Mount Vernon, September 23, 1788

My Dear Sir:

I duly received your letter of the 24th of last Month, but as we had no intelligence or circumstance in this quarter worthy of your acceptance, I postponed even the acknowledgement until I was gratifyed by the receipt of your subsequent favor of the 14th instant. Indeed I have now little more to give you in return, than this information to prevent your apprehension of miscarriage; and my thanks for your illustration of the subject which has lately engaged the attention of Congress. Upon mature reflection, I think the reasons you offer in favor of Philadelphia as the place for the first Meeting of Congress are conclusive: especially when the farther agitation of the question respecting its permanent residence is taken into consideration. But I cannot, however, avoid being satisfied that the Minority should have acquiesced in any place, rather than to have prevented the system from being carried into effect. The delay had already become the source of clamours and might have given advantages to the Anti-foederalists. Their expedient will now probably be an attempt to procure the Election of so many of their own Junto under the New government, as, by the introduction of local and embarrassing disputes, to impede or frustrate its operations.

In the mean time it behoves all the advocates of the Constitution, forgetting partial and smaller considerations, to combine their exertions for collecting the wisdom and virtue of the Continent to one centre; in order that the Republic may avail itself of the opportunity for escaping from Anarchy, Division, and the other great national calamities that impended. To be shipwrecked in sight of the Port would be the severest of all possible aggravations to our Misery; and I assure you I am under painful apprehensions from the single circumstance of Mr. H -- 's having the whole game to play in the Assembly of this State, and the effect it may have on others, it should be counteracted if possible. With sentiments of highest esteem etc.

P. S. Permit me to request the favor of you to forward the Letters under cover with this by a favourable conveyance.


Mount Vernon, September 22, 1788

Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 13th. instant was of so friendly and confidential a complexion, as to merit my early attention and cordial acknowledgments. I am glad Congress have at last decided upon an Ordinance for carrying the new government into execution. In my mind the place for the meeting of the new Congress was not an object of such very important consequence; but I greatly fear that the question entailed upon that body, respecting their permanent residence, will be pregnant with difficulty and danger. God grant that true patriotism and a spirit of moderation may exclude a narrow locality, and all ideas unfriendly to the Union, from every quarter.

Your observations on the solemnity of the crisis and its application to myself, bring before me subjects of the most momentous and interesting nature. In our endeavors to establish a new general government, the contest nationally considered, seems not to have been so much for glory, as existence. It was for a long time doubtful whether we were to survive as an independent Republic, or decline from our foederal dignity into insignificant and wretched Fragments of Empire. The adoption of the Constitution so extensively, and with so liberal an acquiescence on the part of the Minorities in general, promised the former; until lately the circular letter of New York carried, in my apprehension, an unfavorable if not an insidious tendency to a contrary policy. I still hope for the best; but before you mentioned it, I could not help fearing it would serve as a Standard to which the disaffected might resort. It is now evidently the part of all honest men, who are friends to the new Constitution, to endeavor to give it a chance to disclose its merits and defects, by carrying it fairly into effect, in the first instance. For it is to be apprehended, that by an attempt, to obtain amendments before the experiment has been candidly made, "more is meant than meets the ear" that an intention is concealed, to accomplish slily, what could not have been done openly, to undo all that has been done.

If the fact so exists, that a kind of combination is forming to stifle the government in embrio; it is a happy circumstance that the design has become suspected. Preparations should be the sure attendant upon forewarning. Probably, prudence, wisdom, and patriotism were never more essentially necessary than at the present moment; and so far as it can be done in an irreproachably direct manner, no effort ought to be left unessayed to procure the election of the best possible characters to the new Congress. On their harmony, deliberation and decision every thing will depend. I heartily wish Mr. Madison was in our Assembly, as I think, with you, it is of unspeakable importance Virginia should set out in her foederal measures under right auspices.

The principal topic of your letter is, to me, a point of great delicacy indeed; insomuch that I can scarcely, without some impropriety touch upon it. In the first place, the event to which you allude may never happen; among other reasons because, if the partiality of my fellow citizens conceive it to be a means by which the sinews of the new government would be strengthened, it will of consequence be obnoxious to those who are in opposition to it, many of whom, unquestionably will be placed among the Electors.

