Inferences, Analogies, and Sophisms

Time and changes in the condition and constitution of society may require occasional and corresponding modifications. One single object, if your provision attains it, will entitle you to the endless gratitude of society, that of restraining judges from usurping legislation. And with no body of men is this restraint more wanting than with the judges of what is commonly called our general government, but what I call our foreign department. They are practicing on the constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control, but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance. However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions, as barefaced as that of the Cohens, happening to bear immediately on two or three of the large States, may induce them to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the expressed consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents. They imagine they can lead us into a consolidate government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. This member of the government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is, ad libitum, by sapping and mining, slyly and without alarm, the foundations of the constitution, can do what open force would not dare to attempt.

Thos. Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 25 March 1825.

Not an House but a Village

View of the University of Virginia in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.
View of the University of Virginia in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.

Large houses are always ugly, inconvenient, exposed to the accident of fire, and bad in cases of infection. A plain small house for the school & lodging of each professor is best. These connected by covered ways out of which the rooms of the students should open would be best. These may then be built only as they shall be wanting. In fact, an University should not be an house but a village.

Thos. Jefferson to Littleton Waller Tazewell, 5 January 1805.

“Whereas George Guelf…”

Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mitchell, Henry, The State Arms of the Union, Boston: L. Prang & Co. (1875).
Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mitchell, Henry, The State Arms of the Union, Boston: L. Prang & Co. (1875).

Whereas George Guelf king of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover, heretofore entrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in this government hath endeavored to pervert the same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny;

by putting his negative on laws the most wholesome & necessary for ye public good;

by denying to his governors permission to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations for his assent, and, when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many years;

by refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the person to be benefited by them would relinquish the inestimable right of representation in the legislature

by dissolving legislative assemblies repeatedly and continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people;

when dissolved, by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political system without any legislative head;

by endeavoring to prevent the population of our country, & for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners & raising the condition [lacking appro]priations of lands;

[by keeping among u]s, in times of peace, standing armies and ships of war;

[lack]ing to render the military independent of & superior to the civil power;

by combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction, giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation.

for quartering large bodies of troops among us;

for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

for imposing taxes on us without our consent;

for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;

for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; and

for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever;

by plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns and destroying the lives of our people;

by inciting insurrections of our fellow subjects with the allurements of forfeiture & confiscation;

by prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very negroes whom he hath from time to time by an inhuman use of his negative he hath refused permission to exclude by law;

by endeavoring to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, & conditions of existence;

by transporting at this time a large army of foreign mercenaries [to complete] the works of death, desolation & tyranny already begun with circum[stances] of cruelty & perfidy so unworthy the head of a civilized nation;

by answering our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition of injuries;

and finally by abandoning the helm of government and declaring us out of his allegiance & protection;

by which several acts of misrule the said George Guelf has forfeited the kingly office and has rendered it necessary for the preservation of the people that he should be immediately deposed from the same, and divested of all its privileges, powers, & prerogatives:

And forasmuch as the public liberty may be more certainly secured by abolishing an office which all experience hath shewn to be inveterately inimical thereto or which and it will thereupon become further necessary to re-establish such ancient principles as are friendly to the rights of the people and to declare certain others which may co-operate with and fortify the same in future.

Be it therefore enacted by the authority of the people that the said, George Guelf be, and he hereby is deposed from the kingly office within this government and absolutely divested of all it’s [sic] rights, powers, and prerogatives: and that he and his descendants and all persons acting by or through him, and all other persons whatsoever shall be and forever remain incapable of the same: and that the said office shall henceforth cease and never more either in name or substance be re-established within this colony.

— Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Constitution for Virginia, June, 1776.

The Sources of Daily and Exalted Pleasures

Ossian and Malvina, by Johann Peter Krafft, 1810.
Ossian and Malvina, by Johann Peter Krafft, 1810.

THOS. JEFFERSON TO CHAS. McPHERSON.

Albermarle [sic], in Virginia, Feb. 25th, 1773.

