Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1787. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
1787. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 10 January, 1787.
My dear Bushrod,
I condole most sincerely with you, my sister & family, on the death of my Brother1 : I feel most sensibly for this event; but resignation being our duty—to attempt an expression of my sorrow on this occasion would be as feebly described, as it would be unavailing when related.
If there are any occasional services which I can render my sister or any of you, I shall have great pleasure in the execution; if I could discharge the duties of an Executor, I would undertake the trust most cheerfully; but in truth I am not in a situation to do this. Already I am so much involved in and so perplexed with other people’s affairs, that my own are very much unattended to. Happily, there is not the least occasion of my assistance in the administration of your deceased Father’s Estate. Your competency alone is sufficient for this purpose—when joined by that of my Sister, and your brother, the task will be easy. It may be an alleviating circumstance of my brother’s death, that his affairs fall into such good hands, and that each of you have dispositions and capability to do what is proper. * * *
TO HENRY KNOX.
Mount Vernon, 3 February, 1787.
My dear Sir,
I feel myself exceedingly obliged to you for the full and friendly communications in your letters of the 14th, 21st, and 25th ultimo, and shall (critically as matters are described in the letter) be exceedingly anxious to know the issue of the movements of the forces, that were assembling in support of, and in opposition to, the constitution of Massachusetts. The moment is important. If government shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws, fresh manœuvres will be displayed by the insurgents, anarchy and confusion must prevail, and every thing will be turned topsy-turvy in that State, where it is not probable it will end.1
In your letter of the 14th you express a wish to be informed of my intention, respecting the convention proposed to be held in Philadelphia May next. In confidence I inform you, that it is not, at this time, my intention to attend it. When this matter was first moved in the Assembly of this State, some of the principal characters of it wrote to me, requesting they might be permitted to put my name in the delegation. To this I objected. They again pressed, and I again refused, assigning among other reasons my having declined meeting the Society of the Cincinnati at that place about the same time, and that I thought it would be disrespectful to that body, to whom I owe much, to be there on any other occasion. Notwithstanding these intimations, my name was inserted in the act; and an official communication thereof made by the executive to me, to whom, at the same time that I expressed my sense for the confidence reposed in me, I declared that, as I saw no prospect of my attending, it was my wish that my name might not remain in the delegation to the exclusion of another. To this I have been requested in emphatical terms not to decide absolutely, as no inconvenience would result from the new appointment of another, at least for some time yet.
Thus the matter stands, which is the reason of my saying to you in confidence, that at present I retain my first intention not to go. In the mean while, as I have the fullest conviction of your friendship for and attachment to me, know your abilities to judge, and your means of information, I shall receive any communications from you on this subject with thankfulness. My first wish is to do for the best, and to act with propriety. You know me too well to believe, that reserve or concealment of any opinion or circumstance would be at all agreeable to me. The legality of this convention I do not mean to discuss, nor how problematical the issue of it may be. That powers are wanting none can deny. Through what medium they are to be derived will, like other matters, engage the attention of the wise. That, which takes the shortest course to obtain them, in my opinion will, under present circumstances, be found best; otherwise, like a house on fire, whilst the most regular mode of extinguishing the flames is contended for, the building is reduced to ashes. My opinion of the energetic wants of the federal government are well known. My public annunciations and private declarations have uniformly expressed these sentiments; and, however constitutional it may be for Congress to point out the defects of the federal system, I am strongly inclined to believe, that it would not be found the most efficacious channel for the recommendations, more especially the alterations, to flow, for reasons too obvious to enumerate.1
The system on which you seem disposed to build a national government, is certainly more energetic, and I dare say in every point of view more desirable than the present, which from experience we find is not only slow, debilitated, and liable to be thwarted by every breath, but is defective in that secrecy, which, for the accomplishment of many of the most important national objects, is indispensably necessary; and besides, having the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments concentred, is exceptionable. But, at the same time that I gave this opinion, I believe the political machine will yet be much tumbled and tossed, and possibly be wrecked altogether, before that or any thing like it will be adopted. The darling sovereignties of each State, the governors elected and elect, the legislators, with a long tribe of et ceteras, whose political importance will be lessened, if not annihilated, would give their weight of opposition to such a revolution; but I may be speaking without book; for, scarcely ever going off my own farms, I see few people, who do not call upon me, and am very little acquainted with the sentiments of the great public. Indeed, after what I have seen, or rather after what I have heard, I shall be surprised at nothing; for, if three years since any person had told me, that there would have been such a formidable rebellion as exists at this day against the laws and constitution of our own making, I should have thought him a bedlamite, a fit subject for a mad-house. Adieu. You know how much, and how sincerely I am your ever affectionate and most obedient servant.
TO CHARLES WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 14 February, 1787.
When the enclosed was written, I knew nothing of George’s1 intention of visiting Berkeley. The safe conveyance afforded by him, is very favorable, and [I] gladly embraced it.
Having seen Bushrod and Corbin Washington on their way from Berkeley, their information is the subject of this letter and is exceedingly distressing to me, inasmuch as I have not the means of affording immediate relief. By them I learn that the remaining negros of my deceased Brother Samuel’s Estate are under an execution, and a momentary sale of them may be expected, and this too by the extraordinary conduct of Mr. White in applying moneys received towards the discharge of a Bond not in suit, when they ought to have given it in payment of Mr. Alexander’s claim, on which judgment had been, or was on the point of being obtained. How in the name of Heaven came Mr. White to be vested with powers to dispose of the money he should recover, unaccompanied with instructions respecting the disposal; Will not Mr. Alexander when he sees every exertion making to pay him have mercy on the orphan? Can he as a Father and man of feeling see the Fatherless reduced from Competency to distress untouched? If there was an unwillingness to pay him, if property had not been sold for the express purpose of doing it, and if there was not a prospect of [its] being done in a very short time, it would be right in Mr. Alexander to push matters to extremity; but when (as I am informed) in the case every exertion is making to satisfy him, to cause perhaps three pounds worth of property to be sold to raise 20/ cash, this would be inconsistent with that benevolence which should be characteristic of every man and to which, from what I have heard of the Gentleman, he is justly intitled. I therefore think as Executor to the will and guardian to the boys, you should before the dye is cast apply by fair and candid representation to Mr. Alexander on this subject, not in the cold mode of letter, but personally, to see if this evil cannot be averted. Vain would it be for me to offer Mr. Alexander any assurances of the money at a short given day. I cannot get it from those who owe me without suit, and I hate to sue them. I have offered lands for sale at very moderate prices, but have not been able to sell them. Otherwise, or if I could raise the money by any other means, I would relieve my nephews without hesitation from the impending evil. Indeed, I would essay any thing to save the estate; for if the negros are sold for ready money, they will go for a song. To add aught to this is unnecessary. With the most affectionate regards.
My love, in which Mrs. Washington joins, to my sister and the family.
TO MRS. MARY WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 15 February, 1787.
In consequence of your communication to George Washington, of your want of money, I take the (first safe) conveyance by Mr. John Dandridge to send you 15 guineas, which believe me is all I have, and which indeed ought to have been paid many days ago to another, agreeable to my own assurances. I have now demands upon me for more than 500£, three hundred and forty odd of which is due for the tax of 1786; and I know not where or when, I shall receive one shilling with which to pay it. In the last two years I made no crops. In the first I was obliged to buy corn and this year have none to sell, and my wheat is so bad, I cannot neither eat it myself nor sell it to others, and Tobacco I make none. Those who owe me money cannot or will not pay it without suits, and to sue is to do nothing; whilst my expences, not from any extravagance, or an inclination on my part to live splendidly, but for the absolute support of my family and the visitors who are constantly here, are exceedingly high; higher indeed than I can support without selling part of my estate, which I am disposed to do, rather than run in debt, or continue to be so; but this I cannot do, without taking much less than the lands I have offered for sale are worth. This is really and truely my situation. I do not however offer it as any excuse for not paying you what may really be due; for let this be little or much, I am willing, however unable, to pay to the utmost farthing; but it is really hard upon me when you have taken every thing you wanted from the Plantation by which money could be raised, when I have not received one farthing, directly nor indirectly from the place for more than twelve years, if ever, and when, in that time I have paid, as appears by Mr. Lund Washington’s accounts against me (during my absence) Two hundred and sixty odd pounds, and by my own account Fifty odd pounds out of my own Pocket to you, besides (if I am rightly informed) every thing that has been raised by the Crops on the Plantation. Who to blame, or whether any body is to blame for these things I know not, but these are facts; and as the purposes for which I took the Estate are not answered, nor likely to be so, but dissatisfaction on all sides have taken place, I do not mean to have any thing more to say to your Plantation or negros since the first of January, except the fellow who is here, and who will not, as he has formed connections in this neighborhood, leave it. As experience has proved him, I will hire. Of this my intention, I informed my brother John sometime ago, whose death I sincerely lament on many accounts, and on this painful event condole with you most sincerely. I do not mean by this declaration to withhold any aid or support I can give from you; for whilst I have a shilling left, you shall have part, if it is wanted, whatever my own distresses may be. What I shall then give, I shall have credit for; now I have not, for tho’ I have received nothing from your Quarter, and am told that every farthing goes to you, and have moreover paid between 3 and 4 hundred pounds besides out of my own pocket, I am viewed as a delinquent, and considsidered perhaps by the world as [an] unjust and undutiful son. My advice to you, therefore, is to do one of two things with the Plantation. Either let your grandson Bushrod Washington, to whom the land is given by his Father, have the whole interest there, that is, lands and negros, at a reasonable rent; or, next year (for I presume it is too late this, as the overseer may be engaged) to let him have the land at a certain yearly rent during your life; and hire out the negros. This would ease you of all care and trouble, make your income certain, and your support ample. Further, my sincere and pressing advice to you is, to break up housekeeping, hire out all the rest of your servants except a man and a maid, and live with one of your children. This would relieve you entirely from the cares of this world, and leave your mind at ease to reflect undisturbedly on that which ought to come. On this subject I have been full with my Brother John, and it was determined he should endeavor to get you to live with him. He alas is no more, and three, only of us remain. My house is at your service, and [I] would press you most sincerely and most devoutly to accept it, but I am sure, and candor requires me to say, it will never answer your purposes in any shape whatsoever. For in truth it may be compared to a well resorted tavern, as scarcely any strangers who are going from north to south, or from south to north, do not spend a day or two at it. This would, were you to be an inhabitant of it, oblige you to do one of 3 things: 1st, to be always dressing to appear in company; 2d, to come into [the room] in a dishabille, or 3d, to be as it were a prisoner in your own chamber. The first you’ld not like; indeed, for a person at your time of life it would be too fatiguing. The 2d, I should not like, because those who resort here are, as I observed before, strangers and people of the first distinction. And the 3d, more than probably, would not be pleasing to either of us. Nor indeed could you be retired in any room in my house; for what with the sitting up of company, the noise and bustle of servants, and many other things, you would not be able to enjoy that calmness and serenity of mind, which in my opinion you ought now to prefer to every other consideration in life. If you incline to follow this advice, the House and lots on which you now live you may rent, and enjoy the benefit of the money arising therefrom as long as you live. This with the rent of the land at the Little Falls, and the hire of your negros, would bring you in an income which would be much more than sufficient to answer all your wants and make ample amends to the child you live with; for myself I should desire nothing; if it did not, I would most cheerfully contribute more. A man, a maid, the phaeton and two horses, are all you would want. To lay in a sufficiency for the support of these would not require ¼ of your income, the rest would purchase every necessary you could possibly want, and place it in your power to be serviceable to those with whom you may live, which no doubt would be agreeable to all parties.
There are such powerful reasons in my mind for giving this advice that I cannot help urging it with a degree of earnestness which is uncommon for me to do. It is, I am convinced, the only means by which you can be happy. The cares of a family, without any body to assist you; the charge of an estate the profits of which depend upon wind, weather, a good overseer, an honest man, and a thousand other circumstances, cannot be right or proper at your advanced age, and for me, who am absolutely prevented from attending to my own plantations, which are almost within call of me, to attempt the care of yours, would be folly in the extreme; but [by] the mode I have pointed out, you may reduce your income to a certainty, be eased of all trouble, and if you are so disposed, may be perfectly happy; for happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world. Of the last, if you will pursue the plan here recommended, I am sure you can want nothing that is essential. The other depends wholly upon yourself, for the riches of the Indies cannot purchase it.
Mrs. Washington, George and Fanny join me in every good wish for you, and I am, honored madame, your most dutiful and aff. son.
TO THOMAS STONE.1
Mount Vernon, 16 February, 1787.
Your favor of the 30th ultimo came duly to hand. To give an opinion in a cause of so much importance as that, which has warmly agitated two branches of your legislature, and which, from the appeal that is made, is likely to create great and perhaps dangerous divisions, is rather a delicate matter; but, as this diversity of opinion is on a subject, which has, I believe, occupied the minds of most men, and as my sentiments thereon have been fully and decidedly expressed long before the Assembly either of Maryland or this State were convened, I do not scruple to declare, that, if I had a voice in your legislature, it would have been given decidedly against a paper emission upon the general principles of its utility as a representative, and the necessity of it as a medium.2 And as far as I have been able to understand its advocates (for the two papers you sent me were the same, and contained no reasons of the House of Delegates for the local want of it in your State, though I have seen and given them a cursory reading elsewhere) I should have been very little less opposed to it.
To assign reasons for this opinion would be as unnecessary as tedious. The ground has been so often trod, that a place hardly remains untouched. But in a word, the necessity arising from a want of specie is represented as greater than it really is. I contend, that it is by the substance, not with the shadow of a thing, we are to be benefitted. The wisdom of man, in my humble opinion, cannot at this time devise a plan, by which the credit of paper money would be long supported; consequently depreciation keeps pace with the quantity of the emission, and articles, for which it is exchanged, rise in a greater ratio than the sinking value of the money. Wherein, then, is the farmer, the planter, the artisan benefitted? The debtor may be, because, as I have observed, he gives the shadow in lieu of the substance; and, in proportion to his gain, the creditor or the body politic suffer. Whether it be a legal tender or not, it will, as hath been observed very truly, leave no alternative. It must be that or nothing. An evil equally great is, the door it immediately opens for speculation, by which the least designing, and perhaps most valuable, part of the community are preyed upon by the more knowing and crafty speculators.
But, contrary to my intention and declaration, I am offering reasons in support of my opinion; reasons too, which of all others are least pleasing to the advocates for paper money. I shall therefore only observe generally, that so many people have suffered by former emissions, that, like a burnt child who dreads the fire, no person will touch it who can possibly avoid it. The natural consequence of which will be, that the specie, which remains unexported, will be instantly locked up. With great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO COLONEL DAVID HUMPHREYS.
