James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Stokely, 29 December 1799

From John Stokely

Decr 29th 1799.


Tho probabelly you know nothing of me or of the disorders of the County of Wood in which I reside,1 From the Lamentable situation of that County I use the Liberty of writing to you on that Subject. Notwithstanding your Situation puts you out of reach of any Intrinsic reward that that County can bestow, and that at this Crisis you must be engaged in matters of Importance to the Public, Still knowing that you often volunteer yourself in the cause of Justice and in the defence of the rights and privileges of your fellow Citizens And believing that Justice hath been perverted in Wood County and that our rights and privileges are Invaded I am flattered that that disenterested friendship which have long Characterized your actions will excite your attention to the situation of affairs in that County and that you will assist to devise means to arest the progress of the Growing evils therein which appear to me to be the fruits of ungenerous (and Political) Speculations; I must believe Sir that your friendly Interposition in this business will produce salutary effects, no prejudices seem to have taken root amongst the present members of Assembly against you and it is probabel that high respect will be paid your oppenion, from this and other Causes your Ideas Manifested in this case would probabelly Issue good consequences. Sir be asured that the Situation of Wood County is truly alarming & that tis my oppenion it Claims the attention of the friends to Justice and order and that, if no Imediate redress should be had, I seriously apprehend the Consequences will be mischievous.

If Sir you Should think our Imbarrasments worth your Consideration I shall take the liberty to refer you to Colo Taylor of Caroline for Information respecting the premises whose friendly aid hath kept open the dore that may tend to Show in what manner it is possible to give us redress. I am with due respect your obedient Servt.

John Stokely2

RC (DLC). Addressed by Stokely to JM. Docketed by JM.

1The creation of Wood County (now in West Virginia) in 1799 sparked a bitter feud over the location of the county seat. Evidently the county court justices split into two warring camps over the issue; the General Assembly received a number of petitions during the 1799–1800 session asking that body “to remedy the evils existing in the said county of Wood, from the circumstance of two bodies of men exercising judicial powers therein.” In addition, John Stokely, as clerk of the court, made this personal plea to JM for assistance. There is no evidence JM did more than support the bill that finally became law on 18 Jan. 1800, entitled “An Act concerning the County of Wood,” which authorized the executive to appoint an additional four justices and required that a majority of the whole number form a court on the second Monday of February 1800. Eventually, the dispute was ended in November 1800 when the court decided to erect the public buildings on land owned by Stokely at the junction of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers (James Morton Callahan, Semi-Centennial History of West Virginia [Morgantown, W.Va., 1913], pp. 42–43; JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Richmond. Volumes in this series are designated by the month in which the session began. description ends , Dec. 1799 [Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 38954], p. 37; Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia [1799–1800] [Richmond, 1800; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 38948], p. 24).

2John Stokely represented Wood County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1812–17 (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 85, 87, 89, 92, 94).

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