Richmond Enquirer, 20 June 1806

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Detail from the Richmond Enquirer for June 20, 1806, with Jefferson's draft for the Declaration of Independence, found among Wythe's papers after his death.

Published in the Richmond Enquirer, June 20, 1806, 2-3.[1]

Article text, 20 June 1806

Page 2

The Enquirer.

RICHMOND, 20th JUNE.


Among the literary reliques of the venerable George Wythe, were found the following rare and curious papers in the hand of Mr. Jefferson. The first is a copy of the original declaration of our Independence, as it came from the hands of its author: The other is a Bill of Rights and of a Constitution for Virginia, composed by Mr. Jefferson. For the permission to peruse and publish these papers, we are indebted to the politeness of Major DuVal, the sole executor of the estate.

The federal assertion that Mr. Jefferson was not the author of this celebrated declaration, has long since been refuted, or else these papers would have furnished the most abundant refutation. What now will become of the no less unfounded assertion, that this paper as it was adopted by Congress, owes much of its beauty and its force to the committee appointed to draft it? The world will see that not only were very few additions made by the committee, but that they even struck out two of the most forcible and striking passages in the whole composition. For what reasons, yet remains to be discovered.

The passages omitted from the original are printed in Italics.

This Bill and Constitution as we have them in manuscript, are without any mark to note the date of their production. It is presumed however, that they were written in 1776. The constitution, written by Mr. Jefferson, in '83, is already printed in some of the Editions of his "Notes of Virginia."


(No. I.)

A DECLARATION BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN GENERAL CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying it's foundation on such principles and organizing it's powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes. And accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, begun at a distinguished period, and pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge their former systems of government. The history of the present King of G. Britain, is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which appears no solitary fact, to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest; but all have in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.

He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good:

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has neglected utterly to attend to them:

He has refused to pass other laws for the accomodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only:

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, and continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people:

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within:

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these states, refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers:

He has made our judges dependant on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and amount of their salaries:

He has erected a multitude of new offices by a self-assumed power, and sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our people and eat out their substance:

He has kept among us in times of peace standing armies and ships of war, without the consent of our legislatures:

He has affected to render the military, independant of, and superior to, the civil power:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;

for protecting them by a mock-trial from punishment for any murders they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;

for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

for imposing taxes on us without our consent;

for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;

for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences;

for abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries,so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these states;

for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;

for suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:

He has abdicated government here, withdrawing his governors, and declaring us out of his allegiance and protection:

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people:

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation:

He has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions of existence:

He has incited treasonable insurrections in our fellow-citizens, with the allurements of forfeiture and confiscation of our property:

He has constrained others, taken captives on the high seas, to bear arms against their country to become executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people, who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the christian king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished dye, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free. Future ages will scarce believe that the hardiness of one man, adventured within the short compass of twelve years only, to build a foundation, so broad and undisguised, for tyranny over a people fostered and fixed in principles of freedom.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend a jurisdiction over these our states. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here, no one of which could warrant so strange a pretension: that these were effected at the expence of our own blood and treasure, unassisted by the wealth or the strength of Great Britain: that in constituting indeed our several forms of government, we had adopted one common king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league and amity with them: but that submission to their parliament was no part of our constitution, nor ever in idea, if history may be credited: and we appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, as well as to the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which were likely to interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice, and of consanguinity; and when occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have by their free

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election re-established them in power. At this very time too they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but [Scotch and] foreign mercenaries to invade and destroy us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection; and manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these unfeeling brethren. We must endeavor to forget our former love for them, and to hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. We might have been a free and great people together; but a communication of grandeur and of freedom, it seems, is below their dignity. Be it so, since they will have it: the road to glory is open to us too; we will climb it apart from them, and acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our eternal separation!

We therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled, do, in the name and by authority of the good people of these states, reject and renounce all allegiance and subjection to the kings of Great Britain, and all others who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; we utterly dissolve all political connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us and the parliament or people of Great Britain; and finally we do assert, these a colonies to be free and independent states, and that as free and independant states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts, and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.


(No. II.)

A BILL for new-modelling the form of Government and for establishing the Fundamental Principles thereof in future.

