Thomas Jefferson Papers

Petition of Joseph Miller to the Virginia General Assembly, [presented 15 December 1815]

Petition of Joseph Miller to the Virginia General Assembly

[presented 15 Dec. 1815]

To the General assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia the petition of Joseph Miller of the borough of Norfolk in the sd commonwealth humbly sheweth

That Frances Reed, mother of your Petitioner, having had issue by a former marriage Anne and Thomas Reed, intermarried with John Miller, father of your petitioner, and had issue Elizabeth, Aldersea, and Daniel Miller: that the said John and Frances Miller emigrated in the year1 1775 to Maryland, and established themselves at the town of Chester therein, with an intention of permanently remaining there, which, by the laws then existing made them citizens of Maryland:2 that your petitioner was born in the said town of Chester, as he has ever been informed and believes, in the month of July 1776. but that his said father dying a little before or after his birth, his mother, unwilling3 to remain alone at so great a distance from all her connections, returned with your petitioner, an infant at the breast to the place of her former residence in England: that your petitioner was brought up to the seafaring business, which he followed some years,4 and afterwards procured himself to be instructed in the art of brewing, and carried on the business of brewing for some time in England.

That in the year 1783. his half brother Thomas Reed beforenamed emigrated to this state, became in due form a naturalized citizen thereof, and established himself in the borough of Norfolk, where he exercised for many years the trade5 of a carpenter, and acquired by his industry and skill considerable property in lots and lands,6 negroes, and other articles in the sd borough and it’s vicinity: that being seised and possessed thereof he departed this life on the 10th day of November 1809. having first made his last will & testament, wherein he devised all his property to his7 brothers and sisters aforesaid of the whole and half blood, and to a certain Mary Longcake his god-daughter, assigning to each a specific and definite portion thereof: and of the sd will he made Findlay Ferguson and Joseph Hays executors, as by the same,8 duly proved and recorded in the Hustings court of the said borough will fully appear: that on recieving information of his death, your petitioner determined to return to this country permanently to reside therein, and the other devisees not being so disposed, he purchased from them their portions of his said brother’s property, to wit, from his sisters and brothers9 Anne,10 Elizabeth, Aldersea, and Daniel, and from the said Mary Longcake, paying them for the same the sum of 450. pounds sterling, which with the costs of conveyance11 and other charges and expences was raised in the end to12 nearly 600. pounds sterling, as by their deeds, duly executed and proved, and by other documents13 will appear: that your petitioner took his passage, in the Lydia, an American vessel, bound to Norfolk, a rumor then prevailing indeed, but not fully credited,14 that war had been declared by the United States against England: that he sailed on the 21st of October 1812. in the said ship Lydia, was taken first by a French privateer, and after long detention discharged; a second time by the Plantagenet, and a third time by the Juno, British ships of war, and in like manner, after long detentions by them, permitted to proceed, insomuch that the Lydia did not arrive in the bay of15 Chesapeak until February 1813. where she was immediately brought to by the British blockading squadron, prohibited from going into port, and ordered again to sea: that they left the capes of Chesapeak and endeavored to make a Northern port, but being overtaken by a storm they were cast away near Lewis town, and their ship totally lost: that your petitioner thence made his way, sometimes by land, sometimes by water, and reached Norfolk on16 the 4th or 5th of April: that on the day of his17 arrival there he was warned by the deputy marshal to leave the place immediately and to repair to Fluvanna court house, in the interior of the country: that having obtained leave to remain only18 until he could get some19 linen washed, but without permission to quit the house, or to look after his property, he departed at the end of three days for Fluvanna court house, and being refused reception, on account of the sickness of the family residing there,20 he went to Charlottesville in the county of Albemarle, where he continued under the approbation and orders of the Marshal of the state: that he then applied to the Marshal claiming his rights as a native citizen under the law which declares all free persons born within the state to be citizens, and the constitution of the United states, which gives to the citizens of each state the rights & privileges of citizens in the several states, and claiming the said rights moreover21 as the son of one who had been a citizen, under the law of the US. of 1802. which declares that the children of persons who have been citizens of the US. shall be considered as citizens, tho’ born out of their limits: that by the kind indulgence of the Marshal he was permitted to go to Norfolk to take order respecting his property, and to remain there until further orders, and also to proceed to Chester town in Maryland to procure testimony of the residence of his father, and of his own birth in that place: that on proceeding thither, he found that his parents having resided there but a short time before the death of his father and removal of his mother,22 they had probably become known to few, that of these some had died, some had removed away, and in fact that in the course of the 38. years which had elapsed, and of the two wars which had intervened,23 a new generation had taken place of the former, insomuch that no certain24 vestiges of his family could be traced: that as soon therefore as the Proclamation of peace appeared, he took the regular measures for his own re-naturalisation by taking, on the 13th of March 1815. before the county court of Nansemond, the oath of fidelity to the US. and abjuration of all other allegiances as directed by law, and has continued to exercise in the sd borough of Norfolk25 his calling of a brewer, which he had before begun there: that some of the buildings which had belonged to his said brother the testator being in imminent danger of ruin for want of repairs, your petitioner, at great expence, has had them repaired, and put into a state of preservation.

