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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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2704. ENTAIL IN VIRGINIA, Abolition.—
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2704. ENTAIL IN VIRGINIA, Abolition.—

On the 12th of October, 1776, I obtained
leave (in the Virginia Legislature) to
bring in a bill declaring tenants in tail to
hold their lands in fee-simple. In the earlier
times of the colony, when lands were to be
obtained for little or nothing, some provident
individuals procured large grants; and, desirous
of founding great families for themselves,
settled them on their descendants in
fee-tail. The transmission of this property
from generation to generation, in the same
name, raised up a distinct set of families, who,
being privileged by law in the perpetuation
of their wealth, were thus formed into a
Patrician order, distinguished by the splendor
and luxury of their establishments. From
this order, too. the King habitually selected
his Counsellors of State; the hope of which
distinction devoted the whole corps to the
interests and will of the crown. To annul
this privilege, and instead of an aristocracy of
wealth, of more harm and danger, than benefit,
to society, to make an opening for the aristocracy
of virtue and talent, which nature
has wisely provided for the direction of the
interests of Society, and scattered with equal
hand through all its conditions, was deemed
essential to a well-ordered republic. To effect
it, no violence was necessary, no deprivation
of natural right, but rather an enlarge
ment of it by a repeal of the law. For this
would authorize the present holder to divide
the property among his children equally, as
his affections were divided; and would place
them, by natural generation on the level of
their fellow citizens. But this repeal was
strongly opposed by Mr. Pendleton, who was
zealously attached to ancient establishments.
* * * Finding that the general principle
of entails could not be maintained, he took
his stand on an amendment which he proposed,
instead of an absolute abolition, to
permit the tenant in tail to convey in fee-simple,
if he chose it; and he was within a
few votes of saving so much of the old law.
But the bill passed finally for entire abolition.—
Autobiography. Washington ed. i, 36. Ford ed., i, 49.