Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES MADISON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO JAMES MADISON. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO JAMES MADISON.
Mount Vernon, 30 November, 1785.
Receive my thanks for your obliging communications of the 11th. I hear with much pleasure, that the Assembly are engaged seriously in the consideration of the revised laws. A short and simple code in my opinion, though I have the sentiments of some of the gentlemen of the long robe against me, would be productive of happy consequences, and redound to the honor of this or any country, which shall adopt a code so short, plain & simple. I hope the resolutions, which were published for the consideration of the House, respecting the reference of Congress for the regulation of a commercial system, will have passed.1
The proposition, in my opinion, is so self-evident, that I confess I am unable to discover wherein lies the weight of objection to the measure. We are either a united people, or we are not so. If the former, let us in all matters of general concern, act as a nation which has a national character to support; if we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it; for, whilst we are playing a double game, or playing a game between the two, we never shall be consistent or respectable, but may be the dupes of some powers, and the contempt assuredly of all. In any case, it behoves us to provide good militia laws, and to look well to the execution of them; but if we mean by our conduct, that the States shall act independently of each other, it becomes indispensably necessary, for therein will consist our strength and the respectability of the Union.2
It is much to be wished that public faith may be held inviolable. Painful is it, even in thought, that attempts should be made to weaken the bands of it. It is a dangerous experiment. Once slacken the reins, and the power is lost. And it is questionable with me, whether the advocates of the measure foresee all its consequences. It is an old adage, that honesty is the best policy. This applies to public as well as private life, to States as well as individuals.
I hope the Port and Assize Bills no longer sleep, but are awakened to a happy establishment. The first, with some alterations, would in my judgment be productive of great good to this country. Without it, the trade, thereof, I conceive, will ever labor and languish. With respect to the second, if it institutes a speedier administration of justice, it is equally desirable. * * *
From the complexion of the debates in the Pennsylvania Assembly, it should seem as if that legislature intended their assent to the proposition from the States of Virginia and Maryland, (respecting a road to the Youghiogany,) should be on the condition that permission be given by the latter to open a communication between the Chesapeake and Delaware, by the way of the rivers Elk and Christiana; which I am sure will never be obtained, if the Baltimore interest can give effectual opposition. The directors of the Potomac navigation have sent to the delegates of this county, to be laid before the Assembly, a petition (which sets forth the reasons) for relief in the depth of the canals, which it may be found necessary to open at the Great and Little Falls of the river. As public economy and private interest equally prompt the measure, and no possible disadvantage, that we can see, will attend granting the prayer of it, we flatter ourselves no opposition will be given to it. To save trouble, to expedite the business, and to obtain uniformity without delay, or an intercourse between the two Assemblies on so trifling a matter, we have taken the liberty of sending the draft of a bill to members of both Assemblies, which, if approved, will be found exactly similar. With the greatest esteem and regard, I am, Dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]“If the States individually were to attempt this, an abortion, or a many headed monster would be the issue.”—Washington to David Stuart, 30 November, 1785.
[2 ]“The discussion of them [the commercial propositions] has consumed much time, and though the absolute necessity of some such general system prevailed over all the efforts of its adversaries in the first instance, the stratagem of limiting its duration to a short term has ultimately disappointed our hopes. I think it better to trust to further experience, and even distress, for an adequate remedy, than to try a temporary measure, which may stand in the way of a permanent one, and confirm that transatlantic policy which is founded on our supposed mistrust of Congress and of one another.”—Madison to Washington, 9 December, 1785.