That notwithstanding the just claims of your petitioner, as before stated, to the inheritance of his brother, it has been suggested by some that these may be questioned and disturbed, and that it is advisable to apply to this honorable body to quiet and assure the same: in consideration therefore of all the premisses, and particularly of the citizenship acquired by the residence and death of his father in the United states, of your petitioner’s own right either as a native citizen, or as the child of one who had been a resident; of the naturalisation of his brother the testator, and his just right of bequeathing the fruits of his industry among his nearest relations, of the misfortune of the loss of testimony by the lapse of time, the accidents of war,26 by deaths, removals and other human casualties, of the great sum of money paid by your petitioner for the rights of the other devisees, and for repairs and preservation of the property, a great sum indeed for your petitioner, the earnings of his own industry, as being poor, and without other resources than the labor of his hands, and that the property passing to him from his brother is but the ordinary and daily27 case of a transfer from one citizen to another, and to one too, in this case, who by the exercise of an useful and wholesome art hopes to be not altogether unprofitable to the country of his birth and choice; your petitioner consequently28 prays that the General assembly will be pleased to confirm by a law the will of his said brother the testator, to confirm and quiet the rights of your petitioner regularly derived therefrom, and generally authorising the executors and all others to carry the same into full effect, and giving validity to all acts done or to be done for that purpose; and your petitioner, as in duty bound, shall ever pray Etc.

Joseph Miller

MS (Vi: RG 78, Legislative Petitions, Norfolk Borough); in TJ’s hand, signed by Miller; undated; endorsed in a clerk’s hand: “<Thomas> Joseph Miller’s Petition.—Decr 15th 1815. refd to Cts of J. [the Committee for Courts of Justice]” and in another hand: “Reasonable to confirm a title to land purchased of aliens.” Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 209:37336); in TJ’s hand; on reused address cover to TJ; undated; endorsed by TJ: “Miller Joseph.”

Thomas Reed’s last will & testament was recorded on 28 Dec. 1809 (Norfolk City Hustings and Corporation Court Will Book, 2:452–3). The deeds of lease and release conveying Reed’s property from Miller’s half sibling Anne Reed Irving; his siblings Aldersea Miller, Elizabeth Miller, and Daniel Miller; and Reed’s goddaughter Mary Longcake were signed in September and October 1812, prior to Miller’s departure from England for the United States. They were produced, proved, and recorded in Norfolk on 26 May 1817 (Norfolk City Hustings and Corporation Court Deed Book, 14:41–55).

William Mann was the deputy marshal and Andrew Moore the marshal of the state.

For the law which declares all free persons born within the state to be citizens, see Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends (1786–87 sess.), 12–4. For TJ’s role in drafting this legislation, see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 38 vols. description ends , 2:476–9. Article 4, section 2 of the constitution of the united states states that “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.” The law of the us. of 1802, passed 14 Apr. 1802, was “An Act to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:153–5). On 9 Feb. 1816 the General Assembly did confirm by a law Miller’s rights by passing “An Act vesting in Joseph Miller the Commonwealth’s right to the real and personal estate of which Thomas Reed died seised and possessed” (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1815–16 sess.], 251).

1Paragraph to this point heavily reworked in Dft, with clean version rewritten in margin, differing mainly from MS in describing John Miller as “then of Carlisle in the kdom of England” at the time of his emigration.

2Preceding eleven words interlined in Dft.

3Word interlined in Dft in place of “fearing.”

4Dft here adds “in the commerce between Gr. Britain & these US. and other countries.”

5Preceding five words interlined in Dft in place of “the business.”

6Dft here adds “houses.”

7In Dft TJ here canceled “sister Anne of the whole blood.”

8Preceding seventeen words interlined in Dft in place of “his property, as by the sd will.”

9Preceding three words interlined in Dft in place of “the sd.”

10In Dft TJ here canceled “Mary.”

11Word interlined in Dft in place of “deeds.”

12Reworked in Dft from “other nessary [necessary] expenses amounted to.”

13Phrase to this point interlined in Dft, with “by” omitted.

14Preceding four words interlined in Dft, as “but <which was > not generally <believed> credited.

15Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

16Word interlined in Dft in place of “about.”

17Reworked in Dft from “that instantly on his.”

18Word interlined in Dft.

19Word interlined in Dft in place of “his.”

20Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

21Preceding six words not in Dft, in which text from this point to “out of their limits” is interlined earlier, after “within the state to be citizens.”

22Preceding five words interlined in Dft.

23Preceding eight words interlined in Dft.

24Word interlined in Dft.

25Preceding six words interlined in Dft.

26Preceding four words interlined in Dft.

27Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

28Word interlined in Dft.

Index Entries

  • An Act to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject (1802) search
  • An Act vesting in Joseph Miller the Commonwealth’s right to the real and personal estate of which Thomas Reed died seised and possessed (1816) search
  • Constitution, U.S.; citizenship under search
  • Ferguson, Findlay; executor of T. Reed’s estate search
  • Hayes, Joseph; executor of T. Reed’s estate search
  • Irving, Anne Reed (Joseph Miller’s half-sister); and T. Reed estate search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Petition of Joseph Miller to the Virginia General Assembly search
  • Juno, HMS search
  • Longcake, Mary; and estate of T. Reed search
  • Lydia (ship) search
  • Mann, William; deputy federal marshal search
  • Miller, Aldersea; and T. Reed estate search
  • Miller, Daniel; and T. Reed estate search
  • Miller, Elizabeth; and T. Reed estate search
  • Miller, Frances Reed (John Miller’s wife; Joseph Miller’s mother); and T. Reed estate search
  • Miller, John (Joseph Miller’s father); and T. Reed estate search
  • Miller, Joseph; An Act vesting in Joseph Miller the Commonwealth’s right to the real and personal estate of which Thomas Reed died seised and possessed (1816) search
  • Miller, Joseph; and Norfolk property search
  • Miller, Joseph; petition to General Assembly search
  • Moore, Andrew; as federal marshal for Va. district search
  • naturalization; An Act to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject (1802) search
  • Plantagenet, HMS search
  • Reed, Thomas (brother of Joseph Miller); estate of search
  • Virginia; citizenship laws in search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search