WHEREAS George               Guelf,[2] king of Great-Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover, heretofore entrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in this government, hath endeavored to pervert the same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny—

By putting his negative on laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good;

By denying to his governors permission to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations for his assent, and, when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many years;

By refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the person to be benefited by them would relinquish the inestimable right of representation in the legislature;

By dissolving legislative assemblies repeatedly and continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people;

When dissolved—by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political system without any legislative head;

By endeavoring to prevent the population of our country, and for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners and raising the condition of new appropriations of lands;

By keeping among us, in times of peace, standing armies and ships of war;

By affecting to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power;

By combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction, giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation—

for quartering large bodies of troops among us;

for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

for imposing taxes on us without our consent;

for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;

for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; and

for suspending our own legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever;

By plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns and destroying the lives of our people;

By inciting insurrections of our fellow subjects with the allurements of forfeiture and confiscation;

By prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very negroes whom by an inhuman use of his negative, he hath refused us permission to exclude by law;

By endeavoring to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions of existence;

By transporting at this time a large army of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy so unworthy the head of a civilized nation;

By answering our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition of injuries; and, finally,

By abandoning the helm of government and declaring us out of his allegiance and protection;

By which several acts of misrule the said George               Guelf has forfeited the kingly office, and has rendered it necessary for the preservation of the people, that he should be immediately deposed from the same, and divested of all its privileges, powers, and prerogatives:

And forasmuch as the public liberty may be more certainly secured by abolishing an office which all experience hath shewn to be inveterately inimical thereto, and it will thereupon become further necessary to re-establish such ancient principles as are friendly to the rights of the people and to declare certain others which may co-operate with and fortify the same in future.

Be it therefore enacted by the authority of the people, That the said, George               Guelf be, and he hereby is deposed from the kingly office within this government and absolutely divested of all it's rights, powers, and prerogatives: and that he and his descendants, and all persons claiming by or through him, and all other persons whatsoever, shall be and forever remain incapable of the same: and that the said office shall henceforth be abolished and never more either in name or substance be re-established within this colony.

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the following fundamental laws and principles of government shall henceforth be established.

The legislative, executive and judiciary offices shall be kept for ever separate; no person exercising the one shall be capable of appointment to the other, or to either of them.

I. LEGISLATIVE.

Legislation shall be exercised by two separate houses, to wit: a House of Representatives, and a House of Senators, which shall be called the General Assembly of Virginia.

The said House of Representatives shall be composed of persons chosen by the people annually on the [1st day of October] and shall meet in General assembly on the [1st day of November] following, and so from time to time on their own adjournments, or at any time when summoned by the administrator, and shall continue sitting so long as they shall think the public service requires.

Vacancies in the said House by death or disqualification shall be filled by the electors under a warrant from the Speaker of the said House.

All male persons of full age and sane mind having a freehold estate in [one fourth of an acre] of land in any town, or in [25] acres of land in the country, and all persons resident in the colony who shall have paid SCOT and LOT to government the last [two years] shall have right to give their vote in the election of their respective Representatives, and every person so qualified to elect shall be capable of being elected, provided he shall have given no bribe either directly or indirectly to any elector, and shall take an oath of fidelity to the state and of duty in his office, before he enters on the exercise thereof. During his continuance in the said office he shall hold no public pension nor post of profit, either himself, or by another for his use.

The number of Representatives for each county or borough shall be so proportioned to the numbers of it's qualified electors that the whole number of representatives shall not exceed [300] nor be less than [125.] For the present there shall be one representative for every [          ] qualified electors in each county or borough: but whenever this or any future proportion shall be likely to exceed or fall short of the limits beforementioned, it shall be again adjusted by the House of Representatives.

The house of Representatives when met shall be free to act according to their own judgment and conscience.

The Senate shall consist of not less than [15] nor more than [50] members who shall be appointed by the House of Representatives. One third of them shall be removed out of office by lot at the end of the first [three] years and their places be supplied by a new appointment; one other third shall be removed by lot in like manner at the end of the second [three] years and their places be supplied by a new appointment; after which one third shall be removed annually at the end of every [three] years according to seniority. When once removed, they shall be forever incapable of being re-appointed to that house. Their qualifications shall be an oath of fidelity to the state, and of duty in their office, the being [31] years of age at the least, and the having given no bribe directly or indirectly to obtain their appointment. While in the senatorial office they shall be incapable of holding any public pension or post of profit either themselves, or by others for their use.

