Major General William Heath

March 2, 2015



William Heath was an American farmer, soldier, and political leader from Massachusetts who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Heath made his home for his entire life at his family’s farm in Roxbury, Massachusetts (present day Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, part of the city of Boston). He was born on March 2, 1737, on a farm that had been settled in 1636 by his ancestors. He became active in the militia, and was a captain in the Suffolk County militia in 1760. By 1770 he was a colonel and its leader.


Maj. Gen. William Heath

In December 1774 the revolutionary government in Massachusetts named him a brigadier general. He commanded Massachusetts forces during the last stage of the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. As the siege of Boston began, Heath devoted himself to training the militia involved in the siege. In June of that year, Massachusetts named him a major general in the state troops, and the Continental Congress made him a brigadier general in the new national army, the Continental Army.

In 1776 Heath participated in the defense of New York City, and was one of those who urged General Washington not to abandon the city. He saw action at Long Island, Harlem Heights, and White Plains. In August 1776 he was promoted to major general in the Continental Army, but Washington had doubts about Heath’s abilities and posted him where no action was expected. In November he was placed in command of forces in the Hudson River Highlands. In January 1777, Washington instructed Heath to attack Fort Independence in New York in support of Washington’s actions at Trenton and Princeton, but Heath’s attack was botched and his troops were routed. He was censured by Washington and thereafter was never given command of troops in action.

General Heath was placed in charge of the Convention Army of John Burgoyne’s surrendered troops after the Battle of Saratoga. In 1780 he returned to command the Highland Department after Benedict Arnold’s treason.

After the war, Heath was a member of the Massachusetts Convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1788. He served in the state Senate 1791–1792, and as a probate court judge. In 1800 he was elected the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, but declined the office.

He died at home in Roxbury on January 24, 1814, and was buried nearby in Forest Hills Cemetery The town of Heath, Massachusetts, is named in his honor.


  • Boatner, Mark Mayo, III. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Revised ed. New York: McKay, 1974. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1

Federalist No. 63 – The Senate (continued)

March 1, 2015



Federalist No. 63 – The Senate (continued)

Written by James Madison

Independent Journal, Saturday, March 1, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

A fifth desideratum, illustrating the utility of a senate, is the want of a due sense of national character. Without a select and stable member of the government, the esteem of foreign powers will not only be forfeited by an unenlightened and variable policy, proceeding from the causes already mentioned, but the national councils will not possess that sensibility to the opinion of the world, which is perhaps not less necessary in order to merit, than it is to obtain, its respect and confidence.

An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons: the one is, that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed. What has not America lost by her want of character with foreign nations; and how many errors and follies would she not have avoided, if the justice and propriety of her measures had, in every instance, been previously tried by the light in which they would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?

Yet however requisite a sense of national character may be, it is evident that it can never be sufficiently possessed by a numerous and changeable body. It can only be found in a number so small that a sensible degree of the praise and blame of public measures may be the portion of each individual; or in an assembly so durably invested with public trust, that the pride and consequence of its members may be sensibly incorporated with the reputation and prosperity of the community. The half-yearly representatives of Rhode Island would probably have been little affected in their deliberations on the iniquitous measures of that State, by arguments drawn from the light in which such measures would be viewed by foreign nations, or even by the sister States; whilst it can scarcely be doubted that if the concurrence of a select and stable body had been necessary, a regard to national character alone would have prevented the calamities under which that misguided people is now laboring.

I add, as a sixth defect the want, in some important cases, of a due responsibility in the government to the people, arising from that frequency of elections which in other cases produces this responsibility. This remark will, perhaps, appear not only new, but paradoxical. It must nevertheless be acknowledged, when explained, to be as undeniable as it is important.

Responsibility, in order to be reasonable, must be limited to objects within the power of the responsible party, and in order to be effectual, must relate to operations of that power, of which a ready and proper judgment can be formed by the constituents. The objects of government may be divided into two general classes: the one depending on measures which have singly an immediate and sensible operation; the other depending on a succession of well-chosen and well-connected measures, which have a gradual and perhaps unobserved operation. The importance of the latter description to the collective and permanent welfare of every country, needs no explanation. And yet it is evident that an assembly elected for so short a term as to be unable to provide more than one or two links in a chain of measures, on which the general welfare may essentially depend, ought not to be answerable for the final result, any more than a steward or tenant, engaged for one year, could be justly made to answer for places or improvements which could not be accomplished in less than half a dozen years. Nor is it possible for the people to estimate the share of influence which their annual assemblies may respectively have on events resulting from the mixed transactions of several years. It is sufficiently difficult to preserve a personal responsibility in the members of a numerous body, for such acts of the body as have an immediate, detached, and palpable operation on its constituents.

The proper remedy for this defect must be an additional body in the legislative department, which, having sufficient permanency to provide for such objects as require a continued attention, and a train of measures, may be justly and effectually answerable for the attainment of those objects.

Thus far I have considered the circumstances which point out the necessity of a well-constructed Senate only as they relate to the representatives of the people. To a people as little blinded by prejudice or corrupted by flattery as those whom I address, I shall not scruple to add, that such an institution may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.

It may be suggested, that a people spread over an extensive region cannot, like the crowded inhabitants of a small district, be subject to the infection of violent passions, or to the danger of combining in pursuit of unjust measures. I am far from denying that this is a distinction of peculiar importance. I have, on the contrary, endeavored in a former paper to show, that it is one of the principal recommendations of a confederated republic. At the same time, this advantage ought not to be considered as superseding the use of auxiliary precautions. It may even be remarked, that the same extended situation, which will exempt the people of America from some of the dangers incident to lesser republics, will expose them to the inconveniency of remaining for a longer time under the influence of those misrepresentations which the combined industry of interested men may succeed in distributing among them.

It adds no small weight to all these considerations, to recollect that history informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a senate. Sparta, Rome, and Carthage are, in fact, the only states to whom that character can be applied. In each of the two first there was a senate for life. The constitution of the senate in the last is less known. Circumstantial evidence makes it probable that it was not different in this particular from the two others. It is at least certain, that it had some quality or other which rendered it an anchor against popular fluctuations; and that a smaller council, drawn out of the senate, was appointed not only for life, but filled up vacancies itself. These examples, though as unfit for the imitation, as they are repugnant to the genius, of America, are, notwithstanding, when compared with the fugitive and turbulent existence of other ancient republics, very instructive proofs of the necessity of some institution that will blend stability with liberty. I am not unaware of the circumstances which distinguish the American from other popular governments, as well ancient as modern; and which render extreme circumspection necessary, in reasoning from the one case to the other. But after allowing due weight to this consideration, it may still be maintained, that there are many points of similitude which render these examples not unworthy of our attention. Many of the defects, as we have seen, which can only be supplied by a senatorial institution, are common to a numerous assembly frequently elected by the people, and to the people themselves. There are others peculiar to the former, which require the control of such an institution. The people can never wilfully betray their own interests; but they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people; and the danger will be evidently greater where the whole legislative trust is lodged in the hands of one body of men, than where the concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies is required in every public act.

The difference most relied on, between the American and other republics, consists in the principle of representation; which is the pivot on which the former move, and which is supposed to have been unknown to the latter, or at least to the ancient part of them. The use which has been made of this difference, in reasonings contained in former papers, will have shown that I am disposed neither to deny its existence nor to undervalue its importance. I feel the less restraint, therefore, in observing, that the position concerning the ignorance of the ancient governments on the subject of representation, is by no means precisely true in the latitude commonly given to it. Without entering into a disquisition which here would be misplaced, I will refer to a few known facts, in support of what I advance.

