CHAPTER 16|Document 14
Remonstrance and Petition of the Free Inhabitants of Lunenberg County, Virginia29 Nov. 1785W. & M. Q., 3d ser., 30:140--43 1973
To the Honorable the General Assembly of Virginia, The Remonstrance and Petition of the free Inhabitants of the County of Lunenberg,
When the british Parliament usurp'd a right to Dispose of our Property, it was not the Matter, but the Manner adopted for that purpose, that alarm'd us; as it tended to establish a principle which might one day prove fatal to our rights of Property: In order therefore to fix a Tenure in our property on a Basis of Security not to be shaken in future, we dissolved our union with our parent Country, and by a selferected power bravely and wisely establish'd a Constitution and form of Government, grounded on a full and clear Declaration of such rights as naturally pertain to Men born free and determined to be respectfully and absolutely so as human Institutions can make them: This we effected by our representatives, to whom we delegated our power, in General Convention; Whose Wisdom, Integrity, Fortitude, and patriotic Zeal will ever reflect Glory on them and honor on their Constituents. In support of this happy Establishment, with its attendant Blessings we have chearfully sacrificed our Ease, Lives and fortunes, and waded thro' Deluges of civil Blood to that unequivocal Liberty, which alone characterises the free independent Citizen, and distinguishes him from the subjugated Vassal of despotic Rule.
Thus happily possess'd of all the rational rights of freedom, this Country might have stood the Envy of admiring Nations, to the end of the Time, had the same Wisdom fidelity and patriotic Zeal, which gave Being to this Glorious Work, continued to guide the public Councils of the State: But how far this has, or had not, been our happy Lot, let past Violations of our sacred rights of property, and the recent Invasions of them from such Examples, testify to the World. And here we could wish not to call to Mind, particulars: Suffice it therefore only to Mention the Act for funding our Paper Money, which not only involved Thousands of our most valuable Citizens in irretriev'ble ruin, but stabb'd the very Vitals of public Faith. But it was said to be expedient; And we acquiesced in it; But never did, nor ever will, admit it as a ruling Precedent [in] the Wanton Disposal of our property, of any kind, whenever the chimerical Flights of a fanatic Spirit, or the venal Views of a corrupted heart shall prompt to the rash attempt--No! we have seald with our Blood, a Title to the full, free, and absolute Enjoyment of every species of our Property, whensoever, or howsoever legally acquired; a Purchase of too great Value to be sacrificed to the Caprice, or Interest of any rank or Description of Men, however dignified, or distinguished, either by the confidential Suffrages of their fellow-Citizens, or otherwise.
To this free, and we trust, inoffensive, as well as necessary Communication of our Sentiments, on the most important Subject that ever arrested the attention of a free People, we are enforced by a daring attempt now on foot in several Counties in this State by Petitions warmly advocated by some Men of considerable weight to wreste from us, by an Act of the Legislature, the most valuable and indispensable Article of our Property, our Slaves, by a general Emancipation of them: An Attempt that involves in it not only a flagrant Contempt of the constituent Powers of the Commonwealth, in which it's Majesty resides and which we are sorry to have occasion to observe seem to be forgotten by too many, and a daring attack on that sacred Constitution thereby establishd; but also, Want, Poverty, Distress and ruin to the free Citizen; the Horrors of all the rapes, Robberies, Murders, and Outrages, which an innumerable Host of unprincipled, unpropertied, vindictive, and remorseless Banditti are capable of perpetrating; Neglect, famine and Death to the abandoned black Infant, and superannuated Parent; inevitable Bankruptcy to the revenue; Desparation and revolt to the disappointed, oppressed Citizen; and sure and final ruin to this once happy, free, and flourishing Country: And all this [illeg.] to answer no one civil, religious, or national Purpose, whatever. Such a Scheme indeed consists very well with the principles and Designs of a Bute, or a North, whose Finger is sufficiently visible in it; nor should we have wonder'd to see the despicable Cabal of an expiring Faction rearing its batterd Front on any occasion that might minister to the Disturbance of Governmente: But when we see those very Men who have been honor'd with the fullest Confidence of their fellow Citizens inviting Great Britain, by their Apostasy, to effect that Tyranny over us which we have taught her to feel is not in her Arms to compass; when we see such Men, If such there are, prostituting their [views] by uniting them with a proscribed Coke an imperious Asb[ur]y and other contemptible Emissaries and Hirelings of Britain in promoting and advocating a Measure which they know must involve their fellow Citizens in Distress and Desparation, not to be described, or thought of, without Horror; and their Country in inevitable ruin. No Language can express our Indignation, Contempt and Destestation of the apostate Wretches: For tho' we admit it to be the indisputable right of the Citizen to apply to the Legislature by Petition on any or otherwise Subject within the Cognizance of their constitutional Powers; yet we positively deny a right in any Man or Description of Men, even to move the Legislature in any Manner, to violate the smallest Article of our Constitution, as it is not only a contempt of that, but strongly implies a Want of Wisdom, Integrity, or Spirit in our representatives, to discharge the high Trust [so] found in them, want of either of which would render them very unfit Objects of the Confidence of their Constituents, and of course, dangerous and contemptible. It therefore cannot be admitted that any Man has a right, to petition or otherwise press the Legislature to divest us of our known rights of Property, which are so clearly defined; so fully acknowledged; and so solemnly ratified and confirmd, by our Bill of rights, as not to admit of an equivocal Construction, nor of the smallest Alteration or Diminution, by any Power, but that which originally authorised its Establishment. To an unequivocal Construction therefore of this Bill of rights we now appeal, and claim the utmost Benefits of it; not doubting the hearty Concurrence of our faithful representatives in what ever may tend to promote our mutual Interests; preserve our rights inviolate; secure to us all the Blessings of a free, undisturbd, independent Government; and So, an indiscriminate Diffusion of Peace, Wealth, and happiness among the free Citizens of this Commonwealth. And as the lasting Welfare of our Country, and the happiness of its Citizens depend [illeg.] invariable Adherence to our Constitution, we most solemnly adjure, and humbly pray, that you, Gentlemen, to whom we have committed the Guardianship of our rights of Property, will in no Instance, permit them to be calld in Question; Particularly, that you will discountenance, and utterly reject every Motion and Proposal for emancipating our Slaves; That you will immediately, and totally repeal the Act for permitting Owners of Slaves to emancipate them; That you will provide effectually for the good Government, and due restraint of those already set free, whose disorderly Conduct, and thefts and outrages, are so generally the just Subject of Complaint; but particularly whose Insolences, and Violences so freequently of late committed to and on our respectable Maids and Matrons, which are a Disgrace to Government.
And We shall ever Pray/etc etc etc etc
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