The judges of the general court and of the high court of chancery shall have session and deliberative voice, but not suffrage in the House of Senators.

The Senate and the house of representatives shall each of them have power to originate and amend bills; save only that bills for levying money shall be originated and amended by the Representatives only: the assent of both Houses shall be requisite to pass a law.

The General Assembly shall have no power to pass any law inflicting death for any crime, excepting murder, and those offences in the military service for which they shall think punishment by death absolutely necessary: and all capital punishments in other cases are hereby abolished. Nor shall they have power to prescribe torture in any case whatever: nor shall there be power any where to pardon crimes or to remit fines or punishments: nor shall any law for levying money be in force longer than (ten years) from the time of its commencement.

(Two thirds) of the members of either house shall be a quorum to proceed to business.

II. EXECUTIVE.

The executive powers shall be exercised in manner following:

One person to be called the (Administrator) shall be annually appointed by the House of Representatives on the second day of their first session, who after having acted (one) year shall be incapable of being again appointed to that office until he shall have been out of the same (three) years.

Under him shall be appointed by the same house and at the same time, a deputy administrator to assist his principal in the discharge of his office, and to succeed, in case of his death before the year shall have expired, to the whole powers thereof during the residue of the year.

The Administrator shall possess the powers formerly held by the king: save only that, he shall be bound by acts of legislature tho' not expressly named;

He shall have no negative on the bills of the legislature;

He shall be liable to action, tho' not to personal restraint for private duties or wrongs;

He shall not possess the prerogatives

Of dissolving, proroguing or adjourning either House of Assembly;

Of declaring war or concluding peace;

Of issuing letters of marque or reprisal;

Of raising or introducing armed forces, building armed vessels, forts, or strong holds;

Of coining monies or regulating their value;

Of regulating weights and measures;

Of erecting courts, offices, boroughs, corporations, fairs, markets, ports, beacons, lighthouses, seamarks.

Of laying embargoes, or prohibiting the exportation of any commodity for a longer space than (40) days.

Of retaining or recalling a member of the state but by legal process pro delicto vel contractu.

Of making denizens;

Of creating dignities or granting rights of precedence.

But these powers shall be exercised by the legislature alone, and excepting also those powers which by these fundamentals are given to others, or abolished.

A privy council shall be annually appointed by the House of Representatives, whose duties it shall be to give advice to the Administrator when called on by him. With them the Deputy Administrator shall have session and suffrage.

Delegates to represent this colony in the American Congress shall be appointed when necessary by the House of Representatives. After serving [one] year in that office they shall not be capable of being re-appointed to the same during an interval of [one] year.

A treasurer shall be appointed by the House of Representatives who shall issue no money but by authority of both houses.

An attorney-general shall be appointed by the House of Representatives.

High-sheriffs and coroners of counties shall be annually elected by those qualified to vote for representatives: and no person who shall have served as high-sheriff [one] year shall be capable of being re-elected to the said office in the same county till he shall have been out of office [five] years.

All other officers civil and military shall be appointed by the administrator; but such appointment shall be subject to the negative of the privy council. Saving however to the legislature a power of transferring to any other persons the appointment of such officers or any of them.

III. JUDICIARY.

The Judiciary powers shall be exercised:

First, by county courts and other inferior jurisdictions:

Secondly, by a general court and a high court of chancery:

Thirdly, by a court of appeals.

The judges of the county courts and other inferior jurisdictions shall be appointed by the administrator, subject to the negative of the privy council. They shall not be fewer than [five] in number. Their jurisdictions shall be defined from time to time by the legislature: and they shall be removable for misbehavior by the court of appeals.

The judges of the general court and of the high court of chancery shall be appointed by the administrator and privy council. If kept united they shall be [5] in number, if separate, there shall be [5] for the general court and [3] for the high court of chancery. The appointment shall be made from the faculty of the law, and of such persons of that faculty as shall have actually exercised the same at the bar of some court or courts of record within this colony for [seven] years. They shall hold their commissions during good behavior, for breach of which they shall be removable by the court of appeals. Their jurisdiction shall be defined from time to time by the legislature.