In the most pure democracies of Greece, many of the executive functions were performed, not by the people themselves, but by officers elected by the people, and representing the people in their executive capacity.

Prior to the reform of Solon, Athens was governed by nine Archons, annually elected by the people at large. The degree of power delegated to them seems to be left in great obscurity. Subsequent to that period, we find an assembly, first of four, and afterwards of six hundred members, annually elected by the people; and partially representing them in their legislative capacity, since they were not only associated with the people in the function of making laws, but had the exclusive right of originating legislative propositions to the people. The senate of Carthage, also, whatever might be its power, or the duration of its appointment, appears to have been elective by the suffrages of the people. Similar instances might be traced in most, if not all the popular governments of antiquity.

Lastly, in Sparta we meet with the Ephori, and in Rome with the Tribunes; two bodies, small indeed in numbers, but annually elected by the whole body of the people, and considered as the representatives of the people, almost in their plenipotentiary capacity. The Cosmi of Crete were also annually elected by the people, and have been considered by some authors as an institution analogous to those of Sparta and Rome, with this difference only, that in the election of that representative body the right of suffrage was communicated to a part only of the people.

From these facts, to which many others might be added, it is clear that the principle of representation was neither unknown to the ancients nor wholly overlooked in their political constitutions. The true distinction between these and the American governments, lies in the total exclusion of the people, in their collective capacity, from any share in the latter, and not in the total exclusion of the representatives of the people from the administration of the former. The distinction, however, thus qualified, must be admitted to leave a most advantageous superiority in favor of the United States. But to insure to this advantage its full effect, we must be careful not to separate it from the other advantage, of an extensive territory. For it cannot be believed, that any form of representative government could have succeeded within the narrow limits occupied by the democracies of Greece.

In answer to all these arguments, suggested by reason, illustrated by examples, and enforced by our own experience, the jealous adversary of the Constitution will probably content himself with repeating, that a senate appointed not immediately by the people, and for the term of six years, must gradually acquire a dangerous pre-eminence in the government, and finally transform it into a tyrannical aristocracy.

To this general answer, the general reply ought to be sufficient, that liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power; that there are numerous instances of the former as well as of the latter; and that the former, rather than the latter, are apparently most to be apprehended by the United States. But a more particular reply may be given.

Before such a revolution can be effected, the Senate, it is to be observed, must in the first place corrupt itself; must next corrupt the State legislatures; must then corrupt the House of Representatives; and must finally corrupt the people at large. It is evident that the Senate must be first corrupted before it can attempt an establishment of tyranny. Without corrupting the State legislatures, it cannot prosecute the attempt, because the periodical change of members would otherwise regenerate the whole body. Without exerting the means of corruption with equal success on the House of Representatives, the opposition of that coequal branch of the government would inevitably defeat the attempt; and without corrupting the people themselves, a succession of new representatives would speedily restore all things to their pristine order. Is there any man who can seriously persuade himself that the proposed Senate can, by any possible means within the compass of human address, arrive at the object of a lawless ambition, through all these obstructions?

If reason condemns the suspicion, the same sentence is pronounced by experience. The constitution of Maryland furnishes the most apposite example. The Senate of that State is elected, as the federal Senate will be, indirectly by the people, and for a term less by one year only than the federal Senate. It is distinguished, also, by the remarkable prerogative of filling up its own vacancies within the term of its appointment, and, at the same time, is not under the control of any such rotation as is provided for the federal Senate. There are some other lesser distinctions, which would expose the former to colorable objections, that do not lie against the latter. If the federal Senate, therefore, really contained the danger which has been so loudly proclaimed, some symptoms at least of a like danger ought by this time to have been betrayed by the Senate of Maryland, but no such symptoms have appeared. On the contrary, the jealousies at first entertained by men of the same description with those who view with terror the correspondent part of the federal Constitution, have been gradually extinguished by the progress of the experiment; and the Maryland constitution is daily deriving, from the salutary operation of this part of it, a reputation in which it will probably not be rivalled by that of any State in the Union.

But if anything could silence the jealousies on this subject, it ought to be the British example. The Senate there instead of being elected for a term of six years, and of being unconfined to particular families or fortunes, is an hereditary assembly of opulent nobles. The House of Representatives, instead of being elected for two years, and by the whole body of the people, is elected for seven years, and, in very great proportion, by a very small proportion of the people. Here, unquestionably, ought to be seen in full display the aristocratic usurpations and tyranny which are at some future period to be exemplified in the United States. Unfortunately, however, for the anti-federal argument, the British history informs us that this hereditary assembly has not been able to defend itself against the continual encroachments of the House of Representatives; and that it no sooner lost the support of the monarch, than it was actually crushed by the weight of the popular branch.

As far as antiquity can instruct us on this subject, its examples support the reasoning which we have employed. In Sparta, the Ephori, the annual representatives of the people, were found an overmatch for the senate for life, continually gained on its authority and finally drew all power into their own hands. The Tribunes of Rome, who were the representatives of the people, prevailed, it is well known, in almost every contest with the senate for life, and in the end gained the most complete triumph over it. The fact is the more remarkable, as unanimity was required in every act of the Tribunes, even after their number was augmented to ten. It proves the irresistible force possessed by that branch of a free government, which has the people on its side. To these examples might be added that of Carthage, whose senate, according to the testimony of Polybius, instead of drawing all power into its vortex, had, at the commencement of the second Punic War, lost almost the whole of its original portion.

Besides the conclusive evidence resulting from this assemblage of facts, that the federal Senate will never be able to transform itself, by gradual usurpations, into an independent and aristocratic body, we are warranted in believing, that if such a revolution should ever happen from causes which the foresight of man cannot guard against, the House of Representatives, with the people on their side, will at all times be able to bring back the Constitution to its primitive form and principles. Against the force of the immediate representatives of the people, nothing will be able to maintain even the constitutional authority of the Senate, but such a display of enlightened policy, and attachment to the public good, as will divide with that branch of the legislature the affections and support of the entire body of the people themselves.




Madison continues this essay where he left off, claiming that the fifth desire of the utility of a Senate is the “want of a due sense of national character.” To any foreign country, it is necessary to have a strong, perceptive senate to ensure respect and confidence. Other nation’s opinions are important for two reasons: first, that a plan will appeal to other countries as a wise policy and second, the opinion of the world, in difficult situations, can be followed. Yet, however important national character is, the Senate cannot be a numerous and changeable body. It must be small enough so that public opinion can guide each of the members, as well as pride in their actions, because of the great amount of public trust in the body.

A sixth defect is the want of responsibility in the government to the people, because of the frequency of elections and other cases. The Senate, however, solves this defect because it is in power long enough to be responsible for the decisions that it makes.

The Senate is not a well-conceived idea, however, merely because it represents the people. It is also a good idea because at times the people need to be protected from their own ideas and prejudices. Although people are spread over an extensive region, they can still be “subject to the infection of violent passions”

In addition, “history informs us of no long lived republic which had not a senate.” They, however, had senates elected for life. America, however, will not follow these examples because they are repugnant to the foundations upon which the country is built. The plan of the senate, however, blends the stability with the ideal of liberty. A senate, however, is still extremely important and necessary because they then represent the people but are immune from the people’s whims. The people must be represented and in a senate that sits for life, this does not occur.

