Page images
PDF
EPUB

pied with re-arranging his household. His preliminary skirmish with the Secretary of State has, of course, bespoke a suspension of the public mind, till he can lay his statement before them. Our Congressional district is fermenting under the presentiment of their representative by the Grand Jury; and the question of a Convention for forming a State Constitution will probably be attended to in these parts. These are the news of our Canton. Those of a more public nature you know before we do. My best respects to Mrs. Mercer, and assurances to yourself of the affectionate esteem of, dear Sir, your friend and servant.

TO JAMES MONROE.

MONTICELLO, September 7, 1797. The doubt which you suggest as to our jurisdiction over the case of the Grand Jury vs. Cabell, had occurred to me, and naturally occurs on first view of the question. But I knew, that to send the petition to the House of Representatives in Congress, would make bad worse; that a majority of that House would pass a vote of approbation. On examination of the question, too, it appeared to me that we could maintain the authority of our own government over it.

A right of free correspondence between citizen and citizen, on their joint interests, whether public or private, and under whatsoever laws these interests arise, (to wit, of the State, of Congress, of France, Spain, or Turkey), is a natural right; it is not the gift of any municipal law, either of England, or Virginia, or of Congress; but in common with all our other natural rights, it is one of the objects for the protection of which society is formed, and municipal laws established.

The courts of this commonwealth (and among them the General Court, as a court of impeachment) are originally competent to the cognizance of all infractions of the rights of one citizen by another citizen ; and they still retain all their judiciary cognizances not expressly alienated by the federal Constitution.

The federal Constitution alienates from them all cases arising, 1st, under the constitution ; 2dly, under the laws of Congress; 3dly, under treaties, &c. But this right of free correspondence, whether with a public representative in General Assembly, in Congress, in France, in Spain, or with a private one charged with pecuniary trust, or with a private friend the object of our esteem, or any other, has not been given to us under, 1st, the federal Constitution ; 2dly, any law of Congress; or 3dly, any treaty ; but as before observed, by nature. It is therefore not alienated, but remains under the protection of our courts.

Were the question even doubtful, that is no reason for abandoning it. The system of the General Government, is to seize all doubtful ground. We must join in the scramble, or get nothing. Where first occupancy is to give right, he who lies still loses all. Besides, it is not right for those who are only to act in a preliminary form, to let their own doubts preclude the judgment of the court of ultimate decision. We ought to let it go to the House of Delegates for their consideration, and they, unless the contrary be palpable, ought to let it to go to the General Court, who are ultimately to decide on it.

It is of immense consequence that the States retain as complete authority as possible over their own citizens. The withdrawing themselves under the shelter of a foreign jurisdiction, is so subversive of order and so pregnant of abuse, that it may not be amiss to consider how far a law of premunire should be revised and modified, against all citizens who attempt to carry their causes before any other than the State courts, in cases where those other courts have no right to their cognizance. A А plea to the jurisdiction of the courts of their State, or a reclamation of a foreign jurisdiction, if adjudged valid, would be safe; but if adjudged invalid, would be followed by the punishment of pramunire for the attempt.

Think further of the preceding part of this letter, and we will have further conference on it. Adieu.

P.S. Observe, that it is not the breach of Mr. Cabell's privilege which we mean to punish : that might lie with Congress. It is the wrong done to the citizens of our district. Congress gave no authority to punish that wrong. They can only take cognizance of it in vindication of their member.

TO ALEXANDER WHITE, ESQ.

MONTICELLO, September 10, 1797. DEAR SIR,—So many persons have of late found an interest or a passion gratified by imputing to me sayings and writings which I never said or wrote, or by endeavoring to draw me into newspapers to harass me personally, that I have found it necessary for my quiet and my other pursuits to leave them in full possession of the field, and not to take the trouble of contradicting them even in private conversation. If I do it now, it is out of respect to your application, made by private letter and not through the newspapers, and under the perfect assurance that what I write to you will not be permitted to get in a newspaper, while you are at full liberty to assert it in conversation under my authority.

