
INGTON, William Cabell, Archibald Stuart, John Marshall, Stevens 
Thomson Mason, and a tenth, if Hartwell Cocke and John Hartwell 
Cocke may be identified as the same individual. Another member, 
John James Beckley, was the Secretary of the Convention. The Society 
was an admirable nursery of patriots and statemen, as the distinguished 
careers of others of its members has given evidence. 

389 JOHN BLAIR was the son of John Blair, President of the Council, 
and Acting Governor of Virginia in 1758; grandson of Dr. Archibald 
Blair, a brother of Commissary James Blair, President of William and 
Mary College. He was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1732 ; 
graduated at William and Mary College ; studied law at the Temple, 
London ; a Burgess in 1765 ; and on the dissolution of the House in 
1769, he, with Washington and other patriots, drafted the " Non-importa- 
tion Agreement " at " Raleigh Tavern." He was one of the committee 
in June, 1776, which drew up the plan for the government of the State ; 
was elected a Judge of the Court of Appeals, then President of the 
Court, and, in 1780, Judge of the High Court of Chancery. He was a 
Delegate to the Philadelphia Convention to Revise the Articles of Con- 
federation. He supported the "Virginia Plan." In September, 1789, 
he was appointed by Washington a Judge of the United States Supreme 
Court, resigned in 1796; died in Williamsburg August 31, 1800. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 383 



ARCHIBALD STUART. 



The Hon. A. H. H. Stuart was engaged in the preparation 
of the following sketch for this work, in emendation and enlarge- 
ment of that by Dr. Grigsby, given ante (pages 10-15), when he 
was stricken with fatal illness, dying February 13, 1891. Whilst 
it is to be regretted that it is incomplete, it is invested with 
peculiar interest as being the final literary and a filial task of 
his nobly useful life. His son-in-law, Alexander F. Robertson, 
Esq., writes me that "he made a great effort to complete it." 
It is received just in time to add finally to the text of the work 
previously in print. EDITOR. 

R. A. BROCK, ESQ.: 

My Dear Sir: Sickness, accompanied by a nervous affection of 
my right hand, which rendered it impossible for me to write legibly, 
prevented me during the summer and autumn months from preparing 
the "sketch" of my father, "Archibald Stuart," which I promised 
you. I have read with great interest and satisfaction your publication 
founded on Mr. Grigsby's lecture. But there are some errors and 
omissions which I desire to correct and supply, and also some notes as 
to his ancestry. 

First, I wish to state that Archibald Stuart, Sr., his grandfather the 
first of the family who came to America was a young Irishman of 
respectable family, who lived not far from Londonderry. He was a 
man of good education, as evidenced by the fact that his will, written 
by himself, and now in the office of Augusta county, dated 1759 and 
recorded 1761, presents, both in style and handwriting, unquestionable 
proof that he was a man of education. He was a man of intelligence 
and deep religious convictions and great energy of character. In early 
life he married Janet Brown, a sister of John Brown, who afterwards 
became a Presbyterian minister in Virginia. By her he had two chil- 
dren while living in Ireland viz., a son, named Thomas Stuart, and a 
daughter, named Eleanor. 

About i725-'a6 the persecutions of the Presbyterians and other "dis- 
senters " became so intolerable that Archibald Stuart, with others, 



384 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

became active promoters of an avowed insurrection or rebellion to 
defend their rights. The military power of the Government was 
invoked to suppress it, and when that was done Archibald Stuart was 
one of those proscribed, and if he could have been arrested would 
have been executed for treason. 

Being thus compelled to fly for his life, he managed with great diffi- 
culty to make his escape to the coast, where he contrived to get on 
board a ship bound for America, leaving his wife and two children 
behind him. He reached America in safety and took refuge in the 
wilds of Western Pennsylvania, where he remained in concealment for 
seven years. Finally there was some act or proclamation of amnesty, 
which enabled him to send for wife and children to join him in Penn- 
sylvania. During his seclusion in Pennsylvania he had been diligently 
making provision for his family, so as to be ready to receive them. In 
1732 his wife and children came over, under the escort of her brother, 
John Brown, and joined Archibald Stuart in his new home in Penn- 
sylvania. They remained in Pennsylvania for about seven years, and 
during that time two other children were born viz., Alexander and 
Benjamin. 

After the proclamation of the Governor of Virginia in 1738, granting 
freedom of religious opinions and worship to immigrants who would 
move to the Valley of Virginia and protect the western frontier of Vir- 
ginia against the incursions of the Indians, Archibald Stuart, with his 
family, removed to Virginia, accompanied or followed by John Brown, 
and settled permanently in Augusta county. Archibald Stuart, being a 
sagacious business man, acquired large and valuable tracts of land and 
other property, which not only enabled him to live in comfort, but also 
to give to his children the best opportunities for education which the 
circumstances would allow, and to convey to each of them by deed or 
will a valuable estate in land. 

The three sons of Archibald Stuart married in early life daughters of 
prominent settlers of the Valley. His daughter, Eleanor, also married 
Edward Hall, the son of a neighbor, and left a large family. Among 
her descendants were Dr. Isaac Hall, who graduated at Edinburgh 
Medical College in the latter part of the last century, and settled in 
Petersburg, Virginia, where he became eminent as a physician ; Judge 
John Hall, of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and many others 
who became distinguished. One of her daughters married Captain 
Andrew Fulton, an officer in the Revolutionary War, and among the 
offspring of this marriage were Hon. John H. Fulton, of Abingdon, 
who was for several terms representative of that district in Congress, 
and Hon. Andrew S. Fulton, for many years judge in the Wythe 
district. 

All the sons of Archibald Stuart, Sr., left large families, the members 
of which in turn intermarried with families of the vicinage, until they 
were closely allied to the Pattersons, Moffets, McClungs, Fultons, 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 385 

Tales, Tylers, Halls, Guthries, Alexanders, Withrows, Watkinses, 
Douglases, Moores, Steeles, McDowells, and many others of the best 
standing in this part of the Valley. 

John Brown, Mrs. Stuart's brother, also married and settled in 
Augusta county. His wife was a daughter of John Preston, and the 
fruit of this marriage was five sons. He studied divinity at Princeton, 
became pastor of Providence church, and held that position for forty- 
four years, and was the second rector of Liberty Hall Academy. Late 
in life he removed to Kentucky, where his sons attained high distinc- 
tion, one of them (James) having served as United States senator and 
afterwards as Minister to France ; and another was the ancestor of the 
late B. Gratz Brown, of Missouri. 

v At an early day, after Archibald Stuart had established himself in 
Augusta, two of his brothers, named David and John, came over from 
Ireland. Of them I know but little, except that they were men of high 
character and intelligence. David was the ancestor of the Stuarts of 
Greenbrier county. John, after remaining some time in Virginia, 
removed to Kentucky. Among his descendants were John T. Stuart, 
of Springfield, Illinois, who was at an early age a prominent member 
of Congress (having beaten Stephen A. Douglas in an earnestly-con- 
tested race), and subsequently a very distinguished lawyer. He was a 
partner of Abraham Lincoln in the practice of law, and when he died 
was the subject of a noble funeral oration by ex-Judge David Davis, of 
the Supreme Court of the United States. 

I have thus disjointedly jotted down some of the facts connected 
with the ancestry and family connections of Archibald Stuart. I have 
done so because of late years I have received many letters from all 
parts of the country making inquiries on the subject. 

As has been already stated, Archibald Stuart, Sr., left three sons to 
survive him viz.; Thomas, who was born in Ireland, and Alexander 
and Benjamin, who were born in Pennsylvania after his wife and chil- 
dren joined him there. 

Thomas was a prominent man in Augusta county, and is the person 
' of that name referred to by Mr. Grigsby as one of the founders of 
Liberty Hall Academy. Benjamin was the youngest son, and is repre- 
sented to have been a man of admirable character and fine intellect. 
He inherited the family mansion of his father and lived a quiet life, not 
taking any active part in public affairs. He married, and left a number 
of children. 

Of these two members of the family I do not deem it necessary to 
say anything more than that they lived honorable and useful lives. 

Alexander Stuart, Sr., was the second son of Archibald Stuart, Sr , 
the fugitive emigrant from Ireland. He was born during the sojourn 
of his parents in Pennsylvania, and came with them at the age of four 
years to Augusta county, where he was reared to manhood. He 
received a common-school education, and his letters show that he 
wrote and spelled correctly and was versed in arithmetic and the sim- 

25 



386 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

pier branches of mathematics. At the age of twenty he married Mary 
Patterson, the daughter of a Scotch-Irish farmer of the neighborhood. 
By her he had two sons Archibald and Robert and a number of 
daughters. For some time after his marriage he lived in Augusta, 
about three miles northwest from Waynesboro'. Subsequently he 
removed to a farm, which his father had given him, lying in what is 
now Rockbridge county, near Brownsburgh. Having lost his wife, he 
married a second time. His second wife was a young widow lady, a 
Mrs. Paxton, whose maiden name had been Moore. By her he had two 
sons and a number of daughters. The sons were named Alexander 
and James. Alexander Stuart, Sr., my grandfather, is the person 
referred to by Mr. Grigsby as Captain Alexander Stuart, one of the 
founders of Liberty Hall Academy. He seems to have been deeply 
impressed with the importance of education, and as he had four sons to 
educate he took an active part in causing the academy to be removed 
from its original location in Augusta county to a point near Timber 
Ridge church, which would bring it much nearer to his residence. To 
that end he and his neighbor, Samuel Houston (the father of President 
Samuel Houston, of Texas), offered to the trustees a donation of forty 
acres of land each, and liberal subscriptions in money, if they would 
remove the academy to the place indicated by them. This offer was 
accepted and the removal accomplished. The four sons of Alexander 
Stuart were educated at the academy after its transfer to the new loca- 
tion. Archibald, the oldest son of Captain Alexander Stuart, having 
exhibited a strong thirst for knowledge while a pupil at Liberty Hall 
Academy, and more than ordinary capacity to acquire it, he made 
known to his father his wish to adopt the law as his profession. This 
suggestion being approved, his father determined to send him to Wil- 
liam and Mary College to obtain the best education that could then be 
had in Virginia. He accordingly went to William and Mary about 
1777, and continued there until 1781. During a large portion of his 
sojourn at college he was an inmate of the family of Bishop Madison, 
the president of the college. He thus had opportunities of seeing the 
best society of the city and of becoming acquainted with many of the 
gentlemen who were prominent in the councils of the State, Williams- 
burg being the seat of government. 

Meanwhile the struggle for independence of the Colonies was pro- 
gressing, and when the seat of government was transferred to the 
South by the invasion of Cornwallis the militia troops of the Valley 
and Southwestern Virginia were called into active service and ordered 
to proceed to the South to join the army of General Greene. Among 
these was the regiment of which Colonel Samuel McDowell, a gallant 
and distinguished officer, was colonel, and which consisted mainly of 
troops from Augusta and Rockbridge. Colonel McDowell was a man 
of high character, a brave and experienced officer, but unfortunately 
some time before the battle of Guilford Courthouse he had an attack 
of malarial-fever, which unfitted him for active service in the field, and 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 387 

the command of the regiment devolved on Major Alexander Stuart, 
tvho was the senior officer in the absence of Colonel McDowell. This 
regiment was composed mainly of the flower of the young men of the 
Valley, who fought w:th the enthusiasm of patriots and the steadiness 
of veterans. They were stationed at a point particularly exposed to 
the fire of the British artillery, and suffered greatly. In my early youth 
and manhood I was personally acquainted with a number of men who 
participated in the battle, and heard from their lips many interesting 
incidents connected with it. Among these was the late General Samuel 
Blackburn, of Bath county ; Rev. Samuel Houston, of Rockbridge ; 
David Steele, of Augusta; and my father, of Augusta. 

General Blackburn and my father passed through the fight without 
injury. Rev. Samuel Houston narrowly escaped death from a musket- 
ball, which struck the Bible which he had in his knapsack with such 
force as to penetrate more than half-way through it. David Steele 
received a sabre-cut, which chipped a small piece from his skull and 
exposed to view the coating of his brain, which was protected by a 
small plate of silver attached to the bone. The wound did not seem 
to have any injurious effect upon him, except perhaps to develop some 
eccentricities which were observable in his conduct, and he lived to 
attain the age of seventy-five or eighty years. 

Major Alexander Stuart, according to every account, conducted him- 
self with great gallantry, and two horses were killed under him during 
the battle. The first casualty occurred in an early stage of the conflict, 
but he was promptly mounted on another horse and resumed his posi- 
tion in the field. At a later period of the fight, when the British 
artillery were brought to bear on the American troops, a shell exploded 
so near to Major Stuart that the fragments killed the horse on which 
he was mounted and inflicted a severe wound on himself. Being thus 
disabled, and his horse having fallen on him, he had not the strength to 
extricate himself from his entanglements, and was compelled to lie 
helpless on the field until he was captured and sent as a prisoner to 
the British hospital, where his wound was properly attended to. When 
he was well enough to be moved he was transferred, with other prison- 
ers, to one of the prison-ships on the coast, where he was detained for 
more than six months, when he regained his liberty by an exchange of 
prisoners. Meanwhile the condition of things had materially changed. 
The surrender of Cornwallis soon followed, and active hostilities had 
ceased. 