Some people, however, argue that six years is to long and leads to tyrannical situations. Madison answers, however, that in order for the Senate to corrupt, it must corrupt itself, the state legislatures, the House of Representatives, and the people at large. It, therefore, is not possible in only six years. If the people do not believe Madison, they should look at the examples of the State Constitution, particularly Maryland, which has a strong senate that has not corrupted the rest of the state. The best example, however, is Britain’s House of Lords, a hereditary assembly, which has not infected the rest of the country. With the balance of the House of Representative to guard and represent the people, the Senate is a necessary and important function of government that will support the “people themselves.”


In order to effectively understand James Madison’s argument in this federalist paper, it is necessary to understand the constitution’s opponent’s critique of the senate. Anti-Federalists argued that the Senate was too powerful and aristocratic. Federal farmer argued that, “The formation of the senate, and the smallness of the house, being, therefore, the result of our situation, and the actual state of things, the evils which may attend the exercise of many powers in this national government may be considered as without remedy.” Likewise, Centinel lamented that the Senate is “the great efficient body in this plan of government” and that it “is constitution on the most unequal principles.” Cincinnatus summed up the critique quite well: “We have seen powers, in every branch of government, in violation of all principle and all safety condensed in this aristocratic senate; we have seen the representative or democratic branch, weakened exactly in proportion to the strengthening of the aristocratic.”

This Federalist paper defends the Senate as providing the wisdom and the stability ­ “aristocracy virtues” ­ needed to check the fickle lack of wisdom that Madison predicated would characterize the people’s branch of the new government, the lower house. Nor were there other critics lacking who, recognizing that the Constitution ultimately rested on popular consent, who, seeing that despite the ingenious apparatus designed to temper the popular will by introducing into the compound modified monarchial/aristocratic ingredients, could argue that the new Constitution was too democratic to operate effectively as a national government in a country as large and with a population as diverse and the Americans’. One such was William Grayson, who doubted the need of any national government but who felt, if one was to be established, it ought to provide a president and a Senate elected for life terms, these to be balanced by a House of Representative elected triennially.

It is significant, therefore, to notice that present day critics of the Constitution argue about the exact nature of the Constitution, just as they did in 1787 and 1788. It is easy to see and disagree on whether the constitution is monarchical, aristocratic, or democratic in its essence. John Adams probably best described the constitution, however, in 1806, writing to Benjamin Rush. Adams, disapproving of Jefferson’s style as president, bemoaned the fact that Jefferson and his followers had made the national government “to all intents and purposes, in virtue, spirit, and effect a democracy.” — Alas! “I once thought,” sad Adams “our Constitution was quasi or mixed government.”

An additional important note about this paper is Madison’s use of the word “responsibility.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles the word itself is an American invention, and its first appearance in the language is credited by the OED long discussion of senatorial “responsibility” in Federalist Number 63. The word appears four times in two paragraphs, as well as in Hamilton’s Number 70 and 77, as the differences between senatorial responsibility, presidential responsibility, and judicial responsibility are discussed in these issues.


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,

Major General John Clark, Governor of Georgia

February 28, 2015



Major General John Clark (sometimes spelled Clarke) was an American politician. Clark served in the Georgia House of Representatives prior to being elected to consecutive two-year terms as the 31st Governor from 1820 to 1824. Clark also served in the Georgia Militia during the American Revolution and achieved the rank of Major General in 1796. While governor of Georgia he was involved in the U.S. Supreme Court case known as Ex parte Madrazzo.


Drawing of John Clark[2]

Son of Revolutionary War hero Elijah Clarke, John Clark was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, on February 23, 1766, and moved to Wilkes County, Georgia in the early 1770s. He died of yellow fever on October 12, 1832, in St. Andrews Bay (Florida) in what was then Washington County (currently Bay County) and was buried in that same city.


Current grave of John Clark at Marietta National Cemetery[3]

His grave was relocated to Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia in 1923 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.


  1. “Clarke County: A Brief History,” Clarke County Historical Museum
  2. “The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography,” (1898), page 223
  3. Digital photograph taken from Marietta National Cemetery

Federalist No. 62 – The Senate

February 27, 2015



Federalist No. 62 – The Senate

Written by James Madison

Independent Journal, Wednesday, February 27, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

HAVING examined the constitution of the House of Representatives, and answered such of the objections against it as seemed to merit notice, I enter next on the examination of the Senate. The heads into which this member of the government may be considered are: I. The qualification of senators; II. The appointment of them by the State legislatures; III. The equality of representation in the Senate; IV. The number of senators, and the term for which they are to be elected; V. The powers vested in the Senate.

I. The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age and a longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education. The term of nine years appears to be a prudent mediocrity between a total exclusion of adopted citizens, whose merits and talents may claim a share in the public confidence, and an indiscriminate and hasty admission of them, which might create a channel for foreign influence on the national councils.

II. It is equally unnecessary to dilate on the appointment of senators by the State legislatures. Among the various modes which might have been devised for constituting this branch of the government, that which has been proposed by the convention is probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.

III. The equality of representation in the Senate is another point, which, being evidently the result of compromise between the opposite pretensions of the large and the small States, does not call for much discussion. If indeed it be right, that among a people thoroughly incorporated into one nation, every district ought to have a proportional share in the government, and that among independent and sovereign States, bound together by a simple league, the parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an equal share in the common councils, it does not appear to be without some reason that in a compound republic, partaking both of the national and federal character, the government ought to be founded on a mixture of the principles of proportional and equal representation. But it is superfluous to try, by the standard of theory, a part of the Constitution which is allowed on all hands to be the result, not of theory, but “of a spirit of amity, and that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.” A common government, with powers equal to its objects, is called for by the voice, and still more loudly by the political situation, of America. A government founded on principles more consonant to the wishes of the larger States, is not likely to be obtained from the smaller States. The only option, then, for the former, lies between the proposed government and a government still more objectionable. Under this alternative, the advice of prudence must be to embrace the lesser evil; and, instead of indulging a fruitless anticipation of the possible mischiefs which may ensue, to contemplate rather the advantageous consequences which may qualify the sacrifice.

In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. So far the equality ought to be no less acceptable to the large than to the small States; since they are not less solicitous to guard, by every possible expedient, against an improper consolidation of the States into one simple republic.

Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States. It must be acknowledged that this complicated check on legislation may in some instances be injurious as well as beneficial; and that the peculiar defense which it involves in favor of the smaller States, would be more rational, if any interests common to them, and distinct from those of the other States, would otherwise be exposed to peculiar danger. But as the larger States will always be able, by their power over the supplies, to defeat unreasonable exertions of this prerogative of the lesser States, and as the faculty and excess of law-making seem to be the diseases to which our governments are most liable, it is not impossible that this part of the Constitution may be more convenient in practice than it appears to many in contemplation.

IV. The number of senators, and the duration of their appointment, come next to be considered. In order to form an accurate judgment on both of these points, it will be proper to inquire into the purposes which are to be answered by a senate; and in order to ascertain these, it will be necessary to review the inconveniences which a republic must suffer from the want of such an institution.

First. It is a misfortune incident to republican government, though in a less degree than to other governments, that those who administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust. In this point of view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient. This is a precaution founded on such clear principles, and now so well understood in the United States, that it would be more than superfluous to enlarge on it. I will barely remark, that as the improbability of sinister combinations will be in proportion to the dissimilarity in the genius of the two bodies, it must be politic to distinguish them from each other by every circumstance which will consist with a due harmony in all proper measures, and with the genuine principles of republican government.

