Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 12 January 1800

From James Madison

Richmond Jany. 12. 1800

Dear Sir

My last informed you of the result of the debates on the justifying Report of the Select Committee. I am now able to add that of Mr. Giles’s resolutions. The question on the whole was decided in the affirmative by a little upwards of a hundred against less than fifty. The vote was rather stronger on some of the particular resolutions, for example the instruction for disbanding the army. The alien sedition & Tobacco instructions passed without a count or a division. That relating to the Common law, passed unanimously with an amendment qualifying it in the words of the paragraph in the Justifying Report under which certain defined parts of the C.L. are admitted to be the law of the U.S. This amendment was moved by the minority on the idea that it covers the doctrine they contend for. On our side it is considered as a guarded exposition of the powers expressed in the Constn: and those necessary & proper to carry them into execution. I am not able to say in what manner they misconstrue the definition, unless they apply the term “adopt” to the “Court” which would be equally absurd & unconstitutional. The Judges themselves will hardly contend that they can adopt a law, that is, make that law which before was not law. The difference in the majority on the Report & the resolutions, was occasioned chiefly by the pledge given agst. the former by the members who voted agst. the Resolutions of last year. The resolutions also underwent some improvements which reconciled many to them who were not satisfied with their first tone & form. It is understood that the present assembly is rather stronger on the republican side than the last one: and that a few favorable changes have taken place in the course of the Session. It is proposed to introduce tomorrow a bill for a general ticket in chusing the next Electors. I expect to leave this in a week; so that your subsequent favors will find me in Orange. adieu

Shew this to Mr. Dawson.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed by TJ as received 18 Jan. and so recorded in SJL.

My last: Madison to TJ, 9 Jan. 1800.

Paragraph in the justifying report: on 11 Jan. the Virginia House of Delegates amended Giles’s third resolution, which denied that the British common law was in force in the United States, by adding a passage, almost verbatim, from Madison’s report on the Virginia Resolutions. The amendment excepted particular parts of the common law sanctioned by the Constitution “so far as they are necessarily comprehended in the technical phrases, which express the powers delegated to the government” or that “may be adopted as necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers expressly delegated.” The Virginia Senate added the words “by Congress” after “adopted” for clarification. TJ had Madison’s report printed with the emendation (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 27 vols. description ends , 17:329, 351n; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1799–Jan. 1800, 80, 82; Madison to TJ, 18 Jan. 1800).

On 13 Jan. the House of Delegates appointed a committee, which included Madison and John Taylor, to bring in a bill for a general ticket to replace the district method for choosing the state’s 21 electors for president and vice president. While the Republicans had previously criticized the use of the general ticket, they realized that under the district method the Virginia Federalists would win several electoral votes. They argued that since several New England states consolidated their votes with the general ticket, states that did not were at a disadvantage, and that the general ticket was necessary until a constitutional amendment established a uniform mode for choosing electors. The legislation passed the Virginia House on 17 Jan. by a 78 to 73 vote and the Senate three days later (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1799–Jan. 1800, 83, 91; 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 , 2:197–200; Richard R. Beeman, The Old Dominion and the New Nation, 1788–1801 [Lexington, Ky., 1972], 216; TJ to James Thomson Callender, 6 Oct. 1799).

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