MONROE, James (1758-1831). Autograph letter signed (''Jas. Monroe''), to William B. Giles, Richmond, 4 July 1802. 1½ pages, 4to, autograph address leaf WITH FREE FRANK, integral blank, seal holes repaired, small burn hole on address leaf, center crease expertly reinforced.
MONROE, James (1758-1831). Autograph letter signed ("Jas. Monroe"), to William B. Giles, Richmond, 4 July 1802. 1½ pages, 4to, autograph address leaf WITH FREE FRANK, integral blank, seal holes repaired, small burn hole on address leaf, center crease expertly reinforced.
RICHMOND RAGE: WESTERN VIRGINIA SETTLERS TRY FOR A BREAKAWAY STATE WHILE MONROE BEGS FOR MORE MONEY
Very good political content in this letter, as Madison gives an insider's account of an early effort by angry western Virginia lawmakers to break away from Richmond and form their own state. He also provides another example of his chronic money problems. "Our assembly rose two days" ago, he tells Giles. "Several incidents occurred of a nature unusual here, such as an attempt to promote a separation of the western from the Eastern part of the state, by meetings of several of the members of the former description in the capital &c, and an attack on the Executive relative to the disbursement of publick money, which ended in the discomfiture of the authors: indeed in general the authors of the first were also those of the second project." Speaking of money, Monroe goes on to ask Giles for a loan: "You intimated to me it was probable you might be able to assist me in my pecuniary arrangements, and that you would, if in your power, sometime in the course of the winter. If I had three thousand dolrs. I wd retain the whole of my property, & replace the same out of the two next crops with interest which I wd pay with punctuality...You will therefore be so kind as [to] inform me whether it will be in yr power to accommodate me..."
Monroe's letter shows the bitter divisions between east and west Virginians, even decades before the two regions formally divorced during the Civil War. The crux of the problem was voting rights and representation. The franchise could only be exercised by landowners holding 25 acres of improved land or 50 acres of unimproved land. Representation in the Richmond legislature was also weighted in favor of the easterners. Efforts over the years to soften or eliminate these disparities were always beaten back by the Tidewater grandees. So when the eastern slaveholders plunged the state into the Confederacy in 1861, the largely slave-less western counties finally had enough. They voted to secede in October and the new state of West Virginia formally entered the Union on 20 June 1863.