Second. The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions. Examples on this subject might be cited without number; and from proceedings within the United States, as well as from the history of other nations. But a position that will not be contradicted, need not be proved. All that need be remarked is, that a body which is to correct this infirmity ought itself to be free from it, and consequently ought to be less numerous. It ought, moreover, to possess great firmness, and consequently ought to hold its authority by a tenure of considerable duration.

Third. Another defect to be supplied by a senate lies in a want of due acquaintance with the objects and principles of legislation. It is not possible that an assembly of men called for the most part from pursuits of a private nature, continued in appointment for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to devote the intervals of public occupation to a study of the laws, the affairs, and the comprehensive interests of their country, should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important errors in the exercise of their legislative trust. It may be affirmed, on the best grounds, that no small share of the present embarrassments of America is to be charged on the blunders of our governments; and that these have proceeded from the heads rather than the hearts of most of the authors of them. What indeed are all the repealing, explaining, and amending laws, which fill and disgrace our voluminous codes, but so many monuments of deficient wisdom; so many impeachments exhibited by each succeeding against each preceding session; so many admonitions to the people, of the value of those aids which may be expected from a well-constituted senate?

A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained. Some governments are deficient in both these qualities; most governments are deficient in the first. I scruple not to assert, that in American governments too little attention has been paid to the last. The federal Constitution avoids this error; and what merits particular notice, it provides for the last in a mode which increases the security for the first.

Fourth. The mutability in the public councils arising from a rapid succession of new members, however qualified they may be, points out, in the strongest manner, the necessity of some stable institution in the government. Every new election in the States is found to change one half of the representatives. From this change of men must proceed a change of opinions; and from a change of opinions, a change of measures. But a continual change even of good measures is inconsistent with every rule of prudence and every prospect of success. The remark is verified in private life, and becomes more just, as well as more important, in national transactions.

To trace the mischievous effects of a mutable government would fill a volume. I will hint a few only, each of which will be perceived to be a source of innumerable others.

In the first place, it forfeits the respect and confidence of other nations, and all the advantages connected with national character. An individual who is observed to be inconstant to his plans, or perhaps to carry on his affairs without any plan at all, is marked at once, by all prudent people, as a speedy victim to his own unsteadiness and folly. His more friendly neighbors may pity him, but all will decline to connect their fortunes with his; and not a few will seize the opportunity of making their fortunes out of his. One nation is to another what one individual is to another; with this melancholy distinction perhaps, that the former, with fewer of the benevolent emotions than the latter, are under fewer restraints also from taking undue advantage from the indiscretions of each other. Every nation, consequently, whose affairs betray a want of wisdom and stability, may calculate on every loss which can be sustained from the more systematic policy of their wiser neighbors. But the best instruction on this subject is unhappily conveyed to America by the example of her own situation. She finds that she is held in no respect by her friends; that she is the derision of her enemies; and that she is a prey to every nation which has an interest in speculating on her fluctuating councils and embarrassed affairs.

The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few, not for the many.

In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national policy.

But the most deplorable effect of all is that diminution of attachment and reverence which steals into the hearts of the people, towards a political system which betrays so many marks of infirmity, and disappoints so many of their flattering hopes. No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.




Madison begins this paper explaining that it will examine four points concerning the Senate; the qualification of the senators, the method by which they are selected; equal representation in the Senate; and the number of senators and the six-year term.

Two differences exist between the qualifications of senators and representatives: senators must be older and must be citizens of the United States longer. Senators serve longer and need a broader knowledge of government affairs, particularly in the area of foreign relations; consequently, the framers thought they should be older. Appointment by the state legislatures, rather than election by the people, is desirable for two reasons: first, this type of appointment assures that the Senate will consist of a select group of men, and the appointment by the states will provide a link between the states and the national government.

The Constitution provides for two senators from each state. This equality of representation is clearly a compromise between the different interests of the large and small states. In a federal system (where power is share between the states and the national government), it would be unfair not to recognize two opposing principles ­ proportional versus equal representation. The principle of proportional representation is recognized in the House; the principle of equal representation is recognized in the Senate. Equal representation in the Senate protects the sovereignty of all the states, thus ensuring that the new government will not abolish the state governments. It also means that a bill, which must be passed by both houses before it becomes a law, will reflect the whishes of the people (represented by the House) and the states (represented by the Senate).

The method of appointing the senators solves another important problem. Frequently, men who hold public office forget their obligation to the people, and therefore, betray the public trust. By dividing the legislative branch into two parts and requiring agreement between them, the liberties of the people will be more secure, and the passage of bad laws will be more difficult. The history of governments all over the world demonstrates that where the legislative body is not divided their partisan leaders often sway the legislators. The senate, which consists of fewer men who will hold their office for six years, reduce this threat. Representatives, elected by the people, serve for only two years; in many cases their private occupations may be more important to them than their public office, and they cannot be expect to devote sufficient time to government or to a study of the laws. Most blunders of our governments to date have been caused by incompetence and a lack of political wisdom.

The Senate will not only provide stability in government, it will reduce the tendency of the House to pass too many laws. Unnecessary legislation produces chaos and favors the wealthy. The people cannot be expected to keep up with too many new laws and regulations; farmers and merchants will be reluctant to start new business ventures if they feel that new regulations will hurt their investments.

The object of good government is the happiness of the people, but good intentions are not enough. Our state and national governments have paid too little attention of statecraft and the art of government. Fortunately, the structure of the government under the Constitution will help to correct this defect. A society cannot progress unless the government is stable and respectable.


There can be little doubt that the designers of the Constitution saw good public policy and stability in the laws as paramount concerns. In Federalist 62, for example, Madison defended the Senate in the proposed bicameral Congress on the grounds, in part, that the Senate could block passage of undesirable polices which a unicameral legislature might approve: “Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then of a majority of the States.” Similarly, “a Senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly distinct from and dividing the power with a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient.”

One reason that House members could not always be trusted stemmed from their short terms of office. To Madison, this meant that these legislators would be unable to develop the necessary wisdom about public policy. As he remarked about the virtues of a Senate whose members have longer terms, “Another defect to be supplied by a senate lies in a want of due acquaintance with the objects and principles of legislation. It is not possible that an assembly of men called for the most part from pursuits of a private nature continued in appointment for a short time and led by no permanent motive to devote the internals of public occupation to a study of the laws, the affairs, and the comprehensive interests of their country, should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important errors in the exercise of their legislative trust.” It was thought that a Senate with a slow turnover and whose members had long terms of office would be able to avoid the unwise polices that a unicameral legislature might be expected to produce.

A bicameral legislature could also be expected to help prevent instability in the laws. There was no doubt in Madison’s mind that instability in the laws had great costs: “To trace the mischievous effects of a mutable government would fill a volume.” These effects were both external and internal. Externally, instability causes the nation to forfeit “the respect and confidence of other nations.” Internally, the consequences of instability were even worse ­ “it poisons the blessings of liberty itself.” Commerce could also expect to suffer from an unstable government.

In 1785, the Marquis de Condorcet published his Essai, in which he explicitly noted and discussed the particular problem of majority rule instability. While The Federalists do not specifically discuss the problems of majority rule instability, one scholar notes that Madison had read Condorcet’s essay and is known to have written a review of it, a review which is now, unfortunately, lost. Although not explicitly, therefore, Madison and the Federalist papers do internally deal with instability, especially within Federalist 62 and the instability of the legislature branch.


