Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of Magnus TATE


         Magnus TATE was born in Berkeley County, Virginia, in 1760. He was a farmer and was a man of “superior intelligence,” as was shown by the many positions of trust which he held during his lifetime. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1797 and again in 1798; received his commission as Magistrate of Berkeley County, 1799; commissioned Sheriff of the county in 1819 and again in 1820; in January 1815, asked the voters of Berkeley, Jefferson, Hardy and Hampshire counties (then composing the Congressional district for that section) the nomination for Congress and was elected by an overwhelming majority. Below is his appeal to his constituents:

         “To the Freeholders of the District composed of the Counties of Berkeley, Hampshire, Hardy and Jefferson: — Fellow Citizens — I offer myself to your consideration as a candidate to represent you in the next Congress of the United States. It is possible the curious may be disposed to inquire why I have become a candidate without the sanction of a committee. To this interrogatory I answer that the recent manner of nominating candidates by committee, however highly I might incline to appreciate the practice, is, nevertheless, as it seems to me, no way preferable to the ancient custom which everyone understands. Again, I have been induced to declare myself at this time and in this way by the requests of my friends, who think with me it is the wish of a majority of the freeholders of the district. If, however, we should be mistaken in this particular, whatever the result may be, I will cheerfully submit to when fairly ascertained on the day of election. All I desire is to give the people an opportunity of making a selection, and all I ask is an unbiased expression of public opinion. This manner of proceeding appears perfectly congenial with the first principles of our government, with all our political institutions, and consequently can be liable to no rational objection. Here, perhaps, it may not be improper to premise that I trust my deportment on this occasion will be found fair and manly, and that if I should meet with an opponent he shall receive from me all the politeness and decorum due from one gentleman to another. To those gentlemen in the upper parts of this district with whom I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance, I am persuaded I shall be exonerated from the charge of egotism and of complimenting myself when they are informed I am a farmer in the middle walks of life, and that if honored with their suffrages my circumstances are such that I will neither be driven from the path leading to the posterity of our country by want or poverty, nor allured from it by avarice or ambition.

         “Citizens of the district, if an ardent attachment to my native soil, if many friends and relatives whom I esteem and venerate; if a numerous progeny intertwined with every moral perception of my heart; if either or all of those considerations firmly combined can rivet a man to his country and to liberty — these motives, these inducements, which, in my estimation, are the most powerful that can operate on the human mind, shall be left by me, as pledges.”

         Sat in Congress with such men as Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, John Randolph, William Gaston, Philip P. Barbour, and Henry St. George Tucker, all distinguished men in their day and generation, and served on committees with them. He lived on the Walker farm on the Dry Run Road, about 3 miles northwest of Martinsburg. He had a large family. Magnus Tate died March 30, 1823.


    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, West Virginia, 1928.

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