DEAR SIR,–Encouraged by the small acquaintance which I had the pleasure of having contracted with you during your residence in this country, I take the liberty of making the present application to you. I understood you were related to the gentleman of your name (Mr. James McPherson), to whom the world is so much indebted for the elegant collection, arrangement, and translation of Ossian’s poems. These pieces have been and will, I think during my life, continue to be to me the sources of daily and exalted pleasures. The tender and the sublime emotions of the mind were never before so wrought up by the human hand. I am not ashamed to own that I think this rude bard of the North the greatest poet that has ever existed. Merely for the pleasure of reading his works, I am become desirous of learning the language in which be sung, and of possessing his songs in their original form. Mr. McPherson, I think, informs us he is possessed of the originals. Indeed, a gentleman has lately told me he had seen them in print; but I am afraid he has mistaken a specimen from Temora, annexed to some of the editions of the translation, for the whole works. If they are printed, it will abridge my request and your trouble, to the sending me a printed copy; but if there be more such, my petition is, that you would be so good as to use your interest with Mr. McPherson to obtain leave to take a manuscript copy of them, and procure it to be done. I would choose it in a fair, round hand, on fine paper, with a good margin, bound in parchments as elegantly as possible, lettered on the back, and marbled or gilt on the edges of the leaves. I would not regard expense in doing this. I would further beg the favor of you to give me a catalogue of the books written in that language, and to send me such of them as may be necessary for learning it. These will, of course, include a grammar and dictionary. The cost of these, as well as the copy of Ossian, will be (for me) on demand, answered by Mr. Alexander McCaul, sometime of Virginia, merchant, but now of Glasgow, or by your friend Mr. Ninian Minzees, of Richmond, in Virginia, to whose care the books may be sent. You can, perhaps, tell me whether we may ever hope to see any more of those Celtic pieces published. Manuscript copies of any which are in print, it would at any time give me the greatest happiness to receive. The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money. I hear with pleasure from your friend that your path through life is likely to be smoothed by success. I wish the business and the pleasures of your situation would admit leisure now and then to scribble a line to one who wishes you every felicity, and would willingly merit the appellation of, dear sir,
Your friend and humble servant.

You Are Dissolved Accordingly

Capitol Building, from a silver gelatin photograph, c. 1934–1950, Fay Sturtevant Lincoln; A. D. White Architectural Photographs, Cornell University Library.
Capitol Building, from a silver gelatin photograph, c. 1934–1950, Fay Sturtevant Lincoln; A. D. White Architectural Photographs, Cornell University Library.

Et appropinquans ait: Numquid perdes justum cum impio? Et dixit: Non delebo propter decem.

Genesis xviii. 23, 32.

TUESDAY, THE 24TH OF MAY, 14 GEO. III. 1774.

THIS House being deeply impressed with Apprehension of the great Dangers to be derived to British America, from the hostile Invasion of the City of Boston, in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose Commerce and Harbour are on the 1st Day of June next to be stopped by an armed Force, deem it highly necessary that the said first Day of June be set apart by the Members of this House as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, devoutly to implore the divine Interposition for averting the heavy Calamity, which threatens Destruction to our civil Rights, and the Evils of civil War; to give us one Heart and one Mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper Means, every Injury to American Rights, and that the Minds of his Majesty and his Parliament may be inspired from above with Wisdom, Moderation, and Justice, to remove from the loyal People of America all Cause of Danger from a continued Pursuit of Measures pregnant with their Ruin.

Ordered, therefore, that the Members of this House do attend in their Places at the Hour of ten in the Forenoon, on the said 1st Day of June next, in Order to proceed with the Speaker and the Mace to the Church in this City for the Purposes aforesaid; and that the Reverend Mr. Price be appointed to read Prayers, and the Reverend Mr. Gwatkin to preach a Sermon suitable to the Occasion.

Ordered, that this Order be forthwith printed and published. By the HOUSE of BURGESSES.

GEORGE WYTHE, C. H. B.

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Thursday, the 26th of May. 14 Geo. III. 1774.

A Message from the Governor by Mr Blair:

Mr Speaker,

The Governor commands this House to attend his Excellency immediately, in the Council Chamber.

Accordingly Mr Speaker with the House, went up to attend his Excellency in the Council Chamber, where his Excellency was pleased to say to them.

Mr Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses,

I have in my hand a Paper published by Order of your House, conceived in such Terms as reflect highly upon his Majesty and the Parliament of Great Britain; which makes it necessary for me to dissolve you; and you are dissolved accordingly.

— Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619–1776, Richmond, 1905–1915, 1773–1776, p. 132.

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In the order of the house of burgesses which I before transmitted, your lordship will observe, that the Rev. Mr. Gwatkin, who was the professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in this college, and is now the principal master of the grammar school, and who is of a most exemplary good character and great literary abilities, is appointed to preach the sermon on that occasion; in justice to which gentleman, I think it necessary to let your lordship know, that his name was made use of entirely without his knowledge, and that he civilly but with firmness declined being employed for such a purpose, and which proved no little mortification to the party who dictated the measure.

Letter from the Earl of Dunmore to the Earl of Dartmouth, dated Williamsburg, 6th June, 1774.

