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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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7138. QUORUM, Size of.—

The Assembly
exercises a power of determining the
quorum of their own body which may legislate
for us. [410] After the establishment of the new
form they adhered to the Lex majoris partis, founded in common law as well as common right
(Bro. abr. Corporations, 31, 34. Hakewell, 93.)
It is the natural law of every assembly of men,
whose numbers are not fixed by any other law.
(Puff. Off. hom. 1, 2, c. 6, § 12.) They continued
for some time to require the presence of
a majority of their whole number to pass an
act. But the British parliament fixes its own
quorum; our former assemblies fixed their own
quorum; and one precedent in favor of power
is stronger than an hundred against it. The
House of Delegates, therefore, have lately voted
(June 4, 1781), that, during the present dangerous
invasion, forty members shall be a house to
proceed to business. They have been moved to
this by the fear of not being able to collect a
house. But this danger could not authorize
them to call that a house which was none; and
if they may fix it at one number, they may at
another, till it loses its fundamental character
of being a representative body. As this vote
expires with the present invasion, it is probable
the former rule will be permitted to revive;
because at present no ill is meant. The power,
however, of fixing their own quorum has been
avowed, and a precedent set. From forty it
may be reduced to four, and from four to
one; from a house to a committee, from a committee
to a chairman or speaker, and thus an
oligarchy or monarchy be substituted under
forms supposed to be regular. “Omnia mala
exempla ex bonis orta sunt; sed ubi imperium
ad ignaros aut minus bonos pervenit, novum
illud exemplum ab dignis et idoneis ad indignos
et non indoneos fertur”.
When, therefore, it is
considered that there is no legal obstacle to the
assumption by the Assembly of all the powers
legislative, executive and judiciary, and that
these may come to the hands of the smallest
rag of delegation, surely the people will say, and
their representatives, while yet they have honest
representatives, will advise them to say, that
they will not acknowledge as laws any acts not
considered and assented to by the major part of
their delegates.—
Notes on Virginia. Washington ed. viii, 367. Ford ed., iii, 229.


Jefferson characterized this power as one of the
defects of the first Virginia constitution.—Editor.