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DRAFT OF A BILL FOR REGULATING THE APPOINTMENT OF DELEGATES TO GENERAL CONGRESS.'
V. S. A.
[May 12, 1777.) Be it enacted by the General assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia that there shall be annually chosen five delegates to act the part of this Commonwealth in General Congress any three of whom shall have power to sit & vote. The delegates to be chosen in this present session of assembly shall continue in office till the day of
and those hereafter to be chosen at the said annual election shall enter on the exercise of their office on the
next succeeding their election & shall continue in the same one year, unless sooner recalled or permitted to resign by General assembly; in which case another shall be chosen to serve till the end of the year in the stead of any one so recalled, or permitted to resign.
No person who shall have served two years in Congress shall be capable of serving therein again till he shall have been out of the same one whole year.
1 The delegation of Virginia in the Continental Congress was the origin of intense factional struggle and intrigue in both the Congress and in the House of Delegates. John Adams states (IVorks, III, 31): “Jealousies and divisions appeared among the delegates of no State, more remarkably than among those of Virginia.” In the Virginia Assembly R. H. Lee had antagonized the planter interest, by his course on the accounts of Treasurer Robinson, and that class had set up Benjamin Harrison as their representative. In 1776 by the influence and votes of the Lee party Harrison and Braxton were left out of the delegation, by means which a member of the neutral party (Pendleton) claimed to be“ disgraceful.” The former on his return to Virginia secured an election to the vacancy caused by the resignation of Jefferson ; but on Wythe's retirement the Lees succeeded in filling his seat with one of their own interest, Mann Page. In turn the Harrison faction began a counter attack on R. H. Lee, but apparently first attempted to veil it under a general act of the assembly. For this purpose, May 12, 1777, they ordered the preparation of a bill regulating the appointment of delegates, and named Jefferson alone to draft it—the only case I have discovered of a single individual being so selected. He was already pledged, by his resolution offered in the Continental Congress (ante, p. 61) to a limited term of two years for this office; and a bill prepared on these lines would legislate Lee out of office. On May 12th he reported this draft of a bill, and after a severe struggle it was committed to the Committee of the Whole by a vote of only 42 to 40. It was here discussed and amended on the 14th and 15th, and on the 16th was passed by the Delegates. In the Senate it was amended and returned, on May 21st the Delegates amended the Senate amendments, which were concurred in by the Senate, and it became a law. Lee, though“ it was impossible ... to avoid feeling the immediate ill treatment that I had received " " from a wicked industry, the most false and most malicious that the deceitful heart of man ever produced," seemed to have felt no ill-will toward Jefferson for his part in the affair. He returned to Virginia to secure an election to the House of Delegates, “was left out of the last chosen convention, but ... harangued the people of the back Country, in the field & bought off one of their representatives to decline, payed his fine, to procure His return in his stead. Returned to the convention, His Brothers, by threats & Cabals, procured his appointment to General Congress." (Stevens Mss. No. 277.) At the same session of the legislature he secured the introduction of a new bill dealing with this question, of which apparently Jefferson was likewise the drafter, and which is printed in the Session Acts for 1778, p. 20, and in the Report of the Revisers, p. 9. Cf. The Bland Papers, I, 57. The text of the present bill as amended and adopted is given in the Session Acts for 1777, p. 17, and in Hening, x, 383.
Each of the said delegates for every day he shall attend in Congress shall receive [eight] dollars, and also [fifteen pence] per mile going and the same returning together with his ferriages, to be paid wherever Congress shall be sitting by the Treasurer of this Commonwealth out of any public monies which shall be in his hands.
TO JOHN ADAMS.'
WILLIAMSBURGH, 16 May, 1777. Matters in our part of the continent are too much in quiet to send you news from hence. Our battalions for the continental service were some time ago so far filled as rendered the recommendation of a draught from the militia hardly requisite, and the more so as in this country it ever was the most unpopular and impracticable thing that could be attempted. Our people, even under the monarchical government, had learnt to consider it as the last of all oppressions. I learn from our delegates that the confederation is again on the carpet, a great and a necessary work, but I fear almost desperate. The point of representation is what most alarms me, as I fear the great and small colonies are bitterly determined not to cede. Will you be so good as to collect the proposition I formerly made you in private, and try if you can work it into some good to save our union ? It was, that any proposition might be negatived by the representatives of a majority of the people of America, or of a majority of the colonies of America. The former secures the larger, the latter, the smaller colonies. I have mentioned it to many here. The good whigs, I think, will so far cede their opinions for the sake of the Union, and others we care little for.
From the Works of Yohn Adams, ix, 465.
The journals of Congress not being printed earlier, gives more uneasiness than I would wish ever to see produced by any act of that body, from whom alone I know our salvation can proceed. In our Assembly, even the best affected think it an indignity to freemen to be voted away, life and fortune, in the dark. Our House have lately written for a manuscript copy of your journals, not meaning to desire a communication of any thing ordered to be kept secret. I wish the regulation of the post-office, adopted by Congress last September, could be put in practice. It was for the travel night and day, and to go their several stages three times a week. The speedy and frequent communication of intelligence is really of great consequence. So many falsehoods have been propagated that nothing now is believed unless coming from Congress or camp. Our people, merely for want of intelligence which they may rely on, are become lethargic and insensible of the state they are in. Had you ever a leisure moment, I should ask a letter from you sometimes, directed to the care of Mr. Dick, Fredericksburgh; but having nothing to give in return, it would be a tax on your charity as well as your time. The esteem I have for you privately, as well as for your public importance, will always render assurances of your health and happiness agreeable. I am, dear sir, your friend and servant.
TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
VIRGINIA, August 13, 1777. HONORABLE SIR-I forbear to write you news, as the time of Mr. Short's departure being uncertain, it might be old before you receive it, and he can, in person, possess you of all we have. With respect to the State of Virginia in particular, the people seem to have laid aside the monarchical, and taken up the republican government, with as much ease as would have attended their throwing off an old, and putting on a new suit of clothes. Not a single throe has attended this important transformation. A half-dozen aristocratical gentlemen, agonizing under the loss of pre-eminence, have sometimes ventured their sarcasms on our political metamorphosis. They have been thought fitter
From Washington's edition of Jefferson's writings.
objects of pity, than of punishment. We are, at present, in the complete and quiet exercise of well-organized government, save only that our courts of justice do not open till the fall. I think nothing can bring the security of our continent and its cause into danger, if we can support the credit of our paper. To do that, I apprehend, one of two steps must be taken. Either to procure free trade by alliance with some naval
power able to protect it; or, if we find there is no prospect of that, to shut our ports totally, to all the world, and turn our colonies into manufactories. The former would be most eligible, because most conformable to the habits and wishes of our people. Were the British Court to return to their senses in time to seize the little advantage which still remains within their reach, from this quarter, I judge, that, on acknowledging our
I absolute independence and sovereignty, a commercial treaty beneficial to them, and perhaps even a league of mutual offence and defence, might, not seeing the expense or consequences of such a measure, be approved by our people, if nothing, in the mean time, done on your part, should prevent it. But they will continue to grasp at their desperate sovereignty, till every
benefit short of that is forever out of their reach. I wish my domestic situation had rendered it possible for me to join you in the very honorable charge con
Residence in a polite Court, society of literati of the first order, a just cause and an approving God, will add length to a life for which all men pray, and none more than your most obedient and humble servant.
fided to you.