A Remarkable Body of Men

View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville & Monticello, taken from Lewis Mountain, by Casimir Bohn, 1856.
View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville & Monticello, taken from Lewis Mountain, by Casimir Bohn, 1856.

The Southern leaders occupied a commanding position. Those leaders constituted a remarkable body of men. Having before them the example of Jefferson, of Madison, of George Mason in Virginia, and of Nathaniel Macon in North Carolina, they gave deep study to the science of government. They were admirably trained as debaters, and they became highly skilled in the management of parliamentary bodies. As a rule they were highly educated, some of them graduates of Northern colleges, a still larger number taking their degrees at Transylvania, in Kentucky, at Chapel Hill, in North Carolina, and at Mr. Jefferson’s peculiar but admirable institution in Virginia. Their secluded modes of life on the plantation gave them leisure for reading and reflection. They took pride in their libraries, pursued the law so far as it increased their equipment for a public career, and devoted themselves to political affairs with an absorbing ambition. Their domestic relations imparted manners that were haughty and sometimes offensive; they were quick to take affront, and they not infrequently brought personal disputation into the discussion of public questions; but they were, almost without exception, men of high integrity, and they were especially and jealously careful of the public money. Too often ruinously lavish in their personal expenditures, they believed in an economical government; and throughout the long period of their domination they guarded the treasury with rigid and unceasing vigilance against every attempt at extravagance and against every form of corruption. James G. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress.

Our Just Rights Will Be Respected

…wherever the voice of justice and humanity can be heard, our declaration, and our just rights will be respected. But the blood which flows in our veins, like the tributary streams which form and sustain the father of rivers, encircling our delightful country, will return if not impeded, to the heart of our parent country. The genius of Washington, the immortal founder of the liberties of America, stimulates that return, and would frown upon our cause, should we attempt to change its course.

— Fulwar Skipwith, 1st (and only) Governor of the Republic of West Florida,
Inaugural Address,  1810.

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On 23 September 1810, after meetings beginning in June, rebels overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge and unfurled the flag of the new republic: a single white star on a blue field. This flag was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Isaac Johnson, the commander of the West Florida Dragoons. It would later become known as the “Bonnie Blue Flag.”

The boundaries of the Republic of West Florida included all territory south of the 31st parallel, west of the Perdido River, and east of the Mississippi River, but north of Lake Pontchartrain. The southern boundary was the Gulf of Mexico. It included Baldwin and Mobile counties in what is now Alabama; the Mississippi counties of Hancock, Pearl River, Harrison, Stone, Jackson, and George, as well as the southernmost portions of Lamar, Forrest, Perry, and Wayne counties; and the Louisiana parishes of East Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington. Despite its name, none of present-day Florida lies within its borders. The capital of the Republic of  West Florida was St. Francisville in present-day Louisiana, on a bluff along the Mississippi River.

On 27 October 1810, West Florida was annexed to the United States by proclamation of President James Madison, who claimed it as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Initially, Skipwith and the government of West Florida were opposed to the proclamation, preferring to negotiate terms to join the Federal Union as a separate state. However, William C. C. Claiborne, who was sent to take possession, refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the West Florida government. Skipwith and the legislature reluctantly agreed to accept Madison’s proclamation.

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Born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, Fulwar Skipwith was a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson. Skipwith studied at the College of William & Mary, but left at age 16 to enlist in the army during the American Revolution. He served at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. After American Independence was achieved, he entered the tobacco trade.

Following the French Revolution of 1789, Skipwith was appointed US Consul to the French colony of Martinique in 1790. He experienced the turmoil of the revolution, and the aftermath of the abortive slave insurrection in Martinique before departing in 1793. In 1795,  he was appointed Consul-General in Paris under Ambassador James Monroe.

Happy While United

Reverse of bronze medal struck in 1780 at behest of Thomas Jefferson, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and carried by General Joseph Martin for distribution to Cherokee allies of American revolutionary forces.
Reverse of bronze medal struck in 1780 at behest of Thomas Jefferson, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and carried by General Joseph Martin for distribution to Cherokee allies of American revolutionary forces.

Rebellion to Tyrants

Bronze medals struck at behest of Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson and carried by Joseph Martin to give to Cherokee allies of colonial forces. Early variant of the official state seal with partially disrobed Virtus. 1780.
A bronze medal struck in 1780 at behest of Thomas Jefferson, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and carried by General Joseph Martin for distribution to Cherokee allies of American colonial forces. The medal bears an early variant of the Virginia state seal with a partially disrobed Virtus.