Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on Senate Debates, [after 5 March 1800]

Notes on Senate Debates

[after 5 Mch. 1800]

1800. March. heretical doctrines maintained in Senate.

  • on the motion against the Aurora. that there is in every legal1 body of men a right of self preservation authorising them to do whatever is necessary for that purpose. by Tracy, Read, & Laurence.
  • that the common law authorises the proceeding proposed agt. the Aurora, & is in force here. by Read.
  • that the privileges of Congress are and ought to be indefinite. by Read.
  • Tracy sais he would not say exactly that the Common law of England in all it’s extent is in force here: but common sense, reason, & morality, which are the foundations of the Common law, are in force here and establish a common law. he held himself so nearly half way between the Common law of England and what every body else has called Natural law, & not Common law, that he could hold to either the one or the other as he should find expedient.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 108:18558); entirely in TJ’s hand; added, along with Notes on Senate Debates at 19 Mch., in a minuscule hand at bottom of sheet following Notes on a Conversation with Benjamin Rush, 1 Feb. 1800.

Every legal body: Senator Uriah Tracy of Connecticut commented on 5 Mch. in debate on the Aurora that every public body of necessity had a right to “the principle of self-preservation” (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 10:87). See also TJ’s refutation of the notion of “self-preservation” in PW description begins Wilbur S. Howell, ed., Jefferson’s Parliamentary Writings, Princeton, 1988, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 360–1.

1Word interlined.

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