Writings of James Madison, Volume 3

Author: James Madison

To William King.

MONTPELLIER, May 20, 1819.

SIR,—I have received yours of the 10th, requesting an account of the proceedings of Virginia in reference to the separation of Kentucky into an Independent State.

Not being able to recur to the early proceedings of the Legislature on that subject, I can only give the substance of what was done on it.

As soon as it was understood to be the wish of the people of Kentucky, which had previously been formed into a separate District, that it should become a co-ordinate State, and that the only proper question related to the time for it, the Legislature submitted the question to a convention, to be chosen by the people of the District, specifying, at the same time, conditions on which the event should take place.

The consideration of the subject, and of the conditions equitable between the parties, was prolonged for several years. The final act of Virginia, which led to the contemplated result, was passed near the close of the year 1789. It provided for a Convention, to be elected by the free male inhabitants, with full power to determine whether it be expedient for, and the will of, the good people of the said District that the same be erected into an Independent State.

The principal conditions proposed were, that all private rights to land within the new State, derived from the laws of Virginia, should remain valid, and be determined by the laws then existing; that the lands, reciprocally, of non-resident proprietors should not be taxed higher than those of residents, nor be subjected, within six years after the admission of the new State into the Union, to forfeiture or other penalty, by neglect of cultivation or improvement; that no grant of land be made by the new State interfering with a grant issued by Virginia, and located prior to September, 1791, on land within Kentucky liable thereto at the passage of the law; that unlocated lands within Kentucky, standing appropriated by Virginia to individuals for military or other services, should remain subject to her disposal until May, 1792; the residue of the lands to be subject to the disposal of the new State; that in case of disagreement as to the meaning of these articles, it should be settled by six commissioners, two to be chosen by each of the parties, and the others by them; that the Convention of Kentucky might fix a day posterior to November, 1791, at which the authority of Virginia should cease; provided, that prior thereto, Congress should assent to the separation, and the admission of the new State into the Union.

To prevent an interval of anarchy, it was declared that the Convention to decide on the separation was to be understood as having authority to take provisional measures for the choice and meeting of another Convention, with full power to establish a Constitution for the new State.

I regret, Sir, that, for the reason mentioned, I have not been able to furnish more precisely the course pursued in the precedent of a voluntary separation of two parts of the same community into an equal independence of each other, which I should otherwise have done with pleasure. And from the tenor of your letter, I infer that this early answer would be preferred to tho delay of a fuller one.


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Chicago: James Madison Jr., "To William King.," Writings of James Madison, Volume 3 in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.131-132 Original Sources, accessed January 22, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBNZ8ELRHHBVQ17.

MLA: Madison, James, Jr. "To William King." Writings of James Madison, Volume 3, in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.131-132, Original Sources. 22 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBNZ8ELRHHBVQ17.

Harvard: Madison, J, 'To William King.' in Writings of James Madison, Volume 3. cited in , James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.131-132. Original Sources, retrieved 22 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBNZ8ELRHHBVQ17.