Archibald Stuart spent the greater part of the next two years in the 
study of law with Mr. Jefferson. After he had completed his course of 
reading he returned to the residence of his father, in Rockbrid^e 
county, with a view to conference with his friends as to his future set- 
tlement in life. Some of them thought that it would be advisable for 
him to become a candidate for a seat in the House of Delegates at the 
election which was then near at hand. The elections were then, and 
continued for half a century later, to be held on the first day of the 



388 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

county courts of April in the respective counties. The April term ot 
the County Court of Rockbridge was then, and I believe still continues 
to be, held on the Monday before the first Tuesday in April, and all the 
votes were cast at the court-house. In compliance with the wishes of 
his friends he became a candidate, but was defeated by a majority of 
thirteen votes. 

On the day after the election he was requested by his father to go to 
Botetourt county to close some matters of unsettled business which he 
had with Colonel George Skillern, who resided about two miles from 
Pattonsburg. Accordingly, on Wednesday, he went to the residence of 
Colonel Skillern, and on the following day closed up the business which 
was the object of his visit, so as to enable him to return to his father's 
on Friday, according to his original plan. 

In the mean time an invitation had been sent to him, as the guest of 
Colonel Skillern, to attend a barbecue to be held on Friday at Pattons- 
burg. At the urgent solicitation of Colonel Skillern he consented to 
remain and attend the festival, at which it was expected most of the 
leading gentlemen of the county would be present. 

During the progress of the entertainment a toast was offered in honor 
of the soldiers of the Revolutionary War, and Archibald Stuart was 
called on to respond to it. This he did at some length, and apparently 
to the satisfaction of his audience, to whom he was a stranger. Many 
inquiries were made about him, and it having been made known that 
he was the son of Major Alexander Stuart, who had commanded the 
Valley regiment at Guilford, and that he had left William and Mary 
College some weeks in advance of the battle to join the army, and had 
himself actively participated in the fight, the favorable impression 
made by his speech was strengthened ; and some one having referred 
to the fact that he had been defeated as a candidate for the Legislature 
in Rockbridge on the preceding Monday, it was suggested that the 
people of Botetourt should elect him as one of their delegates at the 
election to be held on the following Monday. The suggestion was 
promptly adopted, and a committee appointed to wait on Mr. Stuart 
and communicate to him their wishes and invite him to be a candidate. 
This action was wholly unexpected by him, and after thanking them 
for their kind wishes he was obliged to decline their offer, on the 
ground that he was ineligible for Botetourt, not being a freeholder in 
the county. Colonel Skillern, who was a man of wealth, promptly 
replied that he was prepared to remove that objection by conveying to 
Mr. Stuart a small house and lot which he owned in Fincastle. The 
proposition was finally accepted, and all the arrangements perfected, 
and at the close of the barbecue the gentlemen who had been present 
returned to their homes prepared to announce to their neighbors that 
Mr. Stuart would be a candidate for a seat in the House of Delegates 
from Botetourt at the election to be held on the following Monday. 

He remained as the guest of Colonel Skillern, who was an old friend 
of his father, but on Monday morning he appeared at Fincastle, and 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 389 

the deed from Colonel Skillern to him having been deposited in the 
clerk's office which made him eligible, he was regularly announced as 
a candidate for the House of Delegates from Botetourt county, and 
proceeded to address the large crowd, which, attracted by the novelty 
of the circumstances, had assembled at the court-house, on the political 
topics of the day, and at the close of the polls he was announced as 
one of those duly elected. 

Thus it happened that the young man who had left his father's 
house a week before a defeated candidate for the House of Delegates 
for Rockbridge county, returned a " delegate-elect " for Botetourt. 

These events occurred in April, 1783. In the progress of that year 
Archibald Stuart removed to Staunton, which presented many induce- 
ments to a young man who proposed to follow the profession of law. 
By diligence and energy he soon acquired a large and lucrative practice. 
As proof of the activity and industry which he displayed in the pursuit 
of his profession, I can refer to the fact that, in addition to what may 
be called his " home practice " in Augusta and the adjacent, he was a 
regular attendant on what were then called the "district courts," held 
at New London, Abingdon, the Sweet Springs, and Rockingham. 

He represented Botetourt in the session of the General Assembly in 
the winter of i783-'84, and was re-elected and served the same county 
in the sessions of 1784 '85 and i785-'86. 

In 1786 he was elected and served as a delegate from Augusta ; was 
re-elected in 1787. In 1788 he was elected a member of the conven- 
tion of Virginia which ratified the Constitution of the United States. 
He was probably the youngest member of that body, as he had barely 
completed his thirty-first year when he took his seat in it. There he 
was brought into association with Edmund Pendleton, President, 
Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Edmund Randolph, 
John Marshall, James Monroe, George Nicholas, and many other of the 
distinguished men of Virginia. 

In the presence of men like these, who had inaugurated and con- 
ducted the movement for independence, he very properly declined to 
participate in the debates, and was content to remain an attentive and 
delighted listener to the marvellous displays of wisdom, logic, and 
eloquence which were made by those who were justly regarded as the 
fathers of the Republic. 

After the close of the session of the Convention Archibald Stuart 
declined a re-election to any public office, with a view to devote his 
whole time to his profession. There were other family reasons which 
concurred in leading him to this conclusion. His father, who was 
advanced in life, had met with some heavy losses in consequence of 
a partnership into which he had unfortunately entered. He was, there- 
fore, unable to give to his two younger sons, Alexander and James, the 
same opportunities of education which he had extended to Archibald. 
He had been educated at Liberty Hall Academy, which afforded a 
fine course of instruction. They were both young men of energy and 



390 VIRGINIA CONVENTION OF 1788. 

ability, and, stimulated by the success of their brother in the law, 
evinced a strong desire to adopt the same profession. This fact 
having been made known to Archibald Stuart, he promptly invited 
them to come to Staunton and take positions in his office, and study 
law under his supervision and instruction. A similar invitation was 
given by him to his cousin, John Hall. These invitations were grate- 
fully accepted, and in due season these three young men became 
installed as law-students in the office of Archibald Stuart. They all 
proved to be diligent students, and all successful men in after life. 

John Hall settled in North Carolina, where, after a distinguished 
career at the bar, he was elected Judge of the circuit or district court, 
and, after a service of some years in that court, he was promoted to 
the bench of the Supreme Court of that State, where he gained still 
higher distinction as an able and upright judge. 

After Alexander Stuart had completed his course of study of law in 
the office of his brother in Staunton he removed to Campbell county, 
where he commenced the practice of his profession. Not long after- 
wards he was elected a member of the Executive Council of the State 
and removed to Richmond, where he resided for some years. About 
this time (but the writer has no information as to the date) he married 
Miss Ann Dabney, a near relation of the late Chiswell Dabney, of 
Lynchburg; and when a territorial government was established in 
Illinois, he was appointed United States Judge for the territory, and 
settled in Kaskaskia. But, the climate proving unfavorable for the 
health of his family, he returned to Virginia. Subsequently he 
removed to Missouri, where he owned valuable real estate, and con- 
tinued to be a resident of that State until his death, in December, 1832. 
During his residence there he served as District Judge of the United 
States, and occupied other positions of honor and responsibility. 
Two of his children by his first wife (Miss Dabney) survived him 
viz., a son, Archibald, and a daughter, Anne. Anne married Judge 
James Ewell Brown, of Wythe county, Virginia. Archibald Stuart 
studied law and settled in Patrick county, Virginia, where he became 
eminent as a lawyer and politician. He represented Patrick county at 
different times in the House of Delegates, in the Senate of Virginia, 
in the Congress of the United States, and in the Virginia Constitutional 
Convention of i829-'3o and iSso-'si. He married Miss Elizabeth 
Pannil and reared a large family of sons and daughters. Two of his 
sons, in after life, attained peculiar eminence in their respective voca- 
tions viz., William Alexander Stuart as one of the most enterprising 
and successful business men of the State, and General James Ewell 
Brown Stuart, who is generally recognized to have been the most 
brilliant and successful cavalry officer of the late war between the 
States. 

James Stuart, after obtaining his license to practice law, removed to 
one of the southern counties of Virginia (PittsylVama), commenced 
his professional career, and soon afterwards married a lady named 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 391 

Stockton. The result of this marriage was a large family of children. 
For many years he was successful as a lawyer, but finally he was over- 
taken by disease which impaired his mind to such an extent as to dis- 
qualify him for the pursuit of his profession. The family then removed 
to Mississippi, where they established themselves in good social posi- 
tion, and their descendants are now to be found in various parts of the 
State. During the late civil war two young men, the grandsons of 
James Stuart, who had won for themselves great distinction at the 
University of Mississippi, came to Virginia with the troops of that 
State. In consequence of their scientific attainments they were 
assigned to duty in the signal department ; but, when the hour of 
deadly conflict came, they were unable to restrain their military ardor, 
and rushed into the thickest of the fight and both were killed one at 
the second battle of Manassas and the other at Fredericksburg. 

Passing from this digression from the regular line of narrative which 
the writer thought might be interesting to collateral branches of the 
family connected with Archibald Stuart he now returns to the con- 
sideration of the principal events connected with .the subsequent 
career of Archibald Stuart. 

On the 4th of May, 1791, Archibald Stuart was married to Eleanor 
Briscoe, second daughter of Colonel Gerard Briscoe, of Frederick 
county, Virginia. Colonel Briscoe was a Maryland gentleman, and 
had served in the Revolutionary War. He lived for many years in 
Montgomery county, near Rockville, Maryland, but having married 
Miss Margaret Baker, a Virginia lady, he subsequently removed to an 
estate which he owned near Winchester, Virginia, where he continued 
to reside during the residue of his life. After Archibald Stuart's 
marriage he withdrew from public life and devoted all his time to his 
professional business interests. But he still felt deep solicitude about 
the success of the new Federal Government, which he, as a member 
of the State Convention of 1788, had aided in establishing. 

It will be remembered that the Constitution of the United States 
seemed to contemplate the division of each State into "electoral dis- 
tricts," corresponding in number with the number of electoral votes 
which the State was entitled to cast, and the people of each district 
were allowed to choose their own elector. In the earlier presidential 
elections the counties of Augusta, Rockingham, and Shenandoah com- 
posed one electoral district 

The writer has not taken pains to inform himself who was elected 
from that district in the year i788-'89, when George Washington was 
first elected, but he has in his possession the original certificate of the 
election of Archibald Stuart as elector in that district at the second 
election. This paper is prepared and certified under the hands and 
seals of And. Shanklin, sheriff of Rockingham, Joseph Bell, sheriff of 
Augusta, and Jacob Steigal, deputy sheriff for Evan Jones, sheriff of 
Shenandoah county, dated i2th day of November, 1792. Under this 



392 VIRGINIA CONVENTION' OF 1788. 

certificate of his election Archibald Stuart qualified as a member of 
the Electoral College of Virginia and cast the vote of his district for 
George Washington at his second election in 1793. 

It may be added that at each presidential election thereafter, up to 
and including the election of 1824, he was chosen a member of the 
Electoral College of Virginia, voting consecutively for Jefferson, Madi- 
son, Monroe, and William H. Crawford, of Georgia 

In pursuance of a resolution of the General Assembly of Virginia, 
passed on the 25th of December, 1795, authorizing the Executive to 
appoint commissioners to ascertain the boundary line between the 
Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Kentucky, a commission 
was 

The manuscript of Mr. Stuart concludes as above. The com- 
missioners on the part of Virginia were Archibald Stuart, General 
Joseph Martin, and Creed Taylor ; and John Coburn, Robert 
Johnson, and Buckner Thruston on the part of Kentucky. 
Their report is embodied in " an act for confirming and estab- 
lishing the boundary line between this State and the State of 
Kentucky, ascertained and fixed by certain commissions by both 
States, and for other purposes," passed by the Virginia Assembly 
January 13, 1800. {Shepherd? s Continuation of Hening's Statutes, 
Vol. II, pages 234, et seq.} EDITOR. 




INDEX 



Abolition of Slavery, I, 191, 309, 
341 ; II. 277 ; efforts for, in Ken- 
tucky, II, 294. 

A British American, Letters of. 
II, 218. 

Academy, The Richmond (between 
Twelfth and Thirteenth streets), 
founding of, I, 67. 

ADAMS, John, I, 177, 186,214; II, 
381 ; administration of, 294; ex- 
citement during the administra- 
tion of, 324. 

Colonel Richard, II, 373. 
Sarah, II, 373. 

Admiralty of Virginia, Commis- 
sioners of the, I, 249. 

Admission of States into the Union, 

I, 305- 

AGNEW, Rev. John, II. 47. 

"Airzvell," II, 374. 

ALEXANDER, D. D., Rev. A., I, vi; 

II, 116, 327. 

ALEXANDER, D. D., Rev. H. C., I, 
xiii. 

ALEXANDER, Robert, II, 363. 

Alien and Sedition Laws, discus- 
sion of, II, 243; vote on, 224, 292, 

324- 

ALLEN, II, 381. 

Major Arthur, II, 381. 

Rev. Gary, II, 52. 

Colonel John, II, 381. 

John, II, 16 226, 326, 366, 381, 382. 

Thomas, I, 7; II, 265. 

AMBLER, Jaquelin, II, 210. 
Mary Willis, I, 177. 

