Autobiography by Thomas Jefferson


John Adams advocated the voting in proportion to numbers. He said that we
stand here as the representatives of the people. That in some states the
people are many, in others they are few; that therefore their vote here
should be proportioned to the numbers from whom it comes. Reason, justice,
& equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth to govern the
councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest
alone which can be trusted. That therefore the interests within doors
should be the mathematical representatives of the interests without doors.
That the individuality of the colonies is a mere sound. Does the
individuality of a colony increase it's wealth or numbers. If it does, pay
equally. If it does not add weight in the scale of the confederacy, it
cannot add to their rights, nor weigh in argument. A. has pound 50. B.
pound 500. C. pound 1000. in partnership. Is it just they should equally
dispose of the monies of the partnership? It has been said we are
independent individuals making a bargain together. The question is not what
we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The
confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to form us, like
separate parcels of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain
our separate individuality, but become a single individual as to all
questions submitted to the confederacy. Therefore all those reasons which
prove the justice & expediency of equal representation in other assemblies,
hold good here. It has been objected that a proportional vote will endanger
the smaller states. We answer that an equal vote will endanger the larger.
Virginia, Pennsylvania, & Massachusetts are the three greater colonies.
Consider their distance, their difference of produce, of interests & of
manners, & it is apparent they can never have an interest or inclination to
combine for the oppression of the smaller. That the smaller will naturally
divide on all questions with the larger. Rhode isld, from it's relation,
similarity & intercourse will generally pursue the same objects with
Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware & Maryland, with Pennsylvania.

Dr. [Benjamin] Rush took notice that the decay of the liberties of the
Dutch republic proceeded from three causes. 1. The perfect unanimity
requisite on all occasions. 2. Their obligation to consult their
constituents. 3. Their voting by provinces. This last destroyed the
equality of representation, and the liberties of great Britain also are
sinking from the same defect. That a part of our rights is deposited in the
hands of our legislatures. There it was admitted there should be an
equality of representation. Another part of our rights is deposited in the
hands of Congress: why is it not equally necessary there should be an equal
representation there? Were it possible to collect the whole body of the
people together, they would determine the questions submitted to them by
their majority. Why should not the same majority decide when voting here by
their representatives? The larger colonies are so providentially divided in
situation as to render every fear of their combining visionary. Their
interests are different, & their circumstances dissimilar. It is more
probable they will become rivals & leave it in the power of the smaller
states to give preponderance to any scale they please. The voting by the
number of free inhabitants will have one excellent effect, that of inducing
the colonies to discourage slavery & to encourage the increase of their
free inhabitants.

Mr. [Stephen] Hopkins observed there were 4 larger, 4 smaller, & 4
middle-sized colonies. That the 4 largest would contain more than half the
inhabitants of the confederated states, & therefore would govern the others
as they should please. That history affords no instance of such a thing as
equal representation. The Germanic body votes by states. The Helvetic body
does the same; & so does the Belgic confederacy. That too little is known
of the ancient confederations to say what was their practice.

Mr. Wilson thought that taxation should be in proportion to wealth, but
that representation should accord with the number of freemen. That
government is a collection or result of the wills of all. That if any
government could speak the will of all, it would be perfect; and that so
far as it departs from this it becomes imperfect. It has been said that
Congress is a representation of states; not of individuals. I say that the
objects of its care are all the individuals of the states. It is strange
that annexing the name of "State" to ten thousand men, should give them an
equal right with forty thousand. This must be the effect of magic, not of
reason. As to those matters which are referred to Congress, we are not so
many states, we are one large state. We lay aside our individuality,
whenever we come here. The Germanic body is a burlesque on government; and
their practice on any point is a sufficient authority & proof that it is
wrong. The greatest imperfection in the constitution of the Belgic
confederacy is their voting by provinces. The interest of the whole is
constantly sacrificed to that of the small states. The history of the war
in the reign of Q. Anne sufficiently proves this. It is asked shall nine
colonies put it into the power of four to govern them as they please? I
invert the question, and ask shall two millions of people put it in the
power of one million to govern them as they please? It is pretended too
that the smaller colonies will be in danger from the greater. Speak in
honest language & say the minority will be in danger from the majority. And
is there an assembly on earth where this danger may not be equally
pretended? The truth is that our proceedings will then be consentaneous
with the interests of the majority, and so they ought to be. The
probability is much greater that the larger states will disagree than that
they will combine. I defy the wit of man to invent a possible case or to
suggest any one thing on earth which shall be for the interests of
Virginia, Pennsylvania & Massachusetts, and which will not also be for the
interest of the other states.

