Thomas Jefferson Papers

William W. Hening to Thomas Jefferson, 15 March 1815

From William W. Hening

Richmond 15th March 1815

Dear Sir,

Previously to the receipt of your letter of the 11th Inst I had carefully packed up all your M.S.S. with a view to return them to you by the first safe conveyance.—The Vth Vol. containing the sessions acts was all that I meant to retain; and that only, till I could complete the publication of that part. I had finished the 5th Vol. of the Statutes at Large; and had made considerable progress in the 6th (bringing down the sessions acts to about the middle of your Vth vol.) when the late War commenced.—The interruptions unavoidable, from the state of the country, in the first instance, and lastly from the death of Mr Pleasants, the publisher, has so far suspended the work, that it has been absolutely impossible to print off the whole of the matter contained in your V. Volume.—From the year 1771, to the present time, I have a complete collection of the Acts of the General Assembly, and Ordinances of the convention, during the interregnum. But, deprived of your Vth Vol. I cannot possibly complete the work.—To transcribe what remains of the 5th Vol. would not only be a very laborious and expensive undertaking, but I could not vouch for the accuracy of the impression, unless it could be examined by the original.—Indeed, I do not know, how the Examiners could certify the edition to have been published agreeably to law, unless they could compare it with the printed copy.—Under these circumstances I should presume, Congress could have no difficulty in your retaining the 5th Vol, until the matter now remaining, can be transferred to the Statutes at Large.—The 5th Vol. of this work, will very shortly be published; and not a moment will be lost, in completing the entire edition;—but it is really difficult to say, to what number of volumes, it will extend.—The Ordinances of Convention, & acts of the legislature during the Revolutionary war, are so very important, that not one can be omitted.

If, from this candid representation of facts, you deem it indispensible, that I should send you, the Vth vol. of your sessions acts, I will certainly comply with your request;1 on receiving an intimation, to that effect.

I am respy Yrs

Wm W: Hening

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 17 Mar. 1815 and so recorded in SJL.

The ordinances enacted by the Virginia conventions held during the 1775–76 interregnum were printed in 1821 in the ninth volume of Hening. According to the 5 Feb. 1808 Virginia “Act authorising William Waller Hening to Publish an Edition of certain Laws of this Commonwealth, and for other purposes,” once the examiners, William Munford, Creed Taylor, and William Wirt, stated “that they had carefully compared the edition of the acts so to be published, with the original laws, and found them to be truly and accurately printed, they shall be received and considered of equal authority in the courts of this commonwealth, as the originals, from which they are taken” (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1807–08 sess.], 24). Although Hening hoped that the fifth volume would very shortly be published, it did not actually appear until 1819.

1Manuscript: “requet.”

Index Entries

  • An Act authorising William Waller Hening to Publish an Edition of certain Laws of this Commonwealth, and for other purposes (1808) search
  • Hening, William Waller; and TJ’s collection of Va. laws search
  • Hening, William Waller; letters from search
  • Hening, William Waller; The Statutes at Large search
  • law; books on search
  • Library of Congress; TJ sells personal library to search
  • Munford, William; as examiner of The Statutes at Large (W. W. Hening) search
  • Pleasants, Samuel; Richmond printer search
  • Taylor, Creed; as examiner of The Statutes at Large (W. W. Hening) search
  • The Statutes at Large (W. W. Hening); publication of search
  • The Statutes at Large (W. W. Hening); sources for search
  • Virginia; conventions of1775–76 search
  • Virginia; laws of search
  • Wirt, William; as examiner of The Statutes at Large (W. W. Hening) search