Amendments to the Federal Con- 
stitution, I, 225, 307, 317, 318, 320, 
332,334,344; committee to pre- 
pare, 347, 350; vote on, 351 ; II, 
38; Edmund Randolph's substi- 
tute for, 38, 183, 208. 231, 323. 

American Philosophical Society, 
I, xix. 

"Ampthill," II, 369. 



ANDERSON, II, 254. 

ANDRE, Major John, II, 356. 

ANDREWS, Rev. Robert, II, 23, 329, 
364- 

Annapolis Convention, The, dele- 
gates to, I, 131, 144, 251; II, 34. 
37, 70, 149. 153 ; circular propos- 
ing the, 166. 

Apollo Tavern, The, 11,217. 

Armed Neutrality, I, 187. 

ARMISTEAD, Mary, I, 250 ; II, 265. 
Robert. II, 265. 
William, II, 171. 

Army of the United States, Reduc- 
tion of the, II, 279. 

Articles of the Confederation, I, 20, 

29. 45. 49- 54- 

ARTHUR, Thomas, II, 364. 

ASHTON, Burdet, II, 364. 

ATKINSON, Jane, 11,371. 
Roger, II. 371. 

Attainder, Act of . I, 122. 

Augusta County, Va., exalted stat- 
ure of men from. I, 338; patriot- 
ism of, 338; Address from. Feb- 
ruary 22, 1775, 338; extension of 
limits of, II, 23. 

Aurora newspaper, The, II, 246, 
~3o. 

Ayes and Noes, when first ordered 
in a Virginia Convention, I, 344. 

Bacon's Rebellion, II, 215. 
BACON, Sir Nicholas, I, 79. 
BAKER, Margaret, II, 391. 

Judge Richard H., 11,376. 

Richard H.. 11,376. 
Baltimore. Md., trade of, fostered 

by Virginia legislation, II, 139. 
BALDWIN, Briscoe G., II, 15. 

Dr. Cornelius. II, 15. 
Bank of the United States, II, 280. 
BANTE. II, 32. 
Baptist Associations, memorial 

from, II, loo, 103; petition for 



394 



INDEX. 



use of Episcopal churches, 210; 

for sequestration of Episcopal 

Church property, 323; vote on, 

323. 
BARBOUR, Benjamin Johnston, II, 

213. 

James, I, 39, 182 ; II, 48, 226, 326. 

Philip Pendleton, I, 39; II, 180, 

226, 347. 
BARNES, Colonel John, II, 264. 

Mary, II, 225. 
BARRY. II. 378. 

W. T., II, 268. 
BASSETT, Burwell, II, 173, 178, 190, 

198, 199. 3 6 5 ; sketch of, 379. 

Richard, II, 252, 337. 
BATES, II, 83. 
" Bathurst," II, 373. 
BATHURST, Launcelot, II, 373. 
BAXTER, D. D., Rev. George A., 

H, 52. 

Louisa P., II, 54. 

Sidney S , II, 54.. 
BAYLEY, Thomas H.. II, 327. 
BAYLOR, Mrs. Lucy (Page), II, 377. 
Beacon, The Norfolk, I, viii, 
Beard, little worn, I, 95. 
BECKLEY, II, 378. 

John James, sketch of, I, 64 ; II, 

53, 98. 226, 382. 
BELL, David, II, 363, 369. 

Joseph, II, 391. 

Judith (Gary), II. 369. 
BENSON, Egbert, II, 252. 
BERKELEY, Sarah, I, 169. 
BERTIE, I, 60 
BesT, I, 119. 

BEVERLEY, Anne, II, 379. 
BICKLEY, Henry, I, 64. 

Joseph, I, 64. 

Sir William, I, 64. 
Bill of Attainder, I, 262. 
Bill of Rights, 11,373- 
BINNEY, Horace, I, xvii. 
Bishop of London, I, 258 ; II, 216. 
BLACKBURN, General Samuel, II, 

387. 

BLACKFORD, II, 378. 
BLAIR, Dr. Archibald, 11,382. 

Dr. James, I, xxvii ; II, 216, 225, 
382 

John, I, 29, 162, 347 ; II, 167, 192 
210, 219, 366 ; sketch of, 382. 

President John, II, 303. 
BLAND, Edward, II, 92 

Richard, I, 37, 52, 66, 187 ; II, 133. 

Theodorick, I, 35, 53, 197, 347 ; II, 
56, 275; sketch of, 365, 380. 



BLOUNT, Benjamin, II, 366. 
Blue Licks, Battle of, II, 368. 
BOOKER, II, 367 

Edmund, II, 362. 

Louis, II, 367. 

Richard, II, 226. 

Captain Samuel, II, 367. 
BOONE, Daniel, II, 173. 
BOTETOURT, Lord, burial of, II, 303 ; 

statue of, 93. 
Boundary lines, between Virginia 

and Kentucky, II, 14; and Penn- 
sylvania, 23 ; and North Carolina, 

228. 

Bounties on Occupations, II, 278. 
BOURNE, Benjamin, II, 252. 
BOWLES, E'eanor, II, 374. 

James, II, 374. 

John, I, vii. 
BOWYER, John, II, 92. 

Colonel William, II, 43. 
Braddock's Defeat, I, 256; II, 42, 

368. 

BRAGG, Mrs. Lucy, I, 205. 
BRANCH, Colonel James R. II, 370. 
"Brandon," II, 284, 297. 
Brandy wine, Battle of. II, 376, 380. 
BRATTON, James, II, 52. 
BRAXTON, Carter, I 52; II, 122, 127. 

Elizabeth, II, 374. 

George, II, 374. 

Bulk of Cargoes, Breaking, II, 72. 
BRECKENRIDGE, James, II, 325. 

John, II, 92, 249, 254, 289, 335, 338. 

Robert, 1, 7 ; II, 364, 377. 
BRENT, II, -226. 

William, II, 263. 
BRIGGS, Eliza, II, 381. 

Gray, II, 381. 

John Howell, II, 210, 230, 366, 

381. 

BRIDGER, Joseph, II, 376. 
BRISCOE, Eleanor, II, 15, 391. 

Colonel Gerard, II, 15, 391. 
British, cruelties of, during the 

Revolution, II 45; supply arms 

to Indians, 83, 96. 
British Debts, I, 54, 266; II, 82, 95, 

vote on, 95, 118, 176, 227, 239, 

306, 380. 
British Monopoly of trade, and 

greed of merchants, I, 357 ; II, 

138, 236. 
British Navigation Act, I, 361 ; II, 

81, 127, 138, 236. 
British Treaty, I, 166, 276, 279 ; II, 

82 ; vote on, 84; infraction of, 94, 

236 ; opposing resolutions to, 237. 



INDEX. 



395 



BROCK, R. A., History of Tobacco 

in Virginia, I, 10. 
BROOKE, Edmund, II, 326. 

General George M., II, 374. 

Humphrey, I, 307 . II, 178, 198, 
211,364, 374. 

Commodore, John M., II, 374. 

Robert, II, 374. 

Commodore Walter, II, 374. 

William, II, 374. 
Brown's Genesis of the United 

States, II, 377. 
BROWN, James, II, 289. 

Judge James Ewell, II, 390. 

Janet, II, 383. 

John, II, 192, 226, 227, 230, 245, 
276. 

Rev. John, II, 383, 384, 385. 
BUCHANAN, Andrew, II, 366 

James, II. 74. 
BUCKNER, II, 372. 

BUFORD, II, 371. 

BULLITT, Cuthbert, II, 140, 219, 365, 

380. 

Captain Thomas, II, 380. 
BULLOCK, Rice, I, 7 ; II, 364. 
Burgesses, The, difficulty in rinding 

who were, 11,76; of 1619, I, 40, 

49; of 1765, 40 ; Speaker of, also 

Treasurer, 44. 
BURNETT, Bishop, II, 381. 
BURR, Aaron, II, 237, 333 ; trial of, 

370. 

Burwell's Bay, II, 376. 
BURWELL, Major Lewis, 11,376. 

Nathaniel, II, 364 ; sketch of, 

376. 
BUTLER, Mann, I, 7. 

Pierce, II, 243. 
BVRD, Colonel William, II, 80. 

CABELL, John, I, 338. 

Samuel Tordan, I, 35, 40, 75; II, 
284, 3 6 3- 

Dr. William, II, 71. 

William, I, 49, 165; II, 48, 71, 90, 
181, 226, 363 382. 

William H., II, 226. 
CALHOUN, John C., II, 334. 
CALLOWAY, James. II, 371. 
CALLIS, William Overton, II, 365 ; 

sketch of, 375. 
CALVERT, Benedict, II, 373. 

Eleanor, II, 375. 
CALVIN, John. 1, 257. 
Campbell's Lives of the Chancel- 
lors, restrictions as to publishing, 

II, 276, 335. 



CAMPBELL, II, 378. 

Charles, II, 380. 

Colonel William, II, 47. 
Capitol of Virginia, old edifice, I, 

i ; II, removal of, to Richmond, 

74 ; vote on removal, 75, 85 ; 

Church Hill proposed for site of, 

373- 

CARLETON, General, II, 96. 
CARR,!!, 378. 
CARRINGTON, Colonel Clement, I, 

ix, 197. 

Edward, I, 12, 160, 204; II, 170, 
182, 199, 201, 203, 227, 322. 

George, I, 35: II, 98, 329, 364, 

375- 

Joseph, II, 71, 80. 

Paul, I, 50, 64, 66, 347, 351 ; II, 19, 
48. 51, 173, 192, 219, 363; sketch 
of, 369. 
CARTER, II. 26. 

Charles, II, 53, 98, 198, 199, 200. 

John, II, 375. 

Robert Grayson, I, 203, 204. 

Thomas, II, 365. 
" Carter Hall," 11,376. 
GARY, II, 371, 378. 

Archibald, I, 38, 66 ; iron works 
of. 66; II, 61, 74, 283, 302, 369. 

Judith, II, 369. 

Richard, tl, 128, 193, 366; sketch 
of, 382. 

Colonel Wilson, II, 283. 

Wilson Miles, II, 306. 
Central Presbyterian, I, xiii. 
Certificates of Debt, II, 177. 
Charlotte Gazette, I, x. 
Charters, jealousy regarding, II, 

164. 
CHASE, impeachment of Judge 

Samuel, II, 342. 

CHASTELLUX, Marquis de, I, vi. 
CHENOWITH, Richard, II, 176. 
Cherokee Indians, Commissioners 

to, II, 196. 

Chesapeake, Defense of the, II, 73. 
CHICHELEY, Sir Henry, I, 169. 
Chickasaw Indians, II, 201. 
"Chippewamsic," II, 223. 
CHRISTIAN, Anne, II, 42. 

Elizabeth. II, 42. 

Issac, II, 42. 

Mary, II, 42. 

Priscilla, II, 42. 

Rose, II, 42. 

Colonel William, II, 42. 
Church Establishment, vote on the, 

II, 75- 



396 



INDEX. 



Cincinnati, Society of the, I, 160, 

340; II, 372, 375, 379. 
Citizenship in Virginia, discussed, 

II, 80, 222. 
CLARKE, II, 65. 

Alice (Lee), II, 372. 

Thomas, II, 372. 
CLAY, Cassius M., II, 379. 

Rev. Charles, 1,4, 151 ; sketch of, 
255: grave of, 256, 317; 11,363, 
378. 

Green, I, 7; II. 365; sketch of, 
378. 

Henry, I, 255 ; II, 16, 373, 378. 
CLAYBROOKE. II, 378. 
CLAYTON, John, II, 379. 

William, II, 365 ; sketch of, 379. 
CLENDENIN, George, I, 35 ; II, 264. 
Clergymen of Virginia, number of, 

before and at close of the Revo- 
lution, I, 259 ; II, 97 ; as educators, 

225. 

"Ctermont," II, 381. 
"Clifton," II, 370. 
CLINTON, DeWitt, II, 254 339. 

Governor George, II, 188. 
CLOUGH, II, 378. 
COBBETT, William, II, 293. 
COBURN, John, II, 392. 
COCKE, 7.1, 330. 381. 

Elizabeth, II, 380. 

John Hartwell, II, 226, 366, 381, 
382. 

Richard, II, 381. 
Cod-fishery interests, II, 278. 
Code of Virginia, revision of, II, 

134, 202, 315. 

COLEMAN, II, 378. 

Lucy, II, 371. 
Robert, II. 371. 

COLES, Governor Edward, 1,83,95. 
Isaac, II, 222, 276, 279,364,374. 
Major John, II, 374. 

Coles 1 Ferry, II, 375. 

Commerce and Na vigation , d iscu ss- 
ed, I, 314 ; II, 68 ; regulation of 
vote on, 87 ; regulation of, 140. 

Committee of Safety, in 1776, II, 48. 

Common Law, how regulated, I, 
265. 

CONARROE, George M., I, 186. 

( onfiscations, I, 278 

Confederation, Articles of the, I, 
20, 29, 45, 54, 80, 89, 91 ; draft of, 
129, 137, 237. 310; II, 219. 

Confederations, ancient and mod- 
ern; of the New England States, 
I, 146 



Congress, original term of a mem- 
ber of, I, 51 ; jealousy of the acts 
of, 52 ; power of, 137, 258 ; elec- 
tion of members of, 139 ; mem- 
bers from Virginia reported pro- 
ceedings to governor, II, 199. 