* * *
These articles reported July 12. 76 were debated from day to day, & time to
time for two years, were ratified July 9, '78, by 10 states, by N. Jersey
on the 26th. of Nov. of the same year, and by Delaware on the 23d. of Feb.
following. Maryland alone held off 2 years more, acceding to them Mar 1,
81. and thus closing the obligation.

Our delegation had been renewed for the ensuing year commencing Aug. 11.
but the new government was now organized, a meeting of the legislature was
to be held in Oct. and I had been elected a member by my county. I knew
that our legislation under the regal government had many very vicious
points which urgently required reformation, and I thought I could be of
more use in forwarding that work. I therefore retired from my seat in
Congress on the 2d. of Sep. resigned it, and took my place in the
legislature of my state, on the 7th. of October.

On the 11th. I moved for leave to bring in a bill for the establishmt of
courts of justice, the organization of which was of importance; I drew the
bill it was approved by the commee, reported and passed after going thro'
it's due course.

On the 12th. I obtained leave to bring in a bill declaring tenants in tail
to hold their lands in fee simple. In the earlier times of the colony when
lands were to be obtained for little or nothing, some provident individuals
procured large grants, and, desirous of founding great families for
themselves, settled them on their descendants in fee-tail. The transmission
of this property from generation to generation in the same name raised up a
distinct set of families who, being privileged by law in the perpetuation
of their wealth were thus formed into a Patrician order, distinguished by
the splendor and luxury of their establishments. From this order too the
king habitually selected his Counsellors of State, the hope of which
distinction devoted the whole corps to the interests & will of the crown.
To annul this privilege, and instead of an aristocracy of wealth, of more
harm and danger, than benefit, to society, to make an opening for the
aristocracy of virtue and talent, which nature has wisely provided for the
direction of the interests of society, & scattered with equal hand through
all it's conditions, was deemed essential to a well ordered republic. To
effect it no violence was necessary, no deprivation of natural right, but
rather an enlargement of it by a repeal of the law. For this would
authorize the present holder to divide the property among his children
equally, as his affections were divided; and would place them, by natural
generation on the level of their fellow citizens. But this repeal was
strongly opposed by Mr. Pendleton, who was zealously attached to ancient
establishments; and who, taken all in all, was the ablest man in debate I
have ever met with. He had not indeed the poetical fancy of Mr. Henry, his
sublime imagination, his lofty and overwhelming diction; but he was cool,
smooth and persuasive; his language flowing, chaste & embellished, his
conceptions quick, acute and full of resource; never vanquished; for if he
lost the main battle, he returned upon you, and regained so much of it as
to make it a drawn one, by dexterous man;oeuvres, skirmishes in detail, and
the recovery of small advantages which, little singly, were important
altogether. You never knew when you were clear of him, but were harassed by
his perseverance until the patience was worn down of all who had less of it
than himself. Add to this that he was one of the most virtuous & benevolent
of men, the kindest friend, the most amiable & pleasant of companions,
which ensured a favorable reception to whatever came from him. Finding that
the general principle of entails could not be maintained, he took his stand
on an amendment which he proposed, instead of an absolute abolition, to
permit the tenant in tail to convey in fee simple, if he chose it: and he
was within a few votes of saving so much of the old law. But the bill
passed finally for entire abolition.