Mount Vernon, 8 March, 1787.
My dear Humphreys,
Colo. Wadsworth, as I informed you in my last, presented me your obliging favor of the 20th of January and the Post since has handed me the subsequent one of the 11th ulto.
My sentiments respecting the inexpediency of my attending the proposed convention of the States in Philadelphia remain the same as when I wrote you last, tho’ Congress I am informed are about to remove one of the objections by their recommendation of this Convention. I am still indirectly and delicately pressed by many to attend this meeting; and a thought has run thro’ my mind of late attended with more embarrassment than any former one. It is whether my not doing it will not be considered as an implied dereliction to Republicanism—nay more, whether (however injurious the imputation) it may not be ascribed to other motives. My wish is I confess to see this Convention tied [tried?]; after which, if the present form is not made efficient, conviction of the propriety of a change will pervade all ranks, and many [may] be effected by peace. Till then, however necessary it may appear to the more discerning part of the community, my opinion is, that it cannot be accomplished without great contention and much confusion for reasons too obvious to enumerate. It is one of the evils, perhaps not the smallest, of democratical governments that they must feel before they will see or act under this view of matters, and not doubting but you have heard the sentiments of many respectable characters since the date of your letter of the 20th of January on this subject, and perhaps since the business has been moved in Congress of the propriety or impropriety of my attendance, let me pray you, my dear Sir, to give me confidentially the public opinion and expectation as far as it has come to your knowledge of what it is supposed, I will or ought to do on this occasion. You will readily see the necessity of my receiving it soon, if it is to have an operation contrary to the former, because my communications to the executive of this State are not considered as definitive, I must make these so shortly. * * *1
TO JOHN JAY.
Mount Vernon, 10 March, 1787.
I stand indebted to you for two letters. The first, introductory of Mr. Anstey, needed no apology, nor will any be necessary on future similar occasions. The other of the 17th of January is on a very interesting subject deserving very particular attention.
How far the revision of the federal system, and giving more adequate powers to Congress may be productive of an efficient government, I will not under my present view of the matter, presume to decide.—That many inconveniences result from the present form, none can deny. Those enumerated in your letter are so obvious and sensibly felt that no logic can controvert, nor is it likely that any change of conduct will remove them, and that attempts to alter or amend it will be like the proppings of a house which is ready to fall, and which no shoars can support (as many seem to think) may also be true. But, is the public mind matured for such an important change as the one you have suggested? What would be the consequences of a premature attempt? My opinion is, that this Country must yet feel and see more, before it can be accomplished.
A thirst for power, and the bantling, I had liked to have said monster for sovereignty, which have taken such fast hold of the States individually, will when joined by the many whose personal consequence in the control of State politics will in a manner be annihilated, form a strong phalanx against it; and when to these the few who can hold posts of honor or profit in the national government, are compared with the many who will see but little prospect of being noticed, and the discontent of others who may look for appointments, the opposition will be altogether irresistable till the mass, as well as the more discerning part of the Community shall see the necessity. Among men of reflection, few will be found I believe, who are not beginning to think that our system is more perfect in theory than in practice; and that notwithstanding the boasted virtue of America it is more than probable we shall exhibit the last melancholy proof, that mankind are not competent to their own government without the means of coercion in the sovereign.
Yet I would fain try what the wisdom of the proposed convention will suggest: and what can be effected by their councils. It may be the last peaceable mode of essaying the practicability of the present form, without a greater lapse of time than the exigency of our affairs will allow. In strict propriety a convention so holden may not be legal. Congress, however, may give it a coloring by recommendation, which would fit it more to the taste without proceeding to a definition of the powers. This, however constitutionally it might be done, would not, in my opinion, be expedient: for delicacy on the one hand, and jealousy on the other, would produce a mere nihil.
My name is in the delegation to this Convention; but it was put there contrary to my desire, and remains contrary to my request. Several reasons at the time of this appointment and which yet exist, conspired to make an attendance inconvenient, perhaps improper, tho’ a good deal urged to it. With sentiments of great regard and friendship, &c.
P. S. Since writing this letter I have seen the resolution of Congress recommendatory of the Convention to be holden in Philadelphia the 2d Monday in May.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL BENJAMIN LINCOLN.
Mount Vernon, 23 March, 1787.
My dear Sir,
Ever since the disorders in your State began to grow serious I have been peculiarly anxious to hear from that quarter; General Knox has from time to time transmitted to me the state of affairs as they came to his hands; but nothing has given such full and satisfactory information as the particular detail of events which you have been so good as to favor me with, and for which you will please to accept my warmest and most grateful acknowledgments. Permit me also, my dear Sir, to offer you my sincerest congratulations upon your success. The suppression of those tumults and insurrections with so little bloodshed, is an event as happy as it was unexpected; it must have been peculiarly agreeable to you, being placed in so delicate and critical a situation. I am extremely happy to find that your sentiments upon the disfranchising act are such as they are; upon my first seeing it, I formed an opinion perfectly coincident with yours, vizt., that measures more generally lenient might have produced equally as good an effect without entirely alienating the affections of the people from the government; as it now stands, it affects a large body of men, some of them, perhaps, it deprives of the means of gaining a livelihood; the friends and connections of those people will feel themselves wounded in a degree, and I think it will rob the State of a number of its inhabitants, if it produces nothing more. * * *
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
Mount Vernon, 28 March, 1787.
Your favor of the 11th did not come to my hand till the 24th, and since then till now I have been too much indisposed to acknowledge the receipt of it.1
To what cause to ascribe the detention of the letter I know not as I never omit sending once and often twice a week to the post office in Alexandria. It was the decided intention of the letter I had the honor of writing to your Excellency the 21st of December last to inform you, that it was not convenient for me to attend the convention proposed to be holden at Philadelphia in May next; and I had entertained hopes, that another had been, or soon would be, appointed in my place, inasmuch as it is not only inconvenient for me to leave home, but because there will be, I apprehend, too much cause to arraign my conduct with inconsistency in again appearing on a public theatre, after a public declaration to the contrary, and because it will, I fear, have a tendency to sweep me back into the tide of public affairs, when retirement and ease is so essentially necessary for and is so much desired by me.
However, as my friends, with a degree of solicitude which is unusual, seem to wish for my attendance on this occasion, I have come to a resolution to go, if my health will permit, provided from the lapse of time between the date of your Excellency’s letter and this reply the executive may not (the reverse of which would be highly pleasing to me) have turned their thoughts to some other character; for, independently of all other considerations, I have of late been so much afflicted with a rheumatic complaint in my shoulder that at times I am hardly able to raise my hand to my head, or turn myself in bed. This consequently might prevent my attendance, and eventually a representation of the State, which would afflict me more sensibly than the disorder that occasioned it.
If, after the expression of these sentiments, the executive should consider me as one of the delegates, I would thank your Excellency for the earliest advice of it; because, if I am able and should go to Philadelphia, I shall have some previous arrangement to make, and would set off for that place the 1st or 2d of May, that I might be there in time to account personally for my conduct to the general meeting of the Cincinnati, which is to convene the first Monday of that month. My feelings would be much hurt, if that body should otherwise ascribe my attending the one and not the other occasion to a disrespectful inattention to the Society, when the fact is, that I shall ever retain the most lively and affectionate regard for the members of which it is composed, on account of their attachment to me and uniform support upon many trying occasions, as well as on account of their public virtues, patriotism, and sufferings.
I hope your Excellency will be found among the attending delegates. I should be glad to be informed who the others are; and cannot conclude without once more and in emphatical terms praying, that, if there is not a decided representation in prospect without me, another may be chosen in my room without ceremony and without delay, for the reason already assigned. For it would be unfortunate, indeed, if the State, which was the mover of this convention, should be unrepresented in it. With great respect, I have the honor to be your Excellency’s most obedient servant.
TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS.1
Mount Vernon, 31 March, 1787.
My dear Sir,
At the same time that I acknowledge the receipt of your obliging favor of the 21st ultimo from New York, I promise to avail myself of your indulgence to write only when it is convenient to me. If this should not occasion a relaxation on your part, I shall become very much your debtor, and possibly, like others in similar circumstances, (when the debt is burthensome,) may feel a disposition to apply the sponge, or, what is nearly akin to it, pay you off in depreciated paper, which, being a legal tender, or, what is tantamount, being that or nothing, you cannot refuse. You will receive the nominal value, and that you know quiets the conscience, and makes all things easy with the debtor.
I am glad to find that Congress have recommended to the States to appear in the convention proposed to be holden in Philadelphia next May. I think the reasons in favor have the preponderancy over those against it. It is idle in my opinion to suppose that the Sovereign can be insensible to the inadequacy of the powers under which they act, and that, seeing it, they should not recommend a revision of the federal system; especially when it is considered by many as the only constitutional mode by which the defects can be remedied. Had Congress proceeded to a delineation of the powers, it might have sounded an alarm; but, as the case is, I do not conceive that it will have that effect.1
From the acknowledged abilities of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I have no doubt of his having ably investigated the infractions of the treaty on both sides. Much is it to be regretted, however, that there should have been any on ours. We seem to have forgot, or never to have learnt, the policy of placing one’s enemy in the wrong. Had we observed good faith on our part, we might have told our tale to the world with a good grace, but complaints illy become those who are found to be the first aggressors.
I am fully of opinion that those, who lean to a monarchical government, have either not consulted the public mind, or that they live in a region, which (the levelling principles in which they were bred being entirely eradicated) is much more productive of monarchical ideas, than are to be found in the southern States, where, from the habitual distinctions which have always existed among the people, one would have expected the first generation and the most rapid growth of them. I am also clear, that, even admitting the utility, nay, necessity of the form, yet that the period is not arrived for adopting the change without shaking the peace of this country to its foundation. That a thorough reform of the present system is indispensable, none, who have capacities to judge, will deny; and with hand [and heart] I hope the business will be essayed in a full convention. After which, if more powers and more decision is not found in the existing form, if it still wants energy and that secrecy and despatch (either from the non-attendance or the local views of its members), which is characteristic of good government, and if it shall be found (the contrary of which, however, I have always been more afraid of than of the abuse of them), that Congress will, upon all proper occasions, exert the powers which are given, with a firm and steady hand, instead of frittering them back to the States, where the members, in place of viewing themselves in their national character, are too apt to be looking,—I say, after this essay is made, if the system proves inefficient, conviction of the necessity of a change will be disseminated among all classes of the people. Then, and not till then, in my opinion, can it be attempted without involving all the evils of civil discord.
I confess, however, that my opinion of public virtue is so far changed, that I have my doubts whether any system, without the means of coercion in the sovereign, will enforce due obedience to the ordinances of a general government; without which every thing else fails. Laws or ordinances unobserved, or partially attended to, had better never have been made; because the first is a mere nihil, and the second is productive of much jealousy and discontent. But what kind of coercion, you may ask. This indeed will require thought, though the non-compliance of the States with the late requisition is an evidence of the necessity. It is somewhat singular that a State (New York), which used to be foremost in all federal measures, should now turn her face against them in almost every instance.
I fear the State of Massachusetts has exceeded the bounds of good policy in its disfranchisements. Punishment is certainly due to the disturbers of a government, but the operation of this act is too extensive. It embraces too much, and probably will give birth to new instead of destroying the old leaven. Some acts passed at the last session of our Assembly, respecting the trade of this country, have given great and general discontent to the merchants. An application from the whole body of them at Norfolk to the governor has been made, it is said, to convene the Assembly.
I had written thus far, and was at the point of telling you how much I am your obliged servant, when your favor of the 18th ultimo calls upon me for additional acknowledgments. I thank you for the Indian vocabulary, which I dare say will be very acceptable in a general comparison. Having taken a copy, I return you the original with thanks.
It gives me great pleasure to hear, that there is a probability of a full representation of the States in convention; but if the delegates come to it under fetters, the salutary ends proposed will in my opinion be greatly embarrassed and retarded, if not altogether defeated. I am desirous of knowing how this matter is, as my wish is that the convention may adopt no temporizing expedients, but probe the defects of the constitution to the bottom, and provide a radical cure, whether they are agreed to or not. A conduct of this kind will stamp wisdom and dignity on their proceedings, and hold up a light which sooner or later will have its influence.1
I should feel pleasure, I confess, in hearing that Vermont is received into the Union upon terms agreeable to all parties. I took the liberty years ago to tell some of the first characters in the State of New York, that sooner or later it would come to this; that the longer it was delayed, the terms on their part would probably be more difficult; and that the general interest was suffering by the suspense in which the business was held, as the asylum which it afforded was a constant drain from the army, in place of an aid which it would have afforded; and lastly, considering the proximity of it to Canada, if they were not with us, they might become a sore thorn in our side, which I verily believe would have been the case if the war had continued. The western settlements, without good and wise management, may be equally troublesome.
With sentiments of sincere friendship, I am &c.
TO HENRY KNOX.
Mount Vernon, 2 April, 1787.
My dear Sir,
The early attention, which you were so obliging as to pay to my letter of the 8th ultimo, is highly pleasing and flattering. Were you to continue to give me information on the same point, you would add to the favor; as I see or think I see reasons for and against my attendance in convention so near an equilibrium, as will cause me to determine upon either with diffidence. One of the reasons against it is a fear, that all the States will not be represented. As some of them appear to have been unwillingly drawn into the measure, their delegates will come with such fetters as will embarrass and perhaps render nugatory the whole proceeding. In either of these circumstances, that is, a partial representation or cramped powers, I should not like to be a sharer in the business. If the delegates assemble with such powers, as will enable the convention to probe the defects of the constitution to the bottom, and point out radical cures, it would be an honorable employment; but not otherwise. These are matters you may possibly come at by means of your acquaintance with the delegates in Congress, who undoubtedly know what powers are given by their respective States. You also can inform me what is the prevailing opinion, with respect to my attendance or non-attendance; and I would sincerely thank you for the confidential communication of it.
If I should attend the convention, I will be in Philadelphia previous to the meeting of the Cincinnati, where I shall hope and expect to meet you and some others of my particular friends the day before, in order that I may have a free and unreserved conference with you on the subject of it; for, I assure you, this is in my estimation a business of a delicate nature.
That the design of the institution was pure, I have not a particle of doubt; that it may be so still, is perhaps equally unquestionable. But is not the subsiding of the jealousies respecting it to be ascribed to the modifications, which took place at the last general meeting? Are not these rejected in toto by some of the State Societies, and partially acceded to by others? Has any State so far overcome its prejudices as to grant a charter? Will the modifications and alterations be insisted on in the next meeting, or given up? If the first, will it not occasion warmth and divisions? If the latter, and I should remain at the head of this order, in what light would my signature appear in recommendations having different tendencies? In what light will this versatility appear to the foreign members, who perhaps are acting agreeably to the recommendation?
