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The Reform Constitution of Virginia Signed by the Man Who Warned South Carolina Governor Pickens about the Reinforcement of Fort Sumter
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After Virginia adopted the Declaration of Independence, George Mason and James Madison began drafting a state Constitution. For James Madison, helping draft his state’s Constitution would serve as a dress rehearsal for his future task of writing the U.S. Constitution. Virginia adopted its first constitution in 1776, and a major revision in 1830 loosened suffrage requirements. As more residents populated the western counties, they were underrepresented in the legislature because of continuing property requirements for voting.

The most significant changes in the 1851 Constitution included the extension of the suffrage to all white males of voting age, the creation of the office of lieutenant governor, and the election rather than appointment of judges. Because of these changes, this version has been called the Reform Constitution.

LITTLETON Q. WASHINGTON. Pamphlet, Constitution of Virginia, ca. 1851, signed at top in ink, “L. Q. Washington,” with pencil beneath (in another hand), “Mr. Washington Asst. Secty of State 1850-1851.” 33 pp., 5⅝ x 8⅝ in.

Inventory #22395       Price: $2,000

Partial Transcript


1. Every white male citizen of the commonwealth, of the age of twenty-one years, who has been a resident of the state for two years, and of the county, city or town where he offers to vote for twelve months next preceding an election – and no other person – shall be qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly and all officers elective by the people; but no person in the military, naval or marine service of the United States shall be deemed a resident of this state, by reason of being stationed therein. And no person shall have the right to vote, who is of unsound mind, or a pauper, or a non-commissioned officer, soldier, seaman or marine in the service of the United States, or who has been convicted of bribery in an election, or any infamous offence.

Full Text of the 1851 Virginia Constitution

Littleton Quinton Washington (1825-1902) was a distant relative of George Washington born in Washington, D.C. He has sometimes been mistakenly called “Lucius Quinton Washington.” After he was forced to leave Dickinson College for financial reasons, he served as a clerk at the U.S. Treasury. He moved to San Francisco in 1855, became an assistant deputy at the U.S. Customs House, and witnessed the second stage of vigilante violence following the Gold Rush and statehood. He returned to Washington in 1857 in an attempt to keep his position, but the Buchanan administration did not reappoint him. After working as a clerk and occasional attorney, he became active in southern politics and was an ardent secessionist. While living in Washington after secession, he transmitted sensitive information to the Confederacy, including reports of the impending reinforcement of Fort Sumter that precipitated the Civil War.

When the war began, he fled Washington and went to Richmond, Virginia, where he secured a lieutenant’s commission in the Confederate Army and served at the First Battle of Bull Run. He later became editor of the Richmond Examiner before joining Confederate State Department first as personal secretary to Secretary of State R.M.T. Hunter and later, as chief assistant to Secretary of State Judah Benjamin, known as the “brains of the Confederacy.” He knew most of the Confederacy’s elite, and was a close friend of Confederate diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut.




Douglas Lee Gibbony, ed., Littleton Washington’s Journal: Life in Antebellum Washington, Vigilante San Francisco, and Confederate Richmond (n.p.: XLibris, 2001).

“Washington, Littleton Quinton.”

Robert N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2000).

David Scott Turk, Give My Kind Regards to the Ladies: The Life of Littleton Quinton Washington (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2001).

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