Log In Register

Source & Citation Info

title:“Petition Seeking Removal of the Fairfax County Courthouse from Alexandria”
authors:George Mason
date written:1789-11-3

permanent link
to this version:
last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:02 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 3, 2024, 9:51 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Petition Seeking Removal of the Fairfax County Courthouse from Alexandria." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 3. Ed. A Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 1182-84. Print.
Manuscript, Legislative Petitions, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va.

Petition Seeking Removal of the Fairfax County Courthouse from Alexandria (November 3, 1789)

[3 November 1789]
To the honourable the Speakers, and members of both houses of the General Assembly. The Petition of the Subscribers, in behalf of themselves, and other Inhabitants of the County of Fairfax.
That the Courthouse of the Said County is so much out of Repair, and gone to decay, that it is hardly fit for the purpose of holding Courts, and not worth repairing; having been so badly built at first, that the charge of repairing or rebuilding the Same, would be almost as great as building a new Courthouse; that the Publick Jail of the Said County is nearly in the Same Condition, and so insecure, that the County for some Years past, has been at great charge, for guards upon the Prisoners confin[e]d in it, and as therefore, the County must Immediately, or very soon, incur the charge of building a new Courthouse, your petitioners are induc'd to hope, that the general interest and convenience of the Inhabitants will be consulted, in fixing the place for holding the County Courts in future, as near the Center of the County, as the Publick Roads, and other circumstances will Admit; your Petitioners humbly conceiving, that as the people are to bear the Charge, their Interest and convenience ought to be the first and Principal consideration.
That the present Court house in the Town of Alexandria, being Situate on the extream Edge of the County, and within Two hundred Yards of the Boundary of the State of Virginia, is extreamly inconvenient to the bulk of the Inhabitants of the County; who are obliged to attend Court, at more than double the distance they would have occasion to do, if the Court house was fixed (as of Right it ought to be) near the Center of the County; from Whence the greater part of the Inhabitants, when obliged to Attend Court, could conveniently Return to their own homes, every night; and thereby Save the charge of puting up in Taverns and publick houses: an expence grievous to them all, and ruinous to many of the poorer Sort of People.
That the great expence accruing, day after day, in Town, deters Many of the Country Justices from attending the County Court; to the delay and hindrance of Justice, and the increase of charge to the Suitors. And from the Same cause, the Country Gentlemen, and Reputable Farmers and planters, are discouraged and prevented from Serving upon Jurys; which upon this Account, are frequently composed of men of little or no permanent property, and consequently having little or No common Interest with the Community, or Regard for their Wellfar[e . . .] persons, Foreigners, and Strangers, unacquainted with the Laws, customs, and constitution of this Common Wealth, or the Rights of the people; whereby the Administration of Justice is Rendered precarious and capricious, and Property as well as Liberty unsafe.
That the notorious unfitness, and partiality of Town Jurys, has already begun to create a prejudice in the minds of many good Citizens, in different parts of the Country, against Jury Trials; Which if not timely Removed, by proper Regulations, may gradually undermine, and finally abolish this inestimable Privilege, and Security of the People.
That Since the Jurisdiction of the Corporation Court of the Town of Alexandria hath been, by Law, extend to any Sum in controversy between the Citizens and Inhabitants thereof, the Removal of the County Court to the Center of the County, can be Attended with little inconvenience to the Inhabitants of the Town compared with the Benefits Resulting from it, to the County in General.
That the Reasons usually urged for Establishing County Courts in Towns, however, distant from the Middle of the County, in preference to Some place near the Center. Vizt. That it is necessary to promote Trade and Commerce—And that it is a Matter of convenience to the People, in affording them an Opportunity of transacting their business with the Merchants, at the Same time they attend Court—Are your Petitioners conceive, ill founded, and erronious. For altho' Trade and Commerce are objects of great Importance, and Justly entitled to the Attention of a wise Legislature, and all proper encouragements; Yet any Trade so circumstanced, as to require Support from the Increase of Idleness and Extravagance; And compelling the People to Spend their money and their time in Tipling houses, and Taverns, is not worth encouraging. Nor hath Trade and commerce, and the fixing the places for holding County Courts, any necessary connection with, or Dependence upon each other. And experience has proved, in most parts of the Country (especially in large Countys) where the Experiment has been Made, that the business in the County Courts has not been expedited, but greatly impeded and delayed, and consequently the charge of Attendance, Witnesses &c enormously encreased by fixing the County Court houses in Towns; Where the Justices generally employ that time in doing their own private business, which ought to be Devoted to the Publick. For these and other Reasons, too teadious to enumerate, your Petitioners humbly beseech the General Assembly, that an Act may pass for establishing, and holding the County Court of Fairfax upon the Land of William Fitzhugh Esqr. or the heirs of the late Henry Fitzhugh Esqr. Decd., at such place not more than a Mile from the cross Roads at Prices Ordinary, as Shall be Judged most convenient, for Erecting the Court house and County Jail, by Commissioners, to be appointed for the purpose; Which your Petitioners conceive to be near the Center [of] the County, and most convenient to the Inhabitants of the Same. AND YOUR PETITIONERS WILL EVER PRAY.
Fairfax Co. Rt. On this day Richard Chichester came before me, one of the Justices of the peace for Said County, and made oath on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God, that the Several names Subscribed to the within Petition is a True copy of the Names Subscribed to the Several copys of Said Petition that hath been circulated Amongst the Inhabitants of the Said County of Fairfax. Given under my hand this 19th. day of Octr. Anno Dom. 1789.
[A list of 558 names follows.]

Resource Metadata






Annotations (0)