James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Abram Trigg, 1 October 1793

From Abram Trigg

Montgomery County October 1st. 1793


I take the liberty to inclose you a Copy of sundry charges which have been forwarded to the President of the United States against Captain William Preston touching his conduct in an Election,1 held for a representative in Congress each charge having a reference to such part of the deposition’s with which they were accompany’d as seem to support it.

Will you Sir be so good as to favour me with your direction’s how to proceed for avoiding the said Election, or if practicable to obtain my seat. It is with great diffidence I make the application; but the Occasion I hope will justify the intrusion; as I conceive essential to the existance of a republican Government that Election’s of representatives of the people should be absolutely free, and that therefore this attempt by a military force to prescribe to free men who they shall choose will meet with your disapprobation. I beg leave further to observe that in Washington County, indirect measures were used in diver’s respect’s particularly a number of person’s were poll’d that lived in the state of Kentuckey & in the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio and the poll continued open the second day without any legal cause existing, other than its being Court day & the votes of that County mostly running in Mr. Preston’s favour; when in other County’s within the district the polls were closed on the first day of the Election to the exclusion of a sufficient number of votes to have given me the majority who actually appeared before sun set, and tendred their votes in my favour, All Which doing’s is considered to be contrary to the Letter & Spirit of the Constitution, and flagrant breach of the rights of freemen.

Your Friendship and Friendly Offices in this business will imprint upon my mind the most lasting impressions of Gratitude & Esteem. I am Sir with the greatest Respect your Most Obedient Servant.

Abram Trigg.2

RC (ViHi: Preston Family Papers). Enclosure not found.

1In the congressional election on 18 Mar., Francis Preston defeated Trigg by ten votes. On 26 Dec. Trigg’s petition was read in the House of Representatives and referred to the Standing Committee of Elections. William Loughton Smith reported from that committee on 17 Apr. 1794: “That Captain William Preston, brother, and agent at the election, of the sitting member, was quartered near Montgomery court-house, with about 60 or 70 Federal troops, of which he had the command.” The troops intimidated the voters but in an ensuing affray fled to their barracks. Smith’s report concluded “that Francis Preston is not duly elected a member of this house,” but on 29 Apr. the House rejected Trigg’s petition and Smith’s report without a division (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 3d Cong., 1st sess., 149, 598–99, 613).

2Abram Trigg (b. 1750), a lieutenant colonel in the militia during the Revolution, served as a delegate with JM in the 1788 Virginia ratifying convention and as a congressman, 1797–1809 (BDC description begins Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774–1971 (Washington, 1971). description ends , p. 1830).

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