This consideration alone would supersede the expediency of announcing any definite and irrevocable resolution. You are among the small number of those who know my invincible attachment to domestic life, and that my sincerest wish is to continue in the enjoyment of it, solely, until my final hour. But the world would be neither so well instructed, nor so candidly disposed as to believe me uninfluenced by sinister motives, in case any circumstance should render a deviation from the line of conduct I had prescribed to myself indispensable.

Should the contingency you suggest take place, and (for argument sake alone let me say it) should my unfeigned reluctance to accept the office be overcome by a deference for the reasons and opinions of my friends; might I not, after the Declarations I have made (and Heaven knows they were made in the sincerity of my heart) in the judgment of the impartial World and of Posterity, be chargeable with levity and inconsistency; if not with rashness and ambition? Nay farther would there not even be some apparent foundation for the two former charges? Now justice to myself and tranquillity of conscience require that I should act a part, if not above imputation, at least capable of vindication. Nor will you conceive me to be too solicitous for reputation. Though I prize, as I ought, the good opinion of my fellow citizens; yet, if I know myself, I would not seek Or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue.

While doing what my conscience informed me was right, as it respected my God, my Country and myself, I could despise all the party clamor and unjust censure, which must be expected from some, whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their hostility to the government. I am conscious, that I fear alone to give any real occasion for obloquy, and that I do not dread to meet with unmerited reproach. And certain I am, whensoever I shall be convinced the good of my country requires my reputation to be put in risque; regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude. If I declined the task, it would lie upon quite another principle. Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my encreasing fondness for agricultural amusements and my growing love of retirement augment and confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private citizen: yet it would be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which my former reputation might be exposed, or the terror of encountering new fatigues and troubles that would deter me from an acceptance; but a belief that some other person, who had less pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties full as satisfactorily as myself. To say more would be indiscreet; as a disclosure of a refusal beforehand, might incur the application of the Fable, in which the Fox is represented as undervaluing the grapes he could not reach. You will perceive, my dear Sir, by what is here observed (and which you will be pleased to consider in the light of a confidential communication) that my inclinations will dispose and decide me to remain as I am; unless a clear and insurmountable conviction should be impressed on my mind that some very disagreeable consequences must in all human probability result from the indulgence of my wishes.

If you return by land, I shall expect without failure the pleasure of your company. I am much indebted to you for your obliging offer of forwarding such articles as I might want from New York; though I shall not have occasion at this moment to avail myself of your goodness. Mrs. Washington offers her best Complts. to Mrs. Lee, with ardent wishes for the re-establishment of her health which, joined with my own, will conclude me. With great regard etc.


New York, September 21, 1788

Dear Sir,

Being informed of a circuitous opportunity to France I make use of it to forward the inclosures. By one of them you will find that Congress have been at length brought into the true policy which is demanded by the situation of the Western Country. An additional resolution on the secret journal puts an end to all negociation with Spain, referring the subject of a treaty, after this assertion of right to the Mississippi, to the new government. The communication in my last will have shewn you the crisis of things in that quarter, a crisis however not particularly known to Congress, and will be a key to some of the Kentucky toasts in the Virga Gazette.

The Circular letter from the New York Convention has rekindled an ardor among the opponents of the federal Constitution for an immediate revision of it by another General Convention. You will find in one of the papers inclosed the result of the consultations in Pennsylvania on that subject. Mr. Henry and his friends in Virginia enter with great zeal into the scheme. Governor Randolph also espouses it; but with a wish to prevent if possible danger to the article which extends the power of the Government to internal as well as external taxation. It is observable that the views of the Pennsylva meeting do not rhyme very well with those of the Southern advocates for a Convention; the objects most eagerly pursued by the latter being unnoticed in the Harrisburg proceedings. The effect of the circular letter on other States is less known. I conclude that it will be the same everywhere among those who opposed the Constitution, or contended for a conditional ratification of it. Whether an early Convention will be the result of this united effort, is more than can at this moment be foretold. The measure will certainly be industriously opposed in some parts of the Union, not only by those who wish for no alterations, but by others who would prefer the other mode provided in the Constitution, as most expedient at present, for introducing those supplemental safeguards to liberty agst which no objections can be raised; and who would moreover approve of a Convention for amending the frame of the Government itself, as soon as time shall have somewhat corrected the feverish state of the public mind, and trial have pointed its attention to the true defects of the system.

