University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
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.;

expand sectionA. 
expand sectionB. 
expand sectionC. 
expand sectionD. 
expand sectionE. 
expand sectionF. 
expand sectionG. 
expand sectionH. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionJ. 
expand sectionK. 
expand sectionL. 
expand sectionM. 
expand sectionN. 
expand sectionO. 
expand sectionP. 
expand sectionQ. 
expand sectionR. 
expand sectionS. 
expand sectionT. 
expand sectionU. 
collapse sectionV. 
8799. VETO, King's.—
expand sectionW. 
expand sectionX. 
expand sectionY. 
expand sectionZ. 

expand section 
expand section 

8799. VETO, King's.—

By the Constitution
of Great Britain, as well as of the several
American States, his Majesty possesses the
power of refusing to pass into a law, any bill
which has already passed the other two
branches of the legislature. His Majesty,
however, and his ancestors, conscious of the
impropriety of opposing their single opinion
to the united wisdom of two houses of Parliament,
while their proceedings were unbiased
by interested principles, for several
ages past have modestly declined the exercise
of this power, in that part of his empire
called Great Britain. But by change of circumstances,
other principles than those of
justice simply, have obtained an influence on
their determinations. The addition of new
States to the British Empire has produced an
addition of new, and, sometimes, opposite interests.
It is now, therefore, the great office
of his Majesty, to resume the exercise of his
negative power, and to prevent the passage of
laws by any one legislature of the Empire,
which might bear injuriously on the rights
and interests of another. Yet this will not
excuse the wanton exercise of this power,
which we have seen his Majesty practice on
the laws of the American legislatures. For
the most trifling reasons, and, sometimes for [501]


Page 130
no conceivable reason at all, his Majesty has
rejected laws of the most salutary tendency.
The abolition of domestic slavery is the great
object of desire [502] in those Colonies, where it
was, unhappily, introduced in their infant
state. But previous to the enfranchisement
of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude
all further importations from Africa.
Yet our repeated attempts to effect this, by
prohibitions, and by imposing duties which
might amount to a prohibition, have been
hitherto defeated by his Majesty's negative:
Thus preferring the immediate advantages of
a few British corsairs to the lasting interests
of the American States, and to the rights of
human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous
practice. Nay, the single interposition
of an interested individual against a law was
scarcely ever known to fail of success, though,
in the opposite scale were placed the interests
of a whole country. This is so shameful
an abuse of a power, trusted with his
Majesty for other purposes, as if not reformed,
would call for some legal restrictions.—
Rights of British America. Washington ed. i, 134. Ford ed., i, 439.


This was the first instance of the exercise of the
veto power under the Constitution.—Editor.


* “In asserting,” says Parton in his Life of Jefferson,
“that the great object of desire in the Colonies
was the abolition of slavery, he expressed rather the
feeling of his own set,—the educated and high-minded
young Whigs of the Southern Colonies, than the
sentiments of the great body of the slaveholders.
He could boast that the first act of his own life had
been an attempt in that direction.”—Editor.