"Conjuror's Neck," II, 379. 

CONN, Notlay, I, 7; II, 353. 

Constitution, The Federal, opposi- 
tion to, defects of, I, 31, 41, 48, 49, 
5 1 . 58, 319; adoption of, by the 
several States, 40, 57, 78,310,319; 
condemned and infractions fore- 
told, 117, 156. 198, 208, 293; dis- 
cussed by Madison, 134; ratified 
by the influence of Revolution- 
ary officers, 192 ; vote on the 
ratification of, 345 ; amendments 
to, II, 183; vote on, 183, 208 ; 
new convention proposed, 231, 
322. 

Constitution of Virginia, resolution 
to revise the, II, 210. 

CONTESSE, Dr., I, 248. 

Continental Money, settlement of, 

I, 265 ; speculation in, 265 ; de- 
preciation of. II, 45, 73. 

CONWAY, Edwin, II, 377. 

Moncure D., II, 208. 
COOKE, I, 347. 
COOPER, Thomas, II, 364. 
CORBIN, Francis, descent of. I, 143; 

his ability, 145, 247, 259, 264, 274, 

276, 347 ; 11,56, 114, 127, 167, 198, 

199, 200. 

Henry, I, 143. 

Richard, I, 143. 
CORNWALLIS, Lord, generosity of, 

II, 383 ; carried off plate, II, 83 ; 
defeat of, II, 368. 

Cotton Exports, II, 242. 

Counties of Virginia, named in 
honor of patriots, I, 24; of kings 
and nobles, I, 60. 

County Lieutenant, commission of, 
II, 48. 

Courts of Virginia, creation of the, 
II. 62 ; vote on the, 62; District, 
176 ; operation of, suspended, 
181 ; Appeals, reconstructed, 192, 
193; Admiralty, 193; General and 
Appeals, re established, 219, 232. 

COWAN, William, II, 326. 

COWPER, Josiah Parker, II, 376. 
L. P. C, II, 376. 
T. F. P. P., 11,376. 
William, II, 376. 
Captain William, II, 376. 



INDEX. 



397 



CRAWFORD, William Harris, I, 61 ; 

II, 392. 
Creditors of the Nation, distinction 

among the, II, 277 . 
Creek, applicability of the name, 

I, 233. 

CROCKETT, Walter, II. 365. 
"Cuckoo" II, 375. 
Cumberland County. II, 71. 
Current Money of Virginia, II, 204. 
CUSTIS. Edmund, II, 363 ; descent 

of, 367. 

John, II, 367. ' 

John Parke, II, 367, 373. 
Customs, Revenues from, I, 277. 

DABNEY, Ann, II, 390. 

Chiswell, II, 390. 

Mary, II, 369. 
DAINGERFIELD, Elizabeth, II, 372. 

Colonel William, II, 372. 
DANIEL, Jr., William, II, 326. 
DARKE, Captain Joseph, II, 368. 

General William, 1, 35, 340; 11,9, 

363 ; sketch of, 368. 
DAVEISS, Joseph Hamilton, II, 289, 
DAVIDSON, Miss Mary, I, vii. 
DAVIES, Rev. Samuel, I, 255, 257 ; 

II, 42, 114 

DAVIS, Augustine, I, 67. 
General, II, 25. 
David, II, 385. 

DAWSON, John. I, 139, 314 ; II, 192, 
199, 230, 375; sketch of, 381. 

DUANE, LL. D., Charles, I. xxiii. 

Debtors, bill for the relief of, II, 
74; vote on, 74. 

Debts of States, 1, 90; to be assumed 
by the general government, II, 
212; vote on, 213; sinking fund 
for, 228; of the United States to 
foreign governments, 125. 

" Decius" Letters of, I, 333; II, 
358. 

Delaware and Cataivba Indians, 

II. 55- 
D'EsTAiNG, Count, anecdote of, 

II, 254- 

DICKENSON, Henry, II, 365. 
Dictator proposed for Virginia in 

1781, II, 352, 357- 
DIGGER, Cole, II, 366, 382. 

Dudley, II, 48. 

Edward. II, 382. 

Sir. Edward, II, 382. 
DINWIDDIE, Governor Robert, His 

pistol tax, I, 35 ; presents mace to 

Norfolk, 74, 329; H. 2 5, 4^ 42. 



Dirlton's Doubts, I, 258. 

Dismal Swamp, cans\, II, 176, 228; 

lands, I, 161. 
Disunion, Apprehensions of, 1, 154. 

DODDRIDGE. Philip, I, 201, 347. 

DOUGLAS, Stephen A., II, 385. 
DREW, Thomas H., II, 360, 370. 

Will., II, 53- 
DRINKARD, Jr., William, I, 66. 

Sr., William. I, 66. 
DROMGOOLE, George C., I, 24. 
DUANE, William, editor of the 

Aurora; cited before the United 

States Senate for contempt, II, 

246, 263 

William, J., II. 263. 
Z>w^/,betvveen Mason and McCarty. 

II, 265; between Marshall and 

Clay, 373. 
DUNCAN, Rev. James A., I, viii. 

Rev. W. W., I, viii. 
DUNMORE, Lord, I, 324; II, 46, 61, 

303, 375- 

Eagle Tavern, I, 347. 
EARLY, Joab, II, 364, 371. 

Joel. 

John, II, 364, 371. 

Bishop John, II, 371. 

Jubal, II, 371. 

General Jubal A , II, 371. 

Peter. II, 342, 371. 
" Edge Hill," I, ix. 
EDMISTON. Samuel, II, 366. 
EDMOND, Charles, I, vii. 
EDMUNDS, II, 380. 

John, II, 381. 

Thomas, II, 366. 381, 

William, II, 381. 
Education in Virginia, Early, II, 

71, 216, 225, 379, 382. 
EGE, Jacob, II, 137 
Elections, Federal, I, 118; regula- 
tion of State, II, 82. 
" Eltham," II, 379. 
ELTONHEAD, Alice, I, 143. 
Emancipation of Slaves, I, 211; 

II, 56 ; vote on, 59, 69, 130, 131, 

195. 316- 

Entails, question of, II, 72. 

Episcopal Church, legislation con- 
cerning the. II, 99, 106, 114; II, 
313, 323; value of its property, 
113; ministers of, their scholar- 
ship, ri4, 122, 126; free use of 
its edifices petitioned for, 210, 
323. 

Escheats and Forfeitures, II, 96. 



398 



INDEX. 



ETCHISON, I, vi. 

EVANS, John II, 365. 

EWEI.L, Colonel Benjamin S., I, 

xviii; his tribute to H. B Grigsby, 

xvii. 

General R. S., I, xviii. 

Dr. Thomas, I. xviii. 

D. D., Rev. William Stoddard, I, 

xviii. 

Export Duties, I, 263. 
Expost Facto Laws, I, 262 ; apply 

only to criminal cases, 267, 293. 
Extradition Laws, II, 117, 313. 
Eye-glasses, early use of, I, 76. 
EYRE, Littleton, II, 226, 365, 382. 

FAIRFAX, Lord, II, 16. 
FALCONI, Signer, II, 348. 
FARLEY, II, 80. 
FAULKNER, Hon. C. J., I, 301. 
FAUQUIER, Governor Francis, II, 

42, 302. 
federal Convention of 1788, I, 29, 

41, 51, 131. 144, 251 ; II, 34, 37, 70, 

149, 156; circular proposing, 166. 
Federalist, The, I, 31, 241. 
Federal Policy, selfish. II, 237. 
Federal Requisitions, I, 51. 
Federal Officers, salaries of, aug- 
mented, II, 245. 
FIELDS, case of, for murder of his 

wife, II, 296. 

FINNIE, William, II, 372. 
FISHER, Daniel, II, 364. 
Fishery and Fur Interests, I, 208, 

276. 
FITCH, John, privilege granted, in 

steamboats, II, 177. 
FITZHUGH, William, II, 19. 
FITZSIMMONS, II, 271. 
Fleet's Bay, II, 377. 
FLEET, Brian, II, 377. 

Catherine, II, 377. 

Edward, II, 377. 

George, II, 377. 

Henry, II, 377. 

John, II, 377. 

Reynold, II, 377. 

William. 11,364.371, 377. 
FLEMING, Dorothea, II, 40, 52. 

Eliza, II, 52. 

John, II, 52. 

Leonard, II, 40, 52. 

William, I, 35. 52, 350, 363 ; II, 9, 
26 ; sketch of. 40, 52 ; acting 
governor of Virginia, 52, 363. 

Judge William. II, 54 192. 
FLOYD, Colonel John, II, 377. 



FONTAINE, II, 371. 
FOOTE, Richard H., I, 250. 
FORD, Rev. Reuben. II, 125. 
Foreign Affairs, Department of, 

II, 280. 
Forts Henry, II, 65 ; Meigs, 378 ; 

Pitt, 66; Pleasant, 55. 
FORTH, I, xv. 
FOUSHEE, William, II. 326. 
FOWLER. John, I, 7 ; II, 364. 
Fox's Eulogy of Pitt, I, 333. 
Franchise, former Virginia law 

regarding, II, 388. 
FRANKLIN, Benjamin. I, 76; his 

present from Louis XVI, 264. 
Freeholder, qualifications of the, 

II, 191. 
FRENCH, Daniel, II, 371. 

Margaret, II, 371. 

French, debts to the, I, 152 ; im- 
migrants, bill regarding, II, 243; 

capture of their vessels, 244; 

commerce with, suspended, 245. 
FROGGE. Agatha, II, 28. 

John. II. 28. 
FRY, Hugh W. t I, i. 

Robert, II, 282. 
FULTON, Captain Andrew, II, 384. 

Hon. Andrew S., II, 384. 

John H., II, 384. 

GALLATIN, Albert, I, 177. 
GALT, Alexander, sketch and an- 
cestry of, I, vii ; his works, xii, 

xxi. 

Dr. Alexander, I, xii. 

Hugh B. G., I, xxi. 

John, I, xii. 

Mary Carrington, I, xxi. 

Mary Jeffrey, I, xiii. 

Mary Sylvester J., I, xii. 

Robert Ware, I, xxi. 

William R., I, xxi. 

William W., I, xxi. 
GAMBLE, Colonel Robert, II, 258. 
GARLAND, II, 378. 
GASKINS, Thomas, II, 365. 
GATES, General Horatio, II, 47. 
GEORGE, Colonel John B., charged 

W. F. Gordon with inconsistency, 

I, 165. 
Germantown, Battle of, II, 367, 

368. 

GERRY, Elbridge II, 375. 
GIBSON, William D., II, 370. 
GILES, William B., I, 101, 183; II, 

107, 226, 276, 279, 328, 343. 

GlLLIAM, II, 378. 



INDEX. 



399 



GILMER, Dr. George, II, 20. 
Governor George R., II, 21, 25. 

GILPIN, editor of the Madison Pa- 
pers, tribute to, II, 142. 

GIRTY, Simon, II, 64 

GIST, General Nathaniel, I, 197. 

Glebe Lands, property in, II, 112; 
vote regarding, 114. 

GOOCH, Sir William, I, 329; II, 

374- 

William, II, 374. 
GOODALL, Charles, II, 375. 

Colonel Charles P., II, 375. 

Dr. Charles P., 1^375. 

Eliza, II, 375 

James, II, 375. 

Martha Perkins, II, 375. 

Michael, II, 375. 

Parke, II, 364; sketch of, 375. 
GOODE, Robert, II, 74. 

William O., I, 241. 
GOODRICH, Agatha Wells, II, 46. 

Bartlett, II, 46. 

Bridges, II, 46. 

John, II, 46. 

William, II, 46. 
GORDON, James, II, 364, 365, 378. 

William F , I, 165. 
Gosport, II, 285. 
GOTHERSON, Daniel, II, 377. 
GRAHAM, Rev. William, I, vi, 340; 

II, 10, 23, 104, 108. 
GRAYSON. Alfred W., I, 210. 

Benjamin, I, 203. 

Benjamin Orr, I, 210, 211. 

Frances, I, 210. 

George W., I, 210. 

Hebe C., I, 210. 

Hebe S., I, 210. 

General John B., I, 210. 

Rev. Spence, I, 210. 

William, I, 35 ; sketch of. 195, 
210; intrepidity of, 198; ora- 
torical powers of, 200; his per- 
son, 202 ; speaks, 207, 231, 241, 
244, 255, 259, 268, 272, 274, 277, 
300,314,320,347; 11,85,91,170, 
178, 192, 214, 230; his honor, 

234, 3 6 5- 

William J., I, 210. 

William P., I, 210. 
Great Britain, delinquency of, II, 

242. 
GREEN, General Nathaniel, I, 47, 

109. 
GRIFFIN, Cyrus, II, 19, 192, 230. 

Samuel, II. 276. 
GRIFFITH, William, II, 252. 



GRIGSBY, Colonel Andrew J., I, vii. 

Rev. Benj. Porter, I, vi ; founder 
of the Presbyterian church in 
Norfolk, vii; II, 27, 116. 

Elizabeth McPherson, I. vi. 

Hugh Blair, sketch of, I, v; his 
education, viii ; edits Norfolk 
Beacon, viii ; legislative ser- 
vice of, ix ; his devotion to 
agriculture, x, xxv ; his charac- 
teristics, x; his love of books, 
art, etc., xi; his piety, xiv; de- 
votional poetry of, xiv ; literary 
productions of, xix : last public 
appearance of, xx ; epitaph of. 
xxi ; issue of, xxi. 

Hugh Carrington, I, xxi. 

General J. Warren, I, vii. 

James, I, vi, 

John, I, vi 

Mary Blair, I. vi. 

Mary Venable, I, ix. 

Captain Reuben, I, vi, xii. 
GRYMES, Susanna, II, 377. 
GUARDOQUI, I, 233. 

GUERRANT. John, II, 364, 374. 

Guilford, Battle of, II, 12, 386. 
GUNN, Jariies, II, 242. 
Gunpowder for the Colony, II, 183. 
GUTHRIE, II, 385. 
GWYNNE, Nell, II, 378. 

Habeas Corpus \ I, 262. 
HADEN, Joseph, II, 364. 
HALKET, Sir Peter, II. 42. 
HALL, Edward, II, 384 

Dr. Isaac, II, 384. 

Judge John, II, 384. 
HAMILTON, Alexander, II, 166. 
HAMMOND, II, 83. 
Hampden Sidney College, II, 51. 
Hanover Presbytery, II, 113, 123, 

130. 
HARDY, Samuel, notice of, II, 137, 

226. 

HARCOURT, Sir William, I, ix. 
HARDWICKE, Earl of, II, 216. 
HARRIS, II, 378. 
HARRISON, II, 378. 

Alexander, II, 149. 

Benjamin, I, 37, 52, 71. 184, 186, 
257, 251, 300, 321 ; II, 66, 121, 
173, i?8. 198. 199, 211. 

Benjamin, " of Berkeley," I, 249 ; 

II, 363- 

Benjamin, "of Brandon," II, 254 ; 
moves to Surry as a "pot- 
boiler," 316. 



400 



INDEX. 



HARRISON, Carter Henry, II, 91, 
122, 131. 

Mrs. Ellen Wayles, II, 297. 
Herman, I, 186. 
Nathaniel, II, 382. 
Mary, II, 382. 
Robert Hanson, I, 211. 
William, B , II, 297. 
William Henry, I, 61 ; II, 121. 
Harrison County, II, 66. 
HART, II, 378. 
HARTWELL, Elizabeth, II, 381. 

Henry, 11,381. 

HARVIE, General John B., II, 19. 
HAY, George, II, 198. 
HAYS, Captain John, II, 32. 
HELM, Captain William, I, 204. 
Hemp, duty on, proposed, II, 271. 
HENRY, James, II, 193 
John, notice of, I, 4, 119. 256. 
Patrick, I, 4, 24, 28, 29, 32, 37, 42, 
53. 54, 56 ; gestures of, 76 ; 
speech on the Constitution, 80, 
90, 99, 105; his rejoinder to 
Henry Lee, 113; discusses the 
Constitution, 114; aspersions 
of his character, 114; influence 
of his eloquence, 118, 140, 145, 
146; portrays the expense of 
the Federal Government, 148 ; 
his plea for States Rights, 149 ; 
his mode of preparation for 
speaking, 150; his powers of 
acting, 156, 163, 1 66, 168, 186, 
189, 193, 2ii, 218, 224, 243,245; 
his devotion to Virginia, 253, 
255, 259; his epigram, "The 
sword and the purse,'' 259, 262, 
264, 273, 292, 300, 302, 303; his 
scheme for the ratification of 
the Constitution, inveighs 
against it, 308, 312; amend- 
ments to it, 316; striking mani- 
festations of the elements 
during a speech of his, 316, 
318; length of his speechs, 
328, 347, 35i ; H, 19, 22, 30, 38, 
43- 61, 65, 73, 74, 85, 97, 114, 
126, 167, 173, 181, 192, 198, 204, 
209, 219, 22 r, 230, 318, 322, 357, 
365, 3 6 9, 375, 376, 380. 
Spotswood, birth of, I, 119. 
William Wirt, I, xxii, 4. 
HERON, Peter, case of, II, 72. 
HETH, General Harry, I, 74. 
Captain John, II, 381. 
Margaret, II, 381. 
Colonel William, I, 74; II, 381. 



HIGGINSON, Lacy, II, 377. 

Robert, II, 377. 
HITCHCOCK, Samuel, II, 252. 
HITE, II, 55. 

HOGBEN, Joseph, II, 377. 
HOGE, William, II, 71. 
Holland, Government of, I, 155. 
HOLLTDAY, II, 378. 
HOLMES, Judge Hugh, II, 15, 17. 
HOOE, Robert Townsend, II, 167. 
HOOK, John, case of, II, 326. 
HOOMES, John, II, 107. 
"Hope Park," II, 373. 
HOPKINS, Jr., Samuel, II, 12. 
Hospital at Norfolk, Marine, II r 

207. 
Houdon's Statue of Washington, 

I, 6; reproduced in bronze, II, 

3"- 
HOUSTON, Samuel, II, 386. 

General Samuel, II, 386. 

Rev. Samuel, II, 12,387. 
HOWARD, George, II, 268. 
HUBARD, Eliza Gordon, I, 7. 

James, I, 249. 

William James, sketch of, I, 6, 7. 
HUGHES, James, II, 289. 
HUMPHREYS, Ralph, II, 364. 
Hunsdon, Barony of,\\, 302. 
HUNTER, Ann Evelina, II, 368. 

Moses, II, 368. 
" Hunting Tower" II, 369. 

Illinois County, established, II, 219. 
Immigrants to Virginia, II, 82. 
Impeachment, Power of , I, 271. 
Independance, Resolutions of, by 

the Virginia Assembly, I, 132. 
Indiana Company, I, 279, 289, 302. 
Indian Queen Tavern, II, 375. 
Indian Relations, I, 153 ; II, 201 ; 

invasions, I, 339 ; II, 200. 
Infidelity, Federal administration 

inspired a horror of, II, 294. 
" Ingle side," II. 369. 
INNES, Harry, II, 214. 

Colonel James, I. 329. 

James, I, 37, 75, 169; notice of, 
3 2 4, 333, 347J 11,23, 121, 138, 
140, 157 ; grave of, 245, 284, 366. 

Rev. Robert, I, 324. 
Inspection laws, I, 267. 
International law, H. B. Grigsby 

on, I, ix 
Irish Colonization in Virginia, 

11,9. 

Iron works in Kentucky, Early, II, 
292. 



INDEX. 



401 



JACKSON, II. 52. 
Andrew, II, 242. 
Edward, II, 66. 
George, sketch of, I, 40; II, 66, 

364- 

James, II, 249, 254. 
John, I. 40. 
General T. J., II, 66 ; bust by 

Gait, I, xii. 

iARRETT, Rev. Devereux, II, 225. 
AY, John, I, 237; II, 236. 
EPPERSON, I, 40. 

Thomas. His statue by Gait, I, 
xii; 53, 152, 177, 229 ; II, 12, 51, 
52, 83, 91, 126, 133, 134, 136 ; 
his return from France, 210, 
243 ; service in the United 
States Senate, 248 ; inquiry 
into his conduct whilst gover- 
nor. 285; contest between him 
and Burr, 333, 354, 357, 373, 387, 
392. 

JEFFERY, Lord, I, 97. 
JENINGS, Edmund, II. 372. 
JENKINS, General A. G., I, vii. 
JOHNSON, Chapman, I, 39, 102, 166, 
347; II, 226, 235. 
James, I, 3, 102, 256; II, 15, 364 ; 

sketch of, 375. 
Robert, II, 392. 
JOHNSTON, General Joseph E., II, 

327- 

Peter, II, 327. 

Zachariah, I, 337; II, 122, 127, 

181, 363- 
JONES, II. 372. 

Alexander, II, 369. 

Binns, II, 363. 

Evan, II, 391. 

Francis B., 1, 301; II, 16. 19, 60, 180. 

Gabriel, 1,340; sketch of. 340; 

II, arms of, 16; portrait of, 17, 

22 176, 288, 365. 
John, II. 178, 226, 229, 365 ; sketch 

of, 369, 382. 
John Winston, II, 369, 
Joseph, II, 92, 93, 170, 178, 191, 

198, 219, 222. 264, 271. 
Mary Heath, II, 373. 
Pete'r, II. 369. 

Walter, II, 153,365; sketch of, 379. 
JORDAN. Charles, I, 40. 
Jtiduciary; Federal law repealed, 
11,193, 249; Act of 1801,252, 332; 
of Virginia, I, 92, 280, 295; es- 
tablishment of district courts, II, 
176; amended 193; low salaries 
of, 231. 



KIERNAN, George S. M., II, 65. 

KELLO, Samuel. II, 366. 

KENNON, Richard, II, 329. 365 ; 
sketch of, 379. 

Kentucky, counties of Christian, 
Fleming, and Trigg, II, 43 ; dele- 
gates from, to the Virginia Con- 
vention. I, 7 : boundaries of, 152 ; 
made a State, II, 196 ; proposi- 
tion to, from the Spanish Gov- 
ernment to become, a province 
thereof, 293 ; dividing line be- 
tween Virginia and, II, 14 ; com- 
missioners for settling claims to 
lands of, II. 48. 

KEY, B. P., II, 252. 

KING, Henry, II, 372. 
Miles, II. 200, 364, 371. 

King's Mountain, battle of, II, 47. 

LACY, William, I, viii. 
LAFAYETTE, naturalization of, II, 

136- 

Land, laws, I, 78, 122; titles, 279, 

289 ; public, disposition of. II, 82 ; 

vote on, 85 ; disposition of, near 

Richmond, 96. 

LAWSON, General Robert, II, 365, 

380. 

Lawyer's Road, II, 17. 
LEAKE, II. 378. 

Hon. William Josiah, II, 378. 
LEE, Alice, II, 372. 
Arthur, II, 12, 316. 
Charles Carter, I, 109, 150. 
Henry, I, 35, 71 ; II, 363 ; sketch 

of, 368. 

Henry (of the Legion), I, 7, 35, 
53; person, career,, and ances- 
try of, 109, 135, 149; speaks, 
assailing Patrick Henry, 109, 
118; speech of. 158, 194, 197, 
234, 259. 270; II, 170, 179, 211, 
227, 234, 322, 326, 360. 
Philip, II, 372. 
Richard, II, 373. 
Richard Bland, II, 56, 226, 276. 
Richard Henry, I, 19, 29, 31, 63, 
186, 193, 214, 252, 301, 305, 357 ; 
II, 98. 99, 106, 170, 181, 182, 192, 
198, 211. 217, 219, 230,318. 
Thomas. II, 227, 231. 
Thomas Ludwell, 11,48, 134, 219. 
LEIGH, Benjamin Watkins, I, 37, 
39,78, 241,347; 11,226,372. 
William, I, 37; II, 372. 
Leopard, Attack by the, on the 
Chesapeake, II, 239. 



402 



INDEX. 



LETCHER, Governor John, I, xii. 

LEWIS. Andrew, II, 25,61. 
Colonel Charles, II, 44. 
John, II, 25. 
Robert, II, 374. 

Colonel Thomas, I, 76, 338 ; II, 
9, 17, 18; sketch of, 20; descent 
of, 21, 24, 30, 365. 
Warner, 1, 75; II, 364, 374. 

Liberty Hall Academy, II, 385, 389. 

Libraries in the Colony of Vir- 
ginia, II, 1 6, 23, 30, 51. 

LINCOLN, Abraham, II, 385. 

LITTLEPAGE, John Carter, II, 364, 

375- 

Lewis, II, 375. 

LIVINGSTON, R. R., II, 337. 

LLOYD, Rev. John James, I, 7. 

LOGAN, John, I. 7 ; II, 365. 

Louis XVI of France, I, 152. 

Louisiana, acquisition of, I, 217; 
H. 337 ! cession of, to France by 
Spain, II, 253; speech on, by S. 
T. Mason, 253; divided into two 
territories, 342. 

Loyalists, former, favorable to the 
Constitution, I, 193; notes on, 
11,46; their influence during the 
Revolution and subsequently, 79. 

LYNE, Edward, II, 48. 

LYNN, Margaret, II, 25. 

LYONS, Peter, II, 192. 

MCCARTY, John Mason, I, 211 ; 

duel of, with A. T. Mason, II, 

265; his son, 267. 

William M., II, 268. 
McCAW, Dr. James Brown, II, 370. 
Mace of the House of Burgesses 

of Virginia ; of Norfolk, I, 74. 
McCLERRY, William, II, 200, 365. 
McCLURG, II, 384. 

Dr. James, I, 29. 
MCDOWELL, Governor James, II, 

49- 

Colonel Samuel, II, 386. 
Samuel, I, 338; II, 49. 
McFERRAN, Martin, sketch of, II, 

37, 363- 
McKEE, William, I, 16, 347; II, 37, 

365- 
McPHERSON, Hugh, I, vi. 

Lilias (Blair), I, vi. 
McRAE, Alexander, II, 349. 
MACRAE, Mrs. Emily, II, 224, 262. 
MADISON, II, 382. 