These, and other matters which may be agitated, will, I fear, place me in a disagreeable situation, if I should attend the meeting; and were among the causes, which induced me to decline previously the honor of the presidency. Indeed my health is become very precarious. A rheumatic complaint which has followed me more than six months, is frequently so bad that it is sometimes with difficulty I can raise my hand to my head or turn myself in bed. This, however smooth and agreeable other matters might be, might, almost in the moment of my departure, prevent my attendance on either occasion. I will not at present touch upon any other points of your letter, but will wish you to ponder on all these matters, and write to me as soon as you can.
With sentiments of the sincerest friendship, I am your most affectionate, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX.
Mount Vernon, 27 April, 1787.
My dear Sir,
After every consideration my judgment was able to give the subject, I had determined to yield to the wishes of many of my friends who seemed anxious for my attending the Convention which is proposed to be holden in Philadelphia the 2d Monday of May, and though so much afflicted with a Rheumatick complaint (of which I have not been entirely free for six months) as to be under the necessity of carrying my arm in a sling for the last ten days, I had fixed on Monday next for my departure, and had made every necessary arrangement for the purpose when (within this hour) I am called by an express, who assures me not a moment is to be lost, to see a mother and only sister (who are supposed to be in the agonies of death) expire1 ; and I am hastening to obey this melancholy call after having just buried a Brother who was the intimate companion of my youth, and the friend of my ripened age.1 This journey of mine then, 100 miles, in the disordered frame of my body, will, I am persuaded, unfit me for the intended trip to Philadelphia, and assuredly prevent my offering that tribute of respect to my compatriots in arms which results from affection and gratitude for their attachment to, and support of me, upon so many trying occasions.
For this purpose it was, as I had (tho’ with a good deal of Reluctance) consented, from a conviction that our affairs were verging fast to ruin, to depart from the resolution I had taken of never more stepping out of the walks of private life, that I determined to shew my respect to the General Meeting of the Society by coming there the week before. As the latter is prevented, and the other, it is probable, will not take place, I send such papers as have occasionally come to my hands, and may require the inspection, and the consideration of the Cincinnati. An apology for the order in which they are sent is highly necessary, and my present situation is the best I can offer. To morrow I had set apart for the Inspection and arrangement of them, that such only as were fitting, might be laid before the Society; for unless I had time to go over them again with a person who understands the French language, I am not even certain that all of what I send may relate to the affairs of the Cincinnati, and certain I am that some are too personal, the sending of which will not, I hope, be ascribed to improper motives, when the only one I had (as I am in the moment of my departure from home and uncertain of returning to it) is that nothing which has been referred to me, may be with held.— * * *
TO LUND WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 7 May, 1787.
* * * I need not tell you, because a moment’s recurrence to your own accounts will evince the fact, that there is no source from which I derive more than a sufficiency for the daily calls of my family, except what flows from the collection of old debts, and scanty and precarious enough, God knows this is. My estate for the last 11 years has not been able to make both ends meet. I am encumbered now with the deficiency. I mention this for no other purpose than to shew that however willing, I am not able to pay debts unless I could sell land, which I have publicly advertised without finding bidders. * * *
DIARY DURING THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, MAY—SEPTEMBER, 1787.1
Monday 7th [May].—At home preparing for my journey to Philadelphia. * * *
Tuesday 8th.—The weather being squally with showers, I defer’d setting off till the morning. Mr. Chas. Lee came to dinner, but left it afterwards.
Wednesday 9th.—Crossed from Mt. Vernon to Mr. Digges a little after sunrise, and pursuing the rout by the way of Baltimore, dined at Mt. Rich’d Henderson’s in Bladensb’g, and lodged at Majr. Snowden’s, when feeling very severely a violent hd. ach & sick stomack I went to bed early.
Thursday 10th.—Very great appearances of rain in the morning & a little falling induced me, tho’ well recovered, to wait till abt. 8 o’clock before I set off. At one o’clock I arrived at Baltimore, dined at the Fountain, & supped & lodged at Doctr. McHenry’s. Slow rain in the evening.
Friday 11th.—Set off before breakfast, rid 12 miles to Sherretts for it, bated there and proceeded without halting (weather threatening) to the Ferry at Havre de Gras where I dined, but could not cross, the wind being turbulent & squally. Lodged here.
Saturday 12th.—With difficulty (on acct. of the wind), crossed the Susquehanna.—Breakfasted at the Ferry house on the East side. Dined at the head of Elk (Hollingsworth’s Tavern) and lodged at Wilmington at O’Flin’s. At the head of Elk I was overtaken by Mr. Francis Corbin, who took a seat in my carriage.
Sunday 13th.—About 8 o’clock,1 Mr. Corbin and myself set out, and dined at Chester (Mrs. Withy), where I was met by the Genls. Mifflin (now Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly), Knox and Varnum; the Colonels Humphreys and Minges [Mentges]—and Majors Jackson and Nicholas, with whom I proceeded to Philadh. At Grays Ferry the City light horse, commanded by Colo. Miles, met me and escorted me in by the Artillery officers who stood arranged & saluted me as I passed. Alighted through a crowd at Mrs. House’s,2 but being again warmly and kindly pressed by Mr. & Mrs. Rob. Morris to lodge with them, I did so and had my baggage removed thither.
Waited on the President, Doctr. Franklin, as soon as I got to town. On my arrival the Bells were chimed.
Monday 14th.—This being the day appointed for the Convention to meet, such members as were in town assembled at the State Ho., but only two States being represented—viz. Virginia & Pensylvania, agreed to attend at the same place at 11 o’clock tomorrow.
Dined in a family way at Mr. Morris’s.1
Tuesday 15th.—Repaired, at the hour appointed, to the State Ho., but no more states being represented than were yesterday (tho’ several more members had come in,2 ) we agreed to meet again tomorrow. Govr. Randolph from Virginia came in today.
Dined with the Members to the Genl. Meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati.
Wednesday 16th.—No more than two States being yet represented agreed till a quoram of them should be formed to alter the hour of meeting at the State House to one o’clock.3
Dined at the President, Doctr. Franklin’s—and drank Tea, and spent the evening at Mr. Jno. Penn’s.
Thursday 17th.—Mr. Rutledge, from Charleston, and Mr. Chs. Pinkney, from Congress, having arrived, gave a representation to So. Carolina; and Colo. Mason getting in this Evening, placed all the Delegates from Virginia on the floor of Convention. Dined at Mr. Powell’s4 and dr’k Tea there.
Friday 18th.—The representation from New York appeared on the floor today.—
Dined at Gray’s Ferry, and drank Tea at Mr. Morris’s; after which accompanied Mrs. and some other Ladies to hear a Mrs. O’Connell read (a charity affair). The lady being reduced in circumstances had had recourse to this expedient to obtain a little money—her performe. was tolerable, at the College Hall.5
Saturday 19th.—No more states represented.1
Dined at Mr. [Jared] Ingersoll’s, spent the evening at my lodgings, & retired to my room soon.
Sunday 20th.—Dined with Mr. & Mrs. Morris and other company at their farm (called the Hills); returned in the afternoon & drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s
Monday 21st.—Delaware State was represented.
Dined and drank Tea at Mr. [William] Bingham’s in great splendor.
Tuesday 22d.—The Representation from No. Carolina was compleated, which made a representation for five States.
Dined and drank Tea at Mr. Morris’s.
Wednesday 23d.—No more States being represented, I rid to Genl. Mifflin’s to breakfast. After which in company with him, Mr. Madison, Mr. Rutledge, and others, I crossed the Schuylkill above the Falls, visited Mr. Peters, Mr. Penn’s seat, and Mr. Wm. Hamilton’s.2
Dined at Mr. Chew’s, with the wedding guests (Colo. [John Eager] Howard of Baltimore having married his daughter Peggy) drank Tea there in a very large circle of ladies.
Thursday 24th.—No more States represented. Dined and Drank Tea at Mr. John Ross’s. One of my Postilion boys (Paris) being sick, requested Doctr. [John] Jones to attend him.
Friday 25th.—Another Delegate coming in from the State of New Jersey, gave it a representation, and encreased the number to Seven, which forming a quoram of the 13, the members present resolved to organize the body; when by a unanimous vote I was called up to the chair as President of the body.3 Majr. William Jackson1 was appointed Secretary and a Comee. was chosen consisting of 3 members2 to prepare rules and regulations for conducting the business; and after ’pointing door keepers, the Convention adjourned till Monday, to give time to the Comee. to report the matter referred to them.
Returned many visits today. Dined at Mr. Thos. Willing’s and spt. the evening at my lodgings.
Saturday 26th.—Returned all my visits this forenoon,3 dined with a club at the City Tavern, and spent the evening at my quarters writing letters.
Sunday 27th.—Went to the Romish Church,4 to high mass. Dined; drank Tea, and spent the evening at my lodgings.
Monday 28th.—Met in Convention at 10 o’clock. Two States more, viz. Massachusetts and Connecticut, were on the floor today.
Established rules—agreeably to the plan brot. in by the Comee. for the Governmt. of the Convention, & adjourned. No Comns.5 without doors.
Dined at home, and drank Tea in a large circle at Mr. [Tench] Francis’s.
Tuesday 29th.—Attended Convention, and dined at home, after wch. accompanied Mrs. Morris to the benefit concert of a Mr. Juhan.
Wednesday 30th.—Attended Convention.
Dined with Mr. [John] Vaughan. Drank Tea and spent the evening at a Wednesday evening’s party at Mr. & Mrs. [John] Lawrence’s.
Thursday 31st.—The State of Georgia came on the Floor of the Convention to-day,1 which made a representation of ten States.
Dined at Mr. Francis’s and drank Tea with Mrs Meredith.
Friday, 1stJune.—Attending in Convention, and nothing being suffered to transpire, no minutes of the proceedings has been or will be inserted in this diary.
Dined with Mr. John Penn, and spent the evening at a superb entertainment at Bush-Hill given by Mr. Hamilton, at which were more than a hundred guests.
Saturday 2nd.—Majr. Jenifer coming in with sufficient powers for the purpose, gave a representation to Maryland, which brought all the States in the Union into Convention, except Rhode Island, which had refused to send delegates thereto.
Dined at the City Tavern with the Club, & spent the evening at my own quarters.
Sunday 3d.—Dined at Mr. Clymer’s and drank Tea there also.
Monday 4th.—Attended Convention; Representation as on Saturday.
Reviewed (at the importunity of Genl. Mifflin and the officers,) the Light Infantry—Cavalry—and part of the Artillery, of the City.
Dined with Genl. Mifflin and drk. Tea with Mrs. Cadwallader.
Tuesday 5th.—Dined at Mr. Morris’s with a large Company, & spent the evening there. Attended in Convention the usual hours.
Wednesday 6th.—In Convention as usual; dined at the Presidents (Doctr. Franklin’s), and drank Tea there, after which retired to my lodgings and wrote letters for France.
Thursday 7th.—Attended Convention as usual. Dined with a club of Convention members at the Indian Queen.2 Drank Tea and spent the evening at my lodgings.
Friday 8th.—Attended the Convention. Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening at my lodgns.
Saturday 9th.—At Convention. Dined with the Club at the City Tavern; Drank Tea, and set till 10 o’clock at Mr. Powell’s.
Sunday 10th.—Breakfasted by agreement at Mr. Powell’s, and in company with him rid to see the botanical gardens of Mr. Bartram; which, tho’ stored with many curious plts., shrubs, & trees, many of which are exotics, was not laid off with much taste, nor was it large.
From hence we rid to the Farm of one Jones, to see the effect of the plaister of Paris, which appcared obviously great. * * *
From hence we visited Mr. Powell’s own farm, after which I went (by appointment) to the Hills and dined with Mr. & Mrs. Morris, returned to the city abt. dark.
Monday 11th.—Attended in Convention. Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening in my own room.
Tuesday 12th.—Dined and drank Tea at Mr. Morris’s; went afterwards to a concert at the City Tavern.1
Wednesday 13th.—In convention; dined at Mr. Clymer’s, & drank Tea there; spent the evening at Mr. Bingham’s.
Thursday 14th.—Dined at Major [Thomas Lloyd] Moore’s (after being in Convention,) and spent the evening at my own lodgings.
Friday 15th.—In Convention as usual, dined at Mr. Powell’s & drank Tea there.
Saturday 16th.—In Convention, dined with the Club at the City Tavern, and drank Tea at Doctr. Shippings [Shippen] with Mrs. Livingston’s party.2
Sunday 17th.—Went to Church, heard Bishop White preach, and see him ordain two Gentlemen Deacons; after wch. rid 8 miles into the Country & dined with Mr. Jno. Ross, in Chester County; returned in the Afternoon.
Monday 18th.—Attended the Convention. Dined at the Quarterly Meeting of the Sons of St. Patrick—held at the City Tavern. Drank Tea at Doctr. Shippens with Mrs. Livingston.
Tuesday 19th.—Dined (after leaving Convention,) in a family way at Mr. Morris’s and spent the evening there in a very large company.
Wednesday 20th.—Attended Convention. Dined at Mr. Meredith’s, and drank Tea there.
Thursday 21st.—Attended Convention. Dined at Mr. Prager’s, and spent the evening in my chamber.
Friday 22nd.—Dined at Mr. Morris’s, & drank Tea with Mr. Frans. Hopkinson.
Saturday 23rd.—In Convention. Dined at Doctr. Rushton’s, and drank Tea at Mr. Morris’s.
Sunday 24th—Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and spent the evening at Mr. Meredith’s at Tea.
Monday 25th.—Attended Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, drank Tea there, and spent the evening in my Chamber.
Tuesday 26th.—Attended Convention. Partook of a family dinner with Govr. Randolph, and made one of a party to drink Tea at Gray’s ferry.
Wednesday 27th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, drank Tea there also, and spent the evening in my Chamber.
Thursday 28th.—Attended Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s in a large Company (the news of his Bills being protested arriving last night a little mal á propos) drank Tea there & spent the evening in my Chamber.
Friday 29th—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and spent the evening there.
Saturday 30th.—Attended Convention. Dined with a club at1 Springsbury, consisting of several associated families of the City, the Gentlemen of which met every Saturday, accompanied by the females of the families every other Saturday; this was the ladies day.2
Sunday 1st,July.—Dined & spent the evening at home.
Monday 2d.—Attended Convention. Dined with some of the Members of the Convention at the Indian Queen. Drank Tea at Mr. Bingham’s, and walked afterwards in the State house yard.
Set this morning for Mr. Pine who wanted to correct his portt. of me.
Tuesday 3rd.—Sat before the meeting of the Convention for Mr. Peale, who wanted my picture to make a print or Metzotinto by.
Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s. After which in Company with him, I attended the Agricultural Society at Carpenters Hall.
Wednesday 4th.—Visited Doctr. Shovat’s Anatomical figures, and (the Convention having adjourned for the purpose,) went to hear an Oration on the anniversary of Independence delivered1 by a Mr. Mitchell, a student of Law. After which I dined with the State Society of the Cincinnati, at Epplees Tavern, and drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s.
Thursday 5th.—Attended Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and drank Tea there; Spent the evening also.
Friday 6th.—Sat for Mr. Peale in the morning, attended Convention. Dined at the City Tavern with some members of Convention, and spent the evening at my lodgings.
Saturday 7th.—Attended Convention. Dined with the Club at Springsbury, and drank Tea at Mr. Meredith’s.
Sunday 8th.—About 12 o’clock rid to Doctr. Logan’s, near Germantown, where I dined. Returned in the evening, and drank Tea at Mr. Morris’s.
Monday 9th.—Sat in the morning for Mr. Peale. Attended Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, & accompanied Mrs Morris to Doctr. [John] Redman’s, 3 miles in the Country, where we drank Tea and returned.
Tuesday 10th.—Attended Convention, dined at Mr. Morris’s, drank Tea at Mr. Bingham’s, and went to the play.2
Wednesday 11th.—Attended Convention, dined at Mr. Morris’s and spent the evening there.
Thursday 12th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and drank Tea with Mrs. Livingston.
Friday 13th.—In Convention. Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Saturday 14th.—In Convention. Dined at Springsbury with the Club and went to the play in the afternoon.1
Sunday 15th.—Dined at Mr. Morris’s and remained at home all day.
Monday 16th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and drank Tea with Mrs. Powell.
Tuesday 17th.—In Convention. Dined at Mrs. House’s, and made an Excursion with a party for Tea to Gray’s Ferry.
Wednesday 18th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. [Robert] Milligan’s, & drank Tea at Mr. Meredeth’s.
Thursday 19th—Dined (after coming out of Convention) at Mr. John Penn, the Youngers—Drank Tea & spent the evening at my lodgings.
Friday 20th.—In Convention. Dined at home and drank Tea at Mr. Clymer’s.
Saturday 21st.—In Convention. Dined at Springsbury with the Club of Gentn. & Ladies. Went to the play afterwards.2
Sunday 22nd.—Left town by 5 o’clock A.M. Breakfasted at Genl. Mifflin’s, rode up with him & others to the Spring Mills and returned to Genl. Mifflin’s to dinner; after which proceeded to the City.
Monday 23rd.—In Convention as usual. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and drank Tea at Lansdown (The seat of Mr. Penn.)
Tuesday 24th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and drank Tea, by appointment, and partr. Invitation at Doctr. Rush’s.
Wednesday 25th.—In Convention.—Dined at Mr. Morris’s, drank Tea & spent the evening there.3
Thursday 26th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, drank Tea there, and stayed within all the afternoon.
Friday 27th.—In Convention, which adjourned this day, to meet again on Monday the 6th of August that a Comee. which had been appointed (consisting of 5 members) might have time to arrange, and draw into method and form the several matters which had been agreed to by the Convention as a constitution for the United States. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s.
Saturday 28th.—Dined with the club at Springsbury.—Drank Tea there, and spent the evening at my lodgings.
Sunday 29th.—Dined and spent the whole day at Mr. Morris’s, principally in writing letters.
Monday 30th.—In Company with Mr. Govr. Morris’s and in his Phaeton with my horses; went up to one Jane Moore’s in the vicinity of Valley forge to get Trout.
Tuesday 31st.—Whilst Mr. Morriss was fishing I rid over the old cantonment of the American [army] of the winter 1777 & 8, visited all the Works, wch. were in Ruins; and the Incampments in woods where the ground had not been cultivated. * * *
On my return to Mrs. Moores I found Mr. Robt. Morris & his lady there.
Wednesday, 1st August.—About 11 O’clock, after it had ceased raining, we all set out for the City and dined at Mr. Morris’s.
Thursday 2nd.—Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Friday 3rd.—In company with Mr. Robt. Morris and his lady, and Mr. Govr. Morris, I went up to Trenton on another fishing party. Lodged at Colo. Sam Ogden’s, at the Trenton Works. In the evening fished, not very successfully.
Saturday 4th.—In the morning & between Breakfast and dinner, fished again with more success (for perch) than yesterday. Dined at Genl. [Philemon] Dickenson’s on the east side of the river, a little above Trenton, & returned in the evening to Colo. Ogden’s.
Monday 6th.—Met according to adjournment in Convention, & received the rept. of the Committee. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and drank tea at Mr. Meredith’s.
Tuesday 7th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and spent the evening there also.
Wednesday 8th.—In Convention. Dined at the City Tavern, and remained there till near ten o’clock.
Thursday 9th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. [John] Swanwick’s, and spent the afternn. in my own room, reading letters and accts. from home.
Friday 10th.—Dined (after coming out of Convention) at Mr. Bingham’s, and drank Tea there; spent the evening at my lodgings.
Saturday 11th.—In Convention. Dined at the Club at Springsbury, and after Tea returned home.
Sunday 12th.—Dined at Bush-Hill with Mr. William Hamilton, spent the evening at home writing letters
Monday 13th.—In Convention.2 Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and drank Tea with Mrs. Bache, at the President’s.
Tuesday 14th.—In Convention. Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening at home.
Wednesday 15th.—The same as Yesterday.
Thursday 16th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. [Oliver] Pollock’s, & spent the evening in my Chamber.
Friday 17th.—In Convention. Dined and drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s.
Saturday 18th.—In Convention. Dined at Chief Justice. McKean’s—Spent the Afternoon & evening at my lodgings.
Sunday 19th.—In Company with Mr Powell rode up to the White Marsh. Traversed my old incampment, and contempleated on the dangers which threatened the American Army at that place. Dined at Germantown, visited Mr. Blair McClenegan, drank Tea at Mr. Peters’s, and returned to Philadelphia in the evening.1
Monday 20th.—In Convention. Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Tuesday 21st.—Did the like this day also.
Wednesday 22nd.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s farm at the Hills—visited at Mr. Powell’s in the Afternoon.
Thursday 23rd.—In Convention. Dined, drank Tea, & spent the evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Friday 24th.—Did the same this day.
Saturday 25th.—In Convention.—Dined with the Club at Springsbury, & spent the afternoon at my lodgings.
Sunday 26th.—Rode into the Country for exercise 8 or 10 miles. Dined at the Hills, and spent the evening in my chamber writing letters.
Monday 27th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s.
Tuesday 28th.—In Convention. Dined, drank Tea, and spent the evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Wednesday 29th.—Did the same as Yesterday.
Thursday 30th.—Again the same.
Friday 31st.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s, and with a Party went to Lansdale & drank Tea with Mr. and Mrs. Penn.
Saturday, 1stSeptember.—Dined at Mr. Morris’s after coming out of Convention, and drank Tea there.
Sunday 2nd.—Rode to Mr. Bartram’s and other places in the country, dined and drank tea at Gray’s ferry, and returned to the City in the evening.
Monday 3d.—In Convention Visited a Machine at Doctr. Franklin’s (called a mangle) for pressing, in place of Ironing, Clothes from the wash, which machine from the facility with which it dispatches business is well calculated for Table cloths & such articles as have not pleats & irregular foldings and would be very useful in all large families. Dined, drank Tea, & spent the evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Tuesday 4th.—In Convention. Dined &c. at Mr. Morris’s.
Wednesday 5th.—In Convention. Dined at Mrs. House’s, & drank Tea at Mr. Bingham’s.
Thursday 6th.—In Convention. Dined at Doctr. [James] Hutchinson’s and spent the Afternoon and evening at Mr. Morris’s.
Friday 7th.—In Convention. Dined, and spent the afternoon at home (except when riding a few miles).
Saturday 8th.—In Convention. Dined at Springsbury with the Club, and spent the evening at my lodgings.
Sunday 9th.—Dined at Mr. Morris’s after making a visit to Mr. Gardoqui, who, as he says, came from New York on a visit to me.
Monday 10th.—In Convention. Dined at Mr. Morris’s & drank Tea there.
Tuesday 11th.—In Convention. Dined at home in a large company with Mr. Gardoqui—drank Tea, and spent the evening there.
Wednesday 12th.—In Convention. Dined at the Presidents and drank Tea at Mr. Pine’s.
Thursday 13th.—Attended Convention. Dined at the Vice Presidents, Chas. Biddle’s, Drank Tea at Mr. Powell’s.
Friday 14th.—Attended Convention. Dined at the City Tavern, at an entertainmt. given on my acct. by the City Light Horse. Spent the evening at Mr. Merediths.
Saturday 15th.—Concluded the business, of Convention all to signing the proceedings, to effect which the House sat till 6 o’clock, and adjourned till Monday that the Constitution, which it was proposed to offer to the People might be engrossed, and a number of printed copies struck off. Dined at Mr. Morris’s and spent the evening there.
Mr. Gardoqui sat off for his return to New York this forenoon.
Sunday 16th.—Wrote many letters in the forenoon. Dined with Mr. & Mrs. Morris at the Hills, & returned to town in the evening.
Monday 17th.—Met in Convention, when the Constitution received the unanimous assent of 11 States and Colo. Hamilton’s from New York (the only delegate from thence in Convention), and was subscribed to by every member present, except Govr. Randolph and Colo. Mason from Virginia, & Mr. Gerry from Massachusetts.1
The business being thus closed, the members adjourned to the City Tavern, dined together, and took a cordial leave of each other. After which I returned to my lodgings, did some business with, and received the papers from the Secretary of the Convention,2 and retired to meditate on the momentous wk. which had been executed, after not less than five, for a large part of the time six and sometimes 7 hours sitting every day, Sundays & the ten days adjournment to give a Comee. opportunity & time to arrange the business for more than four months,1 [excepted.]
Tuesday 18th.—Finished what private business I had to do in the city this forenoon, took my leave of those families in wch. I had been most intimate, dined early at Mr. Morris’s with whom & Mr. Gouvr. Morris’s I parted at Gray’s ferry and reached Chester in company with Mr. [John] Blair, who I invited to a seat in my Carriage till we should reach Mount Vernon.2
Wednesday 19th.—Prevented by rain (much of which fell in the night) from setting off till about 8 o’clock, when it ceased, & promising to be fair we departed, baited at Wilmington, Dined at Christiana, and lodged at the head of Elk. At the bridge near to which my horses (two of them) and carriage had a very narrow escape, for the rain which had fallen the preceeding evening having swelled the water considerably there was no fording it safely, I was reduced to the necessity therefore of remaining on the other side or of attempting to cross on an old, rotten & long disused bridge. Being anxious, to get on, I prefered the latter and in the attempt one of my horses fell fifteen feet at least, the other very near following which (had it happened) would have taken the carriage with baggage along with him and destroyed the whole effectually; however by prompt assistance of some people at a mill just by and great exertion, the first horse was disengaged from his harness, the 2d. prevented from going quite through and drawn off, and the Carriage secured from hurt.
Thursday 20th.—Sett off after an early breakfast, crossed the Susquehanna and dined in Havre de Gras at the House of one Roger’s—and lodged at Skirrett’s Tavern, 12 miles short of Baltimore.
Friday 21st.—Breakfasted in Baltimore, dined at the Widow Balls (formerly Spurrier’s), and lodged at Major Snowden’s, who was not at home.
Saturday 22nd.—Breakfasted at Bladensburgh, and, passing through George Town, dined in Alexandria and reached home (with Mr. Blair) about sun set, after an absence of four months and 14 days.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Philadelphia, 30 May, 1787.
* * * * * *
I come now to the other part of your letter, which concerns the Cincinnati, on which indeed I scarcely know what to say. It is a delicate, it is a perplexing subject. Not having the extract from the Encyclopedia before me, I cannot now undertake to enter into the merits of the publication.1 It may therefore be as much as will be expected from me to observe, that the author appears in general to have detailed very candidly and ingenuously the motives and inducements, which give birth to the Society. Some of the subsequent facts, which I cannot, however, from memory pretend to discuss with precision, are thought by gentlemen, who have seen the publication, to be misstated; insomuch that it is commonly said, truth and falsehood are so intimately blended, that it will become very difficult to sever them.
For myself, I only recollect two or three circumstances, in the narration of which palpable mistakes seem to have insinuated themselves. Monsieur L’Enfant did not arrive and bring the eagles during the session of the general meeting, but some time before that convention. The legislature of Rhode Island never passed any act whatever on the subject, (that ever came to my knowledge,) notwithstanding what Mirabeau and others had previously advanced. Nothing can be more ridiculous than the supposition of the author, that the Society was instituted partly because the country could not then pay the army, except the assertion that the United States have now made full and complete provision for paying, not only the arrearages due to the officers, but the half-pay or commutation at their option; from whence the author deduces an argument for its dissolution. I conceive this never had any thing to do with the institution, yet the officers in most of the States, who never have nor I believe expect to receive one farthing of the principal or interest on their final settlement securities, would be much obliged to the author to convince them how and when they received a compensation for their services. No foreigner, or American, who has been absent some time, will easily comprehend how tender those concerned are on this point. I am sorry to say, a great many of the officers consider me as having in a degree committed myself by inducing them to trust too much in the justice of their country. They heartily wish no settlement had been made, because it has rendered them obnoxious to their fellow citizens, without affording them the least emolument.
For the reason I first mentioned, I cannot think it expedient for me to go into an investigation of the writer’s deductions. I shall accordingly content myself with giving you some idea of the part I have acted, posterior to the first formation of the association.
When I found that you and many of the most respectable characters in the country would entirely acquiesce with the institution, as altered and amended in the first general meeting of 1784, and that the objections against the hereditary and other obnoxious parts were wholly done away, I was prevailed upon to accept the presidency. Happy in finding, (so far as I could learn by assiduous inquiry,) that all the clamors and jealousies, which had been excited against the original association, had ceased, I judged it a proper time in the last autumn to withdraw myself from any farther agency in the business, and to make my retirement complete, agreeably to my original plan. I wrote circular letters to all the State Societies announcing my wishes, informing that I did not propose to be at the general meeting, and requested not to be reëlected president. This was the last step of a public nature I expected ever to have taken. But, having since been appointed by my native State to attend the national convention, and having been pressed to a compliance in a manner, which it hardly becomes me to describe, I have, in a measure, been obliged to sacrifice my own sentiments, and to be present in Philadelphia at the very time of the general meeting of the Cincinnati. After which I was not at liberty to decline the presidency, without placing myself in an extremely disagreeable situation with relation to that brave and faithful class of men, whose persevering patriotism and friendship I had experienced on so many trying occasions.
