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The “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. Virginia was the first state to create its own document outlining the relationship between an individual and the government, and the ideas laid out were highly influential to the other states. 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.

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

Inventory #22395       Price: $1,750

Partial Transcript

“…A Declaration of Rights made by the Representatives of the good People of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention, which Rights do pertain to them and their posterity as the basis and foundation of Government. 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights… namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.…”

Historical Background

This Virginia Constitution reflects changes made by the convention of 1850-1851.  It was drafted partly as a result of the dissatisfaction among western Virginians, who were suffering from a lack of proportional representation.  Earlier attempts at electoral reform in 1830 had been stymied by the more wealthy eastern Virginian aristocracy, and even though the 1830 Constitution had passed by majority vote, most westerners voted against it and tensions simmered for another two decades.  In the 1851 Constitution, property requirements for the vote were finally eliminated and the offices of Governor, a new Lieutenant Governor position, and all judges were to be elected by popular vote. This version has sometimes been called the Reform 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 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 politically-appointed position, but the Buchanan Administration declined to reappoint him to his post.  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 helped leak sensitive information back to the Confederacy, including reports of the impending reinforcement of Fort Sumter that precipitated the Civil War.   

When the war began, he fled D.C. to Richmond, Virginia, 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, 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 Chesnut.




Douglass 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)

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