James, I, 28, 29, 30, 36, 53, 56, 
64, 72 ; replies to Governor 



Mason, 93 ; his public service 
and appearance, 93; wrote out 
the debates of the Federal Con- 
vention, 95; mode of speaking, 
97, 99, 101, 102 ; speech of, 131, 
143, 144, 146, 162, 170, 187; his 
modesty, 205, 222, 228, 234, 243, 
290. 2 93, 299, 304, 315, 316, 318, 
323. 347, 348, 357 ; II. 15, 58, 89, 
93,99, ui, 120, 123. 126, 135, 
137, 140, 146, 148, 149, 151, 170, 

192, 227, 230, 240, 241, 253, 270, 
273, 275, 277, 279,314, 337, 354, 
365, 370. 371. 

James. D. D., II, 10, 23, 284, 386. 
John, II, 17. 
Thomas, II, 210. 
MAGRUDER, Allan B., I, 3. 
"Malvern Hills,'" II, 381. 
"Mansfield," II, 371. 
MARR, John, II, 364. 
Marriage Laws of Virginia, 
amendment of the, II, 97 ; vote 
on, 98. 

MARSHALL, Humphrey, I, 7, 31, 
240; II, 245, 364 ; sketch of, 373. 
Chief Justice John. Lives and 
Memorials of, I, 3, 36, 75, 150, 
167, 170; person of speech 
of, 176 ; his eloquence, 185, 256, 
298, 3 I 9-347; II, 15-49. in, 211, 
230, 239, 297, 298, 322, 325, 364, 
373, 382. 
John J.. II, 373. 
Mary, II. 373. 

Cotonel Thomas, I, 197; II, 49. 
Thomas A., II, 373. 
William, II, 80. 

MARTIN, General Joseph. II, 14, 392. 
Maryland, delay of, in ratifying 
Articles of Confederation, I. 90 ; 
her commercial policy, II, 138. 
MASON, Armistead Thomson, I, 
211 ; sketch of, II, 265. 
Francis, II, 215. 
Captain George, II, 215. 
George, I, 4, 19, 24, 29. 31, 42, 
69, 78 ; on taxation, 92, 100, 
114, 122, 162; speech of, 188, 

193. 255. 259, 260, 263, 267, 269, 
270, 284, 304, 313, 347, 349, 351 ; 
II, 30. oo, 123, 126, 134, 149, 
155, 167; ancestry of, 215, 217, 
219 304, 311, 366. 

Jonathan, II, 249, 

John Thomson, II, 223, 266; 

sketch of, 268. 
Judge John T., II, 262. 



INDEX. 



403 



MASON, General Stevens Thom- 
son, II, 268. 

Stevens Thomson, I, 24, 36, 
327 ; II, 72, 138, 178, 193, 198, 
215, 216, 220; sketch of, 225; 
death and burial of, 263, 268, 
269, 343, 365, 382. 
Temple, II, 223, 264, 268. 
Thomson, sketch of, II, 215 ; per- 
sonal characteristics of, 224, 
262, 268. 
William, II, 215, 364. 

MASON family, in New England, 
11,215. 

Massachusetts Historical Society, 
action of, on the death of H. B. 
Grigsby, I, xxv. 

Massachusetts, intestine commo- 
tions of, I, 82 ; insurgents of, 270. 

MATHEWS, George, I, 338 ; II, 80. 
Sampson, I, 338. 

MATTHEWS, Major, II, 45. 
Thomas, I, 36; notice of, 306, 
321, 343, 347; H, 80, 105, 173, 
179, 198, 211, 366. 

MAXWELL, II, 81. 
William, I, vii, xvii. 

MAY, David, II, 48. 

" Mayfield," 11,375- 

MAYNARD, Lieutenant, I, 95. 

MAYO, Ann, II, 375. 
Joseph, II, 56, 69, So. 

Mecklenburg county, Virginia, pe- 
titions for emancipation, II, 131. 

MERCER, II, 55. 

General Hugh, II, 53. 
James, I, 66; II, 19, 48, 193. 
John Francis, II, 279. 

Merchants of Virginia, chiefly 
foreign, II, 143. 

MEREDITH, Colonel Samuel, II, 

375- , 

Messages from the Governor of 

Virginia, not formal in early 

days, II, 199. 
Methodist Episcopal Church, II, 

126. 

MlCHAUX, II, 370. 

Abraham, II, 370. 

Captain Jacob, II, 370. 

Joseph, II, 364 ; sketch of. 370. 
Military officers, influence of, in 

ratifying the Constitution, I, 160. 
Militia of Virginia, intrepidity of, 

I, 160, 259; II, 174- 
MILLER, John, I, 7 ; II, 368. 
MILO, trial of, I, 269. 
MINOR, II, 378. 



Mississippi, navigation of the, I, 
152, 181 ; discussed, 231, 274; II, 
169, 171, 194. 237. 

MOFFET, II, 384. 

Monmouth, Battle of, II, 378, 379. 

Monongahela, Battle of, II, 42. 

MONROE, II, 392. 

James, I, 36, 64, 75, 102 ; notice of, 

167 ; discusses the Federal 

Government, 175, 203, 211, 234 ; 

cabinet of, 239, 243, 255, 257, 

268, 304, 323, 347; II, 214; 

ballad on his election to the 

United States Senate over John 

Walker, 214, 337, 366, 371, 373. 

Spence, I, 203 

" Monticello," II, 315. 

" Montpelier" II, 315. 

MONTGOMERY, James, II, 366. 

Monumental Church, The, I, 68 ; 

II, 370. 

MOORE. II, 386. 

Andrew, I, 36, 340, 347 ; II, 9 ; 
sketch of, 31, 271, 274, 279, 

345- 365- 

David, II, 32. 

William, II, 36, 63. 
MORECOCKE, W. H. E., I, xxvi. 
MORGAN, II, 55. 

Daniel, Rifle Corps of, II, 32. 
MORRIS, II, 378. 

Gouverneur, II, 249, 254, 335. 

Robert, cited on the poll tax, I, 

190. 

MORRISON, Colonel James, II, 293. 
MOSELEY Mary, II, 381. 
MUHLENBURG, General, I, 258; 

II 97. 
MUNFORD, Anne, I, 144. 

Anne Beverley, II, 379- 

Elizabeth Beverlev, II, 379- 

Robert, II, 379. 

William G., II. 92. 
MURRAY, Hon. Alexander, II, 303. 

George, Viscount Fincastle, II, 

303- 

John, II, 303. 
William, Earl of Mansfield, II, 

216. 

William, II, 289. 

Mutual Assurance Society of Vir- 
ginia, II, 370. 
MYERS, Major E. D. T., II, 368. 

Naval Officers of Virginia, legis- 
lation regarding, II, 17?- 

Navy, United States. I, 214; its 
creation due to Jefferson, 214. 



404 



INDEX. 



Negro slaves, taken off by the Bri- 
tish during the Revolution, I, 8; 
number of, in Virginia in 1790; 
evils apprehended from the in- 
crease of, 124 ; their emancipa- 
tion foretold, 157 ; in the army as 
soldiers, 309 ; in the South, 309. 
NELSON, II, 378. 
Hugh, II, 199, 230. 
General Thomas, II, 378. 
President William, II, 303. 
William, II, 226, 284. 
New England, influence of, I, 142 ; 
fisheries of, 207 ; opposed the 
acquisition of Louisiana, 217 ; 
interested legislation of, 314; re- 
proached for apathy in the Revo- 
lution, 322 ; Federal policy in 
favor of, II, 237. 
Newspapers of Virginia : Gazette, 

Whig, Enquirer, i, 67. 
NICHOLAS. Anne, II, 297. 
Anne Gary, II, 281 ; character of, 
283 ; inspiring letter to her 
son, 304; exhortation of, to 
her son, 356. 
Elizabeth, II, 282. 
Elizabeth Randolph, II, 297. 
Dr. George, II, 282. 
George, I, 36, 73, 75, 78 ; person 
f. 79> 99- nS; speech of, 
140; ability in debate of, 140, 
1 86, 231, 246, 255, 259, 263, 267, 
271, 273, 274, 300,302, 317, 324, 
347 ; II, 72, 123, 126, 162, 173, 
l &3> 199, 214, 222; sketch of, 
281 ; conscientiousness of, 287 ; 
advice of, to a young lawyer, 
288 ; offers draft for the Con- 
stitution of Kentucky, 291 ; 
public grief at the death of, 

297, 324, 3 6 3- 

George Anne, II, 297. 

Hetty Morrison, II, 297. 

John, II, 284, 306 

John Nelson, II,. 297. 

Lewis, II, 284. 

Maria, II, 297. 

Margaretta, II, 297. 

Mary Gary, II, 297. 

Colonel Robert, II, 297. 

Robert Carter, I, 37, 44, 249 ; II, 
71, 74, 99, 183, 279, 281 ; purity 
of, 282 ; death of, 282. 

Samuel Smith, II, 297. 

Wilson Cary, I, 36, 75 ; II, 127, 
J93> 2 3- 248, 281 ; sketch of, 
299; compared to Talleyrand, 



Walpole and Machiavelli, 301 ; 
claimed to be a relation of 
Talleyrand, 344; criticism of 
the character of, 345 ; his in- 
fluence as a partisan, 353 ; his 
financial enterprises, 360, 363. 
NIVISON, John, IF, u. 
Nonimportation Agreement, II, 

382. 

Norfolk, burning of, I, n. 
North Carolina, rejects the Con- 
stitution, I, 320; boundary line 
of, II, 228. 

Northern Neck Titles, I, 278, 289, 
299, 302; lines of grants jour- 
nal of the commissioners to fix. 
the lines in 1746, II, 24. 
Northwestern Lands, conveyed to 

the Nation by Virginia, II, 82. 
NORTON & SONS, John, II, 183. 

John Hatley, II, 284. 
NORVELL, William, II, 99, 173, 211. 

O'ELLERS James, II, 263. 
OLCOTT, II. 335. 
Old Donation Church, II, 381. 
ORANGE, William, Prince of, I, 59 ; 

II,38i. 

ORR, John M., I, 203. 
"Osstan Hall," II, 373. 
OVERTON, William, II, 378. 

PAGE, John, I, 68; II, 56, 181, 230, 

274, 276, 319, 381. 

Major Leigh R., I, 34. 

Mann, I, 169; II, 56, 72,98, 192, 

230. 

PALFREY, Dr. John G., I, xxii. 
PANKEY, Jr., Stephen, II, 364. 
PANNIL, Elizabeth, II, 390. 
PARKER, George, II, 363, 367. 

James, II. 46. 

John, II, 367. 

John A., II, 367. 

John W. H., 11,367. 

Colonel Josiah, II, 276, 279, 376. 

Josiah Cowper, II, 376. 

Mary, II, 376. 

Nancy, II. 376. 

Richard, II, 176. 

Robert, II, 367. 

Sacker, II, 367. 

General Severn Eyre, II, 367. 

Colonel Thomas. II, 367 
PARSONS, Judge Theophilus, his 

relations with his associates, II, 

223. 
PATTESON, Camm, II, 369. 



INDEX. 



405 



PATTESON, Charles, 1,338 ; 11,363; 

sketch of, 369. 

David, II, 364, 369, 370 

Jonathan, II, 365. 

3. S. P., II, 369. 
PATTERSON, II, 384. 

Mary, II, 10, 386. 
PAWLING, Henry, I, 7 ; II, 365. 
PAXTON, II, 386. 

Major A. J., I, vii.. 

General E. F., I, vii. 
PEACHY, William, II, 365. 
PENDLETON, Edmund, 1,18,27,33, 

36, 37, 42, 64 ; replies to Patrick 

Henry as to the defects of. the 

Constitution, persojj^of, 102, 

118, 186, 2 1 5-2 1 7*246, 247, 259; 

on the tariff, 277 ; *>peech on the 

judiciary, 280, 294, 3o6, 321, 350, 

351, 353; II, H2, 192,363- 

Jr., Edmund, I, 67. 
Per diem of officers and members 

of the Convention, I, 349. 
Petersburg, its trade compared 

with that of Richmond, II, 143; 

founding of, II, 369. 
PETTIGRU, Hon. James L., I, 211. 
Phi Beta Kappa Society, seal and 

proceedings of, II, 12, 382. 
PHILLIPS, Josiah, case of, I, 122, 

178, 185, 220. 
PICKETT, General G. E , II, 374. 

Martin, II, 364, 374. 
PIERCE, Thomas, II, 364; sketch 

of 375- 
William, I, 67. 

PlNCKNEY, C. C., II, 330. 

Thomas, II, 343. 
Pistole Tax, The, I, 35. 
PITT, William, Earl of Chatham, 

II, 216. 
PLEASANTS, John Hampden, I, 

67. 

Thomas, II, 167. 
Point Pleasant, Battle of, I, 340, 

351; II, 26, 29, 36, 37, 44. 
Political animosities, I, 53. 
POPE, John, II, 326. 
PORTER, Ann (Campbell), I, vi. 

Benjamin, I, vi. 

Charles, II, 118. 

Elizabeth, I, vi. 

Frances, I, vii 
PORTERFIELD, Margaret (Heth), 

II, 281. 

General Robert, II, 381. 
Portsmouth, Virginia, II, 85. 
POSEY, General Thomas, I, 118. 



Post roads to New Orleans, Louisi- 
ana, II, 342. 

Potomac and James rivers, naviga- 
tion of, II, 1 20, 149. 

POVALL, Mary Heath, II, 374. 
Robert, II, 374. 

POWELL, Levin, I, 40, 197 ; II, 365, 
378. 
Captain William, I, 40. 

