Front Page Titles (by Subject) draft of a bill to remove seat of government 1 - The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779)
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draft of a bill to remove seat of government 1 - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 2.
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draft of a bill to remove seat of government1
[October 14, 1776.]
Whereas great numbers of the inhabitants of this commonwealth must frequently & of necessity resort to the seat of government where general assemblies are convened, Superior courts are held & the Governor & Council usually transact the executive business of government; & the equal rights of all the sd inhabitants require that such seat of government should be as nearly central to all as may be, having regard only to navigation, the benefits of which are necessary for promoting the growth of a town sufficient for the accommodation of those who resort thereto, and able to aid the operations of government: and it has been also found inconvenient in the course of the present war where seats of government have been so situated as to be exposed to the insults & injuries of the public enemy; which dangers may be avoided and equal justice done to all the Citizens of this commonwealth by removing the seat of government to the town of in the county of which is more safe & central than any other town situated on navigable water:
Be it therefore enacted by the general Assembly that six whole squares of ground surrounded each of them by four streets & containing all the ground within such streets situate in the said town of and on an open & airy part thereof shall be appropriated to the use & purpose of public buildings. On one of the sd squares shall be erected one house for the use of the General Assembly to be called the Capitol, which said Capitol shall contain two apartments for the use of the Senate & their clerk, two others for the use of the house of delegates & their clerk, and others for the purposes of Conferences, Committees, & a Lobby, of such forms & dimensions as shall be adapted to their respective purposes. On one other of the sd squares shall be erected another building to be called the Halls [sic] of justice which shall contain two apartments for the use of the court of Appeals & it’s clerk, two others for the use of the High court of Chancery & it’s clerk, two others for the General court & it’s clerk, two others for the use of the Court of Admiralty & it’s clerk, & others for the uses of grand & petty juries, of such forms & dimensions as shall be adapted to their respective purposes; and on the same square last mentioned shall be built a public jail with few apartments for the present but so planned as to admit of addition hereafter. One other of the sd squares shall be reserved for the purpose of building thereon hereafter a house for the several executive boards and offices to be held in. Two others with the intervening street shall be reserved for the use of the governor of this commonwealth for the time being to be built on hereafter. And the remaining square shall be appropriated to the use of a public Market. The said houses shall be built in a handsome manner with walls of brick, or stone & Porticos where the same may be convenient or ornamental, and with pillars & pavements of stone.
There shall be appointed by joint ballot of both houses of assembly five persons to be called the directors of the public buildings, who, or any three of them shall have power to make choice of such squares of ground situate as before directed, as shall be most proper & convenient for the sd public purposes, to agree on plans for the said buildings, to employ proper workmen to erect the same, to superintend them, to procure necessary materials by themselves or by the board of trade, & to draw on the Treasurer of this commonwealth from time to time for such sums of money as shall be wanting; the plans & estimates of which shall be submitted to the two houses of assembly whensoever called for by their joint vote, & shall be subjected to their controul.
And that reasonable satisfaction may be paid & allowed for all such lots of ground as by virtue of this act may be taken & appropriated to the uses aforesaid, the clerk of the county of omitted is hereby empowered & required on requisition from the sd directors to issue a writ in nature of a writ of Ad quod damnum to be directed to the sheriff of the sd county commanding him to summon & impanel twelve able & discreet freeholders of the vicinage no ways concerned in interest in the sd lots of land nor related to the owners or proprietors thereof to meet on the sd lots on a certain day to be named in the sd writ not under five nor more than ten days from the date thereof, of which notice shall be given by the sheriff to the proprietors and tenants of the sd lots of land if they be to be found within the county, & if not, then to their agents therein if any they have, which freeholders taking nothing, on pain of being discharged from the inquest & immediately imprisoned by the sheriff, either of meat or drink from any person whatever from the time they come to the sd place until their inquest, seated shall be charged by the sd sheriff impartially & to the best of their skill & judgment to value the sd lots of ground in so many several & distinct parcels as shall be owned & held by several & distinct owners & tenants & according to their respective interests & estates therein, & if the sd valuation cannot be completed in one day then the sd sheriff shall adjourn the sd jurors from day to day until the same be completed; & after such valuation made the sd sheriff shall forthwith return the same under the hands & seals of the sd jurors to the clerk’s office of the sd county, and the right & property of the sd owners & tenants in the sd lots of land shall be immediately divested & be transferred to this commonwealth in full & absolute dominion, any want of consent or disability to consent in the sd owners & tenants notwithstanding.
The costs of the sd inquest & the several sums at which the rights of the owners & tenants are valued shall be paid by the Treasurer to the sd owners, tenants & others entitled respectively on warrant from the Auditors.1
And whereas it may be expedient to enlarge the sd town of omitted by laying off a number of lots to be added, thereto, & it may also happen that some of the lands adjacent to the sd town may be more convenient for the public uses; be it therefore enacted that the sd directors cause two hundred additional lots or half acres, with necessary streets to be laid off adjacent to such parts of the sd town as to them shall seem most convenient and they shall also be at liberty to appropriate the six squares aforesd or any part of them either from among the lots now in the sd town, or those to be laid off as before directed, or of the lands adjacent to the sd former or latter lots; and the sd six squares & two hundred lots shall thenceforth be a part of the sd town, and the sd directors shall return into the clerk’s office of the sd county of omitted there to be recorded, a full & distinct report under their hands and seals of the lots and squares of land added by them to the sd town or appropriated to the public uses, together with a plan thereof, the rights of the several owners & tenants of the lots of land so to be added to the town & not appropriated to the public uses are nevertheless saved to them.
And be it further enacted that from & after the last day of December which shall be in the year of our Lord 1780 the sd Court of Appeals, High Court of Chancery, General Court & Court of Admiralty shall hold their sessions in the apartments prepared for them by the sd directors in the sd Halls of justice; that the first meeting of general assembly after the same day shall be in the said Capitol, that the clerks of the two houses of Assembly and of the several courts before mentioned, shall previously cause to be removed thither at the public expense the records, papers, and other things belonging to their respective offices, and that the keeper of the public jail shall in like manner cause all prisoners in his custody to be removed to the public jail to be built as before directed, which shall thenceforward be deemed and used as the public jail spoken of by the laws whether heretofore or hereafter passed.
[1 ]On Oct. 14th the House of Delegates “ordered, That leave be given to bring in a bill for the removal of the seat of government, and that Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams and Mr. Starke do prepare and bring in the same.” On the same day Jefferson introduced this bill, which was read for a first time, and “on the question put that the said bill be read a second time, it passed in the negative.” Journal for 1776, p. 51. See Jefferson’s Autobiography, ante, i, 64. A bill for this purpose, with the preamble of the above, was introduced by Harvey on May 28, 1779, and passed. It is printed in A Collection of the Public Acts of Virginia, 1785, p. 100; and in Hening, x., 85.
[1 ]This clause, which is stricken out, follows: “The sd directors shall work at the public expense for the act.”