Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO JAMES MADISON, 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.
[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.