You will find also by one of the papers inclosed that the arrangements have been compleated for bringing the new Government into action. The dispute concerning the place of its meeting was the principal cause of delay, the Eastern States with N. Jersey & S. Carolina being attached to N. York, and the others strenuous for a more central position. Philadelphia, Wilmington, Lancaster & Baltimore were successively tendered without effect by the latter, before they finally yielded to the superiority of members in favor of this City. I am afraid the decision will give a great handle to the Southern Antifederalists who have inculcated a jealousy of this end of the Continent. It is to be regretted also as entailing this pernicious question on the New Congs, who will have enough to do in adjusting the other delicate matters submitted to them. Another consideration of great weight with me is that the temporary residence here will probably end in a permanent one at Trenton, or at the farthest on the Susquehannah. A removal in the first instance beyond the Delaware would have removed the alternative to the Susquehannah and the Potowmac. The best chance of the latter depends on a delay of the permanent establishment for a few years, untill the Western and South Western population comes more into view. This delay cannot take place if so excentric a place as N. York is to be the intermediate seat of business.

To the other papers is added a little pamphlet on the Mohegan language. The observations deserve the more attention as they are made by a man of known learning and character, and may aid researches into the primitive structure of language, as well as those on foot for comparing the American tribes with those on the Eastern frontier of the other continent.

In consequence of your letter to Mr. Jay on the subject of “outfit” &c., I had a conference with him, and he agreed to suggest the matter to Congress. This was done and his letter referred back to be reported on. The idea between us was that the reference should be to a Committee his letter coming in at a moment when I happened to be out it was as in course referred to his department. His answer suggested that as he might be thought eventually concerned in the question, it was most proper for the consideration of a committee. I had discovered that he was not struck with the peculiarities of your case even when insinuated to him. How far the committee will be so is more than I can yet say. In general I have no doubt that both it and Congress are well disposed. But it is probable that the idea of a precedent will beget much caution and what is worse there is little probability of again having a quorum of States for the business.

I learn from Virginia that our crops both of corn & Tobacco (except in the lower Country where a storm has been hurtful) are likely to be very good. The latter has suffered in some degree from superflous rains, but the former has been proportionally benefited. Accept my most fervent wishes for your happiness.