The business of this convention is as yet too much in embryo to form any opinion of the conclusion. Much is expected from it by some; not much by others; and nothing by a few. That something is necessary, none will deny; for the situation of the general government, if it can be called a government, is shaken to its foundation, and liable to be overturned by every blast. In a word, it is at an end; and, unless a remedy is soon applied, anarchy and confusion will inevitably ensue. But having greatly exceeded the bounds of a letter, I will only add assurances of that esteem, regard, and respect, with which I have the honor to be, &c.
TO DAVID STUART.
Philadelphia, 1 July, 1787.
I have been favored with your letter of the 17th ultimo. * * *
Rhode Island, from our last accts. still perseveres in that impolitic, unjust, and one might add without much impropriety scandalous conduct, which seems to have marked all her public Councils of late. Consequently, no Representation is yet here from thence. New Hampshire, tho’ Delegates have been appointed, is also unrepresented. Various causes have been assigned, whether well, or ill-founded I shall not take upon me to decide. The fact, however, is that they are not here. Political contests, and want of money, are amidst the reasons assigned for the non-attendance of the members.
As the rules of the convention prevent me from relating any of the proceedings of it, and the gazettes contain, more fully than I could detail, other occurrences of a public nature, I have little to communicate to you on the article of news. Happy indeed would it be, if the convention shall be able to recommend such a firm and permanent government for this Union, that all who live under it may be secure in their lives, liberty, and property; and thrice happy would it be, if such a recommendation should obtain. Every body wishes, every body expects something from the convention; but what will be the final result of its deliberation, the book of fate must disclose. Persuaded I am, that the primary cause of all our disorders lies in the different State governments, and in the tenacity of that power, which pervades the whole of their systems. Whilst independent sovereignty is so ardently contended for, whilst the local views of each State, and separate interests, by which they are too much governed, will not yield to a more enlarged scale of politics, incompatibility in the laws of different States, and disrespect to those of the general government, must render the situation of this great country weak, inefficient, and disgraceful. It has already done so, almost to the final dissolution of it. Weak at home and disregarded abroad is our present condition, and contemptible enough it is.
Entirely unnecessary was it to offer any apology for the sentiments you were so obliging as to offer me. I have had no wish more ardent, through the whole progress of this business, than that of knowing what kind of government is best calculated for us to live under. No doubt there will be a diversity of sentiments on this important subject; and, to inform the judgment, it is necessary to hear all arguments that can be advanced. To please all is impossible, and to attempt it would be vain. The only way, therefore, is, under all the views in which it can be placed, and with a due consideration to circumstances, habits, &c., &c., to form such a government as will bear the scrutinizing eye of criticism, and trust it to the good sense and patriotism of the people to carry it into effect. Demagogues, men who are unwilling to lose any of their State consequence, and interested characters in each, will oppose any general government. But let these be regarded rightly, and justice, it is to be hoped, will at length prevail. My best wishes attend Mrs. Stuart, yourself, and the girls. If I can render any service whilst I remain here, I shall be happy in doing it. I am, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 10 July, 1787.
I thank you for your communication of the 3d. When I refer you to the state of the counsels, which prevailed at the period you left this city, and add that they are now if possible in a worse train than ever, you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment can be formed. In a word, I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of our convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.
The men, who oppose a strong and energetic government, are in my opinion narrow-minded politicians, or are under the influence of local views. The apprehension expressed by them, that the people will not accede to the form proposed, is the ostensible, not the real cause of opposition. But, admitting that the present sentiment is as they prognosticate, the proper question ought nevertheless to be, Is it, or is it not, the best form that such a country as this can adopt? If it be the best, recommend it, and it will assuredly obtain, maugre opposition. I am sorry you went away. I wish you were back. The crisis is equally important and alarming, and no opposition, under such circumstances, should discourage exertions till the signature is offered. I will not at this time trouble you with more than my best wishes and sincere regard.
I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Philadelphia, 19 July, 1787.
I have had the honor to receive your favor of the 15th instant, and thank you for the ordinance which was enclosed in it. My sentiments, with respect to the navigation of the Mississippi, have been long fixed, and are not dissimilar to those, which are expressed in your letter. I have ever been of opinion, that the true policy of the Atlantic States, would be instead of contending prematurely for the free navigation of that river (which eventually, and perhaps as soon as it shall be our true interest to obtain it,) must happen, to open and improve the natural communications with the western country, through which the produce of it might be transported with convenience and ease to our markets. Till you get low down the Ohio, I conceive, that it would, (considering the length of the voyage to New Orleans, the difficulty of the current, and the time necessary to perform it in,) be the interest of the inhabitants to bring their produce to our ports; and sure I am, there is no other tie by which they will long form a link in the chain of federal union. I believe, however, from the temper in which those people appear to be, and from the ambitious and turbulent spirit of some of their demagogues, that it has become a moot point to determine, (when every circumstance which attends this business is brought into view,) what is best to be done. The State of Virginia having taken the matter up with so high a hand, is not among the least embarrassing or disagreeable parts of the difficulty. * * *
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO PATRICK HENRY.
Mount Vernon, 24 September, 1787.
In the first moment after my return, I take the liberty of sending you a copy of the constitution, which the federal convention has submitted to the people of these States. I accompany it with no observations. Your own judgment will at once discover the good and the exceptionable parts of it; and your experience of the difficulties, which have ever arisen when attempts have been made to reconcile such variety of interests and local prejudices, as pervade the several States, will render explanation unnecessary. I wish the constitution, which is offered, had been made more perfect; but I sincerely believe it is the best that could be obtained at this time. And, as a constitutional door is opened for amendment hereafter, the adoption of it, under the present circumstances of the Union, is in my opinion desirable.
From a variety of concurring accounts it appears to me, that the political concerns of this country are in a manner suspended by a thread, and that the convention has been looked up to, by the reflecting part of the community, with a solicitude which is hardly to be conceived; and, if nothing had been agreed on by that body, anarchy would soon have ensued, the seeds being deeply sown in every soil. I am, &c.1
TO COLONEL DAVID HUMPHREYS.
Mount Vernon, 10 October, 1787.
My dear Humphreys,
Your favor of the 28th Ulto. came duly to hand, as did the former of June. With great pleasure I received the intimation of your spending the winter under this Roof.—The invitation was not less sincere, than the reception will be cordial. The only stipulations I shall contend for are, that in all things you shall do as you please—I will do the same; and that no ceremony may be used or any restraint be imposed on any one.
The Constitution that is submitted, is not free from imperfections, but there are as few radical defects in it as could well be expected, considering the heterogenious mass of which the Convention was composed and the diversity of interests that are to be attended to. As a Constitutional door is opened for future amendments and alterations, I think it would be wise in the People to accept what is offered to them and I wish it may be by as great a majority of them as it was by that of the Convention; but this is hardly to be expected because the importance and sinister views of too many characters, will be affected by the change.—Much will depend however upon literary abilities, and the recommendation of it by good pens should be openly, I mean, publickly afforded in the Gazettes.—Go matters however as they may, I shall have the consolation to reflect that no objects but the public good—and that peace and harmony which I wished to see prevail in the Convention, obtruded even for a moment in my bosom during the whole Session long as it was—What reception this State will give to the proceedings in all its extent of territory, is more than I can inform you of; in these parts it is advocated beyond my expectation—the great opposition (if great there should be) will come from the Southern and Western Counties from whence I have not as yet, received any accounts that are to be depended on.
I condole with you on the loss of your Parents; but as they lived to a good old age you could not be unprepared for the shock, tho’ it is painful to bid an everlasting adieu to those we love, or revere.—Reason, Religion and Philosophy may soften the anguish of it, but time alone can eradicate it.
As I am beginning to look for you, I shall add no more in this letter but the wishes of the Family and the affectionate regards of a Sincere friend, &c.
TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS.
Mount Vernon, 10 October, 1787.
My dear Sir,
I thank you for your letter of the 30th ultimo. It came by the last post. I am better pleased, that the proceedings of the convention are submitted from Congress by a unanimous vote, feeble as it is, than if they had appeared under strong marks of approbation without it. This apparent unanimity will have its effect. Not every one has opportunities to peep behind the curtain; and, as the multitude are often deceived by externals, the appearance of unanimity in that body on this occasion will be of great importance. The political tenets of Colo. M[ason] and Colo. R. H. L[ee] are always in unison. It may be asked which of them gives the tone. Without hesitation I answer the latter, because I believe the latter will receive it from no one. He has I am informed rendered himself obnoxious in Philadelphia, by the pains he took to disseminate his objections amongst some of the leaders of the seceding members of the Legislature of that State. His conduct is not less reprobated in this country; how it will be relished generally is yet to be learnt by me.1
As far as accounts have been received from the southern and western counties, the sentiment with respect to the proceedings of the convention is favorable. Whether the knowledge of this, or conviction of the impropriety of withholding the constitution from State conventions, has worked most in the breast of Colonel Mason, I will not decide; but the fact is, he has declared unequivocally, in a letter to me, for its going to the people. Had his sentiments, however, been opposed to the measure, his instructions, which are given by the freeholders of this county to their representatives, would have secured his vote for it. Yet I have no doubt, but that his assent will be accompanied by the most tremendous apprehensions, which the highest coloring can give to his objections. To alarm the people seems to be the groundwork of his plan. The want of a qualified navigation act is already declared to be a mean by which the price of produce in the southern States will be reduced to nothing, and will become monopoly of the eastern and northern States. To enumerate the whole of his objections is unnecessary, because they are detailed in the address of the seceding members of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, (which no doubt you have seen.)1
I scarcely think any powerful opposition will be made to the constitution’s being submitted to a convention of the people of this State. If it is given, it will be there, at which I hope you will make it convenient to be present. Explanations will be wanting, and none can give them with more accuracy and propriety than yourself. The sentiments of Mr. Henry, with respect to the constitution, are not known in these parts. Mr. Joseph Jones, who it seems was in Alexandria before the convention broke up, was of opinion, that they would not be inimical to the proceedings of it. Others think, as the advocate of a paper emission, he cannot be friendly to a constitution which is an effectual bar.
From circumstances, which have been related, it is conjectured that the Governor1 wishes he had been among the subscribing members; but time will disclose more than we know at present, with respect to the whole of the business, and, when I hear more, I will write to you again. In the mean while I pray you to be assured of the sincere regard and affection with which I am, my dear Sir, &c.
P. S. Having received, (in a letter) from Colonel Mason, a detail in writing of his objections to the proposed constitution, I enclose you a copy of them.2
TO HENRY KNOX.
Mount Vernon, October, 1787.
My dear Sir,
Your favor of the 3d instant came duly to hand. The fourth day after leaving Philadelphia I reached home, and found Mrs. Washington and the family tolerably well, but the fruits of the earth almost entirely destroyed by one of the severest droughts (in this neighborhood,) that has ever been experienced. The crops pretty generally have been injured in this State below the mountains, but not to the degree that mine, and some others in a small circle around me, have suffered.
The constitution is now before the judgment-seat. It has, as was expected, its adversaries and supporters. Which will preponderate is yet to be decided. The former more than probably will be most active, as the major part of them will, it is to be feared, be governed by sinister and self-important motives, to which every thing in their breasts must yield. The opposition from another class of them may perhaps, (if they should be men of reflection, candor, and information,) subside in the solution of the following simple questions. 1. Is the constitution, which is submitted by the convention, preferable to the government, (if it can be called one,) under which we now live? 2. Is it probable that more confidence would at the time be placed in another convention, provided the experiment should be tried, than was placed in the last one, and is it likely that a better agreement would take place therein? What would be the consequences if these should not happen, or even from the delay, which must inevitably follow such an experiment? Is there not a constitutional door open for alterations or amendments? and is it not likely that real defects will be as readily discovered after as before trial? and will not our successors be as ready to apply the remedy as ourselves, if occasion should require it? To think otherwise will, in my judgment, be ascribing more of the amor patriæ, more wisdom and more virtue to ourselves, than I think we deserve.
It is highly probable, that the refusal of our Governor and Colonel Mason to subscribe to the proceedings of the convention will have a bad effect in this State; for, as you well observe, they must not only assign reasons for the justification of their own conduct, but it is highly probable that these reasons will be clothed in most terrific array for the purpose of alarming.1 Some things are already addressed to the fears of the people, and will no doubt have their effect. As far, however, as the sense of this part of the country has been taken, it is strongly in favor of the proposed constitution. Further I cannot speak with precision. If a powerful opposition is given to it, the weight thereof will, I apprehend, come from the south side of James River, and from the western counties. I am, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Mount Vernon, 18 October, 1787.
Your favor without date came to my hand by the last post. It is with unfeigned concern I perceive that a political dispute has arisen between Governor Clinton and yourself. For both of you I have the highest esteem and regard. But, as you say it is insinuated by some of your political adversaries, and may obtain credit, “that you palmed yourself upon me, and was dismissed from my family,” and call upon me to do you justice by a recital of the facts, I do therefore explicitly declare, that both charges are entirely unfounded. With respect to the first, I have no cause to believe, that you took a single step to accomplish, or had the most distant idea of receiving an appointment in my family till you were invited into it; and, with respect to the second, that your quitting it was altogether the effect of your own choice.
When the situation of this country calls loudly for vigor and unanimity, it is to be lamented that gentlemen of talents and character should disagree in their sentiments for promoting the public weal; but unfortunately this ever has been, and most probably ever will be, the case in the affairs of mankind.
Having scarcely been from home since my return from Philadelphia, I can give little information with respect to the general reception of the new constitution in this State. In Alexandria, however, and some of the adjacent counties, it was embraced with an enthusiastic warmth of which I had no conception. I expect, notwithstanding, violent opposition will be given to it by some characters of weight and influence in the State. Mrs. Washington unites with me in best wishes to Mrs. Hamilton and yourself. I am, &c.
TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS.
Mount Vernon, 22 October, 1787.
My dear Sir,
When I wrote to you last, I was possessed of very little information of the sentiments of this State on the new constitution beyond the circle of Alexandria. Since, by the last post, I have received a letter from a member of the assembly in Richmond,1 containing the following paragraphs.
“I believe such an instance has not happened before since the revolution, that there should be a House on the first day of the session, and business immediately taken up. This was not only the case on Monday, but there was a full House when Mr. Prentiss was called up to the chair as speaker, there being no opposition. Thus the session has commenced peaceably.
