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America as possible. He suggested as an expedient, that the Farmers should be required to divide the contracts among six or seven houses, French and American, who should be required to ship annually to America a reasonable proportion of goods. This, he supposed, would produce some competition in the purchases here, and would introduce a competition also with British goods here. The latter condition, he said, could not be well required of, or executed by, a single contractor, and the Government could not abolish the farm. These ideas were meant for you.
Since the date of my other letter, the Convention of Delaware have unanimously adopted the new Constitution. That of Pennsylvania has adopted it by a majority of 46 against 23. That of New Jersey is sitting and will adopt pretty unanimously. These are all the Conventions that have met. I hear from North Carolina that the Assembly there is well disposed. Mr. Henry, Mr. Mason, R. H. Lee, and the Governor, continue by their influence to strengthen the opposition in Virginia. The Assembly there is engaged in several mad freaks. Among others a bill has been agreed to in the House of Delegates, prohibiting the importation of rum, brandy, and all other spirits not distilled from some American production. All brewed liquors under the same description, with beef, tallow candles, cheese, &c., are included in the prohibition. In order to enforce this despotic measure, the most despotic means are resorted to. If any person be found, after the commencement of the act, in the use or possession of any of the prohibited articles, though acquired previously
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to the law, he is to lose them, and pay a heavy fine.
. This is the form in which the bill was agreed to by a large majority in the House of Delegates. It is a child of Mr. Henry, and said to be a favorite one. They first voted, by a majority of thirty, that all legal obstructions to the treaty of peace, should cease in Virginia as soon as laws complying with it should have passed in all the other States. This was the result of four days' debate, with the most violent opposition from Mr. Henry. A few days afterward he renewed his efforts, and got a vote, by a majority of fifty, that Virginia would not comply until Great Britain shall have complied.
The States seem to be either wholly omitting to provide for the Federal Treasury; or to be withdrawing the scanty appropriations made to it. The latter course has been taken by Massachusetts, Virginia, and Delaware. The Treasury Board seems to be in despair of maintaining the shadow of government much longer. Without money, the offices must be shut up, and the handful of troops on the frontier disbanded, which will probably bring on an Indian war, and make an impression to our disadvantage on the British garrisons within our limits. 51
TO GENERAL WASHINGTON,
New York, December 20, 1787. DEAR SIR,
I was favored on Saturday with your letter of the seventh instant, along with which was covered the printed letter of Colonel R. H. Lee to the Governor. It does not appear to me to be a very formidable attack on the new Constitution; unless it should derive an influence from the names of the correspondents, which its intrinsic merits do not entitle it to. He is certainly not perfectly accurate in the statement of all his facts; and I should infer from the tenor of the objections in Virginia that his plan of an Executive would hardly be viewed as an amendment of that of the Convention. It is a little singular that three of the most distinguished advocates for amendments; and who expect to unite the thirteen States in their project, appear to be pointedly at variance with each other on one of the capital articles of the system. Colonel Lee proposes, that the President should choose a Council of eleven, and with their advice have the appointment of all offi
Colonel Mason's proposition is, that a Council of six should be appointed by the Congress. What degree of power he would confide to it, I do not know. The idea of the Governor is, that there should be a plurality of co-equal heads, distinguished probably by other peculiarities in the organization. It is pretty certain that some others who make a common cause with them in the general attempt to bring about alterations, differ still more from them than they do from each other; and that they themselves differ as much on some other great points, as on the constitution of the Executive.
You did not judge amiss of Mr. Jay. The paragraph affirming a change in his opinion of the plan of the Convention, was an arrant forgery. He has contradicted it in a letter to Mr. J. Vaughan which has been printed in the Philadelphia gazettes.
Tricks of this sort are not uncommon with the enemies of the new Constitution. Colonel Mason's objections were, as I am told, published in Boston, mutilated of that which pointed at the regulation of commerce. Doctor Franklin's concluding speech, which
herewith enclosed, is both mutilated and adulterated, so as to change both the form and spirit of it.
I am extremely obliged by the notice you take of my request concerning the Potomac. I must insist that you will not consider it as an object of any further attention.
The Philadelphia papers will have informed you of the result of the Convention of that State. New Jersey is now in Convention, and has probably by this time adopted the Constitution. General Irvine, of the Pennsylvania Delegation, who is just arrived here, and who conversed with some of the members at Trenton, tells me that great unanimity reigns in the Convention.
Connecticut, it is pretty certain, will decide also in the affirmative by a large majority. So, it is presumed, will New Hampshire; though her Convention will be a little later than could be wished. There are not enough of the returns in Massachusetts known for a final judgment of the probable event in that State. As far as the returns are known, they are extremely favorable: but as they are chiefly from the maritime parts of the State, they are a precarious index of the public sentiment. I have good reason to believe that if you are in correspondence with any gentleman in that quarter, and a proper occasion should offer for an explicit communication of your good wishes for the plan, so as barely to warrant an explicit assertion of the fact, that it would be attended with valuable effects. I barely drop the idea. The circumstances on which the propriety of it depends are best known to you, as they will be best judged of by yourself. The information from North Carolina gave me great pleasure. We have nothing from the States south of it."