Thomas Jefferson Papers

Petition of Albemarle County Residents to the Virginia General Assembly, [before 19 December 1811]

Petition of Albemarle County Residents to Virginia General Assembly

[before 19 Dec. 1811]

To the General Assembly of Virginia the memorial & Petition of the subscribers Inhabitants of the county of Albemarle humbly Represents, That a spirit for the extension & improvement of domestic manufactures exists at present throughout the state of Virginia with an ardor which requires only a slight degree of Legislative1 encouragement to render it permanent; & place us in some respects independent of Foreign nations. Your Petitioners beg leave to state that, influenced by the spirit above mentioned, much of their attention has of late been devoted to the increase & improvement of their flocks of Sheep; & many of them at great expense & trouble have improved the quality of their wool by the introduction of the best breeds from Spain & other foreign countries.

That nothing is calculated to repress their present ardor in the breeding of sheep, but the ravages they are subject to from Dogs, who in one night may not only devour their property to an immense amount, but may damp & perhaps forever destroy all future enterprise & energy in the same cause. The only remedy for this evil, they concieve is to lessen the number of dogs so that what remain, being better fed, will have no inducement to plunder, & the only way to lessen their number must be by partial Taxation.

Therefore, as well to protect & encourage the raising of Sheep, as to indemnify the ravages committed on them by dogs, your Petitioners pray for the passage of a Law conformable to the following outlines, which they leave to the wisdom of the Legislature to make General or not, but which they pray may become at any rate a law for the county of Albemarle, & such other counties as may petition to the Same effect.—

“Let each Houskeeper in the county keep one dog free of Tax: but for every second dog lay a Tax of fifty cents & for every dog over two, on the same farm lay a Tax of one dollar for each. This tax to be collected in the usual manner but the money to be retained in the hands of the Sherrif to be hereafter appropriated. 2

“When a person shall sustain a loss among his sheep by dogs, let three freeholders, (in the manner directed for the appraisement of Estrays) asscertain his loss; taking into consideration the quality & breed of the sheep. Their certificate to be filed With the clerk, & the court at the end of each year to appropriate the money arising from the Tax on dogs towards defraying these losses. If the money is sufficient3 let the losses be defrayed in full, if not let it be in due proportion, & if there is an excess, let it go towards defraying the expenses of the county, as the court shall think proper.”

“In Towns, (if the law is made general) let the money go towards paving their streets, or any other way the corporation shall think best.”

Your Petitioners indulge The hope that your honorable Body can see no objection4 to making an Evil thus remedy itself; which besides diminishing the danger to be apprehended from mad Dogs, (a consideration by no means unimportant) and calculating that such a Law would reduce the present number of Dogs one half, upon a fair estimate, in the article of food alone, would produce to the county of Albemarle a clear saving of Ten Thousand Dollars per annum.

And your Petitioners &C &C—
D. Shiner Frank Carr J Rodes
John H. Craven Martin Dawson John a Michie
D: Carr Wm Woods William Gillaspy
Henry Chiles Micajah Woods Ths M Randolph
George Divers Thos Eston Randolph John Rothwell
Samuel Carr David Wood Rbn Lindsay
P. Minor Jno Rogers Eli Alexander
James Scott Z Shackleford J Bullock
 
Thos Amonett John Gillum
John Gilmer Richd Shackelford
John Watson Thos Carter
James McKinney Robt Gillack
Immanuel Poor Allen Dawson
Charles Yancey Jonathan Browning
Charles Flanagan John Smith
Jonathan Barksdale Phillip Darrell
Reuben Maury Harrison Wood
Th: Jefferson Robt W. Cullock jr
David J Lewis Nelson Barksdale
Robt C Nicholas John Fretwell
Jno, H, Wood John Lewis
W Stevens C Peyton
Wm Dunkum James Horsley
John Goss Charles Lively
Jos Mills Nowel Kerby
John S Abell Thos Johnson
James Henderson Eli Austin
Pleasant Dawson Benajah Gentry
John Nicholas < Wiley Dickerson >
Geo Gilmer
Christopher Hudson
Lewis Mahanes
Wm Broadhead
Benj Mathews
James Roberts
James Jefferies
A Brodhead
[Signatures on Dupl:]
John Patterson Jesse Thomas Jur
Reu. Johnson Nathaniel Goolsby
Wm A, Shelton Jno Coles
Nelson Freeland W. C. Nicholas
Silas H Smith Christopher Hudson
Thomas Daniel
Tandy Morris
Saml Shelton

MS (Vi: RG 78, Legislative Petitions, Albemarle Co.); in an unknown hand except for seventy-four signatures, one of which is canceled; undated; endorsed: “Petition from Albemarle for preservation of sheep recd Decr 19th 1811. refd to Props (reasonable) reported Bill drawn.” Dupl (Vi: RG 78, Legislative Petitions, Albemarle Co.); in a different hand from MS, with thirteen signatures; undated; endorsed: “Petition from Albemarle.”

The Virginia House of Delegates received this petition on 19 Dec. 1811 and referred it on 31 Dec. to its Committee of Propositions and Grievances, which reported on 15 Jan. 1812 that it was “reasonable.” A bill was accordingly drafted, presented on 23 Jan., and rejected on 7 Feb. 1812. The failed statute had the same provisions and sometimes drew on the language of the recommendations in the petition while leaving blanks for the amounts of the fines and adding language requiring that lists of taxable dogs be kept, authorizing magistrates to order the killing of dogs traveling with slaves or dogs that killed or injured sheep, and fining owners who concealed dogs that had been ordered killed (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends , 1811–12 sess., 42, 53–4, 82, 122; Dft bill in Vi: RG 79, House of Delegates, Rough Bills; in an unidentified hand; endorsed: “A bill to prevent the destruction of Sheep in this commonwealth Presented Jany 23d 1812. [Rejected—]”).