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,

Federalist No. 61 – Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members (continued)

February 26, 2015



Federalist No. 61 – Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members (continued)

Written by Alexander Hamilton

New York Packet, Tuesday, February 26, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

THE more candid opposers of the provision respecting elections, contained in the plan of the convention, when pressed in argument, will sometimes concede the propriety of that provision; with this qualification, however, that it ought to have been accompanied with a declaration, that all elections should be had in the counties where the electors resided. This, say they, was a necessary precaution against an abuse of the power. A declaration of this nature would certainly have been harmless; so far as it would have had the effect of quieting apprehensions, it might not have been undesirable. But it would, in fact, have afforded little or no additional security against the danger apprehended; and the want of it will never be considered, by an impartial and judicious examiner, as a serious, still less as an insuperable, objection to the plan. The different views taken of the subject in the two preceding papers must be sufficient to satisfy all dispassionate and discerning men, that if the public liberty should ever be the victim of the ambition of the national rulers, the power under examination, at least, will be guiltless of the sacrifice.

If those who are inclined to consult their jealousy only, would exercise it in a careful inspection of the several State constitutions, they would find little less room for disquietude and alarm, from the latitude which most of them allow in respect to elections, than from the latitude which is proposed to be allowed to the national government in the same respect. A review of their situation, in this particular, would tend greatly to remove any ill impressions which may remain in regard to this matter. But as that view would lead into long and tedious details, I shall content myself with the single example of the State in which I write. The constitution of New York makes no other provision for locality of elections, than that the members of the Assembly shall be elected in the counties; those of the Senate, in the great districts into which the State is or may be divided: these at present are four in number, and comprehend each from two to six counties. It may readily be perceived that it would not be more difficult to the legislature of New York to defeat the suffrages of the citizens of New York, by confining elections to particular places, than for the legislature of the United States to defeat the suffrages of the citizens of the Union, by the like expedient. Suppose, for instance, the city of Albany was to be appointed the sole place of election for the county and district of which it is a part, would not the inhabitants of that city speedily become the only electors of the members both of the Senate and Assembly for that county and district? Can we imagine that the electors who reside in the remote subdivisions of the counties of Albany, Saratoga, Cambridge, etc., or in any part of the county of Montgomery, would take the trouble to come to the city of Albany, to give their votes for members of the Assembly or Senate, sooner than they would repair to the city of New York, to participate in the choice of the members of the federal House of Representatives? The alarming indifference discoverable in the exercise of so invaluable a privilege under the existing laws, which afford every facility to it, furnishes a ready answer to this question. And, abstracted from any experience on the subject, we can be at no loss to determine, that when the place of election is at an inconvenient distance from the elector, the effect upon his conduct will be the same whether that distance be twenty miles or twenty thousand miles. Hence it must appear, that objections to the particular modification of the federal power of regulating elections will, in substance, apply with equal force to the modification of the like power in the constitution of this State; and for this reason it will be impossible to acquit the one, and to condemn the other. A similar comparison would lead to the same conclusion in respect to the constitutions of most of the other States.

If it should be said that defects in the State constitutions furnish no apology for those which are to be found in the plan proposed, I answer, that as the former have never been thought chargeable with inattention to the security of liberty, where the imputations thrown on the latter can be shown to be applicable to them also, the presumption is that they are rather the cavilling refinements of a predetermined opposition, than the well-founded inferences of a candid research after truth. To those who are disposed to consider, as innocent omissions in the State constitutions, what they regard as unpardonable blemishes in the plan of the convention, nothing can be said; or at most, they can only be asked to assign some substantial reason why the representatives of the people in a single State should be more impregnable to the lust of power, or other sinister motives, than the representatives of the people of the United States? If they cannot do this, they ought at least to prove to us that it is easier to subvert the liberties of three millions of people, with the advantage of local governments to head their opposition, than of two hundred thousand people who are destitute of that advantage. And in relation to the point immediately under consideration, they ought to convince us that it is less probable that a predominant faction in a single State should, in order to maintain its superiority, incline to a preference of a particular class of electors, than that a similar spirit should take possession of the representatives of thirteen States, spread over a vast region, and in several respects distinguishable from each other by a diversity of local circumstances, prejudices, and interests.

Hitherto my observations have only aimed at a vindication of the provision in question, on the ground of theoretic propriety, on that of the danger of placing the power elsewhere, and on that of the safety of placing it in the manner proposed. But there remains to be mentioned a positive advantage which will result from this disposition, and which could not as well have been obtained from any other: I allude to the circumstance of uniformity in the time of elections for the federal House of Representatives. It is more than possible that this uniformity may be found by experience to be of great importance to the public welfare, both as a security against the perpetuation of the same spirit in the body, and as a cure for the diseases of faction. If each State may choose its own time of election, it is possible there may be at least as many different periods as there are months in the year. The times of election in the several States, as they are now established for local purposes, vary between extremes as wide as March and November. The consequence of this diversity would be that there could never happen a total dissolution or renovation of the body at one time. If an improper spirit of any kind should happen to prevail in it, that spirit would be apt to infuse itself into the new members, as they come forward in succession. The mass would be likely to remain nearly the same, assimilating constantly to itself its gradual accretions. There is a contagion in example which few men have sufficient force of mind to resist. I am inclined to think that treble the duration in office, with the condition of a total dissolution of the body at the same time, might be less formidable to liberty than one third of that duration subject to gradual and successive alterations.

Uniformity in the time of elections seems not less requisite for executing the idea of a regular rotation in the Senate, and for conveniently assembling the legislature at a stated period in each year.

It may be asked, Why, then, could not a time have been fixed in the Constitution? As the most zealous adversaries of the plan of the convention in this State are, in general, not less zealous admirers of the constitution of the State, the question may be retorted, and it may be asked, Why was not a time for the like purpose fixed in the constitution of this State? No better answer can be given than that it was a matter which might safely be entrusted to legislative discretion; and that if a time had been appointed, it might, upon experiment, have been found less convenient than some other time. The same answer may be given to the question put on the other side. And it may be added that the supposed danger of a gradual change being merely speculative, it would have been hardly advisable upon that speculation to establish, as a fundamental point, what would deprive several States of the convenience of having the elections for their own governments and for the national government at the same epochs.




In this paper, Hamilton responds to the claim that the Constitution should have required elections to be held in the counties where the electors reside. This would prevent Congress from forcing States to hold elections in a location inconvenient to the voters, or a certain segment of voters.

Hamilton responds that in many state constitutions, including New York’s, there is no such provision for the location of elections and that no harm resulted from this omission.

Furthermore, Hamilton asserts that there will be a significant advantage in allowing Congress to set a uniform time for elections to be held. He argues that placing the entire house and one third of the senate before the people for reelection at the same time will help ensure that the same detrimental “spirit” or “faction” will not continue for long in Congress. He speculates that if each state could hold elections at different times, then members of Congress would be added and removed gradually and thus make new members, few in number, susceptible to pressure from the majority of Congress to support a particular faction detrimental to the public good.


Hamilton suggests that the issue discussed in this paper ought not to be considered significant enough to hold up the ratification of the entire Constitution. He admits that it would not really have been detrimental if the Constitution had included a provision specifying where elections were to be held in the States. However, he suggests that it was not really necessary either. He therefore dismisses the critics who use this issue as a justification for opposing the constitution as partisans of a “predetermined opposition.” His opponents are not candidly attempting to “research after truth” but merely to obstruct the passing of the Constitution with petty and insignificant objections.