“It gives me much pleasure to inform you, that the sentiments of the members are infinitely more favorable to the constitution, than the most zealous advocates for it could have expected. I have not met with one in all my inquiries (and I have made them with great diligence) opposed to it, except Mr. Henry, who I have heard is so, but could only conjecture it from a conversation with him on the subject. Other members, who have also been active in their inquiries, tell me that they have met with none opposed to it. It is said, however, that old Mr. Cabell of Amherst disapproves of it. Mr. Nicholas has declared himself a warm friend to it. The transmissory note of Congress was before us to day, when Mr. Henry declared, that it transcended our powers to decide on the constitution, that it must go before a convention,—as it was insinuated he would aim at preventing this, much pleasure was discovered at the declaration.
“Thursday next (the 25th) is fixed upon for taking up the question of calling the convention, and fixing the time of its meeting. In the mean time five thousand copies are ordered to be printed, to be dispersed by the members in their respective counties for the information of the people. I cannot forbear mentioning, that the Chancellor Pendleton espouses the constitution so warmly, as to declare he will give it his aid in a convention if his health will permit. As there are few better judges of such subjects, this must be deemed a fortunate circumstance.”
As the above quotation is the sum of my information, I shall add nothing more on the subject of the proposed government at this time.
Mr. C. Pinckney is unwilling, (I perceive by the enclosures contained in your favor of the 13th,) to lose any fame that can be acquired by the publication of his sentiments. If the subject of the navigation of the Mississippi could have remained as silent, and glided as gently down the stream of time for a while, as the waters do that are contained within the banks, it would, I confess, have comported more with my ideas of sound policy, than any decision that can be come to at this day. With sentiments the most affectionate and friendly, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MATHEW CAREY.
Mount Vernon, 29 October, 1787.
The last post brought me your letter of the 22d.—your application to me for the loan of £100 is an evidence of your unacquaintedness with my inability to lend money. To be candid—my expenditures are never behind my income—and this year (occasioned by the severest drouth that ever was known in this neighborhood) instead of selling grain which heretofore has been my principal source of revenue it is not £500 that will purchase enough for the support of my family.—After this disclosure of my situation you will be readily persuaded that inclination to serve without the means of accomplishing it, is of little avail.—This however is the fact so far as it respects the point in question.
As you seem anxious that the contents of your letter should not be known I put it in your own power to destroy it by returning it under the same cover with this.
I wish sucess to your Museum, and am, &c.1
TO ARCHIBALD JOHNSTON.
Mount Vernon, 30 October, 1787.
My fixed determination is, that no person whatever shall hunt upon my grounds or waters.—To grant leave to one, and refuse another, would not only be drawing a line of discrimination which would be offensive, but would subject one to great inconvenience—for my strict and positive orders to all my people are if they hear a gun fired upon my Land to go immediately in pursuit of it.—Permission therefore to any one would keep them either always in pursuit—or make them inattentive to my orders under the supposition of its belonging to a licensed person by which means I should be obtruded upon by others who to my cost I find had other objects in view. Besides, as I have not lost my relish for this sport when I can find time to indulge myself in it, and Gentlemen who come to the House are pleased with it, it is my wish not to have the game within my jurisdiction disturbed. For these reasons I beg you will not take my refusal amiss, because I would give the same to my brother if he lived off my land.
I am, &c.
TO ARTHUR YOUNG.
Mount Vernon, 1 November, 1787.
* * * * * *
Before I undertake to give the information you request, respecting the arrangements of farms in this neighborhood, &c., I must observe that there is, perhaps, scarcely any part of America, where farming has been less attended to than in this State. The cultivation of tobacco has been almost the sole object with men of landed property, and consequently a regular course of crops have never been in view. The general custom has been, first to raise a crop of Indian corn (maize) which according to the mode of cultivation, is a good preparation for wheat; then a crop of wheat; after which the ground is respited (except from weeds, and every trash that can contribute to its foulness) for about eighteen months; and so on, alternately, without any dressing, till the land is exhausted; when it is turned out, without being sown with grass-seeds, or any method taken to restore it; and another piece is ruined in the same manner. No more cattle is raised than can be supported by lowland meadows, swamps, &c., and the tops and blades of Indian corn; as very few persons have attended to sowing grasses, and connecting cattle with their crops. The Indian corn is the chief support of the laborers and horses. Our lands, as I mentioned in my first letter to you, were originally very good; but use, and abuse, have made them quite otherwise.
The above is the mode of cultivation which has been generally pursued here, but the system of husbandry which has been found so beneficial in England, and which must be greatly promoted by your valuable annals, is now gaining ground. There are several (among which I may class myself), who are endeavoring to get into your regular and systematic course of cropping, as fast as the nature of the business will admit; so that I hope in the course of a few years, we shall make a more respectable figure as farmers, than we have hitherto done.
I will, agreeable to your desire, give you the prices of our products as nearly as I am able; but you will readily conceive from the foregoing account, that they cannot be given with any precision. Wheat, for the four last years, will average about 4s. sterling per bushel, of eight gallons. Rye, about 2s. 4d.—Oats, 1s. 6d.—Beans, pease, &c., have not been sold in any quantities.—Barley is not made here, from a prevailing opinion that the climate is not adapted to it; I however, in opposition to prejudice, sowed about 50 bushels last spring, and found that it yielded a proportionate quantity with any other kind of grain which I sowed; I might add, more. Cows may be bought at about 3l. sterling, per head. Cattle for the slaughter vary from 2¼d. to 4½d. sterling per lb., the former being the current price in summer; the latter in the winter or spring. Sheep at 12s. sterling, per head; and wool at 1s. sterling per lb. I am not able to give you the price of labor, as the land is cultivated here wholly by slaves, and the price of labor in the towns is fluctuating, and governed altogether by circumstances. * * *1
TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS.
Mount Vernon, 5 November, 1787.
My dear Sir,
Your favor of the 18th ulto. came duly to hand.—As no subject is more interesting, and seems so much to engross the attention of every one as the proposed Constitution I shall, (though it is probable your communications from Richmond are regular and full with respect to this, and other matters, which employ the consideration of the Assembly) give you the extract of a letter from Doct. Stuart, which follows—
“Yesterday (the 26th of Oct.) according to appointment, the calling of a Convention of the people was discussed.—Though no one doubted a pretty general unanimity on this question ultimately, yet, it was feared from the avowed opposition of Mr. Henry and Mr. Harrison, that an attempt would be made, to do it in a manner that would convey to the people an unfavorable impression of the opinion of the House with respect to the Constitution; and this was accordingly attempted.—It was however soon baffled.—The motion was to this effect; that a Convention should be called to adopt—reject—or amend—the proposed Constitution.—
“As this conveyed an idea that the House conceived an amendment necessary it was rejected as improper.—It now stands recommended to them, on (I think) unexceptionable ground, for their full and free consideration.—My colleague arrived here on the evening before this question was taken up; I am apt to think that the opponents to the Constitution were much disappointed in their expectations of support from him, as he not only declared himself in the fullest manner for a Convention, but also, that notwithstanding his objections, so federal was he, that he would adopt it, if nothing better could be obtained.—The time at which the Convention is to meet, is fixed to the first of June next.—The variety of sentiments on this subject was almost infinite; neither friends or foes agreeing in any one period.—There is to be no exclusion of persons on acct. of their Offices.1
“Notwithstanding this decision the accounts of the prevailing sentiments without, especially on James river and Westwardly, are various.—Nothing decisive, I believe, can be drawn—As far as I can form an opinion however, from different persons, it should seem as if Men judged of others, by their own affection or disaffection to the proposed government.—In the Northern Neck the sentiment I believe, is very generally for it.—I think it will be found such thro the State.”
The Doctor further adds:
“The subject of British debts was taken up the other day when Mr. Henry, reflected in a very warm declamatory manner, on the circular letter of Congress, on that subject.—It is a great and important matter and I hope will be determined as it should be notwithstanding his opposition.”1
So far as the sentiments of Maryland, with respect to the proposed Constitution, have come to my knowledge, they are strongly in favor of it; but as this is the day on which the Assembly of that State ought to meet, I will say nothing in anticipation of the opinion of it. Mr. Carroll of Carrolton, and Mr. Thos. Johnson, are declared friends to it.
With sincere regards and affect.
TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 10 November, 1787.
In due course of post your letters of the 19th and 26th ultimo came to hand, and I thank you for the communications therein,—for a continuation in matters of importance I shall be obliged to you. That the Assembly would afford the people an opportunity of deciding on the proposed constitution, I had scarcely a doubt. The only question with me was, whether it would go forth under favorable auspices, or receive the stamp of disapprobation. The opponents I expected (for it ever has been, that the adversaries to a measure are more active than its friends,) would endeavor to stamp it with unfavorable impressions, in order to bias the judgment, that is ultimately to decide on it. This is evidently the case with the writers in opposition, whose objections are better calculated to alarm the fears, than to convince the judgment, of their readers. They build their objections upon principles, that do not exist, which the constitution does not support them in, and the existence of which has been, by an appeal to the constitution itself, flatly denied; and then, as if they were unanswerable, draw all the dreadful consequences that are necessary to alarm the apprehensions of the ignorant or unthinking. It is not the interest of the major part of those characters to be convinced; nor will their local views yield to arguments, which do not accord with their present or future prospects.
A candid solution of a single question, to which the plainest understanding is competent, does, in my opinion, decide the dispute; namely, Is it best for the States to unite or not to unite? If there are men, who prefer the latter, then unquestionably the constitution which is offered must, in their estimation, be wrong from the words, “We the people,” to the signature, inclusively; but those, who think differently, and yet object to parts of it, would do well to consider, that it does not lie with any one State, or the minority of the States, to superstruct a constitution for the whole. The separate interests, as far as it is practicable, must be consolidated; and local views must be attended to, as far as the nature of the case will admit. Hence it is, that every State has some objection to the present form, and these objections are directed to different points. That which is most pleasing to one is obnoxious to another, and so vice versâ. If then the union of the whole is a desirable object, the component parts must yield a little in order to accomplish it. Without the latter, the former is unattainable; for again I repeat it, that not a single State, nor the minority of the States, can force a constitution on the majority. But, admitting the power, it will surely be granted, that it cannot be done without involving scenes of civil commotion, of a very serious nature.
Let the opponents of the proposed constitution in this State be asked, and it is a question they certainly ought to have asked themselves, what line of conduct they would advise to adopt, if nine other States, of which I think there is little doubt, should accede to the constitution. Would they recommend, that it should stand single? Will they connect it with Rhode Island? Or even with two others checkerwise, and remain with them, as outcasts from the society, to shift for themselves? Or will they return to their dependence on Great Britain? Or, lastly, have the mortification to come in when they will be allowed no credit for doing so?
The warmest friends and the best supporters the constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable, and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise therefrom, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment it is not to be obtained; and, as there is a constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge), can, as they will have the advantage of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary, as ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.
The power under the constitution will always be in the people. It is intrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and, whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can and undoubtedly will be recalled. It is agreed on all hands, that no government can be well administered without powers; yet, the instant these are delegated, although those, who are intrusted with the administration, are no more than the creatures of the people, act as it were but for a day, and are amenable for every false step they take, they are, from the moment they receive it, set down as tyrants; their natures, they would conceive from this, immediately changed, and that they can have no other disposition but to oppress. Of these things, in a government constituted and guarded as ours is, I have no idea; and do firmly believe, that, whilst many ostensible reasons are assigned to prevent the adoption of it, the real ones are concealed behind the curtains, because they are not of a nature to appear in open day. I believe further, supposing them pure, that as great evils result from too great jealousy as from the want of it. We need look, I think, no further for proof of this, than to the constitution of some, if not all, of these States. No man is a warmer advocate for proper restraints and wholesome checks in every department of government, than I am; but I have never yet been able to discover the propriety of placing it absolutely out of the power of men to render essential services, because a possibility remains of their doing ill.
If Mr. Ronald can place the finances of this country upon so respectable a footing as he has intimated, he will deserve much of its thanks. In the attempt, my best wishes, I have nothing more to offer, will accompany him. I hope there remains virtue enough in the Assembly of this State to preserve inviolate public treaties and private contracts. If these are infringed, farewell to respectability and safety in the government.
I have possessed a doubt, but if any had existed in my breast, reiterated proofs would have convinced me of the impolicy of all commutable taxes. If we cannot learn wisdom from experience, it is hard to say where it is to be found. But why talk of learning it. These things are mere jobs, by which few are enriched at the public expense; for, whether premeditation or ignorance is the cause of this destructive scheme, it ends in oppression.
You have, I find, broke the ice. The only advice I will offer to you on the occasion (if you have a mind to command the attention of the House,) is to speak seldom, but to important subjects, except such as particularly relate to your constituents; and, in the former case, make yourself perfectly master of the subject. Never exceed a decent warmth, and submit your sentiments with diffidence. A dictatorial stile, though it may carry conviction, is always accompanied with disgust. I am, &c.
TO THOMAS JOHNSON.
Mount Vernon, 22 November, 1787.
The lettter with which you have been pleased to honor me, dated the 16th inst., came to my hand the day before yesterday. By to-morrow’s Post this answer will be forwarded to you.
Mr. Rumsey has given you an uncandid account of his explanation to me of the principle on which his boat was to be propelled against stream. At the time he exhibited his model and obtained certificate, I have no reason to believe that the use of steam was contemplated by him, sure I am it was not mentioned; and equally certain I am, that it would not apply to the project he then had in view; the first communication of which was made to me in September, 1784 (at the springs in Berkley). The Novr. following, being in Richmond, I met Mr. Rumsey there who was at that time applying to the Assembly for a exclusive Act. He then spoke of the effect of steam and the conviction he was under of the usefulness of its application for inland navigation; but I did not then conceive, nor have I done so at any moment since, that it was suggested as a part of his original plan, but rather as the ebullition of his genius.
It is proper, however, for me to add that some time after this Mr. Fitch called upon me on his way to Richmond, and explaining his scheme, wanted a letter from me, introductory of it to the Assembly of this State, the giving of which I declined; and went on to inform him, that tho’ I was bound not to disclose the principles of Mr. Rumsey’s discovery, I could venture to assure him that the thought of applying steam for the purpose he mentioned was not original, but had been mentioned to me by Mr. Rumsey—this I thought myself obliged to say, that whichever (if either) of them was the discoverer might derive the benefit of the invention. To the best of my recollection of what passed between Mr. Rumsey and me, the foregoing is an impartial recital. * * *
TO DAVID STUART.
Mount Vernon, 30 November, 1787.
Your favor of the 14th came duly to hand. I am sorry to find by it, that the opposition gains strength. I do not wonder much at this. The adversaries to a measure are generally, if not always, more violent and active than the advocates, and frequently employ means, which the others do not, to accomplish their ends.