POWER, Thomas, II, 293. 

POYTHRESS, Peter, II, 220. 

PRENTIS, Joseph, I, 249; II, 89,92, 
140, 172, 176. 

Presbyterian Church, memorials 
from, II, lot, 108, 161. 

Presents from Foreign Powers to 
United States officials, I, 264; 

II, 243- 
President of the United States, 

term of, 1, 267 ; powers of, 270 ; 

electors for, II, 191, 192, 230; 

disputed elections of, 330, 339 ; 

right to remove officers, 272 ; 

salary of, 274. 
PRESTON, John, II, 385 
" Prestwould" II, 380. 
PRICE, Samuel, II, 30. 

Captain Thomas, II, 398. 
PRIDE, John, I, 307; II, 178, 191, 

198, 211, 232, 363. 
PRINGLE, John, II, 66. 

Samuel, II, 66. 
PROCTOR, General, II, 379 
PRUNTY, John, II, 66, 329, 364. 
PURDIE, Dr. John R., II, 375. 

Quakers, The, memorialize Con- 
gress regarding slavery, I, 277. 
QUESNAY, Chevalier, I, 67, 219. 
QUINCY, Josiah, I, 181. 

Raleigh Tavern, II, 357, 372, 382. 

RAMSAY, James, II, 109. 
Rev. Samuel, II, 52. 

RANDOLPH, II, 372. 

Beverley, I, 324 ; II, 210, 284. 
Edmund, I, 19, 29, 69, 71 ; per- 
sonnel of, speech in defence of 
the Constitution, 83, 84; as- 
sails Patrick Henry, 90, 99, 118, 
120. 146; his letter to the Vir- 
ginia Assembly. 147, 155; dis- 
avows inconsistency, 162 ; 
makes unwarrantable attack 
on Patrick Henry. 165. 166, 
186 ; recommended to Wash- 
ington by Benjamin Harrison, 
1 86, 228, 247, 259, 263, 266, 267, 



406 



INDEX. 



273, 300, 303, 311; his rebro- 
bation of secession from the 
Convention, 312, 343, 347; II, 
19, 38, 112, 149, 153, 157, 167, 
195. '98, 199, 200, 203 ; his 
manuscript history of Vir- 
ginia, 208; 211, 212, 226, 227, 
284, 322, 357, 360, 364. 
RANDOLPH John, Attorney-Gen- 
eral, 1,48, 84; II, 282. 
John, "of Roanoke," library of, 
I, xi, xix, 9, 39, 64 97, 102, 166, 
211, 255; II, 139, 226, 328, 342, 
348, 358, 380. 

Sir John, epitaph of, I, 48. 
Jane, II, 381. 
Lucy H., I, 325. 
Peyton, I. 35 ; sketch of, 38, 44, 

48; II, 223, 282. 
Richard, II, 302. 
Robert, II, 200. 

Thomas Jefferson, II, 354, 360. 
William, II. 381. 
"Raspberry Plain'' 1 II, 223. 
Ratification of the Constitution, 

committee on, I, 347. 
Rats introduced into Virginia, I, 

186. 

RAWLE, William Henry, I, 3. 
READ, Clement, II, 369. 
Isaac, II, 138 
Thomas, I, 36. 75, 347 ; sketch 

of, II, 363, 369. 

Religious Freedom, I, 229, 331 ; 
vote on, II, 33, 63, 69; vote on 
tax for church support, 102.128, 
312,317; in Virginia in 1738,384. 
Religious Sects, in Virginia, num- 
ber of each of the, II, 105, 126. 
Reporters in Congress, question of 

allowing, II, 296, 334. 
Revenue Tax, II, 129; of Virginia, 
under the new Constitution, 177, 
196. 

Representation, inadequate, I, 115. 
Republican Party, Split in the, II, 

343- 

Resolutions of /?o8-'oo, II, 14, 35. 

"Retreat. The," II, 283. 

Revolution, in the United States 
foretold, I, 316, 335; slaves taken 
off by the British during the, 8 ; 
veterans of, in the Convention, 
35 ; debt of the, 46 ; prices dur- 
ing the, II, 45 ; scarcity of money 
during the, 67. 

RICHARDS, Catherine. I, 325. 

RICHARDSON, Samuel, II. 364. 



RICHESON, Holt, I, 325 ; II, 364, 

367- 

" Richland," II, 379. 
Richmond, in 1789, I, 5, 24; capital 

removed to, II, 74 ; directors for 

removal, 74 ; founding of, 137 ; 

burning of the theatre at, in 1811, 

II. 370, 373- 
Richmond Parly, The, Letters on, 

in 1823, II, 348. 
"Richneck," II, 283. 
RIDDICK, Willis, I, 36 ; II, 72, 209, 

365, 379- 

Rights, The Bill of , I, 228. 
RINKER, Jacob, II, 365. 
RITCHIE, Thomas, I, 95. 
RIVES, William C., I, xvii ; his 

"Life and Times of Madison," 

I, 54- 

Rhode Island, conduct of, during 

the war, I, 174. 
ROANE, John, II, 364, 377. 

Spencer, I, 254; II, 92, in. 226. 
ROBBINS, Jonathan, case of, 1, 177 ; 

II, 298. 

ROBERTSON, Alexander, I, 7 ; II, 

365- 

Alexander F., II, 383. 

Christopher, II, 365. 
ROBINSON, Speaker John, I, 44. 
ROCHET, Susanna, II, 370. 
Rockbridge County, memorial 

from, II, io~. 
RONALD, Andrew, II, 380. 

William, I, 317, 347; II, 140, 155, 

167, 365, 38"- 
Ross, David, II, 155. 
James, II, 254, 292, 338. 

ROYALL, II, 372. 

RUFFIN, Edmund, II, 219, 365 ; 

sketch of, 380. 

Edmund, agriculturist, II, 380. 

William, II, 326, 381. 
RUSSELL, William, II, 92. 
Russian Embassador to Queen 

Anne, case of, I, 273. 

RUTHERFOORD. II, 55. 

ST. CLAIR, General Alexander, de- 
feat of, II, 278, 368. 
St. John 's Church, Richmond, II, 

374- 

Salaries, of Federal officers aug- 
mented, II, 245 ; of State officers 
of Virginia, 231. 

Salt, duty on, proposed, II, 271 ; 
works of Virginia, 219. 

SAMPSON, William, II, 364, 374. 



INDEX. 



407 



Saura Town Lands, I, 161 ; II, 80. 
Savannah, Georgia, seige of, II, 

254- 

Schools in Virginia, II, 51. 
Scotch- Irish Settle* s of Virginia, 

II. 23. 
Scotchmen as Tutors in Virginia, 

II, 225. 
Scotland, union of, with England, 

I, 226. 

SCOTT, Charles, II, 377. 

Deborah, II, 377. 

Dorothy, II, 377. 

General. II, 46. 

General Winfield, I, 240. 
Seat of the General Government, 

location for, offered by Virginia, 

II, 209, 232, 271 ; banks of the 
Susquehanna river proposed for, 
275. 279. 

SEI.DEN, II, 212. 
SEYMOUR, Abel, II, 364. 
SHANKLIN, Andrew, II, 391. 
SHEDDEN, Robert, II, 46. 
SHEPHERD, Solomon, II, 365. 
Sheriffs of Virginia, rapacity of, 

II, 72. 

Ship, Sir Simon Clarke, I, 250. 
"Shirley," II, 226. 
SHIRLEY, General, I, 300; II, 42. 
SHORT, William, II, 226. 
SIMMONS, II, 380. 
SIMMS, Colonel Charles, I, 347 ; II, 

364, 373- 

SKELTON, II, 372. 

SKILLERN, Colonel George, II, 13, 
383. 

SKIPWITH, Jane, II, 380. 
Sir William, II, 380 

SLAUGHTER, Captain Philip, 11,371. 
Rev. Philip, D. D., II, 370, 371. 

Slaves, memorial to Congress to 
free the. II, 277; emancipation 
of, considered, I, 211; II, 56; 
vote on, 59, 69, 130, 316; impor- 
tation of, I, 260 ; property in, 262 ; 
in tail, II, 72; property in, in- 
vaded by the Declaration of 
Rights, II ; manumission of, 171 ; 
carried off by the British, 176, 
236, 242, 294, 307. 

SMALLWOOD, Eleanor, I, 203, 210. 
General William, I, 203, 210. 

SMITH, Elizabeth, II, 373. 
Governor George William, II, 

373- 
Captain John, I, 186. 

John, II, 355- 



SMITH, Rev. John Blair, I. 32; II, 
125. 

Larkin, II, 92, 200. 
Margaret, II, 285. 
Meriwether, I, 144, 347; II, 19, 
121, 127, 153, 164; sketch of, 
372. 

Robert, II, 285, 355. 
General Samuel, II, 285, 355. 
Rev. Thomas, II, 129. 
Thomas, II, 364. 
William P , I, 210. 

Smithfield Church, Old, II, 376. 

SMYTH, Captain J. F. D., I, 10. 

SOUTHALL, Turner, 11,^4,92, 199. 

South Carolina, succored by Vir- 
ginia, I, 300. 

Southern Literary Messenger, I, 
xix. 

Spain, cessions to, I, 133, 152 ; 
jealous of English settlements, 
236; treaty with. 236; posses- 
sions of, in America, II, 50. 

SPOTSWOOD, Colonel Alexander, 
I, 196. 

Stage Coaches, privilege of run- 
ning, II, 107, 177. 

Stamp Act, Federal, II, 294; Eng- 
lish, I, 39, 249; II. 6, 21 ; reso- 
lution of Virginia agents, 217, 
372 

STANARD, Robert, I, 39; II. 226. 

STANISLAUS AUGUSTUS, King of 
Poland, II, 375. 

States' Rights, I, 81, 164, 135. 

Slate Sovereignty, benefits of, I, 
116, 285. 

States, to be made to pay the Fede- 
ral debt, I, 90; called at the bar 
of the Federal courts, 299. 

" State Soldier," The, his attacks 
on Patrick Henry, II, 358. 

Steamboats, privileges of, II, 107, 
177. 

STEELE, John, I, 7, 36 ; II, 36, 365. 
David, II, 387. 

STEIGEL, Jacob, II, 391. 

STEPHEN, II, 55. 
General Adam, I, 36, 214 ; sketch 
of, 300. 337; II, 9, 42, 72, 173. 
363. 368. 

STEPTOE, James, II, 48. 

STEVENS, General Edward, II, 72, 

173- 

STITH, II, 372. 
STODDERT, Rev. William, his 

touching mention of H. B. Grigs- 

by, I, xviii. 



408 



INDEX. 



Stone House, The Old, Richmond, 

Virginia, II, 137. 
STREET, Anthony, II, 375. 

Parke, II. 375. 
STRINGER, John, II, 565. 
STROTHER family, origin of, II, 37. 
STROTHER, Anthony, II, 371. 

Christopher, II, 371. 

Eleanor, II, 371. 

Frances, II, 371. 

French, II, 56, 222, 305,329, 364; 
sketch of, 371. 

George French, II, 371. 

James, II, 371. 

Jeremiah, II. 371. 

Lawrence, II, 371. 

Margaret. II, 17. 

Margaret (French), II, 371. 

Sarah, II, 371. 

William, II, 17. 
STUART, Alexander H. H., I, 340 ; 

II, 12, 16; his sketch of his father; 

death of, 383. 

Alexander, II, 385. 

Judge Alexander, II, 386, 389, 390. 

Major Alexander, I, 340 ; II, 10, 
11,384,385,386,387,388. 

Anne, II. 390. , 

Benjamin, II, 384, 385. 

Archibald, I, 36, 317, 256, 340, 
347; sketch of, II, 9, 23, 38, in, 
12 r, 221, 329, 363, 382, 383, 386, 
387, 388 ; his first service in 
the Virginia Legislature, 388, 

390. 39 1- 

Archibald, Sr , II, 383, 384. 
David, II, 25, 364 ; sketch of, 373, 

385. 

Eleanor. II, 385. 
James, II, 386, 389. 390. 
General James E. B., II, 390. 
John, I, 36, 256, 340; 11,9; sketch 

of, 25 ; death of, 28, 364, 382, 

385- 

John T., II, 385- 

Robert, II. 386. 

Thomas, II. 383, 385. 

William Alexander, II, 390. 

Rev. William, II, 373. 
Suffolk. Virginia, burning of, II, 

46. 

Slimier, Fall of Fort. II, 380. 
SVVANN, Thomas, II, 222. 

SWEARINGEN, II, 85. 

Swiss Confederacy, I, 133. 

TARLETON, Colonel Banastre, II, 

285. 



Tariff, effects of the, I, iS, 22, 215; 
rate of, 277 ; early legislation on, 
II, 35, 142, 150, 155, 271. 

TATE, II, 385. 

Tax, Federal power to, I, 92 ; 
conflict with the State, 116, 138, 
156; direct, discussed, 187, 190, 
209, 213, 221, 228, 264, II, 294; col- 
lectors' hostility to, in Virginia, 
I, 148; II, 126; of 1785 in Vir- 
ginia for revenue, vote on, II, 67, 
127; law modified in collections, 
73; payable in kind, 77; vote 
on, 78, 91, 159, 174, 204, 227 ; of 
1786, 159 ; on wheels. 159 ; of 
1789, 206. 