Hamilton also expands on the important theme of “faction” discussed in earlier papers. One of the core concerns of the founders was that a particular faction, or interest group, would succeed in obtaining undue influence over the government. It was particularly feared that a particular “spirit of faction,” such as temporary but intense support for a narrow political position, could take over the government and lead to the adoption of laws detrimental to the rights and interests of the people. However, by requiring most of the Congress to stand for election every two years, the Constitution gives the American people ample opportunity to remove from office politicians who support these factions.


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,

Oney "Ona" Judge Staines, runaway from the Executive Mansion

February 25, 2015



Oney “Ona” Judge, later Oney Judge Staines, was a slave at George Washington’s plantation, Mount Vernon in Virginia.[1] A servant in Washington’s presidential households beginning in 1789, she escaped to freedom in 1796 and made her way to New Hampshire, where she lived the rest of her life.[2] More is known about her than any other of Washington’s slaves because during the 1840s, she was twice interviewed by abolitionist newspapers.[3]


“Advertisement,” The Philadelphia Gazette, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1796

Ona’s father, Andrew Judge, was a white indentured servant from Leeds, England who arrived in America in 1772. She was born in 1773 on George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Judge gained his freedom after fulfilling his four-year contract at Mount Vernon and eventually moved off the plantation to start his own luck at farming. Ona’s mother, a slave named Betty, was an expert at textiles and spent much of her time spinning thread, weaving cloth, and tailoring clothes for both the Washingtons and her fellow slaves. Betty was a “Dower Negro,” that is she belonged to the estate of Martha’s first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and after the Washington nuptials in 1759, moved to Mount Vernon with her mistress. According to Virginia law, children born to slave mothers were considered property of the slaveholder, so even though Judge obtained his freedom after his contract expired, his daughter had no such legal claim. Under the legal principle known as partus sequitur ventrem, which had been incorporated into Virginia colonial law since 1662, her status as a slave was determined by that of her mother.

At about age 10, Ona was assigned to the Mansion House at Mount Vernon, likely as a playmate for Martha Washington’s granddaughter Nelly Custis. She eventually became Martha Washington’s personal attendant or body servant. She spent her days on arduous domestic tasks like spinning thread, weaving cloth, churning butter, turning tallow into soap, dipping candles, washing laundry and preparing food. Following in her mother’s footsteps, the young slave became a particularly talented seamstress and this ability earned the respect of her masters. In fact, Ona’s contribution to the household was so significant, that George Washington once described her as being a “perfect Mistress of her needle.”

At age 15, Oney Judge was one of seven slaves — the others were Austin, Giles, Paris, Moll, Christopher Sheels, William Lee — taken to New York City in 1789, to work in Washington’s presidential household. Following the transfer of the national capital to Philadelphia in 1790, she was one of nine slaves, together with Austin, Giles, Paris, Moll, Hercules, Richmond, Christopher Sheels, “Postiglione Joe” (Richardson)[4] — to work in the President’s House.[5] Austin was Oney’s half-brother, about 15 years her senior.

In 1780 Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish slavery, by an act of gradual emancipation. It prohibited nonresidents from holding slaves in the state longer than six months. After that time, slaveholder and slaves would be counted as legal residents, and the slaves would be considered free.[6][7] Washington argued (privately) that he was a Virginia resident, and that he was in Pennsylvania solely as a consequence of Philadelphia’s being the temporary seat of the federal government. To ensure that he could avoid the law, on the advice of his attorney general, Edmund Randolph, Washington systematically traveled, as well as rotating his slaves serving at the President’s House in and out of the state to prevent their establishing a six-month continuous residency.[8] Such a rotation was a violation of Pennsylvania law, but the president’s actions were not challenged. By strict legal interpretation, a slave’s residency could be terminated by spending one day outside the state.

Slaveholders exploited this loophole until Pennsylvania eliminated it through a 1788 amendment to the Gradual Abolition Act. Washington repeatedly violated the amendment. He was careful to avoid spending six continuous months in Pennsylvania (which might have been interpreted as his establishing legal residency), arguing that he remained a citizen of Virginia, and subject to its laws regarding slavery.[9]

Washington was on his Southern tour in May 1791 when the first six-month deadline approached. To interrupt their Pennsylvania residency, Martha Washington took Oney Judge and Christopher Sheels to Trenton, New Jersey for two days,[10] and sent other slaves back to Mount Vernon prior to the deadline to prevent them from obtaining freedom.[8]


“Washington’s Residence, High Street.” Lithograph by William L. Breton, from John Fanning Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia (1830).

According to the 1845 interview, Oney Judge fled after learning that the First Lady had promised her as a wedding present to her granddaughter Eliza Custis:

“Whilst they were packing up to go to Virginia, I was packing to go, I didn’t know where; for I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty. I had friends among the colored people of Philadelphia, had my things carried there beforehand, and left Washington’s house while they were eating dinner.”[11]

Runaway advertisements establish that she escaped to freedom from the President’s House on May 21, 1796. The following appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette on May 24, 1796:

Advertisement. Absconded from the household of the President of the United States, ONEY JUDGE, a light mulatto girl, much freckled, with very black eyes and bushy hair. She is of middle stature, slender, and delicately formed, about 20 years of age. She has many changes of good clothes, of all sorts, but they are not sufficiently recollected to be described—As there was no suspicion of her going off, nor no provocation to do so, it is not easy to conjecture whither she has gone, or fully, what her design is; but as she may attempt to escape by water, all masters of vessels are cautioned against admitting her into them, although it is probable she will attempt to pass for a free woman, and has, it is said, where- withal to pay her passage. Ten dollars will be paid to any person who will bring her home, if taken in the city, or on board any vessel in the harbour;—and a reasonable additional sum if apprehended at, and brought from a greater distance, and in proportion to the distance. FREDERICK KITT, Steward. May 23


John Langdon House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Over a September 1798 dinner, Burwell Bassett Jr. revealed his plan to kidnap Oney.

Judge was hidden by friends and put aboard the Nancy, a ship bound for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That summer she was recognized on the streets of Portsmouth by Elizabeth Langdon, daughter of Senator John Langdon and a friend of Nelly Custis. Washington knew of Judge’s whereabouts by September 1, when he wrote to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., the Secretary of the Treasury, about having her captured and returned by ship.[12] Joseph Whipple, Portsmouth’s collector of customs, interviewed her and reported back to Wolcott and the President. They abandoned their plan after Whipple warned that news of an abduction could cause a riot on the docks from abolition supporters. Whipple said that he would not remove Judge against her will, but relayed her offer to return voluntarily to the Washingtons if they would guarantee her freedom following their deaths.[13]

Washington responded:

“I regret that the attempt you made to restore the Girl (Oney Judge as she called herself while with us, and who, without the least provocation absconded from her Mistress) should have been attended with so little Success. To enter into such a compromise with her, as she suggested to you, is totally inadmissible, for reasons that must strike at first view: for however well disposed I might be to a gradual abolition, or even to an entire emancipation of that description of People (if the latter was in itself practicable at this moment) it would neither be politic or just to reward unfaithfulness with a premature preference [of freedom]; and thereby discontent before hand the minds of all her fellow-servants who by their steady attachments are far more deserving than herself of favor.”[14]

Washington retired from the presidency in March 1797. The next year his nephew Burwell Bassett Jr. traveled to New Hampshire in September 1798, to try to convince Judge to return. By this point, she had married and was the mother of an infant; her husband was at sea. Judge met with Bassett, but refused to return to Virginia with him. Over dinner with Senator Langdon, Bassett revealed his plan to kidnap her. Langdon secretly sent word for Judge to go into hiding and foiled Bassett’s plan.[15]

Washington could have used the federal courts to recover Judge — the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act (which he had signed into law) required a legal process to return an escaped slave over state lines. Any court case, however, would have been part of the public record, and attracted unwelcome attention.

