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John Taylor Papers

Identifier: Mss. 39.2 T21

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Scope and Contents

Letter, 30 December 1820, of John Taylor of Caroline to an unidentified recipient, opposing the formation of a geographical party because of the possibility of the dissolution of the Union; and discussing a just system of weights and measures as one step towards the cementing of the Union. Also, assignment, 4 September 1786, of the right to a bond of George Mitchell, by Nicolas Brumm to Sarah Huston, witnessed by John Reynolds and John Taylor.


  • Creation: 1786, 1820


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Manuscripts and Rare Books Librarian, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Biographical Information:

John Taylor (December 19, 1753 -- August 21, 1824) of Caroline County, Virginia was a politician and writer. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates (1779-81, 1783-85, 1796-1800) and in the United States Senate (1792-94, 1803, 1822-24). He was the author of several books on politics and agriculture. He was a Jeffersonian Democrat and his works provided inspiration to the later state's rights and libertarian movements.

His father died when he was a small child and he was raised by his uncle Edmund Pendleton, a leading Virginia politician. He attended a school sponsored by his uncle with fellow students: James Madison (a distant cousin), and George Rogers Clark. Taylor attended the College of William and Mary and then studied law under his uncle. He served in the American Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of colonel, and serving under Patrick Henry and General William Woodford, and leading a regiment under the Marquis de Lafayette.

After the war Taylor lived as a lawyer, slave-holding farmer and part-time politician, serving several partial U.S. Senate terms. He was a leader of the Quids, opposing the election of Madison as President and supporting James Monroe.

Taylor wrote in defense of slavery and called for the deportation of free African Americans. He criticized Thomas Jefferson's ambivalence towards slavery in Notes on the State of Virginia. Taylor agreed with Jefferson that the institution was an evil, but argued that it was "incapable of removal, and only within reach of palliation," and took issue with Jefferson's repeated references to the specific cruelties of slavery, arguing that "slaves are docile, useful and happy, if they are well managed," and that "the individual is restrained by his property in the slave, and susceptible of humanity . . . . Religion assails him both with her blandishments and terrours. It indissolubly binds his, and his slaves happiness or misery together." His approach, defending the preservation of slavery as it was and claiming that proper management could benefit the slave as well as the master, anticipated the more emphatic defenses of slavery as a "positive good" by later writers such as John C. Calhoun, Edmund Ruffin, and George Fitzhugh.

Taylor's estate, Hazelwood, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Taylor County, West Virginia was formed in 1844 and named in Senator Taylor's honor. Further information about this individual or organization may be available in the Special Collections Research Center Wiki:


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Acquisition Information:


Processing Information:

Processed by Cynthia B. Brown in 1981.

Guide to the John Taylor Papers
Finding Aid Authors: Cynthia B. Brown, 1981.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository