James Garrard - Political Career

Political Career

Residents of what is now Kentucky called a series of ten conventions in Danville to arrange their separation from Virginia. Garrard was a delegate to five of these conventions, held in May and August 1785 and in 1787, 1788, and 1792. At the August 1785 convention, the delegates unanimously approved a formal request for constitutional separation. As a member of the Virginia legislature, Garrard then traveled to Richmond for the legislative session and voted in favor of the act specifying the conditions under which Virginia would accept Kentucky's separation.

Before the final convention in 1792, a committee composed of Garrard, Ambrose Dudley, and Augustine Eastin reported to the Elkhorn Baptist Association in favor of forbidding slavery in the constitution then being drafted for the new state. Slavery was a major issue in the 1792 convention that finalized the document. Delegate David Rice, a Presbyterian minister, was the leading voice against the inclusion of slavery protections in the new constitution, while George Nicholas argued most strenuously in favor of them. Garrard encouraged his fellow ministers and Baptists to vote against its inclusion. The motion to delete Article 9 of the proposed document, which protected the rights of slave owners, failed by a vote of 16–26. Each of the seven Christian ministers who served as delegates to the convention (including Garrard) voted in favor of deleting the article. Five Baptist laymen defied Garrard's instructions and voted to retain Article 9; their votes provided the necessary margin for its inclusion. Historian Lowell H. Harrison wrote that the anti-slavery votes of the ministers may have accounted for the adoption of a provision that forbade ministers from serving in the Kentucky General Assembly. Garrard and the other ministers apparently expressed no dissent against this provision.

Aside from his opposition to slavery, Garrard did not take a particularly active role in the convention's proceedings. His most notable action not related to slavery occurred on April 13, 1792, when he reported twenty-two resolutions from the committee of the whole that provided the framework for the new constitution.

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