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In 1836, so soon as he was eligible, under the Constitution of Virginia, ho was elected a member of the G eneral Assembly of his state by a large majority, over two gentlemen, both of whom had for a long time represented the county. At the commencement of the session of 1836—7, Mr. Leigh, then late senator of the United States, sent in his letter defending his course in refusing to obey instructions of the preceding Legislature. It was referred to a select committee, of which Mr. Bayly was a member. On that occasion he made his first speech in the Assembly. It was a defense of the right of instruction.
In the summer of 1836, General S. E. Parker, brigadier general, having died, it became the duty of the Legislature to elect a successor to the command. Major Bayly, as he then ranked, was elected by a large majority over several competitors, at a time of life at which no man in the state had ever been elected to the same office. He commanded the brigade, which his grandfather had commanded before him, until his election in 1842 to a judicial office. He is hence familiarly known as General Bayly.
The circumstances attending this election we find thus stated in a public notice by a distinguished Virginian:
"Young and inexperienced as Mr. Bayly was in public affairs, he became so quickly old in fame, that the General Assembly paid a handsome and unprecedented compliment to him. It is worthy of note, and ought to be remembered as a leading incentive to other men. Early in 1837, when the Legislature were in the actual execution of a joint order for the election of a brigadier general for Eastern Virginia, Mr. Bayly rose and nominated for that office his neighbor, Colonel John G. Joynes, the worthy senator from the Accomac District. Mr. Poulson followed, and nominated Colonel Edward Sneed, the officer oldest in command next to Colonel Joynes. Then Mr. Segar, a talented member of the House, rose and asked Mr. Bayly, as a personal favor, to retire from the hall for a short time. Thinking it possible that Mr. Segar might endeavor to defeat the election of Colonel Joynes, Mr. Bayly refused to retire. Mr. Segar then boldly nominated Mr. Bayly, who promptly protested against that freedom with his name, and urged the members to vote for Colonel Joynes. Yet, against his earnest inclinations and public remonstrances, Mr. Bayly was hurried over the intermediate grades of military service, and raised by the spontaneous acclamations of the General Assembly to the head of a brigade."
On the 4th of March, 1839, Mr. Rives's term of service expired in the Senate of the United States, and the question of his re-election came up in that year before the Legislature. Mr. Bayly took the lead in opposition to him, and, during the contest, delivered several speeches, which were extensively circulated in pamphlet form.
About this time the controversy arose between New York and Virginia, growing out of the refusal of the governor of the former state to surrender, upon the demand of the executive of Virginia, three fugitives from justice, who had been charged with inveigling slaves from their masters. Mr. Bayly was chairman of the select committee which, for two successive sessions, had charge of the subject. The opportunity was thus presented to him of turning to practical account the knowledge he had acquired of constitutional law, for the study of which he had always evinced great partiality. The effective vindication which, in this capacity, he presented of the rights of Virginia, as in contradistinction to what she believed to be the unwarrantable assumptions of the executive of New York, elicited the strongest commendations from the people of his state.
In 1841 Judge Upshur was appointed Secretary of the Navy. Mr. Bayly was elected to succeed him in the office of judge of the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery by a very large majority of the Legislature. Of that body a majority was politically opposed to him, yet he received the votes of many distinguished Whigs, and was elected over two gentlemen, one of whom has since been appointed judge of the Federal Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, and the other of whom was subsequently chosen successor to Mr. Bayly when the latter was elected to Congress. When he resigned his seat in the Legislature, the members of the two houses, without distinction of party, gave him a public entertainment. He held his judicial office for two years, meeting its responsibilities and discharging its duties to the entire satisfaction of his circuit, as was attested by the general sentiment of regret which was expressed at his resignation.
In 1844, when Mr. Wise was confirmed as minister to Brazil, Mr. Bayly was simultaneously nominated as his successor in the House of Representatives, by each of the counties of his district, without any concert, and each declaring that a district convention was unnecessary. The Democratic party* at that time, had met with reverses in almost every direction, the Whigs having succeeded, in several special elections, in districts which before had been represented by Democrats: and Mr. Bayly was appealed to by leading Republicans throughout the state, who thought that he alone could carry the district, to consent to become a candidate. He felt a strong attachment for judicial pursuits, but consented to accept the nomination, having, as a preparatory step, resigned his judicial office, against the remonstrance of many of his friends, who thought that, as the contest was a doubtful one, he ought not to make such a sacrifice. He was elected over his Whig competitor by a large majority, in a district which had given General Harrison a majority of fifteen hundred out of about four thousand, and which had been called "the Banner Whig District of the Union." In the fall of 1844, the same district gave Mr. Clay a majority of four hundred and fifty; yet, in the following spring, Mr. Bayly was re-elected over one of the most popular and eminent men in the state, by a majority of upward of two hundred; and in the spring of 1837 he was again elected by a majority of nearly three hundred.
As a member of the national representative body, he has zealously upheld the principles and measures of the Democratic party. In the matter of Oregon [see title, S. A. DougLas] he differed with the mass of his party, having, in common with others of the Virginia delegation, voted against the notice to Great Britain for the termination of the convention of joint occupation. He believed that the subject was still a proper one for negotiation; he approved of the effort which the President had made to settle the controversy in that way. He approved of his course in offering the forty-ninth parallel, and thought it would be a happy termination of the difficulty if it could be settled on that basis. He did not believe that this mode of settlement had yet been exhausted, nor that, in this peaceful age, two such nations as the United States and Great Britain could not settle such a question by negotiation. Ho