I never gave an opinion that the Government would not remove to the federal city. I never entertained that opinion; but on the contrary, whenever asked the question, I have expressed my full confidence that they would remove there. Having had frequent occasion to declare this sentiment, I have endeavored to .conjecture on what a contrary one could have been ascribed to

I remember that in Georgetown, where I passed a day in February in conversation with several gentlemen on the preparations there for receiving the government, an opinion was expressed by some, and not privately, that there would be few or no private buildings erected in Washington this summer, and that the prospect of there being a sufficient number in time, was not flattering. This they grounded on the fact that the persons holding lots, from a view to increase their means of building, had converted their money at low prices, into Morris and Nicholson's notes, then possessing a good degree of credit, and that have ing lost these by the failure of these gentlemen, they were much less able to build than they would have been. I then observed, and I did it with a view to excite exertion, that if there should not be private houses in readiness sufficient for the accommodation of Congress and the persons annexed to the Government, it could not be expected that men should come there to lodge, like cattle, in the fields, and that it highly behoved those interested in the removal to use every exertion to provide accommodations. In this opinion, I presume I shall be joined by yourself and

I every other. But delivered, as it was, only on the hypothesis of a fact stated by others, it could not authorize the assertion of

a an absolute opinion, separated from the statement of facts on which it was hypothetically grounded. I have seen no reason to believe that Congress have changed their purpose with respect to the removal. Every public indication from them, and every sentiment I have heard privately expressed by the members, convinces me they are steady in the purpose. Being on this subject, I will suggest to you, what I did privately at Georgetown to a particular person, in confidence that it should be suggested to the managers, if in event it should happen that there should not be a sufficiency of private buildings erected within the proper time, would it not be better for the commissioners to apply for a suspension of the removal for one year, than to leave it to the hazard which a contrary interest might otherwise bring on it? Of this however you have yet two summers to consider, and you have the best knowledge of the circumstances on which a judgment may be formed whether private accommodations will be provided. As to the public buildings, every one seems to agree that they will be in readiness.

I have for five or six years been encouraging the opening a direct road from the Southern part of this State, leading through this county to Georgetown. The route proposed is from Georgetown by Colonel Alexander's, Elk-run Church, Norman's Ford, Stevensburg, the Racoon Ford, the Marquis's Road, Martin Key's Ford on the Rivanna, the mouth of Slate River, the high

bridge on Appomattox, Prince Edward Courthouse, Charlotte Courthouse, Cole's ferry on Stanton, Dix's ferry on Dan, Guilford Courthouse, Salisbury, Crosswell's ferry on Saluda, Ninetysix, Augusta. It is believed this road will shorten the distance along the continent one hundred miles. It will be to open anew only from Georgetown to Prince Edward Courthouse. An actual survey has been made from Stevensburg to Georgetown, by which that much of the road will be shortened twenty miles, and be all a dead level. The difficulty is to get it first through Fairfax and Prince William. The counties after that will very readily carry it on.

We consider it as opening to us a direct road to the market of the federal city, for all the beef and mutton we could raise, for which we have no market at present. I am in possession of the survey, and had thought of getting the Bridge company at Georgetown to undertake to get the road carried through Fairfax and Prince William, either by those counties or by themselves. But I have some apprehension that by pointing our road to the bridge, it might get out of the level country, and be carried over the hills, which will be but a little above it. This would be inadmissible. Perhaps you could suggest some means of our getting over the obstacle of those two counties. I shall be very happy to concur in any measure which can effect all our purposes. I am with esteem, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.

TO MANN PAGE, ESQ.

PHILADELPHIA, January 2, 1798. DEAR SIR,—I do not know whether you have seen some very furious abuse of me in the Baltimore papers by a Mr. Luther Martin, on account of Logan's speech, published in the “ Notes on Virginia.” He supposes both the speech and story made by me to support an argument against Buffon. I mean not to enter into a newspaper contest with Mr. Martin; but I wish to collect, as well as the lapse of time will permit, the evidence on

« PreviousContinue »