On 26 Jan. 1814 the Virginia legislature passed a similar law, entitled “An Act to prevent the destruction of Sheep in this Commonwealth,” which levied a $1 tax on dogs above six months of age. All housekeepers could keep one dog tax-free, and persons occupying plantations could have two. Part of the proceeds were to go to “the overseers of the poor, or trustees of charitable institutions.” Furthermore, any “magistrate, having sufficient proof that sheep have been killed or worried by any dog or dogs” was “required to order the same to be killed” or face a fine of $2 a day for each such dog. The act applied to many but not all Virginia counties. Ironically, Albemarle and Bedford were among those exempted (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends , 1813–14 sess., 55–6).

1Word omitted from Dupl.

2Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

3MS: “sufficent.” Dupl: “sufficient.”

4Preceding two words omitted from Dupl.

Index Entries

  • Abell, John S.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Albemarle County, Va.; and dogs search
  • Albemarle County, Va.; petitions to General Assembly search
  • Alexander, Eli; petition to General Assembly search
  • Amonett, Thomas; petition to General Assembly search
  • An Act to prevent the destruction of Sheep in this Commonwealth (1814) search
  • Austin, Eli; petition to General Assembly search
  • Barksdale, Jonathan; petition to General Assembly search
  • Barksdale, Nelson; petition to General Assembly search
  • Bedford County, Va.; and dog tax search
  • Broadhead, William; petition to General Assembly search
  • Brodhead (Broadhead), Achilles; petition to General Assembly search
  • Browning, Jonathan; petition to General Assembly search
  • Bullock, J.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Carr, Dabney (1773–1837) (TJ’s nephew); petition to General Assembly search
  • Carr, Frank; petition to General Assembly search
  • Carr, Samuel (TJ’s nephew); petition to General Assembly search
  • Carter, Thomas; petition to General Assembly search
  • Chiles, Henry; petition to General Assembly search
  • Coles, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Craven, John H.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Cullock, Robert W.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Daniel, Thomas; petition to General Assembly search
  • Darrell, Phillip; petition to General Assembly search
  • Dawson, Allen; petition to General Assembly search
  • Dawson, Martin; petition to General Assembly search
  • Dawson, Pleasant; petition to General Assembly search
  • Dickerson, Wiley; petition to General Assembly search
  • Divers, George; petition to General Assembly search
  • dogs; proposed taxation of search
  • Dunkum, William; petition to General Assembly search
  • Flanagan, Charles; petition to General Assembly search
  • Freeland, Nelson; petition to General Assembly search
  • Fretwell, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Gentry, Benajah; petition to General Assembly search
  • Gillack, Robert; petition to General Assembly search
  • Gillaspy, William; petition to General Assembly search
  • Gillum, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Gilmer, George (d.1836); petition to General Assembly search
  • Gilmer, John (1782–1834); petition to General Assembly search
  • Goolsby, Nathaniel; petition to General Assembly search
  • Goss, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Henderson, James; petition to General Assembly search
  • Horsley, James; petition to General Assembly search
  • Hudson, Christopher; petition to General Assembly search
  • Jefferies, James; petition to General Assembly search
  • Johnson, Reuben; petition to General Assembly search
  • Johnson, Thomas; petition to General Assembly search
  • Kerby, Nowel; petition to General Assembly search
  • Lewis, David Jackson; petition to General Assembly search
  • Lewis, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Lindsay, Reuben; petition to General Assembly search
  • Lively, Charles; petition to General Assembly search
  • Mahanes, Lewis; petition to General Assembly search
  • manufacturing, household; wool search
  • Mathews, Benjamin; petition to General Assembly search
  • Maury, Reuben; petition to General Assembly search
  • McKinney, James; petition to General Assembly search
  • merino sheep; and dogs search
  • Michie, John A.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Mills, Joseph; petition to General Assembly search
  • Minor, Peter; and dogs search
  • Minor, Peter; petition to General Assembly search
  • Morris, Tandy; petition to General Assembly search
  • Nicholas, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Nicholas, Robert Carter (ca.1788–1856); petition to General Assembly search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); petition to General Assembly search
  • Patterson, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Peyton, Craven; petition to General Assembly search
  • Poor, Immanuel; petition to General Assembly search
  • Randolph, Thomas Eston (TJ’s cousin); petition to General Assembly search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); petition to General Assembly search
  • Roberts, James; petition to General Assembly search
  • Rodes, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Rogers, John (of Albemarle Co.); petitions to General Assembly search
  • Rothwell, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Scott, James; petition to General Assembly search
  • Shackelford, Richard; petition to General Assembly search
  • Shackleford, Zachariah; petition to General Assembly search
  • sheep; and dogs search
  • sheep; raised in Va. search
  • Shelton, Samuel; petition to General Assembly search
  • Shelton, William A.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Shiner, D.; petition to General Assembly search
  • slaves; and dogs search
  • Smith, John (of Albemarle Co.); petition to General Assembly search
  • Smith, Silas H.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Stevens, W.; petition to General Assembly search
  • taxes; on dogs search
  • Thomas, Jesse, Jr.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; sheep raising in search
  • Watson, John; petition to General Assembly search
  • Wood, David; petition to General Assembly search
  • Wood, Harrison; petition to General Assembly search
  • Wood, John H.; petition to General Assembly search
  • Woods, Micajah; petition to General Assembly search
  • Woods, William; petition to General Assembly search
  • Yancey, Charles; petition to General Assembly search