Yrs Affecty


Paris, September 20, 1788

Dear Sir,

—The evening of your departure came a letter by the way of London & N. York, addressed to you, and probably from Virginia. I think you wished your American letters to remain here; I shall therefore keep it. The passport now enclosed came the day after your departure: so also did a mass of American letters for me, as low down as August 10. I shall give you their substance.—The convention of Virginia annexed to their ratification of the new Constitution a copy of the state Declaration of rights, not by way of Condition, but to announce their attachment to them. They added also propositions for specific alterations of the constitution. Among these was one for rendering the President incapable of serving more than 8. years in any term of 16. New York has followed the example of Virginia, expressing the substance of her bill of rights, (i.e. Virginia’s) & proposing amendments; these last differ much from those of Virginia, but they concur as to the President, only proposing that he shall be incapable of being elected more than twice. But I own I should like better than either of these, what Luther Martin tells us was repeatedly voted & adhered to by the federal convention, & only altered about 12. days before their rising when some members had gone off, to wit, that he should be elected for 7 years & incapable for ever after. But New York has taken another step which gives uneasiness, she has written a circular letter to all the legislatures, asking their concurrence in an immediate Convention for making amendments. No news yet from N. Carolina. Electors are to be chosen the 1st Wednesday in January, the President to be elected the 1st Wednesday in February, the new legislature to meet the 3d week in March, the place is not yet decided on. Philadelphia was first proposed & had 61⁄2 votes, the half vote was Delaware, one of whose members wanted to take a vote on Wilmington, then Baltimore was proposed & carried, and afterwards rescinded, so that the matter stood open as ever on the 10th of August; but it was allowed the dispute lay only between N. York & Philadelphia, & rather thought in favor of the last. The R. island delegates had retired from Congress. Dr. Franklin was dangerously ill of the gout & stone on the 21st of July. My letters of Aug. 10 not mentioning him, I hope he was recovered. Warville, &c. were arrived. Congress had referred the decision as to the independance of Kentuck√© to to the new government. Brown ascribes this to the jealousy of the Northern states, who want Vermont to be received at the same time in order to preserve a balance of interests in Congress. He was just setting out for Kentuck√© disgusted, yet disposed to persuade to an acquiescence, tho’ doubting they would immediately separate from the Union. The principal obstacle to this, he thought, would be the Indian war.—The following is a quotation from a letter from Virginia dated July 12. “P[endleto]n, tho’ much impaired in health, & in every respect in the decline of life, shewed as much zeal to carry the new const, as if he had been a young man; perhaps more than he discovered in the commencement of the late revolution in his opposition to Great Britain. W[yth]e acted as chairman to the comee. of the whole & of course took but little part in the debate; but was for the adoption, relying on subsequent amendments. B[lai]r said nothing, but was for it. The G[overno]r exhibited a curious spectacle to view. Having refused to sign the paper, everybody supposed him against it, but he afterwards had written a letter; & having taken a part which might be called rather vehement, than active, he was constantly labouring to shew that his present conduct was consistent with that letter, & that letter with his refusal to sign. M[a]d[iso]n took the principal share in the debate for it, in which, together with the aid I have already mentioned, he was somewhat assisted by I-nn[e]s, Lee, M[arshal]l, C[orbi]n & G. N[ichola]s. M[a]s[o]n, H[enr]y & Gr[ayso]n were the principal supporters of the opposition. The discussion, as might be expected where the parties were so nearly on a balance, was conducted generally with great order, propriety & respect of either party to the other.”

The assembly of Virginia, hurried to their harvests, would not enter into a discussion of the District bill, but suspended it to the next session. E. Winston is appointed a judge, vice Gab. Jones resigned. R. Goode & Andrew Moore, counsellors, vice B. Starke dead, & Jos Egglestone resigned.—It is said Wilson, of Philadelphia, is talked of, to succeed Mr. A[dams] in London. Qu?

The dispute about Virgil’s tomb & the laurel seems to be at length settled by the testimony of two travellers, given separately & without a communication with each other. These both say, that attempting to pluck off a branch of the Laurel, it followed their hand, being in fact nothing more than a plant or bough recently cut & stuck in the ground for the occasion. The Cicerone acknowledged the roguery, & said they practised it with almost every traveller, to get money. You will of course tug well at the laurel which shall be shewn you, to see if this be the true solution.

The President Dupaty is dead. Monsr de Barentin, premier president de la cour des aides, is appointed Garde des sceaux. The stocks are rather lower than when you left this. Present me in the most friendly terms to Messrs. Shippen & Rutledge. I rely on your communicating to them the news, & therefore on their pardoning me for not repeating it in separate letters to them. You can satisfy them how necessary this economy of my time & labour is. This goes to Geneva, poste restante. I shall not write again till you tell me where to write to.


New York, September 14, 1788

My Dear Friend:

