Warrington v. Jeggitts
In Colonial America, tobacco was the main export commodity and as such, was the preferred currency. George Wythe, as a professor at the College of William & Mary, was paid an annual salary of eight hogsheads of tobacco (about 8,000 lbs.).
The Anglican Church in the colonies was supported by taxes, and as such, Virginia clergymen were also paid in tobacco. A 1696 Act of the Assembly of Virginia fixed their salary at 16,000 lbs. of tobacco. In the 1750s, however, a series of droughts and poor harvests raised the price of tobacco, and the Assembly to pass a series of temporary acts allowing the discharge of debts in money, instead of tobacco. These measures culminated in 1758 with the "Two Penny Act," which fixed the price paid to clergy at two pence per pound of tobacco. The Church eventually petitioned the Crown to repeal the Act.
A series of lawsuits (or causes) ensued after the ending of the Act, with clergymen suing their local governments for back pay. The most famous of these was successfully defended by Patrick Henry in December, 1763, and became known as the "Parson's Cause." Thomas Warrington, rector of Elizabeth City Parish from 1756 to 1770, sued for the full market value of his tobacco for 1758. Warrington v. Jeggitts was decided just months before Henry's more famous case, but the Court's decision was similar.
The Court's Decision
The Elizabeth City County court determined that the act of 1758 was binding, and ruled for the defendant. Warrington then appealed to the General Court, but was denied in October, 1767.
The journal of the court for Elizabeth City County has been lost, but the Minute Book record was reported in the William and Mary Quarterly in 1912:
Wednesday Janry 5, 1763.
Prest George Wythe, Cary Michell, John Tabb & William Armistead, Gent. Warrington vs. Jegitts—Carter Tarrent John Nelson, Nicholas Skinner, James Barron, Thos. Cooper. Charles Cooper, William Van Purkello, Thomas Batts, William Tarrent, James Gill, James Gilbert and William Mitchell were sworn to try the issue joined brought in a spl verdict wch is these words (vizt) * * * and the matters of Law arising thereupon are to be argued at the next court.
(The minutes were signed by G. Wythe.)
Wednesday the 2d of March 1763.
Prest George Wythe, George Walker, Cary Michell, Wilson Miles Cary, John Tabb & Wm. Armistead gent * * present Robert Armistead, James Balfour gent * * present George Wray, James Westwood, gent * * absent Wilson Miles Cary gent * * absent James Balfour gent * * absent Wilson Miles Cary, George Walker gent.
Warrington vs. Jeggitts—the matter of law arising on a specl verdt in this cause being this day argued It seems to the court that by virtue of the Act of Assembly made &c. that the Law is for the Deft & Judgt for the Deft from wch Judgment the Plt. prayed an appeal to the 19th day of the next General Court upon his entring [sic] into Bond with security between this and the next court.
- Dice Robins Anderson, "The Teacher of Jefferson and Marshall," Southern Atlantic Quarterly 15, no. 4 (October 1916), 340.
- A. Shrady Hill, "The Parson's Cause," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 46, no. 1 (March 1977), 8.
- Jacob Heffelfinger, Kecoughtan Old and New; Or, Three Hundred Years of Elizabeth City Parish (Hampton, VA: Houston Printing and Publishing House, 1910), 23, 25, 31.
- The defendant, variously spelled "Jegitts," "Jiggitts," or "Jeggetts," is probably Joseph Jeggetts (d. 1767), a minor official in Elizabeth City County, and likely the tax collector for the parish vestry. See Malcolm Rogers Livingston, and Laura Britton Russell Livingston, Russell-Nicholson Genealogy: Some of the Ancestors of Our Grandchildren (Hixson, TN: M.R. Livingston, 1994), 2:143.
- William Edwin Hemphill, "George Wythe the Colonial Briton: A Biographical Study of the Pre-Revolutionary Era in Virginia," PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1937, 184-186.
- Lyon G. Tyler, "Elizabeth City County Records," William & Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine 20, no. 3 (January 1912), 172-173.
- Read this article in Google Books.