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Thirty-four years ago, I enrolled in law school because I was passionate about government, politics, the rule of law and the way we organize ourselves in community with one another.
I have always believed that I have a duty to be actively involved in our democracy.
I never understood why this belief was so important to me. It seemed a bit odd, actually, until I learned at least three relatives of mine were "Founding Fathers": Edmund Pendleton and two of his nephews, John Penn and James Madison. The duty to be a serious citizen is in my DNA!
Thomas Jefferson said of Pendleton: "Taken in all he was the ablest man in debate I ever met".
Edmund Pendleton was born in September of 1721 in the Colony of Virginia, British America; he died in October of 1803. He was a Virginia politician, lawyer and judge who was active in the American Revolutionary War and a delegate to the First Continental Congress.
Edmund Pendleton provided a legal education to his nephew, John Penn, who became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Another nephew, James Madison, became the fourth President of the United States.
In 1776, Edmund Pendleton drafted a resolution of the Virginia Convention calling on Congress to draft a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The resolution read, in part:
"For as much as all the endeavors of the United Colonies, by the most decent representations and petitions to the king and parliament of Great Britain to restore peace and security to America under the British government and a re-union with that people upon just and liberal terms instead of a redress of grievances, have produced from an imperious and vindictive administration increased insult oppression and a vigorous attempt to effect our total destruction...
In this state of extreme danger, we have no alternative left but an abject submission to the will of those over-bearing tyrants, or a total separation from the crown and government of Great Britain, uniting and exerting the strength of all America for defense, and forming alliances with foreign powers for commerce and aid in war: Wherefore, appealing to the SEARCHER OF HEARTS for the sincerity of former declarations, expressing our desire to preserve a connection with that nation, and that we are driven from that inclination by their wicked councils, and the eternal laws of self-preservation.
Resolved unanimously, that the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the crown or parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this colony to such declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the Congress for forming foreign alliances and a confederation of the colonies, at such time, and in the manner, as to them shall seem best: Provided, that the power of forming government for, and the regulations of the internal concerns of each colony, be left to the respective colonial legislatures.
Resolved unanimously, that a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights, and such a plan of government as will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony, and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people.
Edmund Pendleton, President."
In addition to calling for a Declaration of Independence, Edmund Pendleton collaborated with Thomas Jefferson to revise the laws of Virginia. George Washington appointed him Judge of the United States District Court of Virginia and he was the leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia until his death in 1803.
So now it is our turn and our time. I ask you to join with me by fully engaging in the community and government which our Founding Fathers created to "maintain peace and order and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people".
Suzanne Pendleton Kendall