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TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON. - 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 BUSHROD WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 15 November, 1786.
Your letter of the 31st of October in reply to mine of the 30th of September came safe to hand. It was not the intention of my former letter either to condemn, or give my voice in favor of the Patriotic Society, of which you have now, but not before, declared yourself a member; nor do I mean to do it now. I offered observations under the information I had then received, the weight of which was to be considered. As first thoughts, they were undigested, and might be very erroneous.
That representatives ought to be the mouth of their constituents, I do not deny; nor do I mean to call in question the right of the latter to instruct them. It is to the embarrassment, into which they may be thrown by these instructions in national matters, that my objections lie. In speaking of national matters I look to the federal government, which, in my opinion, it is the interest of every State to support; and to do this, as there are a variety of interests in the Union, there must be a yielding of the parts to coalesce the whole. Now a county, a district, or even a State, might decide on a measure, which, though apparently for the benefit of it in its unconnected state, may be repugnant to the interests of the nation, and eventually to the State itself, as a part of the confederation. If, then, members go instructed to the Assembly from certain districts, the requisitions of Congress repugnant to the sense of them, and all the lights which they may receive from the communications of that body to the legislature, must be unavailing, although the nature and necessity of them, when the reasons therefor are fully expounded (which can only be given by Congress to the Assembly through the Executive, and which come before them in their legislative capacity), are as clear as the sun. In local matters which concern the district, or things which respect the internal policy of the State, there may be nothing amiss in instructions. In national matters, also, the sense, but not the law of the district may be given, leaving the delegates to judge from the nature of the case and the evidence before them.
The instructions of your Society, as far as they have gone, meet my entire approbation, except in the article of “commutables.” Here, if I understand the meaning and design of the clause, I must disagree to it most heartily; for, if the intention of it is to leave it optional with the person taxed, to pay any staple commodity (tobacco would be least exceptionable) in lieu of specie, the people will be burthened, a few speculators enriched, and the public derive no benefit from it. Have we not had a recent and melancholy proof of this during the war in the provision tax? Did not the people pay this in some way or other, perhaps badly? And was not the army almost starved? Can any instance be given, where the public has sold tobacco, hemp, flour, or any other commodity upon as good terms as individuals have done it? Must not there be places of deposit for these commutables; collectors, storekeepers, and the like, employed? These, rely on it, will sink one half, and a parcel of speculators will possess themselves of the other half. It was to these things, that we owe the present depravity of the minds of so many people of this country, and filled it with so many knaves and designing characters.
Among the great objects, which you took into consideration at your meeting at Richmond, how comes it to pass, that you never turned your eyes to the inefficacy of the federal government, so as to instruct your delegates to accede to the propositions of the commissioners at Annapolis, or to devise some other mode to give it that energy, which is necessary to support a national character? Every man, who considers the present constitution of it, and sees to what it is verging, trembles. The fabric, which took nine years, at the expense of much blood and treasure, to rear, now totters to the foundation, and without support must soon fall.
The determination of your Society to promote frugality and industry by example, to encourage manufactures, and to avoid dissipation, is highly praiseworthy. These, and premiums for the most useful discoveries in agriculture within your district, the most profitable course of cropping, and the best method of fencing to save timber, would soon make us a rich and happy people. With every good wish for you and yours, in which your aunt joins.
I am, &c.