James Madison Papers

Resolution for Opening Roads to Market Towns, [ca. 30 December] 1784

Resolution for Opening Roads to Market Towns

[ca. 30 December 1784]1

Whereas the opening & keeping in repair of direct roads from the different parts of this Commonth. to the several marker Towns, and from one market Town to another would greatly encourage agriculture by cheapening the transportation of its productions to the places of consumption & exportation, and would in other respects contribute to the improvement of the Country by facilitating intercourse between the different parts thereof; and it is considered by the present General Assembly, that altho’ the various necessary burdens which now press in on the people render a general plan for the aforesaid purpose unadvisable at this moment, yet that such a beginning ought to be made in the work as will not only produce immediate advantage to the community; but will lead to a more diffusive & compleat execution thereof: And it is the more necessary that the principal roads should be so straightened before the value of the ground to be obtained from individuals increase Be it therefore enacted that the Governour with advice of the Council of State shall be & he hereby is authorized to cause surveys to be made in order to determine the best courses for roads, (having regard to the nature of the ground as well as to distance) from & to the following places: to wit; from

And for executing such surveys the Governor with the advice aforesaid is further authorized to appoint a proper person for each of such surveys who shall be allowed a sum not exceeding   perday during his actual employment in the service, and who may take with him so many assistants & such daily wages as the Executive shall approve. The said Surveyors shall make to the Governour the

Ms (DLC). In JM’s hand and later headed by him: “1784 or 5—prepared to be introduced into the Virga. Legisl: [.]” Docketed in an unidentified hand. On the verso JM wrote notes for debates over repeal of the Episcopal Incorporation Act that took place at the Oct. 1786 session of the General Assembly.

1The conjectural date on this document is assigned solely by the circumstances. After the legislature began debating bills on canal construction that would favor tidewater communities (20–31 Dec. 1784), it was logical to make concessions to the counties whose marketing facilities were not based on river transportation. Directed at these circumstances, a bill aiding construction of inland roadways thus seemed most expedient, if not logical. For reasons no longer apparent, JM never presented the measure, but he did introduce Jefferson’s “Bill concerning Public Roads” at the Oct. 1785 session of the General Assembly. That bill became law and by its provisions met the purposes of JM’s pigeonholed proposal. See Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , II, 448–53. Sometime between Oct. 1784 and Dec. 1786 JM was delving into the laws of other states in search of more efficacious statutes. During this period he made a set of notes from the 1772 Pennsylvania “act for opening & keeping in repair public roads,” the contents of which are in no way related to the resolution printed here despite the similarity of the opening phrases. Hunt misinterpreted JM’s heading and printed the notes as a 1772 item (Madison, Writings [Hunt ed.] description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900–1910). description ends , I, 13–15). On the other hand, it could be argued that JM wrote this resolution about the time of the Oct. 1786 General Assembly session. He had written Jefferson on 19 June 1786 inquiring about an alternative to “the present vicious plan” of road repairs (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , IX, 661). Possibly, JM tinkered with the idea of creating a responsible board of road commissioners and intended to use this resolution as a legislative lever. If this were the case, then this resolution may have been the pending road legislation which Francis Corbin reported that JM had hoped to introduce but “he had not time to complete” (Corbin to Richard Henry Lee, 20 Jan. 1787 [ViU: Lee Family Papers]).

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