Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes concerning the Bill for the Removal of the Seat of Government of Virginia, [11 November 1776?]

Notes concerning the Bill for the Removal of the Seat of Government of Virginia

[11 November 1776?]

  • 1. Central
    • Rts. of Western pe. eql. to Eastrn. of Memb. of Legisl. Expedt.
      • Invasn. of Uplds.
      • disordrs.
      • Criminls. Expens
      • Executve. shd. b. Centrl
      • Heart — Sun —
      • Chch. — Ct. house.
  • 2. Safe
    • Inconvs. Bostn. — N.Y.
    • Expce. of defce. — treasy. Magazn.
    • Wmsb. indefensble. — if li. [line] abve. — below, one sit
    • [sitting?] cost 50,000£ a year
    • nt. necess. to defd. if govmt. remvd. only defnd. harbrs.
  • 3. Navigble. Water nec. to grt. town
    • advge. of grt. town to Manfters. trde. husbdry.
    • Wmsbgh. nevr. cn. b. grt. — 100 y. xprce. [experience]
    • addn. of 500. men dbld. price
    • Native prodns. of earth.
    • shews cnt. feed grt. city
  • 4. Health
    • no chdr. [children?] raised
  • 5. Expce — 2500 + 2500 + 1000 = 6000
    • Wmsb. 1000£ week = 6000 in 6 weeks
    • wth. all ys. nt. safe [with all this not safe]

N (DLC). These memoranda are written on the last page of the draft Bill for the Removal of the Seat of Government, introduced 11 Nov. 1776, q.v. It is not possible to say whether these notes, which obviously pertain to the Removal Bill, were made in 1776 or 1779; the cost figures would indicate the latter, but in that year the arguments in favor of removal (as indicated by the speedy adoption of the Bill) were so compelling that TJ must not have needed to make such elaborate memoranda for debate. There is another column of notes on the MS, parallel to this, but faded so much as to be illegible, save for occasional words and phrases, such as “obj. Expce. low calculd. good Capitol,” &c., proving that these notes are to the same purpose. The MS contains a third set of notes, which may possibly refer to the Virginia Constitution (though they can scarcely apply to it unless this Bill had been drawn up as early as May 1776, which is very unlikely); possibly these notes refer to the work of the Revisors of the Laws: “1. Legislative. 2. Executive. 3. Judiciary Property 4 Liberty 5 Crimes 6 health 7 Morality 8 Officers 9 Proceedings.”

These notes, never previously published, are among TJ’s most engaging papers. Never a debater or ready speaker, TJ reveals here for the first time something of his method as a legislator. Obviously he was no rival to the eloquent persuasiveness of Patrick Henry: to begin with the argument that “Rights of Western people [are] equal to Eastern” must have appealed to the delegates of the Piedmont, but to say that a century of experience had shown that “Wmsbgh. nevr. en. b. grt.” [Williamsburg never can be great] or that, in case of invasion, that city could not be defended, was scarcely calculated to win over the Tidewater aristocrats who still held disproportionate power in the legislature. This, too, is TJ’s first articulate vision of a great capital city, in which advantages would be held forth to manufactures, trade, and husbandry—a vision of considerable interest in view of his later attitude toward cities.

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