I have seen no publication yet, that ought in my judgment to shake the proposed constitution in the mind of an impartial and candid public. In fine, I have hardly seen one, that is not addressed to the passions of the people, and obviously calculated to alarm their fears. Every attempt to amend the constitution at this time is in my opinion idle and vain. If there are characters, who prefer disunion, or separate confederacies, to the general government, which is offered to them, their opposition may, for aught I know, proceed from principle; but, as nothing, according to my conception of the matter, is more to be deprecated than a disunion or these distinct confederacies, as far as my voice can go it shall be offered in favor of the latter. That there are some writers, and others perhaps who may not have written, that wish to see this union divided into several confederacies, is pretty evident. As an antidote to these opinions, and in order to investigate the ground of objections to the constitution which is submitted, the Federalist, under the signature of Publius, is written. The numbers, which have been published, I send you. If there is a printer in Richmond, who is really well disposed to support the new constitution, he would do well to give them a place in his paper. They are, I think I may venture to say, written by able men; and before they are finished will, or I am mistaken, place matters in a true point of light. Although I am acquainted with the writers, who have a hand in this work, I am not at liberty to mention names, nor would I have it known, that they are sent by me to you for promulgation.1
You will recollect, that the business of the Potomac Company is withheld from the Assembly of Maryland until it is acted upon in this State; that the sitting of that Assembly is expected to be short; and that our operations may be suspended, if there is no other recourse to be had than to common law process to obtain the dividends, which are called for by the directors and not paid by the subscribers.
Certificate and commutable taxes I hope will be done away,2 and that the Assembly will not interfere either with public treaties or private contracts. Bad indeed must the situation of that country be, when this is the case. With great pleasure I received the information respecting the commencement of my nephew’s political course. I hope he will not be so buoyed by the favorable impression it has made, as to become a babbler. If the convention was such a tumultuous and disorderly body as a certain gentleman has represented, [it was due] in a great measure, to a few dissatisfied characters who would not submit to the decisions of a majority thereof. * * *
I am, dear Sir, your most obedient, &c.
TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS.
Mount Vernon, 7 December, 1787.
My dear Sir,
Since my last to you, I have been favored with your letters of the 28th of October and 18th of November. With the last came seven numbers of the Federalist, under the signature of Publius, for which I thank you. They are forwarded to a gentleman in Richmond for republication; the doing of which in this State will, I am persuaded, have a good effect, as there are certainly characters, who are no friends to a general government; perhaps I should not go too far was I to add, who have no great objection to the introduction of anarchy and confusion.
The solicitude to discover what the several State legislatures would do with the constitution is now transferred to the several conventions; the decisions of which, being more interesting and conclusive, is consequently more anxiously expected than the other. What Pennsylvania and Delaware have done, or will do, must soon be known. Other conventions to the northward and eastward of them are treading closely on their heels; but what the three southern States have done, or in what light the new constitution is viewed by them, I have not been able to learn. North Carolina, it has been said, “by some accounts from Richmond,” will be governed in a great measure by the conduct of Virginia. The pride of South Carolina will not, I conceive, suffer this influence to work in her councils; and the disturbances in Georgia will, or I am mistaken, show the people of it the propriety of being united, and the necessity there is for a general government. If these, with the States eastward and northward of us, should accede to the federal government, I think the citizens of this State will have no cause to bless the opposers of it here, if they should carry their point. A paragraph in the Baltimore paper has announced a change in the sentiments of Mr. Jay on this subject, and adds, that, from being an admirer of the new form, he has become a bitter enemy to it. This relation, without knowing Mr. Jay’s opinion, I discredit, from a conviction, that he would consider the matter well before he would pass any judgment, and having done so would not change his opinion almost in the same breath.—I am anxious however to know on what ground this report originates, especially the indelicacy of the expression. It is very unlikely, therefore, that a man of his knowledge and foresight should turn on both sides of a question in so short a space.1
It would have given me great pleasure to have complied with your request in behalf of your foreign acquaintance. At present I am unable to do it. The survey of the county between the Eastern and Western waters is not yet reported by the Commissioners—tho’ promised to be made very shortly—the survey being completed. No draught that can convey an adequate idea of the work on this river, has been yet taken. Much of the labor except at the great falls has been bestowed in the bed of the river in a removal of the rocks and deepening the water at the great falls—the labor has indeed been great. The water there (a sufficiency I mean) is taken into a canal about 200 yards above the cataract, and conveyed by a level cut (thro’ a solid rock in some places and much stone everywhere) more than a mile to the lock seats, five in number, by means of which, when completed the craft will be let into the river below the falls (which together amount to 76 feet). At the Seneca falls, six miles above the great falls, a channel which has been formed by the river when inundated, is under improvement for the navigation. The same in part at Shannondoah—At the lower falls where nothing has yet been done, a level cut and locks are proposed. These constitute the principal difficulties and will be the great expense of this undertaking—the parts of the river between requiring loose stones only to be removed in order to deepen the water where it is too shallow in dry season.
P. S. Since writing the foregoing, I have received a letter from a member “of the Assembly” in Richmond, dated the 4th instant, giving the following information:—
“I am sorry to inform you, that the constitution has lost ground so considerably, that it is doubted whether it has any longer a majority in its favor. From a vote, which took place the other day, this would appear certain, though I cannot think it so decisive as the enemies to it consider it. It marks, however, the inconsistency of some of its opponents. At the time the resolutions calling a convention were entered into, Colonel M. sided with the friends to the constitution, and opposed any hint being given, expressive of the sentiments of the House as to amendments. But, as it was unfortunately omitted at that time to make provision for the subsistence of the convention, it became necessary, to pass some resolution providing for any expense, which may attend an attempt to make amendments. As M. had on the former occasion declared, that it would be improper to make any discovery of the sentiments of the House on the subject, and that we had no right to suggest any thing to a body paramount to us, his advocating such a resolution was matter of astonishment. It is true, he declared it was not declaratory of our opinion; but the contrary must be very obvious. As I have heard many declare themselves friends to the constitution since the vote, I do not consider it as altogether decisive of the opinion of the House with respect to it.
“I am informed, both by General Wilkinson, who is just arrived here from New Orleans by way of North Carolina, and Mr. Ross, that North Carolina is almost unanimous for adopting it. The latter received a letter from a member of that Assembly now sitting.
“In a debating society here, which meets once a week, this subject has been canvassed at two successive meetings, and is to be finally decided on to-morrow evening. As the whole Assembly, almost, has attended on these occasions, their opinion will then be pretty well ascertained; and, as the opinion on this occasion will have much influence, some of Colonel Innis’s friends have obtained a promise from him to enter the lists.
“The bill respecting British debts has passed our House, but with such a clause as I think makes it worse than a rejection.”
The letter, of which I enclose you a printed copy, from Colonel R. H. Lee to the Governor, has been circulated with great industry in manuscript four weeks before it went to press, and is said to have had a bad influence.1 The enemies to the constitution leave no stone unturned to increase the opposition to it. I am, &c.
TO COLONEL THOMAS LEWIS.
Mount Vernon, 25 December, 1787.
It is my desire and I am told that it is the wish of many—and sure I am policy requires it—that the uncultivated tracts of land on the Great Kanhawa and Ohio belonging to the Military should be settled. The difficulty with me respecting mine has been, how to draw the line of mutual advantage for Landlord and Tenant, with respect to the terms; and where to find a confidential person on or near the spot who would act for me as Agent.
Two reasons, hitherto, have restrained me from making application to you, on this head—first, the uncertainty I was under of your having become an actual resident in those parts—and second a doubt whether it might be agreeable to you to accept this trust on account of the trouble, and little profit that would derive from the agency, at least for some time.
The first cause being removed (having understood, by means of some members in Assembly that you live at Point Pleasant) I shall take the liberty of trying you on the second; under a hope, that more from the desire of seeing the country settled the neighborhood strengthened and property thereby secured; and the value of it increased; than from any pecuniary considerations at the present moment, you may be induced to aid me in seating my lands on the great Kanhawa and on the Ohio between the mouths of the two Rivers bearing that name.
If you accept the trust this letter shall be your authority—fully—and amply given and binding upon me and my heirs for the following purposes.—
First. To place as many Tenants on the several tracts of Lands (Plats of which with my signature annexed to them shall accompany this Power) as you can obtain consistently with your judgment, and suggestions hereafter mentioned.
Second. That an exemption from the payment of Rents for the term of three years shall be allowed them provided certain reasonable improvements such as you shall stipulate for,—and which I think (but leave the matter to you) ought to be comfortable houses,—Acres of Arable—and—Acres of Meadow land, and a certain number of frute Trees planted.
Third. That for the fourth year, rents shall become due, and shall consist (as I am told the custom of the Country is) of a third of whatever is raised on the premises, which rents shall be annually paid thereafter to you, or my agent for the time being in that Country.—
Fourth. That under this tenure they may be assured of the places (if they incline to remain, and will go on to improve them) for the term of—years; were these not to exceed ten, it would be more pleasing to me than any extension beyond that number; but if this limitation will not be acceded to on the part of the tenant, I must leave it to your discretion to augment them making the term definite, and not for lives, which is not only uncertain, but often introductory of disputes to ascertain the termination of them—Instances of which have happened to me. All mines and minerals will be reserved for the landlord,—and where there are valuable streams for water works, the Rents must bear some proportion to the advantages which are likely to result from them.—
Fifth. Whether custom authorizes, or justice requires that the tenant should pay the land tax of what he agrees to hold before the rent becomes due; or afterwards, in whole, or part, must be governed by the practice which prevails and consequently is left to your decision.
Sixth. I do not conceive it necessary nor should I incline to go into much, or indeed any expense in laying the Land off into Lots till it begins to be thick settled and productive. The first comers will of course have the first choice—but they and all others are to be informed that their lotts (be the quantity little or much) will be bounded by water courses, or (where this is not the case) by convenient and regular forms.—And as most of my Tracts (as you will see by the plats) have extensive boundaries on the rivers running but a little ways back it is my wish, indeed it naturally follows, that back part of the land should be considered as the support of that which will be first settled and cleared on the margins of the Rivers and a sufficiency of it reserved for that purpose.
Seventh. For your trouble in negotiating this business, I am very willing to allow the usual Commission for collecting—converting into cash and transmitting to me, the rents after they shall commence and whatever you may think proper to charge me (in reason) for your trouble till this shall happen,—I will cheerfully agree to pay.
Whether you accept this trust or not, you will do me a favor in the communication of your sentiments on the subject. There are two ways by which letters will come safe.—Viz—thrown into the Post Office at Philadelphia or into that at Richmond.—Colo. Bayard an acquaintance of mine, or any acquaintance you may have at Fort Pitt, will forward them to the first place—and the means of doing it to the latter you must be a better judge of than myself—If the letters once get into the Post Office, I shall be sure of them.—On private conveyances there is no reliance—they are tossed about and neglected so as rarely to reach their intended destination when sent in this manner.
If you should incline to act under this power your own good sense and judgment will at once dictate the propriety, indeed necessity of promulgating it as extensively as you can by Advertisements to those parts from whence settlers are most likely to be drawn over and above the opportunities which your situation gives you of communicating the matter to travellers by water on the Ohio.
On the other hand, if you do not incline to act I would thank you for returning me the papers herewith enclosed as it will save me the trouble of making other copies.
Whether the improvements which I had made on the Lands (of which you have herewith the draughts) in the years 1774 and 5 will be of use to Settlers at this day, or not, you who are on the spot can best determine—They cost me, or were valued to between £1500 and 2000.—If they are useful the exemption from rent should be shorter—I thought it necessary to bring the matter into view tho’ my expectations from it are small. I am, &c—
P. S. I have a small tract called the round bottom containing abt. 600 Acres, which I would also let.—It lyes on the Ohio, opposite to pipe Creek, and a little above Capteening.
[1 ]John Augustine Washington.
[1 ]“On the prospect of the happy termination of this insurrection I sincerely congratulate you, hoping that good may result from the cloud of evils, which threatened not only the hemisphere of Massachusetts, but by spreading its baneful influence threatened the tranquillity of other States. Surely Shays must be either a weak man, the dupe of some characters that are yet behind the curtain, or has been deceived by his followers; or, which may be as likely as any thing perhaps, he did not conceive that there was energy enough in the government to bring matters to the crisis they have been pushed. It is to be hoped the General Court of that State concurred in the report of the committee, that a rebellion actually existed. This would be decisive, and the most likely means of putting the finishing stroke to the business.”—Washington to Knox, 25 February, 1787.
[1 ]To Mr. Jay he wrote, touching upon the same subject, more than a month later: “I would fain try what the wisdom of the proposed convention will suggest, and what can be effected by their counsels. It may be the last peaceable mode of essaying the practicability of the present form, without a greater lapse of time, than the exigency of our affairs will allow. In strict propriety, a convention so holden may not be legal. Congress, however, may give it a coloring by recommendation, which would fit it more to the taste, without proceeding to a definition of the powers. This, however constitutionally it might be done, would not in my opinion be expedient.”—March 10th.
[1 ]George Augustine Washington.
[1 ]Member of the Senate of Maryland.
[2 ]A law had been proposed in the legislature of Maryland, which had passed the House of Delegates, for issuing bills of credit to the amount of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds, to be loaned by the State in various sums, the whole redeemable in ten years, and drawing interest at six per cent., payable annually. The Senate unanimously refused their assent to this proposition; and the differences between the two bodies rose to such a height that the former resolved to adjourn for two months, and refer the subject to the people. This was deemed a very objectionable course by the Senate, inasmuch as it was designed to coerce them to act against their judgment, and thus deprive them of the freedom and independence which it was a special object of the constitution to secure to that branch of the legislature.
[1 ]A letter of similar import, written to Knox, is printed in Sparks.
[1 ]. . . “However desirous I am, and always shall be, to comply with any commands of my Country, I do not conceive that I can attend the proposed Convention to be holden in Philadelphia in May next, with any degree of consistent conduct. For besides the declaration which I made in a very solemn manner when I was about to retire, of bidding adieu to all public employment, I had just before my appointment as a delegate to this convention written and despatched circular letters to the several State Societies of the Cincinnati, informing them of my intention not to attend the general meeting,—which was to take place about the same time and at the same place and assigned reasons which apply as forcibly in the one case as the other. To attend the Convention under these circumstances might be construed disrespect to a worthier set of men for whose attachment and support on many trying occasions, I shall ever put the highest gratitude and affection.”—Washington to Madison, 15 March, 1787.
[1 ]From Governor Randolph’s Letter.—“I must call upon your friendship to excuse me for again mentioning the convention at Philadelphia. Your determination having been fixed on a thorough review of your situation, I feel like an intruder when I again hint a wish, that you would join the delegation. But every day brings forth some new crisis, and the confederation is, I fear, the last anchor of our hope. Congress have taken up the subject, and appointed the second Monday in May next, as the day of meeting. Indeed, from my private correspondence, I doubt whether the existence of that body, even through this year, may not be questionable under our present circumstances.”—Richmond, March 11th.
