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Virginia's 20th congressional district

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Virginia Congressional District 20 is an obsolete congressional district. It was eliminated in 1843 after the 1840 U.S. Census. Its last Congressman was Samuel L. Hays.

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This is a story of secession. When granting exclusive land charters to private companies to encourage the bringing of profit and glory to the crown from the largely uncertain, unknown, and unmapped new land, British monarchs like to write them big and vague. After the virgin queen, Elizabeth I, the first colony was named: Virginia. But that investment went wrong. Really wrong. Following its abandonment, Virginia remained in-name only. England had sustained enough damage from the paradise venture-cum-cannibal dystopia Roanoke. So it took a fresh pair of eyes and a Stuart - James I and VI (that's one person) to put ego aside and have only a town named after him instead of a continent. The first serious efforts followed the French and the Spanish by decades. Even the Swedish and Dutch had a few forts by then, and this time, it worked. Although the riches of El Dorado weren't to be found in Chesapeake Bay, the riches found in the soil were just as great. Tobacco, Indigo, and rice could all be grown and sold. But the British Empire's economic policy only allowed easy selling of products within the empire. This "Mercantiliam" (as the policy it was known) was still enough to make some land owners wealthy and powerful. Which made the prospect of more colonies all the more attractive despite its restrictions. Each new charter was carved out of land Virginian. Ordinary people as well as investors both moved to the new continent because unlike the simple occurrence of gold and silver, year-round labor is required to turn soil into cash, and labor doesn't want to go to some places. The northern parts of this continent (with similar climates and potential agriculture to Europe) was imaginatively named "New England." The southern parts, however, weren't nice places to live. The areas where land was good to build and people didn't die of tropical diseases, or from heat stroke, or from an axe to the head, was sparse. But some people had no choice in where they went. Prisoners from rebellious Ireland and Scotland made a significant proportion of penal labor to work in the places where free men avoided. But this didn't cover it. To a situation where labor demand is high and labor supply is low, forced labor was often a solution, and demand for land was also high, not only because of the structure of these investments meant they needed constant progress and increasing returns, but also because many unskilled farmers had depleted soil of nutrients with cash crop monocultures. Growing settlements came into conflicts with native neighbors: Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Shawnee. These conflicts produced prisoners of war who solved the labor problem. At least until they keep *cough* on *cough* dying. and no-one *cough* could figure out why. Well, no problem then... Just set up a transcontinental triangle trade of slaves that will also make your product more profitable to sell in the Old World. Win, win, win. Now this will never come back to bite us. Around a third of all African slaves in the first years of the trade went to the largest colony, the one who started it all: Virginia. All that war with the Indians and rivalry between Europeans had catalyzed the French & Indian War. Part of the Seven Years War, a global Anglo-French conflict whose victory left Britain and Spain with all of France's North American territorial claims. However, Britain was deep in a hole, relations with the natives was an all-time low. The Royal Proclamation Line of 1763 aimed to prevent further settlements beyond the mountains, now designated an "Indian Reserve", a signal of peace to the natives. But Americans had been written promises of the land to which they were now denied. The enforcement of this border pissed off the locals who had fought in the recent war and now felt betrayed. Settlement continued despite the proclamation but not without difficulty. The Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains is one of the few areas allowing progression west from the coastal colonies. This was one of the pinch points where settlements could be prevented. Then all of a sudden: American Revolutionary War. Americans muskets had barely stopped smoking before they picked them up, turned around, and pointed them at the British. At the Cumberland Gap, the American bandwagon now ruled west. Two further colonies were founded, which for all intents and purposes remained part of Virginia. Instead of from across an ocean settlers now had to take rule from east of the mountains and being all in a spirit of revolution weren't a fan of the arrangement. No longer with the French to be troubled by, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers heading west were a far easier mode of transport for people, livestock and crops than the precarious road through the Cumberland Gap eastward. The areas west of the continental divide organized themselves and because the name Transylvania was already taken, they took the name of their favorite restaurant. This became the County (and District) of Kentucky. And while Virginia was deep in Revolutionary War, a curious backdoor deal brewed between Kentucky and Britain. And also with Spain! The pair offered to recognize Kentucky's independence from Virginia in return for: A: Recognizing Spain's claim to Louisiana and B: Helping Britain end the American war. Instead of immediately taking up these offers, Kentucky decided to use them in negotiations with Virginia to increase its power and eventually once the war was over and Continental Congress gave way to Constitution to open the path to full statehood. Kentucky was the second state admitted to the Union after the original thirteen. The state's population tripled in the first ten years of statehood and just like it's older sister Virginia, began to suck at the slavery teat. Soon, the District of Columbia, the permanent seat, was carved out land to the north of Virginia. Meaning, Kentucky had spent 20 years campaigning against rule by Tidewater Virginians simply to agree to the rule of those directly next door. By the 1860's when the northern states industrialized, they built canals, and railways, and factories, and housed millions of European immigrants with different political opinions from a century earlier. But in the South, it was just like old times. The southern economy was still largely found in the soil. A political divide followed the geographic, economic, and demographic one. Not only on the basis of North/South but also Not only on the basis of North/South but also urban/rural. The biggest issue of contention, the ownership of another human being. Little were they to know that tractors and machines would soon replace human labor on farms. Despite the differences, powerful people were still rich and educated in the South, so they still had the means to put up a serious fight in both politics - and eventually - the battleground. The vast resources of both sides in this critical debate meant they had the resources to fight one of the most brutal wars in history up until that point. Kentucky and Virginia being both rural and southern obviously lent Confederately. But being border states in the conflict, they didn't go wholeheartedly. Both had splinter governments declaring allegiance to the opposite side. Kentucky's elected government stayed with the Union and the splinter sided with the Confederates. But Virginia went full Southern, even hosting the Confederate capital, and the inevitable splinter government declared allegiance back to the United States and set up their capital past the mountains in an area they called: Kanawha settles west of these mountains were largely European and definitely not slave owners. Coming from a different path through the mountains than Kentuckians this side of the mountains, they were also orientated economically towards the inland with burgeoning industry, it was more connected to: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore than the rest of Virginia. Railways just didn't go that way. The industry that's so invigorated the northern states was also provided attention and activity in the manufacturing and mining economy of the mountainous state and the Civil War was damaging it. Founding Fathers didn't want states to constantly divide, so the Constitution forbade the carving of new states from existing states without permission. But the Union needed to flip yet another finger at rebel Virginia (and didn't have three hands). So Kanawha was invited into the fold under one condition: Change the name. Splinterous Kanawha, recognized now as the legitimate government of Virginia, was allowed to give itself permission for its own creation. under the pretty literal name of "West Virginia." To get the small amount of slave owners here to agree to this secession/admission of the new state, The federal government allowed them to have slavery, defeating the entire point of the whole exercise. (But that changed the next year so everything turned out okay). A U.S Supreme Court judgement in 1869 stated that a state's unilateral secession from the Union was illegal, and that the Confederate declarations in the eyes of American law hadn't ever technically happened at all. Kentucky and Virginia and West Virginia is one hell of a story. A secession of a secession during a war of secession, followed by another war of secession, featuring a double secession, and another counter secession out of one of those secessions. I hope that clears it all up for you.