Your favor of the 3rd instant would have been acknowledged two days ago but for the approaching completion of the arrangement for the new Govt. which I wished to give you the earliest notice of. This subject has long employed Congs and has in its progress assumed a variety of shapes, some of them not a little perplexing. The times as finally settled are, Jany., for the choice of Electors, Feby. for the choice of a President, and March for the meeting of the Congress, the place, the present seat of the fedl. govt. The last point was carried by the yielding of the smaller to the inflexibility of the greater number. I have myself been ready for bringing it to this issue for some time, perceiving that further delay, could only discredit Congs and injure the object in view. Those who had opposed N. York along with me could not overcome their repugnance so soon. Maryland went away before the question was decided in a temper which I believe would never have yielded. Delaware was equally inflexible, previous to our final assent a motion was made which tendered a blank for any place the majority would choose between the North River and the Potowmac. This being rejected the alternative remaining was to agree to N. York or to strangle the Govt. in its birth. The former as the lesser evil was of course preferred and must now be made the best of. I acknowledge at the same time that I anticipate serious inconveniences from it. It will I fear be regarded as at once a proof of a preponderancy in the Eastern Scale, and of a disposition to profit of that advantage. It is but just however to remark that the event is in great degree to be charged on the Southn States which went into that scale. It will certainly entail the discussion on the new Governt. which ought if possible to be exempt from such an additional cause of ferment in its councils. N. York will never be patiently suffered to remain even the temporary seat of Govt by those who will be obliged to resort to it from the Western & Southn. parts of the Union. This temporary period must continue for several years, perhaps seven or eight, and within that period all the great business of the Union will be settled. I take it for granted that the first session will not pass without a renewal of the question, and that it will be attended with all the unpleasing circumstances which have just been experienced. In the last place, I consider the decision in favor of N. York as in a manner fatal to the just pretensions of the Potowmac to the permanent seat of the Govt. This is unquestionably the light in which many of the advocates for N. York view the matter. The Legislature of N. Jersey which lately met approved of the part taken by her delegates on the principle that the first meeting of the Govt. at N. York would give the best possible chance for an early choice of the permanent seat, as this would do for a preference of Trenton. As the case now stands, the Susquehanna is probably the most that can be hoped for with no small danger of being stopped on the Delaware. Had any place South of the Delaware been obtained the Susquehannah at least would have been secured with a favorable chance for the Potowmac.

The result of the meeting at Harrisburg is I am told in the press & will of course be soon before the public. I am not acquainted with the particulars, or indeed with the general complexion of it. It has been said here that the meeting was so thin as to disappoint much the patrons of the scheme.

I am glad to hear that Mazzei’s book is likely to be vendible. The copies allotted for this and several other markets will not I fear be so fortunate.

Yrs. affecly.


September 6, 1788


The daring insult offered to the laws of the state during the recess of your honorable House, by the insurgents of Wyoming, in carrying off the person of Thomas Pickering, Esq. Prothonotary of the County, called for the immediate interpolition of Government; more especially as there was no knowing to what further lengths their outrages might be carried, unless speedily checked.

For this purpose we issued Proclamations offering rewards for apprehending those offenders whose names were known, and made application to the Governments of New Jersey and New York to co-operate in our measures, and received the most friendly assurance of their support. We also obtained permission from the honorable Congress, that the troops of the Union, then on their march to the westward, should proceed, if found necessary, to Wyoming. These active measures, supported by the friends of Government in the Country, have been attended with success; Col. Pickering was released, and a number of rioters have been taken into custody, and apparent peace restored to the County. Sundry papes relating the above transactions are inclosed in No. 1.

In order to carry into effect your resolution of the twenty-seventh of March last, respecting the seventeen enumerated townships. We appointed Col. Stephen Balliot and Major W. Armstrong, commissioners to ascertain the quantity and quality of the particular tracts of land contained in the said townships. To their report, marked No. 2, we beg leave to refer you.

In compliance with your resolution of the 29th of February last, we have negociated, by means of our Delegates in Congress, with the United States for the tract of country, which on actual survey may appear to be their property, on Lake Erie, adjoining the northern boundary of this state. The report, with the documents on which the same is founded, are contained in the bundle No. 3.

The lowering the terms of lands in the New-Purchase, and freeing the surplus of the donation lands from the appropriations by which they are bound, are matters in our opinion worthy the attention of the house; by these means not only an old fund would be rendered productive, but a new one will be opened.

Impositions are practised by person selling adulterated plate. An office erected for the purpose of assaying and stamping all plate offered for sale, would tend to prevent fraud, and give security to the purchasers of that article.

The disabled Pensioners have lately been paid out of the unappropriated funds of the state. It appear that these funds are insufficient to discharge the demands made on them, and if the pensions are continued to be paid, some other provision is necessary.

The magazine for storing of gun-powder in this city is not only improperly situated, with respect to the town, but too small to contain the quantities now improted and manufactured in the neighborhood. We therefore think a revival and alteration of the law passed the 28th of March, 1787, respecting gun-powder, is now highly necessary.

The depreciation of our paper money calls for the attention of the legislature. We wish for a conference with a committee of your honorable house on this important subject.

