Front Page Titles (by Subject) draft of bill of attainder against josiah philips 1 - The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779)
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draft of bill of attainder against josiah philips 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 bill of attainder against josiah philips1
v. s. a.
[May 28, 1778.]
Whereas a certain Josiah Philips, labourer, of the parish of Lynhaven and county of Princess Anne together with divers other inhabitants of the counties of Princess Anne & Norfolk and citizens of this commonwealth contrary to their fidelity associating and confederating together have levied war against this Commonwealth, within the same, committing murders, burning houses, wasting farms and still continue to exercise the same enormities on the good people of this commonwealth: and whereas the delays which would attend the proceeding to outlaw the said offenders according to the usual forms and procedures of the courts of law, would leave the said good people for a long time exposed to murder & devastation.
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly that if the said Josiah Philips his associates and confederates shall not on or before the day of June in this present year render themselves to the Governor or to some member of the privy council, judge of the General court, justice of the peace or commissioned officer of the regular troops, navy, or militia of this commonwealth in order to their trials for the treasons, murders & other felonies by them committed, that then such of them the said Josiah Philips his associates and confederates as shall not so render him or themselves, shall stand and be convicted and attainted of high treason, and shall suffer the pains of death, and incur all forfeitures, penalties & disabilities prescribed by the law against those convicted & attainted of High-treason: and that execution of this sentence of attainder shall be done by order of the General Court to be entered so soon as may be conveniently after notice that any of the said offenders are in custody of the keeper of the public gaol, and if any person committed to the custody of the keeper of the public gaol, as an associate or confederate of the sd Josiah Philips shall alledge that he hath not been of his associates or confederates at any time after the day of in the year of our lord at which time the sd murders & devastations were begun, a petty jury shall be summoned & charged according to the forms of the law to try in presence of the said court the fact so alledged; and if it be found against the defendant, execution of this act shall be done as before directed.
And that the good people of this commonwealth may not in the mean-time be subject to the unrestrained hostilities of the said insurgents, be it further enacted that from and after the passing of this act it shall be lawful for any person with or without orders, to pursue and slay the said Josiah Philips and any others who have been his associates or confederates at any time after the sd day of aforesaid and shall not have previously rendered him or themselves to any of the officers civil or military before described, or otherwise to take and deliver them to justice to be dealt with according to law.
Provided that the person so slain be in arms at the time or endeavoring to escape being taken.
[1 ]This bill, printed from the draft in Jefferson’s handwriting, was introduced and read for the first time May 28th; read a second time and passed on the next day. It was a violation of article 8 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and was afterwards cited by Edmund Randolph (Debates, Virginia Convention of 1788, Elliot, iii., 66) as such, in the following words: “There is one example of this violation in Virginia, of a most striking and shocking nature,—an example so horrid, that, if I conceived my country would passively permit a repetition of it, dear as it is to me, I would seek means of expatriating myself from it. A man who was then a citizen, was deprived of his life thus: from a mere reliance on general reports, a gentleman in the House of Delegates informed the house that a certain man (Josiah Philips) had committed several crimes, and was running at large perpetrating other crimes. He therefore moved leave to attaint him; he obtained that leave instantly; no sooner did he obtain it, than he drew from his pocket a bill ready written for that effect; it was read three times in one day and carried to the Senate. I will not say that it passed the same day through the Senate; but he was attainted very speedily and precipitately, without any proof better than these vague reports. Without being confronted with his accusers and witnesses, without the privilege of calling evidence on his behalf, he was sentenced to death, and was afterwards actually executed.” To this Henry replied (Elliot, iii., 140): “The honorable member has given you an elaborate account of what he judges tyrannical legislation, and an ex post facto law, (in the case of Josiah Philips). He has misrepresented the facts. That man was not executed by a tyrannical stroke of power. Nor was he a Socrates. He was a fugitive murderer and an outlaw—a man who commanded an infamous banditti, and at a time when the war was at the most perilous stage. He committed the most cruel and shocking barbarities. He was an enemy to the human name. Those who declare war against the human race may be struck out of existence as soon as they are apprehended. He was not executed according to those beautiful legal ceremonies which are pointed out by the laws in criminal cases. The enormity of his crimes did not entitle him to it. I am truly a friend to legal forms and methods; but, sir, the occasion warranted the measure. A pirate, an outlaw, or a common enemy to all mankind, may be put to death at any time. It is justified by the laws of nature and nations.”