List of members representing the district

District created March 4, 1803.

Representative Party Term Electoral history
Thomas Newton, Jr. Democratic-Republican March 4, 1803 –
March 3, 1813
Redistricted to the 21st district.
James Johnson Democratic-Republican March 4, 1813 –
February 2, 1820
[Data unknown/missing.]
Re-elected in 1815.
Re-elected in 1817.
[Data unknown/missing.]

Appt. Norfolk Customs Collector
Vacant February 2, 1820 –
August 28, 1820
John C. Gray Democratic-Republican August 28, 1820 –
March 3, 1821
Elected to finish Johnson's term.

Lost re-election.
Arthur Smith Democratic-Republican March 4, 1821 –
March 3, 1823
John Floyd crop.jpg

John Floyd
Crawford D-R March 4, 1823 –
March 3, 1825
[Data unknown/missing.]
Jacksonian March 4, 1825 –
March 3, 1829
Robert Craig Jacksonian March 4, 1829 –
March 3, 1833
Lost re-election.
John J. Allen Anti-Jacksonian March 4, 1833 –
March 3, 1835
Lost re-election.
Joseph Johnson.png

Joseph Johnson
Jacksonian March 4, 1835 –
March 3, 1837
[Data unknown/missing.]
Democratic March 4, 1837 –
March 3, 1841
Samuel L. Hays Democratic March 4, 1841 –
March 3, 1843
Lost re-election.

District eliminated March 4, 1843.


  • Martis, Kenneth C. (1989). The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
  • Martis, Kenneth C. (1982). The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
  • Congressional Biographical Directory of the United States 1774–present

This page was last edited on 31 December 2018, at 17:14
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