In that one of the bills for organizing our judiciary system which proposed
a court of chancery, I had provided for a trial by jury of all matters of
fact in that as well as in the courts of law. He defeated it by the
introduction of 4. words only, "if either party chuse." The consequence has
been that as no suitor will say to his judge, "Sir, I distrust you, give me
a jury" juries are rarely, I might say perhaps never seen in that court,
but when called for by the Chancellor of his own accord.

The first establishment in Virginia which became permanent was made in
1607. I have found no mention of negroes in the colony until about 1650.
The first brought here as slaves were by a Dutch ship; after which the
English commenced the trade and continued it until the revolutionary war.
That suspended, ipso facto, their further importation for the present, and
the business of the war pressing constantly on the legislature, this
subject was not acted on finally until the year 78. when I brought in a
bill to prevent their further importation. This passed without opposition,
and stopped the increase of the evil by importation, leaving to future
efforts its final eradication.

The first settlers of this colony were Englishmen, loyal subjects to their
king and church, and the grant to Sr. Walter Raleigh contained an express
Proviso that their laws "should not be against the true Christian faith,
now professed in the church of England." As soon as the state of the colony
admitted, it was divided into parishes, in each of which was established a
minister of the Anglican church, endowed with a fixed salary, in tobacco, a
glebe house and land with the other necessary appendages. To meet these
expenses all the inhabitants of the parishes were assessed, whether they
were or not, members of the established church. Towards Quakers who came
here they were most cruelly intolerant, driving them from the colony by the
severest penalties. In process of time however, other sectarisms were
introduced, chiefly of the Presbyterian family; and the established clergy,
secure for life in their glebes and salaries, adding to these generally the
emoluments of a classical school, found employment enough, in their farms
and schoolrooms for the rest of the week, and devoted Sunday only to the
edification of their flock, by service, and a sermon at their parish
church. Their other pastoral functions were little attended to. Against
this inactivity the zeal and industry of sectarian preachers had an open
and undisputed field; and by the time of the revolution, a majority of the
inhabitants had become dissenters from the established church, but were
still obliged to pay contributions to support the Pastors of the minority.
This unrighteous compulsion to maintain teachers of what they deemed
religious errors was grievously felt during the regal government, and
without a hope of relief. But the first republican legislature which met in
76. was crowded with petitions to abolish this spiritual tyranny. These
brought on the severest contests in which I have ever been engaged. Our
great opponents were Mr. Pendleton & Robert Carter Nicholas, honest men,
but zealous churchmen. The petitions were referred to the commee of the
whole house on the state of the country; and after desperate contests in
that committee, almost daily from the 11th of Octob. to the 5th of
December, we prevailed so far only as to repeal the laws which rendered
criminal the maintenance of any religious opinions, the forbearance of
repairing to church, or the exercise of any mode of worship: and further,
to exempt dissenters from contributions to the support of the established
church; and to suspend, only until the next session levies on the members
of that church for the salaries of their own incumbents. For although the
majority of our citizens were dissenters, as has been observed, a majority
of the legislature were churchmen. Among these however were some reasonable
and liberal men, who enabled us, on some points, to obtain feeble
majorities. But our opponents carried in the general resolutions of the
commee of Nov. 19. a declaration that religious assemblies ought to be
regulated, and that provision ought to be made for continuing the
succession of the clergy, and superintending their conduct. And in the bill
now passed was inserted an express reservation of the question Whether a
general assessment should not be established by law, on every one, to the
support of the pastor of his choice; or whether all should be left to
voluntary contributions; and on this question, debated at every session
from 76 to 79 (some of our dissenting allies, having now secured their
particular object, going over to the advocates of a general assessment) we
could only obtain a suspension from session to session until 79. when the
question against a general assessment was finally carried, and the
establishment of the Anglican church entirely put down. In justice to the
two honest but zealous opponents, who have been named I must add that
altho', from their natural temperaments, they were more disposed generally
to acquiesce in things as they are, than to risk innovations, yet whenever
the public will had once decided, none were more faithful or exact in their
obedience to it.

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