Following Oney Judge’s escape, her younger sister, Delphy (born about 1779),[16] became the wedding present to Martha Washington’s granddaughter. Custis and her husband manumitted Delphy and her children in 1807.[17]


Town of Greenland, Rockingham County, New Hampshire.

In New Hampshire, Oney Judge met and married John (Jack) Staines, a free black sailor. Their January 1797 marriage was listed in the town records of Greenland and published in the local newspaper.[18] They had three children:

  • Eliza Staines (born 1798, died February 14, 1832, New Hampshire, no known offspring)
  • Will Staines (born 1801, death date & location unknown, no known offspring)
  • Nancy Staines (born 1802, died February 11, 1833, New Hampshire, no known offspring)

Oney and John Staines had fewer than 7 years together; he died on October 19, 1803. Alone, she was unable to support their children and moved back with the family of John Jacks. She and his sisters were supported by the community after his death.[15] Later Eliza and Nancy were made wards of the town and hired out as indentured servants;[19] As a young man, Will was apprenticed as a sailor, and reportedly never returned to Portsmouth.[15]

Oney Judge Staines’ interviews in May 1845 in The Granite Freeman and January 1847 in The Liberator, both abolitionist newspapers, contained a wealth of details about her life. She described the Washingtons, their attempts to capture her, her opinions on slavery, her pride in having learned to read, and her strong religious faith. When asked whether she was sorry that she left the Washingtons, since she labored so much harder after her escape than before, she said:

“No, I am free, and have, I trust been made a child of God by the means.”[20]

Oney Judge was not among the 124 “Washington” slaves freed under the terms of George Washington’s will, following his 1799 death.[21] Instead, the 153 or so “dower” slaves reverted to the Custis Estate following Martha Washington’s 1802 death, and they were divided among her grandchildren.[22]

Legally, Oney Staines’ children also were “dower” slaves, property of the Custis Estate, although their father had been a free man and they had been born in New Hampshire.[23]

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 established the legal mechanism by which a slaveholder could recover his property, a right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution by the Fugitive Slave Clause (Article IV, Section 2). The 1793 Act — passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by Washington — made it a federal crime to assist an escaped slave. It overruled state and local laws that provided escaped slaves with sanctuary, and allowed slave-catchers into every U.S. state and territory.

Practically, after Washington’s death, Oney Staines felt secure in New Hampshire, as no one else was likely to mount an effort to take her.[15] But legally, she and her children remained fugitives until their deaths. Oney Judge Staines died in Greenland, New Hampshire on February 25, 1848.

On February 25, 2008, the 160th anniversary of Oney Judge Staines’ death, Philadelphia celebrated the first “Oney Judge Day” at the President’s House (Philadelphia) site. The ceremony included speeches by historians and activists, a proclamation by Mayor Michael A. Nutter, and a memorial citation by the City Council.[24]

“Oney Judge Freedom Day,” the 214th anniversary of her escape to freedom, was celebrated at the President’s House site on May 21, 2010.[25] The President’s House Commemoration: Freedom and Slaver in the Making of a New Nation, at 6th & Market Streets in Philadelphia, opened in December 2010. It includes a video about Oney Judge and information about all the known slaves at the house.[26]

Oney Judge life story has inspired other works:

  • Thirst for Freedom by Emory Wilson (2000 drama), performed at Player’s Ring Theater, Portsmouth, NH.
  • Taking Liberty by Ann Rinaldi (2002 novel).
  • The Escape of Oney Judge by Emily Arnold McCully (2007 children’s book).
  • A House with No Walls by Thomas Gibbons (2007 drama), performed at InterAct Theater, Philadelphia, PA, and regional theaters throughout the United States.
  • My Name Is Oney Judge by Diane D. Turner (2010 children’s book).
  • Parallel Destinies by choreographer Germaine Ingram, composer Bobby Zankel, and visual artist John Dowell (2010 dance/theater piece), work-in-progress at the Philadelphia Folklore Project.
  • Stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman recounts her recollections of Oney Judge’s life in the Funny or Die produced web video.[27]


  1. The February 18, 1786 Mount Vernon slave census lists “Oney” as Betty’s child and “12 yrs. old”. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 4, (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia), p. 278
  2. Runaway advertisement, The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), May 24, 1796
  3. Two 1840s interviews with Oney Judge, President’s House, US History. In the interviews, her first name is spelled “O-N-A”, but all prior references spell it “O-N-E-Y”.
  4. Joe’s wife Sarah took the surname Richardson after she was freed by Washington’s will. Joe was a “dower” slave and was not freed.
  5. The President’s House in Philadelphia, US
  6. Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act (1780), President’s House of Philadelphia, US
  7. Enslaved minors were legally freed under the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, but required to work as indentured servants until they attained their majority, at age 28.
  8. Edward Lawler Jr.,. “Washington, the Enslaved, and the 1780 Law”. President’s House of Philadelphia. US
  9. 1788 amendment, President’s House of Philadelphia, US
  10. Gen. Philemon Dickinson House
  11. “Washington’s Runaway Slave”, The Granite Freeman, Concord, New Hampshire (May 22, 1845); President’s House in Philadelphia, Independence Hall Association, as
  12. George Washington to Oliver Wolcott, Sept. 1, 1796
  13. Joseph Whipple to Oliver Wolcott, October 4, 1796, Library of Congress
  14. Washington to Whipple, November 28, 1796
  15. Eva Gerson, “Ona Judge Staines: Escape from Washington”, 2000, Black History, Seacoast, NH
  16. Delphy is listed as “6 yrs. old” in the February 18, 1786 Mount Vernon slave census. Jackson & Twohig, Diaries, vol. 4, p. 278
  17. Washington, D.C. Land Records, Liber H, #8, p. 382; Liber R, #17, p. 288, as quoted in Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), p. 383, n. 13
  18. Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal (University of Missouri, 1997), pp. 112-17
  19. Evelyn Gerson, A Thirst for Complete Freedom: Why Fugitive Slave Ona Judge Staines Never Returned to Her Master, President George Washington (M.A. thesis, Harvard University, June 2000), p. 130
  20. “Washington’s Runaway Slave”, The Granite Freeman, Concord, New Hampshire (May 22, 1845), President’s House, Independence Hall Association, US
  21. Last Will and Testament of George Washington, George Washington Collection, PBS
  22. The numbers of “Washington” and “dower” slaves come from the 1799 Mount Vernon slave census., George Washington Papers, University of Virginia
    The names of the “dower” slaves inherited by each of the Custis grandchildren have never been published, creating an obstacle for genealogists.
  23. The legal status of a child born following an enslaved mother’s escape to another (free) state was the same as if that child had been born in the mother’s native (slave) state. The U.S. Constitution protected the property rights of the slaveholder, which superseded the parental rights of the child’s father. See U.S. Supreme Court, Jones vs. Van Zandt (1847)
  24. Stephan Salisbury, “City honors Washington’s slave – and ‘power of archaeology'”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 2008, on President’s House of Philadelphia, US
  25. “Slave’s escape commemorated at President’s House”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 2010
  26. “The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation”, City of Philadelphia
  27. “Drunk History vol. 3″

John McKinly, first elected President of Delaware

February 24, 2015



Dr. John McKinly was an American physician and politician from Wilmington, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a veteran of the French and Indian War, served in the Delaware General Assembly, was the first elected President of Delaware, and for a time was a member of the Federalist Party.


