Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from John Wayles Eppes, 2 February 1802

From John Wayles Eppes

Feb. 2. 1802.

Dear Sir,

I forwarded to you a few days since a letter from Maria—My Father who is now in Town left her well yesterday.

You will find enclosed the journal of the house of Delegates containing the amendments proposed to the Constitution of the U States—They are postponed by the Senate until the next session—

Early in the present session of assembly a Resolution was submitted to the House of Delegates for inspecting the appropriations of money drawn from the contingent fund by the Executive—A measure at first originating with the Republicans in the House & intended merely as the basis of future regulations on this subject, has been artfully held up by the foes of Monroe as a censure on his conduct—I enclose you a copy of the report of the committee appointed to examine into the expenditure of public money by the Executive & of the Resolutions entered into on this subject by the House of Delegates yesterday—This stroke to weaken the confidence of the public in the Executive has been followed by an attempt to dismember the State and form a seperate government West of the Blue Ridge—Several meetings have been held by the members from that country on this subject—I attended their last meeting & to my great satisfaction found that of 56 members from the West of the ridge only 29 attended—That of these 14 were in favour of the Resolutions 14 against them & Mr. Brackenridge their chairman gave the casting vote in favour of establishing corresponding committees beyond the ridge to asscertain the sense of the people on the subject of a seperate Government—of these 14 a large Majority refused to sign the resolutions, so that it ends in smoke. The whole proceeding may be considered as an attempt on the part of the Federalists to lessen the weight of Virginia in the Federal scale. You have heard of the division of the high court of chancery—Genl. John Brown is elected chanceller for the upper District & Mr. Wirt our Clerk for the lower—

The Legislature will probably adjourn today or tomorrow—I will forward by tomorrows post Govr. Monroes letter on the subject of the public expenditure (not yet printed). It may be considered as one among the many proofs of his talents given during the present session of assembly—

We have heard by private letters from Washington of a derelection from principle serious tho’ not unexpected.

Adieu accep for your health & happiness the warm wishes of affection Yours

Jno: W: Eppes

RC (MHi); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States Washington”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 1 Feb.; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Feb. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Eight amendments to the Constitution of the United States proposed by the Virginia General Assembly, as considered in the House of Delegates on 26 Jan.: to prohibit the president from serving two consecutive four-year terms; to cut the term of U.S. senators to three years to be classed so that one-third go out of office every year; to give the House of Representatives concurrent power with the Senate in approving or ratifying all treaties “where their agency shall be necessary to carry the same into effect”; to designate specifically presidential and vice presidential candidates in future elections; to consider the common law of England as separate from the law of the United States, “except so far as it may be adopted by special statute, where its principles and objects are expressly sanctioned by the words of the Constitution of the United States”; to hold as sacred and inviolable the freedom of conscience, speech, and press; to declare federal judges ineligible for any other government appointment during their continuance in office and 12 months thereafter; to choose hereafter judges of the courts of the United States by joint ballot of the Senate and House of Representatives (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1801-–Feb. 1802, 81–83). (2) For the report of the committee and the resolutions passed by the House of Delegates on 30 Jan., see below.

Although Eppes dated this letter 2 Feb., internal evidence and the postmark indicate that he wrote the letter a day or two earlier. Eppes was in Richmond representing Chesterfield County in the Virginia Assembly (Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 223). According to SJL, on 5 Feb. TJ also received a letter from Eppes dated 1 Feb., which has not been found.

Letter From Maria: Mary Jefferson Eppes to TJ, 24 Jan. 1802.

On 28 Jan., the Senate received and read the amendments proposed to the U.S. Constitution by the House of Delegates (see Enclosure No. 1 above). The next day the Senate resolved that it was “too late in the session to devote as much time as a full consideration of a subject so highly interesting will require” and postponed the resolutions until the next General Assembly (Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, on Monday the Seventh Day of December, One Thousand Eight Hundred and One [Richmond, 1802], 65–7).

