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than thirty-five years; and that among the multitude of statesmere and philanthropists, whose praises have been heralded through the universe, and deservedly so, for their splendid successes in this species of legislation, the merit of priority, and of self-denying patriotism, attaches irresistably and incontestibly to Mr. Jefferson. The Bill which he submitted to the Legislature, and which finally received their sanction, prohibited, under heavy penalties, the introduction of any slave into Virginia, by land or by water; and declared, that every slave imported contrary thereto, should be immediately free; excepting such as might belong to persons emigrating *om the other States, or be claimed by discount, devise, or marriage, or be at that time, the actual property of any citizen of the Commonwealth, residing in any other of the United States, or belong to toellers making a transient stay, and carrying their slaves away with t The circumstance ought not to be overlooked, that this important triumph was achieved amid the turbulence and anxiety of Revolutio, ; thus exhibiting the sublime spectacle of a People legislating for to liberties of another and distant continent, before the recovery of their own. The example was followed up by Pennsylvania, Massachusets, Connecticut and Rhode Island,
in the years 17 S0, S7, SS ; and in 1794 the Congress of the United States interdicted the trade from, all the ports of the Union,
under severe penalties. Thus was the work of abolition finally consummated in America, and a great step taken towards eradicating the inveterate and hydra-headed evil. The cause of emanci. pation is a very different subject. We have a ready noticed the opinions, and the official labors of Mr. Jefferson upon that point; his future and indefatigable efforts in the same cause, diffused, as they are, through his whole life, will progressively develope themselves in the sequel. In the month of February, 1779, the Committee of Revisors, having completed their respective tasks, convened at Williamsburg, to review, approve, and consolidate them into one Report. They came together day after day, and examined critically their several parts, scrutinizing and amending, until they had agreed on the whole. They had, in this work, embodied all the Common Law which it was thought necessary to alter, all the British Statutes, from Magna Charta to the present day, and all the laws of Virginia, from the establishment of their separate Legislature to the present time, which they thought should be retained, within the compass of one hundred and twenty-six bills, making a printed folio of ninety pages only. A monument of codification, upon the republican model, almost incredible at that period . The whole of this herculean labor, the major part of which fell to Mr. Jefferson, was accomplished at detached and hurried intervals, amidst the complicated occupations and anxieties of the times, within the brief space of two years. In the execution of his part, Mr. Jesserson observed a rule, in relation to style, which may appear rather odd to the modern draughtsman. In reforming the ancient statutes, he preserved the diction of the text; and in all new draughts, he avoided the introduction of modern technicalities, and adopted the sample of antiquity; which, from its greater simplicity, would allow less scope for the chicanery of the lawyers, and remove from among the people, numberless liabilities to litigation. Against the labored phraseology of modern statutes, he has entered an amusing protest. ‘Their verbosity,” says he, ‘their endless tautologies, their involutions of case within case, and parenthesis within parenthesis, and their multiplied efforts at certainty, by saids and aforesaids, by ors and by ands, to make them more plain, have rendered them really more perplexed and incomprehensible, not only to common readers, but to the lawyers themselves.”
On the 18th of June, 1779, the Committee of Revisors communicated their Report to the General Assembly, accompanied by a letter to the Speaker, signed by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Wythe, and authorized by Mr. Pendleton.
The Revised Code was not enacted in a mass, as was contemplated; the minds of the Legislature were not prepared for so extensive a transition, at once, and the violence of the times afforded little leisure for the business of metaphysical discussion and training. Some Bills were taken out, occasionally, from time to time, and passed; but the main body of the work was not entered upon, untill after the general peace, in 1785; “when,” says Mr. Jefferson, “by the unwearied exertions of Mr. Madison, in opposition to the endless quibbles, chicaneries, perversions, vexations, and delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers, most of the bills were passed by the Legislature, with little alteration.” The distinguished cotemporary, who is represented as having had so important an agency in carrying this code into operation, has added verbal testimony of the uncommon estimate which he put upon its merits. “It has” says he, “been a mine of legislative wealth, and a model of statutory composition, containing not a single superfluous word, and prefering always words and phrases of a meaning fixed as much as possible by oracular treatises, or solemn adjudications.” In preparing this work, Mr. Jefferson improved the opportunity to push his favorite system of reform into every branch and fibre of administration, which could be reached through that avenue. The principal innovations which he made upon the established order of things, were the following: 1. The Repeal of the Law of Entails, which, though separately enacted at the first republican session, he incorporated into the Revised Code. 2. The Abrogation of the right of Primogeniture, and the equal division of inheritances among all the children, or other representatives in equal degree. 3. The Assertion of the right of Expatriation, or a republican definition of the rules whereby aliens may become citizens, and citizens make themselves aliens." 4. The Establishment of Religious Freedom upon the broadest foundation. 5. The Emancipation of all Slaves born after the passage of the act, and deportation at a proper age—not carried into effect. 6. The Abolition of Capital Punishment in all cases, except those of treason and murder; and the graduation of punishments to crimes throughout, upon the principles of reason and humanity— enacted with amendments, 7. The Establishment of a systematical plan of General Education, reaching all classes of citizens, and adapted to every grade of capacity—not carried into effect.
