Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Mann Randolph, 10 June 1803

From Thomas Mann Randolph

Albemarle June 10. 1803.

Dear Sir,

My intentions of communicating to you immediately the issue of the election was defeated by the uncertainty and perplexity in which it closed. I would not write, I thought first, untill the return was made, and then not before I could certainly inform you whether the District had decided for itself or whether it had sent forward two men for the House of Representatives to take choice of one. I cannot indeed yet say that the latter will certainly take place but I conclude it will from every account I receive. Not my friends alone but many indifferent persons of information on that subject assure me, my poll will bear the most rigid scrutiny, and my majority will increase upon it. So I believe. Besides I have the fullest confidence I shall succeed in seting aside all the votes of the second and third day in Amherst because they were illegal in time, the law being very explicit with respect to time and declaring very expressly that unless from certain causes mentioned the voters cannot come to give their suffrage or their number is too great to be gone through in one day then shall be a determination the first day. Now neither of these cases occured, as you know, in the Amherst election but a peculiar case was produced by Artifice and I fully believe, by force in part, which the law by using the expression “cannot be polled” in the place of may not or shall not plainly excludes and refuses to acknowledge as ground for an adjournment of the election. Very manifest is the wisdom of those who passed this law, for in the first place besides considering that natural causes might prevent the voters from assembling generally on the day appointed they reflected that many counties or Districts might be too large for all the suffrages they contained to be taken in one day and foresaw too that Candidates in despair could make use of persuasion or perhaps force to keep the voters back from the poll books or otherwise retard the progress of polling that time might be obtained for the employment of undue influence or improper means. That wisdom therefore provided expressly for the first case here mentioned & used an expression with regard to the second which provided as fully for it but at the same time excluded the third the artificial case; for, granting an indulgence in case a thing cannot be done does not grant it in case that thing may not be done or shall not be done from unlawfull hindrance or connivance of some of the concerned or whatever cause when it can be proven that it could have been done.

FC (DLC); endorsed by Randolph.

my intentions: there is no evidence that Randolph sent this letter to TJ.

About this time, reports emerged that Randolph’s opponent Samuel J. Cabell would contest his election to the Eighth Congress. Apparently delayed in this action by “the severe indisposition of his family,” Cabell began during the summer to gather depositions and other documents, which he filed along with his formal challenge when the House of Representatives convened in October. Although on two occasions Cabell asked the Elections Committee for an opportunity to supplement his documentation, he ignored requests to present his case in person. In March 1804, the committee ruled in Randolph’s favor (Richmond Virginia Argus, 8 June 1803; 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 , 13:373; 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, 1:392; DVB description begins John T. Kneebone and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Richmond, 1998- , 3 vols. description ends , 2:495; Randolph to TJ, 29 Apr.).

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