On 29 Dec., the House of Delegates appointed a committee to join with one from the Senate to examine the expenditures from the contingent fund by the executive over the last year. The committee reported to the House on 23 Jan. that the executive had spent over $51,000 for contingent expenses and sundry appropriation laws and the House moved to submit a copy of the report to Governor Monroe. The report to the Senate on 1 Feb. itemized some of these expenses, noting that Monroe had spent $20.45 for the celebration of the 4th of July in 1801 and an additional $24.45 “for illuminating the Capitol and guarding it on that occasion.” According to the Virginia Argus, the committee criticized Monroe for spending more than $100 for illuminating the capitol “in consequence of Mr. Jefferson’s election” (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1801-Feb. 1802, 49, 51, 78–9; Journal of the Senate, 71–2; Richmond Virginia Argus, 9 Feb. 1802). For Monroe’s analysis of the politics of the committee and the reports, see Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:453–6.

House Of Delegates Yesterday: on Saturday, 30 Jan., the House resolved that after a fair and accurate investigation they were of the opinion that the expenditures were made in conformance with law and precedent; they expressed their approbation of the conduct of the Executive. The resolution passed with 94 yeas and 18 nays, Eppes voting with the majority. By an even larger margin the House resolved “That the General Assembly entertains a high sense of the distinguished ability, attention and integrity with which JAMES MONROE, Esquire Governor of Virginia, has heretofore discharged the duty of his office” (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1801-–Feb. 1802, 88–90).

Attempt To Dismember The State: sectional tensions increased in Virginia after 1800 as the House of Delegates maintained representation based on existing counties rather than on actual population and thereby perpetuated a bias in tidewater over transmontane political power. Many residents of Virginia’s western counties, especially state senator Thomas Wilson and delegate Daniel Sheffey, wanted more democratic representation in both legislative branches of government. Property qualifications denied the vote to many western Virginians who did not own the land on which they lived (James C. McGregor, The Disruption of Virginia [New York, 1922], 28–9; L. Scott Philyaw, Virginia’s Western Visions: Political and Cultural Expansion on an Early American Frontier [Knoxville, Tenn., 2004], 142; Charles Henry Ambler, Sectionalism in Virginia from 1776 to 1861 [Chicago, 1910], 78–80, 84–85; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1801-–Feb. 1802, 37; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:453–6).

The meeting chairman was James Breckinridge (Brackenridge), a land speculator and delegate from Botetourt County from 1796 to 1802, who became a leading Federalist in the Virginia Assembly (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Richmond, 1998–, 3 vols. description ends , 2:208–10).

In January 1802, the General Assembly divided the high court of chancery into three districts: Williamsburg, Richmond, and Staunton. By joint ballot of both houses, John Brown was elected as judge of the upper district chancery court held at Staunton and William Wirt as judge for the lower district court held at Williamsburg (Shepherd, Statutes description begins Samuel Shepherd, ed., The Statutes at Large of Virginia, from October Session 1792, to December Session 1806…, Richmond, 1835–36, 3 vols. description ends , 2:321; Journal of the Senate, 62, 64, 66).

I Will Forward … Monroes Letter: perhaps Eppes sent TJ A Report of the Committee Appointed to Examine into the Executive Expenditures; Also the Governor’s Letter of the 28th January, to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, Respecting Said Expenditures, and the Resolutions of the House on the Same, printed on 1 Feb. 1802 by Meriwether Jones in Richmond (see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3336). In his letter to Larkin Smith of 28 Jan., printed in the pamphlet, Monroe defended the public expenditures, including $33.75, the “cost of powder which was used on the anniversary of our independence” and $25.48, the “expense attending the public joy” at TJ’s election as president. Monroe explained that it was “the practice of all governments to dedicate certain days to public festivity. They give relaxation from labour, promote friendly intercourse among the people, and harmonize the society.” In this country, Monroe maintained, it was “the practice to celebrate the birth day of principle” (Report of the Committee, 12–14; Monroe, Writings, 3:332–4).

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