TAYLOR, Eleanor, I, 169. 
Judge Creed, II, 14, 392. 
George Keith, II, 252, 325, 327. 
Jacquelin P., I, 27. 
James, II, 363, 365, 369. 
Colonel John. I, 169. 
John, "of Caroline," II, 14, 92, 

III, 121, 221, 235, 325, 327, 338. 

General Richard, II, 370. 
General Robert Barraud, I, 14 ; 

II, 226. 
General Zachary, I, 240 ; II, 369, 

370. 

TAZEWELL, Henry, I, 328; 11,78, 
92, 99, in, 121, 138, 193, 221, 

2 35. 2 43 ; death of, 244. 
Governor Littleton W., I, xii, 29, 
181, 200, 326, 347 ; II, 226, 328. 
TECUMSEH, II, 378. 
TEMPLE, Colonel Benjamin, II, 

364, 377- 

TERRELL, II, 378. 

Thanksgiving, national day of, II, 
206. 

Theatre, burning of the Richmond, 
I, 68. 

THOMAS. R. S., II, 375. 

THOMPSON, Catherine, II, 375. 
James, II, 378. 
John, II, 226. 

THOMSON, Stevens, II, 216. 

THORNTON, William, II, 364. 

THOROUGHGOOD, II, 215. 

THRUSTON, Buckner, II, 392. 

Colonel Charles Mynn, I, 258 ; II, 
97, 129, 161. 

TILGHMAN, William, II, 252. 

Timber Ridge Church, II, 386. 

Tobacco^ exports of, from Virginia, 
I. I0 , 357 ', prices of, 357 ; worms 
first a pest in Virginia, 186; plan- 
ters, 204; export duty on, II, 160. 



INDEX. 



409 



TODD, Thomas, II, 259. 

TOMLIN, Walker, II, 365. 

TOTTEN, II, 41. 

TOWLES, Henry, II, 364. 

TRACY, II, 249. 341. 

7rade, of the United States, com- 
mission from Virginia to con- 
sider the, II, 154, 319; bounties 
on branches of, II, 278. 

Transylvania University, II, 176. 

Treasurer of Virginia, Speaker 
of the Burgesses, II, 279. 

Treaties, I, 271 ; with Great Britain, 
II, 82, 222. 

Trial by Jury, I, 265, 294. 

TRIGG, II, 367. 

Abraham, II, 365, 367. 
Connallv F., II, 368. 
Oaniel, II, 368. 
John, II, 363, 368. 
Stephen. II, 43, 367. 
William, II, 368. 
William R., II, 368. 

TUCKER, Henry St. George, II, 368. 

' John Randolph, II, 368. 
St. George, I, 204, 324. 328; II, 
153, 167, 176, 223, 284. 

TUFTON, II, 354. 

TURBERVILLE, George Lee, II, 199, 

2OO. 

TURPIN, Jr., Thomas, II, 365. 
TYLER, II, 385. 

John, I, 69 ; his motion for 
Committee of the Whole, 71 ; 
seconds the nomination of Pen- 
dleton for President, 248; dying 
words of, 250 ; his devotion to 
Virginia, 253 ; person of, 254 ; 
on the slave trade, 261, 333, 
347; II, 98, 121, 193, 222, 305, 
316, 363- 

President John, I, xviii, 39. 

Lyon Gardiner, I, xviii. 

Samuel, II, 329. 

Wat., I, 248. 

UNDERWOOD, Thomas, II, 56. 

United States Bank, branch at Rich- 
mond, II, 354 

United States, The, conferred with 
foreign governments, I, 113. 

UPSHAW. Forrest, II, 3^2. 
James, II. 364, 372. 
John, II, 372. 
John H., II, 372- 

" Urbanna," II, 378. 

VALENTINE, Mann S., I, 7. 



Valley of Virginia, I, 1 10. 

VANCE, II, 55. 

VANMETER, Isaac, II; 55, 364. 
John, II, 55. 

VENABLE, A. B., II, 279, 338. 

Vice- President of the United States, 
humorous title proposed for, II, 
234 ; salary of, 274 ; successor to 
the President, 274. 

VINTON, Dr. Alexander H., I, xxii. 

Virginia, social and material posi- 
tion of, in 1788, I, 5, 9, 47 ; popu- 
lation of, 8; in 1774, 8; revenues 
of, 9; commerce of, 13, 18; deso- 
lation of, by the British, 15 ; 
counties formed between 1776- 
'88, 24 ; mode of travel in 1788, 
25 ; cedes Jands to the United 
States. I, 7, in ; government of, 
as a Colony, I, 43 ; under Crom- 
well, 44 ; her support of Con- 
gress, 54 ; tobacco planters, ad- 
dress of to King William, 62; 
tranquil under the Confedera- 
tion, 82 ; first delegation to the 
Continental Congress, 184 ; lofty- 
stature of her statesmen, 184 ; 
termed country, 252 ; elections, 
when held, II, 13; boundary line 
between, and Kentucky, II, 14, 
392; and North Carolina, 223 ; and 
Pennsylvania, 23 ; distress of, in 
1785. 67 ; financial condition of, 
in 1786, 158; local bias of her 
statesmen, 139 ; influence of, 
148 ; ineligible to Federal offices, 
182 ; advances made to her con- 
gressmen, 195; magnanimity 
and patriotism of her people, 
197 ; her congressional repre- 
sentatives called before the As- 
sembly for report, 240 ; as a 
Confederated State : her sove- 
reignty. 309 ; foreign vessels re- 
stricted as to her ports, 310; 
vote on, 319; salaries of her 
officials, 322 ; claims of, against 
the General Government, 353; 
map of, 354. 

Virginia Assembly, mode of elect- 
ing the, I. 252 ; quorum in 1781, 
336; ability of, II, 119; eligibility 
of members of, 121 ; of 1786- '87, 
157; of 1788, 179, 230; question 
of double per diem for, 179; of 
1789, 179; resolutions of, of 1769, 
217 ; privilege of members of 
the, 219; qualifications of, 230; 



410 



INDEX. 



early proceedings of. 242 ; of 
1798, ability. 329. 

Virginia Bill of Rights, provi- 
sions of, I, 260. 

Virginia Burgesses, I, 44 ; opposi- 
tion to British taxation, 47 ; ses- 
sions of, and circumstances gov- 
erning, II, 6. 

Virginia Code, revision of, II, 134, 
202. 

Virginia Committee of Safety, in 
1776, I, 42. 

Virginia Constitution, I, 260; re- 
vision of, II, 92, 310. 

Virginia Conventions, of 1774, 1775, 
1776, 1788, sessions of, 33, 39; 
personnel of that of 1788, 35 ; of 
that of i829-'3o 36, 64 95 ; II, 
93, 177, 180; of i775-'76, 1,66; 
II, 64, 93, 162 ; Committee of 
Privileges and Elections of 1788, 
67 ; acts of Assembly calling it 
moved to be read, 77. 

Virginia Impost Duties, I, 126; 
commerce in 1788, i?6, 153. 

Virginia Historical Society , I. xvii ; 
its action on the death of H. B. 
Grigsby, xxi. 

Virginia Historical Register, I, 
xix; II, 18, 30, 87. 

Virginia Independent Chronicle, 
The, II, 358. 

VOELKE, Anthony, II, 381. 

" Wakefield," II, 382. 

Waddell's Annals of Augusta 

County, II, 26. 
WALKE, Anthony, II, 365, 381. 

Rev. Anthony, II, 129 

Thomas, II, 96, 365, 381. 
WALKER, John, II, 214, 234. 

Thomas, II, 48. 
WALLACE, Judge Caleb, II, 43, 

49- 

Dr., II, 224. 

Mrs., nee Westwood, II, 223. 

WALLER, II, 378. 

WALTON, Matthew, I, 7 ; II, 365. 

WARD, Townsend, I, 329. 

WARDEN, John, arraignment for 
contempt, II, 86 ; amusing anec- 
dote of, II, 311, 358. 

WARNER, Augustine, II, 374. 

" Warner Hall; 1 II, 374. 

War of 1812, the first prize case of, 
I, 250. 

" Warren," II, 279, 304. 

WARWICK, Abraham, I, 34. 



WASHINGTON, Bushrod, I, 57, 100,. 
143, 170; II, 366, 382 
George, I, 29, 42, 57, 72, 114, 
143, 186, 199, 300, 319, 327, 339,. 

35O; II, 12, 29, 32, 42, 1 2O, 126, 

134, 167,231, 366; statue voted 
to, 167; address to, from Vir- 
ginia Assembly, 199, 217, 236, 
318, 322, 367, 379, 380, 391 ; Hou- 
don's statue of, 93. 
Lawrence, I, vi. 
Peter G , I, 198. 
Washington and Lee University, 

II, 10. 

Washington Monument at Rich- 
mond, movement for, I, 2. 
WATERS, Mary, II, 378. 
WATKINS, origin of family, I, 37 ; 

II, 371. 385. 

Benjamin, I, 37 ; II, 371. 

Francis N., I, 37 ; II, 371. 

Henry E., II, 226. 

James, II, 371. 

John, II, 371. 

Thomas, II, 371. 

William, II, 74, 364, 372. 
WATSON, II, 378. 
WAUGH, Rev. Abner, notice of, I, 

66, 230. 

WEBB, James, II, 365. 
West India, trade with Virginia, II, 

81, 127, 143, 236, 242. 
Western Country, commission to 

adjust claims of, II, 49. 
Westmoreland Association, The, 

II, 217, 372. 
WESTWOOD, II, 223. 

Worlich, II, 329, 364, 372. 
Wheeling, West Virginia, II, 64. 
WHITE, II, 55. 

Alexander, I, 254, 256 ; sketch of, 
II, 71, 74, 127, 143, 157, 221, 269, 
276, 277 ; death of, 280, 364. 

Judge Robert, II, 371. 

Surgeon Robert, II, 371. 

Bishop William, I, 198; II, 264. 

William, II, 365. 
WHITEHEAD, John B , I, vii, 119. 

Dr. Nathan Colgate, I, vii. 

Robert, I, vii. 

Thomas, early grants of land to, 

I, vii. 

WICKHAM, John, II, 365. 
WICKLIFFE, Robert, death of, II, 

287. 

Wig ton, Earldom of, II, 42. 
WILDER, Marshall P., on reverence 

for the past, I, v. 



INDEX. 



411 



William and Mary College, I, xvii ; 

action of, on death of H. B. 

Grigsby, xxvi, 24, 48, 60, 75 ; II, 

10, 20, 32, 85, 216, 223, 265, 303, 

377, 379- 38f, 382, 39i- 
William, Prince of Orange, affec- 
tionate reverence for, I, 59 ; II, 

381. 
WILLIAMS, John, II, 365. 

Robert, II, 365. 
Williamsburg Association, The, II, 

372, 382. 
WILLS, II, 254. 

John S.. II, 376. 

Wills 's Old Meeting House, II, 376. 
WILSON, Benjamin, II, 365. 

James, I, 76. 

John, II, 365. 

Samuel, II, 52. 
WINSTON, Edmund, II, 180, 193, 

363 ; sketch of, 369. 

Elizabeth, II, 375. 

Isaac, II, 369, 374, 375. 

James, II, 379. 

John, II, 378. 

Mary, II, 374. 

Mary Ann, II, 369. 

Mary (l)abney), II, 369. 

Peter, II, 369 

William, II. 369. 
WINTHROP, Forth, lines on, and 

notice of, I, xi. 

Governor John, I, xv. 

Robert C., I, xv ; his tribute to 
the memory of H. B. Grigsby, 
xxiii. 

WIRT, William, I, 317; II, 87, 112. 
WISE, Henry A., I, xxvii. 
WITHROW, II, 385. 



WOLCOTT, Oliver, II, 252. 

WOODCOCKE, John S., II, 364. 

WOODFORD, General William, I, 24. 

WOODROW, Andrew, II, 364. 

WOODS, Archibald, II, 365. 

WOODSON. Judith, II, 370. 

WORMELEY, Agatha, II, 169. 
Captain Christopher, II, 169. 
John, II, 169. 
Captain Ralph, II, 169. 
Jr., Ralph, descent of, I, 169; II, 
200, 230, 360. 

WORSHAM, II, 372. 

WYTHE, George, I, 29 ; residence 
of, 34, 36, 42, 65, 74; pupils of, 
95; personal appearance of, 75, 
86, 15-, 162, 259, 268, 274, 300, 
306; his scheme of ratification, 
307, 312, 347, 348; II, 12, 32, 231, 
366. 

YATES, Justice Richard, I, 95. 

Ya2oo land speculations, I, 302. 

Yellow fever at Portsmouth, Vir- 
ginia. I. vi. 

York Duke of, lines on, by a mem- 
ber of the House of Commons, 
recited in debate to exclude him 
from succession to the throne of 
England, II, 339 

Yorktmvn, Reduction of, II, 378 

ZANE, Ebenezer, I, 36 ; II, 55. 58 ; 

daring of wife and sister of, 65 ; 

sketch of, 64, 365 

Isaac, II, 59 ; sketch of, 60 ; iron 
works of, 60. 

William, II, 59. 
Zanesville, Ohio, II, 65. 



V A 




F 

230 
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v.2 



Grisby, Hugh Blaire 

The history of the 
Virginia federal convention 
of 1788 




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