Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to François Soulés, 23 March 1789

To François Soulés

Paris Mar. 23. 1789


I have had the honor of notifying to you before that the manuscript which I put into your hands contained notes which I had made, in the course of my reading for my own use as the member of a legislature in America. As such it was necessary for me to know not only the law of the moment but what it had been at other times. The qualifications of a knight of a shire have been different at different times. At present he must have £600. a year, and a member for a city or borough £300. a year in land. This is by the statute of the 9. Annae. chap. 5. The author of les comices de Rome &c. is mistaken in saying that £500. and £250. a year are the qualifications at present. I think the qualifications never stood at that sum, but was rather vague from the passing of the statute [23] H[enry VI. c. 15]1 till precisely fixed by that of An[ne…]2 I have the honor to be Sir your [most] obedt. & humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi); at foot of text: “Monsieur Soulés. petit postes”; indistinct: signature and several words illegible.

The identity of the manuscript that TJ handed to Soulés has not been established with certainty, but it was in all likelihood the remarkable volume of notes on parliamentary procedure drawn from English experience, to which TJ gave the title “Parliamentary Pocket-Book” and which he employed not only as the member of a legislature but also as a source-book for his own Manual of Parliamentary Practice (MS, a bound volume, in MHi). The extraordinary pains that TJ took to prepare himself for the responsibilities of a legislator are fully revealed in this manuscript (to be printed in Second Series), and the disciplined industry, as well as wide learning, that went into its compilation shows also why he was so successful as a law-maker.

1A conjectural reading, confirmed by Edward Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge, England, 1903), l, 122.

2One or two words illegible; L & B description begins Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert E. Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, 1903–1904, 20 vols. description ends reads “before this,” which may be correct.

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