The first of these prominent features of the Revisal, has already been considered at sufficient length.
The second in the catalogue, holds an eminent rank among the ancient and venerable foundations of republicanism. It overturned one of the most arbitrary and unrighteous, among the multiplied, institutions, which have been permitted to evict the laws of God and the order of nature, from the social systems of mankind. The principle of Primogeniture was a feudal engraftment upon the ancient common law of England, introduced by William the Conqueror, with the host of kindred burthens and restrictions; and as ‘ it formed the main pillar of the military despotisms in barbarian Scandinavia, so in civilized England, it constituted the grand artery of a hereditary and heavy bearing oligarchy. Like the law of entails, it operated to perpetuate the soil and wealth of the kingdom in single lines of families, and to create an artificial nobility, founded on the mere circumstance of birth, to the exclusion from all Power and place, of the real nobility of talent and virtue , whi nature has wisely ordered for the direction of human affairs. did not escape the penetration of Mr. Jefferson, that the existence of such a principle, in a republican government, was a political solecism; on the extinction of which, depended the consistence and stability of the whole structure. The aristocracy of Virginia opposed the innovation with the usual pertinacity, which marked their adherence to the ancient privileges of the order ; but the bill was finally carried, in 1785, and forms the present law of Descents in that distinguished Commonwealth.
The law on the subject of Expatriation, established the republithat cardinal and much controverted principle of revolution. The original opinions of the Author, in reference to this question, from the earliest dawn of colonial resistance, with the singular discrepancy between them and those of his leading compatriots, have been illustrated, in a preceding chapter, by an appeal to the written testimony of that period. Heterodox and presumptuous as his rights of colonization were deemed by the political doctors of the first phasis of the Revolution, the public mind had now approximated so nearly to the same point, as to authorize the attempt to establish them upon a legal basis. The bill for this purpose, was taken up separately, and carried, on the 26th of June, '79, principally through the exertions of George Mason, into
whose hands the Author had committed it, on his retiring from the Legislature, the first of that month. After stating the conditions of naturalization, and declaring who shall be deemed citizens, and who aliens, on terms extremely liberal and democratic, the act goes on to prescribe : “And in order to preserve to the citizens of this Commonwealth that natural right, which all men hare, of relinquishing the country, in which birth or other accident may have thrown them, and seeking subsistence and happiness where: soever they may be able, or may hope to find them; and to de clare, unequivocally, what circumstances shall be deemed evidence of an intention in any citizen to exercise that right: It is enacted and declared,” &c. Having defined the necessary circumstances of evidence, and the mode of proceeding thereon, the act concludes by giving to all free white inhabitants of other states, except paupers and fugitives from justice, the same rights, privileges and immunities, as belong to the free citizens of the Commonwealth, and the liberty of free ingress and egress to and from the same ; --~~~111g, however. Ine righl and authority of retaining persons guilty, or charged with the commission, of any high crime or misdemeanor in another State, and of delivering them over to the authorities of the State from which they fled, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of such State. Speaking of this act, the Continuator of Burk's History of Virginia, remarks: “Its operation has been superseded by subsequent institutions; but that philanthropy which opened, in Virginia, an asylum to individuals of any nation not at open war with America, upon their removing to the State to reside, and taking an oath of fidelity; and that respect for the natural and social rights of men, which lays no restraints whatever on expatriation, and claims the allegiance of citizens, so long only as they are willing to retain that choracter, cannot be forgotten. The legislators of Virginia w hat the strongest hold of a government on its citizens, is t tion which rational liberty, mild laws, and protecting institutions never fail to produce ; especially, when physical advantages march in front with po
litical blessings, and industry and worth are perennial sources of comfort and respectability.”
The act for the establishment of Religious Freedom, is perhaps the most interesting feature in the Revised Code. With the single exception of the Declaration of Independence, it is the most celebrated of the author's productions, and the one to which himself always recurred with the highest pride and satisfaction. The preamble