Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Monroe, 18 January 1801

From James Monroe

Richmond 18. Jany. 1801.

Dear Sir,

I returned here lately from Albemarle to which quarter I made a visit of two days last week. While there I saw P. Carr and conferr’d with him on the subject of my last to you. The idea suggested in my last respecting him, was not originally his own but that of some of his friends who thought a change of scene might be useful to him, and some step of a political kind, the means of his future advancement in the county or district where he lives. He yeilded to my objections to it, and indeed seems rather inclined to remain in respose at home than embark in any political pursuit whatever.

It is said here that Marshall has given an opinion in conversation with Stoddard, that in case 9. States shod. not unite in favor of one of the persons chosen, the legislature may appoint a Presidt. till another election is made, & that intrigues are carrying on to place us in that situation. This is stated in a letter from one of our reps. (I think Randolph) & has excited the utmost indignation in the legislature. Some talk of keeping it in session till after the1 2d. wednesday in Feby: others of adjourning to meet then. There has been much alarm at the intimation of such a projected usurpation, much consultation, and a spirit fully manifested not to submit to it. My opinion is they shod. take no step founded on the expectation of such an event, as it might produce an ill effect even with our friends, and the more especially as the Executive wod. not fail in case it occurred to convene the legislature without delay. While up the second carpenter, who has a father in law in Georgeton, a clerk in some office, fell from some part of your building & expired in a few hours in consequence of the contusions he recd. Our assembly has done little business since its meeting. They made a series of experiments to unite in some measure to prevent or suppress future negro conspiracies, without effect. I think it will adjourn in a few days. Sincerely I am Dear Sir your friend & servant

Jas. Monroe

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 23 Jan. and so recorded in SJL.

Take no step founded on the expectation of such an event: at some point Monroe drafted for a public meeting an undated resolution expressing confidence that the U.S. House of Representatives would resolve the election and declaring that it was not necessary to petition the General Assembly to stay in session beyond the second Wednesday of February (DLC: Monroe Papers).

Second carpenter: John Holmes. James Stuart, a clerk in the Register’s Office, was Holmes’s stepfather (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:58; Philadelphia Aurora, 31 Jan.; TJ to Stuart, 12 May 1801).

A bill “To prohibit free negroes and mulattoes from residing in or near certain towns,” which the Virginia House of Delegates dropped on 16 Jan., may have been part of the legislature’s series of experiments. The General Assembly had passed, in the days just before Monroe wrote the letter above, an act for the transportation of convicted slaves (see Monroe to TJ, 15 Sep. 1800) and another that empowered justices of the peace to call out patrols, provided for reorganization of the militia and patrol in Petersburg, and allowed a tax to pay for the guard in Fredericksburg. A few days after Monroe wrote, the assembly passed an act “to amend the act, intituled ‘An act, to reduce into one the several acts, concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes.’” Along with measures to prevent slaves from hiring themselves out, the statute contained provisions allowing the testimony of blacks in some court cases, restricting the bringing of slaves into Virginia from elsewhere, requiring each commissioner of the revenue to make an annual registry of “all free negroes or mulattoes within his district, together with their names, sex, places of abode, and particular trades, occupation or calling,” and allowing magistrates to declare as a vagrant any free person of color who moved from one county to another without having employment in the new location. As the legislative session waned during January the General Assembly also passed acts to arm the militia of towns and establish a guard force in Richmond (Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Richmond, on Monday the First Day of December One Thousand Eight Hundred [Richmond, 1801], 21, 24, 34–5, 37–9; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Dec. 1800-Jan. 1801, 70).

1Monroe here canceled “3d.”

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