From Caleb Wallace
October 8. 1785.
By Colo. Muter I troubled you with a short Line;1 and now have only Leisure to thank you for the Strictures on Government you were so kind as to favour me with.2 I have yet some other Qu[e]r[i]es on the Subject which I shall reserve for another Opportunity. At present I only beg leave to observe that the Constitution of Virginia provides for the Seperation we have in View in a Way that is unprecedented. An Act of Seperation, I concieve, may direct the whole with but a little more difficulty than a Corporation is established; and so as to prevent a dangerous interval of Anarcy which must otherwise happen. The District has chosen a Convention that is to continue till next April. The Elections though voluntary were made with propriety. This Convention I concieve may be recognized and empowered to direct the Choice of another for the purpose of adopting a Form of Government and organizing it: and in the mean Time it may be provided, that all Officers civil & Military shall continue to enforce the Laws of the present Government with such exceptions as the Case may require.3 This, or something in this Way may certainly be done with propriety. But I must confess, I find myself perplexed with real Difficulties of another Kind. Our Remote Situation and other local peculiarities excludes us from the Advantages of equal Government whilst connected with Virginia. And the Want of an Export Trade will render us incapable of defraying the Expences of a Seperate Government. The Question then is, Whether our poverty should deprive us of the Rights of Free Men, or not? If it were left to my own Decission, I believe I should advise being contented with a lesser Portion of political Advantages at present, did I not conceive that a Legislature of our own, might do much to regulate Trade or supply the Deficiency, As well as to secure our Inhabitants against the Indians who are daily despoiling us of our property and committing the most horid Murders! Or in a Word, to facilitate the Approach of more happy Days. If the Legislature should accede to the Seperation, I expect the Gentlemen from this Quarter will Solicit your Attention in preparing the Act, and I hope much from your Favour.4
This will be handed to you by Capt. Christopher Greenup5 who I take the Liberty of recommending to you as a Friend I highly esteem for his Integrity and liberality of Sentiment. I have also requested him to shew you a Letter from Colo. M’Dowell and myself addressed to the Speaker of the House of Delegates on behalf of ourselves and the other Officers of this District Court.6 From the Contents you will easily apprehend the Inconveniencies occasioned by the Inattention or Reluctance of the Assembly to provide for the Support of the Court. I shall only further observe, that after foregoing other Advantages that presented themselves to keep the Court in Existence we have great Reason to complain of the Oversight, and yet to expect a Reimbursement if the Independence of the Judges is thought to be of any Consequence to the public. True it is, that the Court has lingered in a Way greatly to the Injury of the District, but not through the Default of the Judges, but the Want of Houses and Records that could not be procured without Funds. For my own part, upon recieving my Appointment I immediately removed to the Country, and except one Trip to Botetourt to settle my Affairs, I have ever since avoided any Business that would divert my Attention from the Duties of the Office or be otherwise inconsistent, and should now avoid troubling the Legislature on the disagreeable Subject, did not Justice to the Office as well as my Family require it. If it is not too irksome to you to interest yourself in the Application, the Favour will be than[k]fully acknowledged by Dr Sir, Your most ob. Servt.
RC (DLC). Addressed. Carried to JM “By Capt. Greenup.” Docketed by JM.
3. After the first formal convention considering Kentucky statehood was held in Danville during Dec. 1784, the district held eight more conventions to organize its separation from Virginia. Between 8 Aug. 1785 and 26 Sept. 1786, no formal gathering is recorded in the various accounts of these conventions, but members often seemed to meet informally to discuss the progress of their goal.
4. The first act concerning Kentucky statehood was passed by the House of Delegates in Jan. 1786. It derived from the Committee for Courts of Justice on which JM served as chairman (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. 1785, pp. 104, 106, 127–47 passim). For the bill’s progress, see the Act Concerning Statehood for the Kentucky District, 22 Dec. 1785.
5. Christopher Greenup (1750–1818) was a Kentucky lawyer who attended the Dec. 1784 Kentucky convention. In 1785 he was appointed a district judge for Kentucky and traveled to Richmond to serve as a member of the House of Delegates at the Oct. 1785 session. After Kentucky gained her statehood, he served as one of her first two congressmen and was later governor.
6. Samuel McDowell (1735–1817) was the father of Wallace’s first wife (William H. Whitsitt, The Life and Times of Judge Caleb Wallace [Louisville, 1888], p. 114). He served with Wallace on the Commission for Adjudicating Western Accounts. McDowell was president of the Dec. 1784 Kentucky convention, and presided over the Kentucky Constitutional Convention (Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, IV, 111). The Supreme Court of the District of Kentucky suffered from instability resulting from a changing membership. Leading judges were appointed but some were hesitant to leave the safety of Virginia for the frontier of Kentucky; some were tempted by the financial increases offered by other offices, and resigned; and some were killed in the Indian raids. Wallace had moved to Kentucky in Oct. 1782. When the settling of the western accounts was completed in 1783, Wallace pressed to be appointed to the court in the place of Col. William Floyd, recently killed by Indians (Whitsitt, Life of Caleb Wallace, pp. 106–9).
The petition submitted by McDowell and Wallace was read in the House on 23 Nov. 1785. Two acts had been passed in the 1784 sessions of the legislature in order to improve the economic situation of Kentucky judges. They were, however, not effective, as the 1785 petition stated. The legislators agreed and approved the petition, ordering the payments authorized in Oct. 1784 to be made (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, 397–98, 498–99; 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. 1785, pp. 52, 59).