John Harvie

John Harvie

John Harvie was one of the important young players in Revolutionary Virginia politics.  Although he is out shined by his close friends today, he contributions to liberty were significant. 

Growing Independent

John Harvie was a lifelong friend of Thomas Jefferson.  The two grew up together.  When Jefferson’s dad died, Harvie’s father became his guardian.  

The two men studied law and became involved in revolutionary politics.  

While Jefferson was known as a ‘big picture’ politician, John Harvie excelled at more procedural tasks.  Jefferson famously wrote the Declaration of Independence, Harvie signed the Articles of Confederation.

His Work

One of John Harvie’s early accomplishments was to negotiate a peace treaty with the Shawnee tribe in what is now West Virginia.  This action put an end to the short-lived Dunmore’s War.

He would follow this by becoming a purchasing agent during the American Revolution.  In this position, Harvie was responsible for supplying Continental troops from Virginia with supplies.  This is the type of task which was necessary to win the war but has little glory in hindsight.

Later, when Jefferson became Governor of Virginia, he could no longer propose bills.  This was right after he had written his now famous Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom.  His old friend John Harvie took the document and brought it to the floor.

Although the Statute did not pass, this should be viewed as a great honor.  Not only is our First Amendment right to freedom of religion based on this document, but it demonstrates Harvie as the type of person who would stand up for those who could not stand for themselves.


Harvie would go on to become an important figure in the city of Richmond.  He became the cities fourth mayor and develop much of the land in the area.

He also became an architect, constructing many structures within city limits.  Harvie met his maker after, at age 65, he fell off the roof of a building he was inspecting.

He would not see the end of his friend Jefferson’s presidency.

John Harvie is one of the Founding Fathers who has little written about him.  Most of what I know comes from letters to friends and official records.  Check out these books on the events around his life to learn more:

Nicholas Van Dyke

Nicholas Van Dyke

The Halifax Resolves

The Halifax Resolves