[1 ]Mr. Madison had taken his seat in Congress as a delegate from Virginia on the 12th of February.
[1 ]The commissioners, who had met at Annapolis in September, 1786, sent a letter to Congress, accompanied by their address to the several States, proposing a convention at Philadelphia on the second Monday of May. These papers were taken up by Congress, and referred to a committee, consisting of one member from each State, who reported in favor of recommending to the several legislatures to send delegates.
[1 ]“It gives me pleasure to find by your letter, that there will be so full a representation from this State. If the case had been otherwise, I would in emphatical terms have urged again that, rather than depend upon my going, another might be chosen in my place; for, as a friend and in confidence, I declare to you, that my assent is given contrary to my judgment; because the act will, I apprehend, be considered as inconsistent with my public declaration, delivered in a solemn manner at an interesting era of my life, never more to intermeddle in public matters. This declaration not only stands on the files of Congress, but is I believe registered in almost all the gazettes and magazines that are published; and what adds to the embarrassment is, I had, previous to my appointment, informed by a circular letter the several State Societies of the Cincinnati of my intention to decline the presidency of that order, and excused myself from attending the next general meeting at Philadelphia on the first Monday in May; assigning reasons for so doing, which apply as well in the one case as in the other. Add to these, I very much fear that all the States will not appear in convention, and that some of them will come fettered so as to impede rather than accelerate the great object of their convening; which, under the peculiar circumstances of my case, would place me in a more disagreeable situation than any other member would stand in. As I have yielded, however, to what appeared to be the earnest wishes of my friends, I will hope for the best.”—Washington to Edmund Randolph, 9 April, 1787.
[1 ]His Diary states that he received the call between four and five o’clock in the afternoon of the 26th. He set out the next morning about five o’clock, baited at Dumfries, and reached Fredericksburg before two o’clock, finding the two patients better than had been reported. He set out on his return on the morning of the 30th.
[1 ]John Augustine Washington.
[1 ]Two forms of this diary exist: the one is in the Library of Congress and has been printed in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, xi., 296; the other, in the Department of State, is made the basis for this version. I have not hesitated to use the notes given in the Pennsylvania Magazine, and give such variations in the texts as seem necessary.
[1 ]“Nine o’clock.”
[2 ]Mrs. Mary House kept a boarding-house at the corner of Fifth and Market streets.—Penn. Mag.
[1 ]“and took tea there.”
[2 ]From North Carolina, Delaware, and New Jersey.
[3 ]“Dr. McClurg, of Virginia, came in.”
[4 ]Samuel Powel.
[5 ]“The lecture to be read this Evening is a continuance of the Dissertation on Eloquence, which commenced in the first course; at the conclusion of which Solima of the Poet Hamet, translated by Sir William Jones, will be delivered.”—Penn. Packet, quoted in the Penn. Mag.
[1 ]“Agreed to meet at 1 o’clock on Monday.”
[2 ]“and repaired at the hour of one to the State House.”
[3 ]The nomination of Washington for this position was made by Robert Morris, instructed by the Pennsylvania delegation, and seconded by John Rutledge. The only possible competitor was Benjamin Franklin, making the act of the Pennsylvanians all the more graceful. There was no opposing ballot, and, on being conducted to the chair by Morris and Rutledge, Washington “in a very emphatic manner thanked the Convention for the honor they had conferred on him; reminded them of the novelty of the scene of business in which he was to act, lamented his want of better qualifications, and claimed the indulgence of the House towards the involuntary errors which his inexperience might occasion.”—Madison. To Knox he wrote, 31 May: “I was, much against my wish, placed in the chair.” Madison had in April foreseen the fitness of making him the conspicuous figure.—To Randolph, 15 April, 1787.
[1 ]Wilson nominated W. T. Franklin, and Hamilton, Jackson.
[2 ]Wythe, Hamilton, and Charles Pinckney.
[3 ]“Where I could get an account of the Lodg’gs of those to whom I was indebted for theirs.”
[4 ]St. Mary’s, on Fourth Street.—Penn. Mag.
[5 ]Communications (?)
[1 ]William Pierce and William Houston were the delegates.
[2 ]A famous hostelry, on Fourth above Chestnut Street. It was torn down in May, 1851.—Penn. Mag.
[1 ]Reinagle’s concert. See Penn. Mag.
[2 ]“Spent evening at my own lodgings.”
[1 ]Cool Spring, Springsbury.
[2 ]Spent the evening at home.
[1 ]At the Calvinist Church.
[2 ]“Spectaculum Vitæ. At the Opera House in Southwark. This evening the 10 July, will be performed a Concert, on the First Part of which will be introduced an entertainment, called the Dectective; or, the Servants Hall in an Uproar. To which will be added a Comic Opera in two acts called Love in a Camp, or Patrick in Prussia, &c., &c.”—Penn. Mag.
[1 ]A concert, introducing “The Tempest, or the Inchanted Island,” and a “Grand Masque of Neptune and Amphitrite.”—Penn. Mag.
[2 ]A Concert introducing a “Moral Poem, called the Crusade, or the Generous Sultan,” by Mr. James Thomson, was recited, with the “Original Epilogue to Edward & Eleanora.”—Penn. Mag.
[3 ]“Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national government, and to declare expressly that the commander-in-chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born citizen.”—John Jay to Washington, 25 July, 1787.
[1 ]“About 4 o’clock.”
[1 ]“Halted an hour at Bristol.”
[2 ]On this day Madison records that Washington voted in favor of giving to the House of Representatives the exclusive originating of money-bills. “He disapproved, and till now voted against the exclusive privilege. He gave up his judgment, he said, because it was not of any material weight with him, and was made an essential point with others, who, if disappointed, might be less cordial in other points of real weight.”
[1 ]“By slow, I wish I could add, and sure movements, the business of the convention advances; but to say when it will end, or what will be the result, is more than I dare venture to do; and therefore shall hazard no opinion thereon. If something good does not proceed from the session, the defects cannot with propriety be charged to the hurry with which the business has been conducted, notwithstanding which many things may be forgot, some of them not well digested, and others, from the contrariety of sentiments with which such a body is pervaded, become a mere nullity; yet I wish a disposition may be found in Congress, the several State legislatures, and the community at large, to adopt the government, which may be agreed on in convention, because I am fully persuaded it is the best that can be obtained at the present moment under such a diversity of ideas as prevail.”—Washington to Knox, 19 August, 1787.
[1 ]“When the President rose, for the purpose of putting the question [on representation], he said, that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and, it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the change proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible. The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered by many members of the Convention an insufficient security for the rights and interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought this of so much consequence, that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.”—Madison’s Debates. The change was made. This is the only occasion on which any remarks from Washington in the Convention are recorded.
[2 ]“Major Jackson, after burning all the loose scraps of paper which belong to the Convention, will this evening wait upon the General with the Journals and other papers, which their vote directs to be delivered to his Excellency Monday evening.”
[1 ]“In the midst of hurry, and in the moment of my departure from this city, I address this letter to you. The principal, indeed the only design of it, is to fulfil the promise I made, that I would send to you the proceedings of the federal convention, as soon as the business was closed. More than this, circumstanced as I am at present, it is not in my power to do; nor am I inclined to attempt it, as the enclosure must speak for itself, and will occupy your thoughts for some time.
[2 ]“Reached Chester, where we lodged.”
[1 ]Mr. Jefferson had sent an extract from an article in the Encyclopédie, being an account of the Society of the Cincinnati, and Washington sent it to Knox, saying: “In my present state of mind I can hardly form an opinion whether it will be best to lay the matter before the society as coming from Mr. Jefferson, or as from a person of as good information as any in France. I must therefore leave it wholly to you to do as you may think most proper.”—27 April, 1787.
[1 ]“The disturbances in Massachusetts have subsided, but there are seeds of discontent in every part of this Union; ready to produce other disorders, if the wisdom of the present convention should not be able to devise, and the good sense of the people be found ready to adopt, a more vigorous and energetic government, than the one under which we now live; for the present, from experience, has been found too feeble and inadequate to give that security, which our liberties and property render absolutely essential, and which the fulfilment of public faith loudly requires.
[1 ]“I staid two days [Octo. 5-7] with General Washington at Mount Vernon about six weeks ago. He is in perfect good health, and looks almost as well as he did twenty years ago. I never saw him so keen for anything in my life as he is for the adoption of the new scheme of government. As the eyes of all America are turned towards this truly great and good man for the first President, I took the liberty of sounding him upon it. He appears to be earnestly against going into public life again; pleads in excuse for himself his love of retirement and his advanced age, but notwithstanding of these, I am fully of opinion he may be induced to appear once more on the public stage of life. I form my opinion from what passed between us in a very long and serious conversation, as well as from what I could gather from Mrs. Washington on same subject.”—Alexander Donald to Thomas Jefferson, 12 November, 1787.
[1 ]A copy of the same letter was sent to Benjamin Harrison, and also to Thomas Nelson.
[1 ]On reaching Congress Madison found certain ideas unfavorable to the Constitution were fostered by Richard Henry Lee and Dane, of Massachusetts, on the ground first that the Convention had exceeded its powers in devising a new frame of government, and later, that the plan proposed was seriously defective. An attempt to amend the Constitution in Congress was fortunately defeated, and Congress unanimously resolved to send the report of the Convention to the respective legislatures, to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen by the people in each.
[1 ]Printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, 4 October, 1787, also in Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 73.
[1 ]Edmund Randolph. His refusal to sign was set down to his chagrin in not being able to carry every thing his own way, and to his desire for popularity.
[2 ]Colonel Mason said, in the letter here referred to: “I take the liberty to enclose to you my objections to the new constitution of government, which a little moderation and temper at the latter end of the convention might have removed. I am, however, most decidedly of opinion, that it ought to be submitted to the people for that special purpose; and, should any attempt be made to prevent the calling of such a convention here, such a measure shall have every opposition in my power to give it. You will readily observe, that my objections are not numerous (the greater part of the enclosed paper containing reasonings upon the probable effects of the exceptionable parts), though in my mind some of them are capital ones.”—October 7th.
[1 ]Randolph explained his position in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, 10 October, 1787. It was widely circulated in the newspapers, and printed in pamphlet form. It was reprinted in Ford, Pamphlets on the Constitution, 359.
[1 ]David Stuart, or Bushrod Washington.
[1 ]“I should be glad to know precisely whether I am to expect any and what part of the £200 on which you assured me in Philadelphia I might absolutely rely, and the half of which you informed me in November, should be sent to me by your servant in ten days if you could not get the residue. I have put the sheriff of this county off three times; if he comes again I must, if I have no further expectation from you, suffer him to make distress, as I raised nothing last year for sale, and allotted this money for the payment of my taxes. . . . In the morning I shall leave home for a meeting of the Directors of the Potomack Co., at the Falls of the Shenandoah, from whence I do not expect to be returned in less than ten days.”—Washington to John Francis Mercer, 11 January, 1788.
[1 ]“You give me some reason to hope for the result of your thoughts, or experiments, on a more eligible system of agriculture.—To receive it would afford me pleasure.—That the one which is now in general practice (if it can be called a system) is beyond description ruinous to our lands, need no other proof of the fact than the gullied and exhausted state of them, which is every where to be met with—but what change is most likely to restore the land with such means as is in our power to apply which will at the same time be productive to the Proprietor, is the question—and an important one—a question too which admits of no other satisfactory solution than such as is derived from a course of experiments by intelligent and observant farmers; who will combine things and circumstances together—Theoretical opinions should have no share in the determination, and what is good and profitable husbandry in one Country, may not be so in another—Articles which are very saleable in Europe might find no market in America, and if produced abundantly would answer no other end than to encumber our Barns or Granaries. Consequently two things must be engrafted into our plan, 1st Crops which are useful on our farms, or saleable in our markets—and 2d the intermixing these crops by such relations and with such dressings as will improve, instead of exhausting our lands.—To effect these is the great desiderata of Farming, and ought to be the pursuit of every farmer.—On this ground every experiment is a treasure—and the authors of them valuable members of Society.—Hence also the Societies which are formed for the encouragement, and promulgation, of these experiments, in other Country’s have rendered such essential services to the improved and improving States of agriculture in the old world and are so worthy of imitation in the new.”—Washington to Charles Carter, 20 January, 1788.
[1 ]“The new constitution has, as the public prints will have informed you, been handed to the people of this State by an unanimous vote of the Assembly; but it is not to be inferred from hence, that its opponents are silenced. On the contrary, there are many, and some powerful ones; some of whom, it is said, by overshooting the marks, have lessened their weight. Be this as it may, their assiduity stands unrivalled, whilst the friends to the constitution content themselves with a bare avowal of their approbation of it. Thus stands the matter at present in the State. I think nevertheless the voice is for it.”—Washington to Hamilton, 10 November, 1787.
[1 ]“With respect to British debts, I would fain hope, let the eloquence or abilities of any man or set of men be what they may, that the good sense and justice of this State will never suffer a violation of the treaty, or pass acts of injustice to individuals. Honesty in States, as well as individuals, will ever be found the soundest policy.”—Washington to Stuart, 5 November, 1787.
[1 ]“Pray, if it is not a secret, who is the author or authors of Publius?” Washington to Knox, 5 February, 1788.
[2 ]Various methods were devised for raising taxes by receiving substitutes for specie. The tax for satisfying the requisitions of Congress was allowed to be paid in part by certificates, or evidences of claims on the government, which had been given during the war. The different States had borrowed money, and issued loan-office certificates, which bore interest. Warrants were granted from time to time for the interest on such certificates. The State of Virginia had passed a law, authorizing these warrants to be received into the treasury in payment of certain kinds of taxes.—Hening’s Statutes, vol. xii., p. 95. Tobacco was also received for taxes.—Ib., p. 455. And there was a strong wish, on the part of some, that other articles of produce should be receivable for the same purpose, leaving it to the State to dispose of such commodities, and convert them into specie. Taxes thus paid were called commutable.
[1 ]“I thank you for your obliging letter, enclosing a paragraph respecting me in Mr. Oswald’s paper. You have my authority to deny the charge of the sentiments it imputes to me, and to declare, that in my opinion it is advisable for the people of America to adopt the constitution proposed by the late convention. If you should think it expedient to publish this letter, I have no objection to its being done.”—Jay to John Vaughan, 1 December, 1787.
[1 ]This letter contained a series of objections to the constitution, as reported by the convention. It was circulated widely in the newspapers. Lee afterwards wrote a series of letters, over the signature “Federal Farmer,” which had great popularity, many thousands being printed and sold in the States.