James Madison Papers

Preamble and Portion of an Extradition Bill, [26 November] 1784

Preamble and Portion of an Extradition Bill

[26 November 1784]

Whereas it is the desire of the good people of this Commonwealth in all cases to manifest their reverance for the law of Nations, to cultivate amity and peace as far as may depend on them between the United States and foreign powers, and to support the dignity and energy of the fœderal Constitution:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly that if any Citizen or inhabitant of this Commonwealth shall go beyond the limits of the U. S. within the acknowledged jurisdiction of any Civilized Nation and shall within the same commit any crime for which in the judgment of the U. S. in Congress assd. the law of Nations or any Treaty between the U. S. and a foreign Nation, requires him to be surrendered to the offended Nation, and shall thereafter flee within the limits of this Commonwealth; and the Sovereign of the offended Nation shall exhibit to the U. S. in Congs. Assembd. due and satisfactory evidence of the crime, with a demand of the offender to be tried & punished where the same was committed; and the U. S. in Congs. assd. shall thereupon notify such demand to the Executive of this State, and call for the surrender of such offender, the Governor with the advice of the Council of State is hereby authorized to cause him to be apprehended and conveyed and delivered to such person or persons as the United States in Congress assembled may prescribe.1

Ms (Vi). In JM’s hand. Four additional paragraphs were added in committees and the whole bill titled “An act punishing certain offences injurious to the tranquility of this commonwealth” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 471–73).

1JM must have written his preamble after the first extradition bill offered on 12 Nov. had been rejected by the House (JM to Monroe, 27 Nov. 1784). JM’s additions were substituted for portions of an earlier text, which had been undergoing revision in the Committee of the Whole (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1784, pp. 41, 42, 43). After the House approved JM’s version (41 to 37), further alterations of the bill probably were made before the substitute was brought before the House on 27 Nov. Joseph Jones was heavily involved in drafting the bill and called its third reading “a fiery trial.” The purpose of the bill, Jones explained, was “to prevent our people transgressing agst. the Spaniard[s] which they are disposed to do from all accounts, and to remove doubts in the Executive shod. such demand be made” (Jones to Monroe, 27 Nov. 1784 [ViW]). The final tally was 44 ayes to 43 noes. “This measure was a bitter pill for the individualistic Westerners, to whom extradition seemed an infraction of the basic right of trial by jury of the vicinage” (Nevins, American States during and after the Revolution, p. 344). Nevins gave Henry credit for passage of the bill, but this is unlikely since Henry had been chosen governor ten days earlier and had then left the House for a visit with his family before taking office on 21 Dec. (Meade, Patrick Henry, II, 283). William C. Rives gave JM credit for the bill as “suggested and proposed by Mr. Madison” (Life of James Madison, I, 592).

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