McKinly was born in Ulster, Ireland, on February 24, 1721, and immigrated to Wilmington, Delaware in 1742. In 1761, he married Jane “Jenny” Richardson, a daughter of the Quaker miller, Richard Richardson. They had no children. Their home was at the northwest corner of 3rd and French Streets in Wilmington, now the location of an office building. They were members of the First Presbyterian Church, which is now known as the First and Central Presbyterian Church at Rodney Square in Wilmington. Although nothing seems to be known of his medical education, he soon established himself as a popular physician. In 1747 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the New Castle County militia, and in 1756, during the French and Indian War, he was commissioned again as a major. Along with others, he built a bombproof battery and magazine at the site of the old Fort Christina, in an area known as “the Rocks.” It was proudly reported that it equaled if not exceeded, “any on the continent for strength and beauty.” [1]

Eighteenth century Delaware was politically divided into loose factions known as the “Court Party” and the “Country Party.” The majority Court Party was generally Anglican, strongest in Kent County and Sussex County, worked well with the colonial Proprietary government, and was in favor of reconciliation with the British government. The minority Country Party was largely Ulster-Scot, centered in New Castle County, and quickly advocated the idea of independence from the British. McKinly, like most of the rest of population and the majority in the General Assembly, was associated with the Court Party and its moderate policies. However, his Ulster-Scots background and prominence in the Presbyterian Church community made him acceptable to many who normally associated themselves with the Country Party.

McKinly was elected Sheriff of New Castle County in 1757, served 4 three year terms as Chief Burgess of the town of Wilmington between 1758 and 1776. He also represented New Castle County in the Assembly of the Delaware or Lower Counties from the 1771/72 session through the 1775/76 session. In the events leading up to the American Revolution, he became a member of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence in October 1773, and was chairman by November 1774. Meanwhile he served as Brigadier General of the New Castle County militia.

When the Assembly of the Lower Counties declared its separation from the British government on June 15, 1776, it created a Council of Safety to run the newly independent state when the Assembly was not in session. It consisted of five members from each county. McKinly was one of those representing New Castle County, and was elected President of the Committee. Then when Delaware elected its first House of Assembly in October 1776, he was again elected to represent New Castle County in the 1776/77 session, and was chosen by that body as its Speaker.


On February 12, 1777 the General Assembly elected him to be Delaware’s first Chief Magistrate or President and he served until he was replaced on September 22, 1777. As President, he was immediately faced with an insurrection by Loyalists, particularly in Sussex County. There was also an immediate need to recruit new soldiers for the Delaware regiment in the Continental Army, as the enlistments of the original regiment had expired. However, events completely overtook him after the major British victory at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. The evening after the battle the 71st Regiment, Frazer’s Highlanders, were sent the 10 miles to Wilmington to meet up with the British fleet on the Delaware River and establish a hospital for the wounded. In the course of doing so they found and captured the state treasury, including most of the state papers. They also found President McKinly at home in his bed, and they took him into captivity as well. He was kept as a prisoner of war on the Roebuck, and later on the Solebay, in the Delaware River.

John Scharf in his History of Delaware describes the situation:

“General Howe remained in camp on the Brandywine, and on the evening after the battle sent a detachment of troops to Wilmington to seize President John McKinly and secure such plunder as might fall in their way. They took the President from his bed at dead of night, and seizing a sloop that lay in the stream, loaded it with valuables stolen from the people, a large quantity of public and private money, many of the public and private records and all the papers and certificates of the loan and treasury offices. With these rich prizes the marauders returned to camp, but on the 12th and 13th the town of Wilmington was occupied in force by the British, while the men-of-war Roebuck and Liverpool laid opposite the town. Many of the British wounded had been brought into Wilmington, and the people at least knew that they were safe from bombardment so long as any of their houses were turned into British hospitals.” [2]

In an August 20, 1778 letter to Henry Laurens, the President of the Continental Congress, McKinly wrote:

“Several circumstance concurred to render my staying at Wilmington necessary to the public whilst the enemy were moving toward Philadelphia, and being more solicitous to perform my duty, than for my own personal safety, I was unexpectedly made a prisoner in my own house there on the night succeeding the 12th day of September last, by the 71st British Regiment, said to contain at that time of 900 men, who were detached to take possession of that place for the accommodation of such of their Army as were wounded the day preceding, at the Battle of Brandywine. I sustained at this time some heavy losses of private property.” [3]

When the British left Philadelphia in June 1778, McKinly was transferred to Flatbush, New York. He was finally paroled in August 1778, having been exchanged for William Franklin, Loyalist Governor of New Jersey, and Benjamin Franklin’s son.

After his release, McKinly returned to his medical practice and remained active in Wilmington affairs. He never held political office again, refusing an appointment to the Continental Congress and losing a General Assembly election for his old job as President in February 1783. He helped found the Delaware Medical Society in 1789 and was also a member of the Newark Academy Board of Trustees before 1783, becoming President of the Board from 1794 until his death in 1796. The Academy of Newark eventually developed into the University of Delaware. He was known to have contributed to the salaries of the teachers in the school and sponsored many students in their education.[4]


McKinly’s grave with a Delaware State historical marker

McKinly died at Wilmington on August 31, 1796, and was buried first in the Presbyterian Cemetery there. This cemetery is now the location of the Wilmington Institute Library and his remains were then moved to the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery in 1922. There is a marker placed in his memory in the cemetery at South Park Drive, near its intersection with North Adams Street.

McKinly was the only Chief Executive of Delaware known to have been born in a foreign country. Although he was an Ulster-Scot native, and resident in New Castle County, he was a moderate on the issue of independence, viewing the break with Britain with reluctance and regret. This being the position held by most of the population, he was widely acceptable, especially in Kent County and Sussex County. George Read was his political ally and mentor, and most likely lined up the support for his election as President. Thomas McKean and his allies were, therefore, generally opponents. Ardent revolutionaries such as James Tilton referred to him as “a patch on the back of George Read,” and an “old woman.” McKinly always blamed Thomas McKean for the lengthy captivity he endured.[5]

The John McKinly Laboratory at the University of Delaware is named in his honor.

There is no known portrait of John McKinly.


  1. Rowe, G.S (1938). “Vignettes of Delaware History”. Delaware Tercentenary Almanack & Historical Repository
  2. Scharf, John Thomas (1888) History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols.
  3. McGuire, Thomas J. (2006) The Philadelphia Campaign. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. p. 278
  4. New Castle Presbytery History
  5. Rowe, G.S (1976). “The Travail of John McKinly, First President of Delaware”. Delaware History XVII: 24, 28, 36
  6. Replaced when captured and imprisoned by the British.
  7. Resigned upon election as State President.


  • Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware, 3 vols.. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press
  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, Delaware: Roger A. Martin
  • Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University
  • Munroe, John A. (1976). “Reflections on Delaware and the American Revolution”. Delaware History XVII: 6
  • Racino, John W. (1980). Biographical Directory of American and Revolutionary Governors 1607-1789. Westport, CT: Meckler Books. ISBN 0-930466-00-4
  • Rowe, G.S (1976). “The Travail of John McKinly, First President of Delaware”. Delaware History XVII: 24, 28, 36
  • Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co.
  • Wilson, James Grant; John Fiske (1888). Appletons’ Encyclopedia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton and Company


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