The court of appeals shall consist of not less than [7] nor more than [11] members, to be appointed by the House of Representatives: they shall hold their offices during good behavior, for breach of which they shall be removable by an act of the legislature only. Their jurisdiction shall be to determine finally all causes removed before them from the general court or high court of chancery on suggestion of error: to remove judges of the general court or high court of chancery, or of the county courts or other inferior jurisdictions for misbehavior: to try impeachments against high offenders lodged before them by the House of Representatives for such crimes as shall hereafter be precisely defined by the legislature, and for all fines and amercements shall be assessed, and terms of imprisonment for contempts and misemeanors shall be fixed by the verdict of a jury.

All process original and judicial shall run in the name of the court from which it issues.

Two thirds of the members of the general court, high court of chancery, or court of appeals shall be a quorum to proceed to business.

IV. RIGHTS PRIVATE AND PUBLIC.

Unappropriated or forfeited lands shall be appropriated by the administrator with the consent of the privy council.

Every person of full age neither owning nor having owned (50) acres of land, shall be entitled to an appropriation of (50) acres or to so much as shall make up what he owns or has owned (50) acres in full and absolute dominion. And no other person shall be capable of taking an appropriation.

Lands heretofore holden of the crown in fee-simple, and those hereafter to be appropriated shall be holden in full and absolute dominion, of no superior whatever.

No lands shall be appropriated until purchased of the Indian native proprietors; nor shall any purchases be made of them but on behalf of the public, by authority of acts of the general assembly to be passed for every purchase specially.

The territories contained within the charters erecting the colonies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, are hereby ceeded, released, and forever confirmed to the people of those colonies respectively, with all the rights of property, jurisdiction and government and all other rights whatsoever which might at any time heretofore have been claimed by this colony. The western and northern extent of this country shall in all other respects stand as fixed by the charter of

until by act of the legislature one or more territories shall be laid off westward of the Alleghany mountains for new colonies, which colonies shall be established on the same fundamental laws contained in this instrument, and shall be free and independent of this colony and of all the world.

Descents shall go according to the laws of Gavelkind, save only that females shall have equal rights with males.

No person hereafter coming into this county shall be held within the same in slavery under any pretext whatever.

All persons who by their own oath or affirmation, or by other testimony shall give satisfactory proof to any court of record in this colony that they propose to reside in the same (7) years at the least and who shall subscribe the fundamental laws, shall be considered as residents and entitled to all the rights of persons natural born.

All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution.

No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements.)

There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.

Printing presses shall be free, except so far as by commission of private injury cause may be given of private action.

All Forfeitures heretofore going to the king, shall go the state; save only such as the legislature may hereafter abolish.

The royal claim to wrecks, waifs, strays, treasure-trove, royal mines, royal fish, royal birds, are declared to have been usurpations on common right.

No salaries or perquisites shall be given to any officer but by some future act of the legislature. No salaries shall be given to the administrator, members of the legislative houses, judges of the court of appeals, judges of the county courts, or other inferior jurisdictions, privy counsellors, or Delegates to the American Congress: but the reasonable expences of the administrator, members of the house of representatives, judges of the court of appeals, privy counsellors and delegates, for subsistence while acting in the duties of their office, may be borne by the public, if the legislature shall so direct.

No person shall be capable of acting in any office civil, military [or ecclesiastical] who shall have given any bribe to obtain such office, or who shall not previously take an oath of fidelity to the state.

None of these fundamental laws and principles of government shall be repealed or altered, but by the personal consent of the people on summons to meet in their respective counties on one and the same day by an act of legislature to be passed for every special occasion: and if in such county meetings the people of two thirds of the counties shall give their suffrage for any particular alteration or repeal referred to them by the said act, the same shall be accordingly repealed or altered, and such repeal or alteration shall take it's place among these fundamentals, and stand on the same footing with them, in lieu of the article repealed or altered.

The laws heretofore in force in this colony shall remain in force, except so far as they are altered by the foregoing fundamental laws, or so far as they may be hereafter altered by acts of the Legislature.

See also

References

  1. Reprinted in the Weekly Register (Baltimore, MD), July 3, 1813, 1-4.
  2. A reference to King George's position as a prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Prior to becoming a kingdom, Hanover was ruled by the House of Guelph.

External links

Declaration of Independence. Draft in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives. Third Draft by Jefferson, Founders Online, National Archives.

Note on Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, July 8, 1776, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition, ed. Barbara B. Oberg and J. Jefferson Looney. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.