We have called upon the respective county lieutenants for returns of persons subject to the performance of militia duties, and of those who have actually attended on muster-days, agreeably to your resolution of the 29th day of March last; these returns shall be laid before the General Assembly as soon as they come to hand.

We also herewith communicate a resolution of Congress, dated July 11, 1788, respecting pensioners—An extract of a letter from gen. Harmar, dated June 30, 1788—Copies of the ratifciation of the federal constitution by the States of Virginia, S. Carolina, and N. York, with amendmend proposed by Virginia & New York—Also a letter from the president of the convention of North Carolina, inclosing the proceedings of the said convention—A letter from Thomas Paine, Esq. dated at Paris, May 4, 1788, inclosing the opinion of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, on the principles and construction of the model for a bridge over the Schuylkill—A letter from general St. Clair, of July 4, and a resolution of Congress, of August 12, 1788, relative to the holding in readiness the milita on the frontiers to act in conjunction with the Federal troops in defending the western country against Indian hostilities—Two letters from Charles Thomson, Esq. secretary of Congress, dated the 20th and 25th days of August, 1788, the one inclosing a copy of the journal of Congress from the commencement of the federal year, to the 20th of August, 1788, and the other inclosing a requisition of the United States in Congress assembed, for the year 1788, and a memorial from captain John Armstrong.

Council-Chamber Philadelphia, Sept. 6, 1788.

B. Franklin


September 1, 1788

Dear Sir:

Your Excellency’s friendly and obliging letter of the 28th ultimo came safely to hand. I thank you for your assurance of seconding my application to General Morgan. The truth of that affair is that he purchased the watch for a trifle of a British soldier, who plundered Major Cochran at the moment of his fall at Yorktown.

I should be deeply pained, my dear sir, if your scruples in regard to a certain station should be matured into a resolution to decline it, though I am neither surprised at their existence, nor can I but agree in opinion that the caution you observe in deferring an ultimate determination is prudent. I have, however, reflected maturely on the subject, and have come to a conclusion (in which I feel no hesitation), that every public and personal consideration will demand from you an acquiescence in what will certainly be the unanimous wish of your country. The absolute retreat which you meditated at the close of the late war was natural and proper. Had the government produced by the Revolution gone on in a tolerable train, it would have been most advisable to have persisted in that retreat. But I am clearly of opinion that the crisis which brought you again into public view left you no alternative but to comply, and I am equally clear in the opinion that you are by that act pledged to take a part in the execution of the government. I am not less convinced that the impression of this necessity of your filling the station in question is so universal that you run no risk of any uncandid imputation by submitting to it. But even if this were not the case, a regard to your own reputation, as well as to the public good, calls upon you in the strongest manner to run that risk.

It cannot be considered as a compliment to say that on your acceptance of the office of President the success of the new government in its commencement may materially depend. Your agency and influence will be not less important in preserving it from the future attacks of its enemies than they have been in recommending it in the first instance to the adoption of the people. Independent of all considerations drawn from this source, the point of light in which you stand at home and abroad will make an infinite difference in the respectability with which the government will begin its operations in the alternative of your being or not being at the head of it. I forbear to urge considerations which might have a more personal application. What I have said will suffice for the inferences I mean to draw.

First. In a matter so essential to the well-being of society as the prosperity of a newly-instituted government, a citizen of so much consequence as yourself to its success has no option but to lend his services if called for. Permit me to say it would be inglorious in such a situation not to hazard the glory, however great, which he might have previously acquired.

Secondly. Your signature to the proposed system pledges your judgment for its being such a one as, upon the whole, was worthy of the public approbation. If it should miscarry (as men commonly decide from success, or the want of it), the blame will, in all probability, be laid on the system itself, and the framers of it will have to encounter the disrepute of having brought about a revolution in government, without substituting any thing that was worthy of the effort. They pulled down one Utopia, it will be said, to build up another. This view of the subject if I mistake not, my dear sir, will suggest to your mind greater hazard to that fame, which must be and ought to be dear to you, in refusing your future aid to the system than in affording it. I will only add that, in my estimate of the matter, that aid is indispensable.

I have taken the liberty to express these sentiments, and to lay before you my view of the subject. I doubt not the considerations mentioned have fully occurred to you, and I trust they will finally produce in your mind the same result which exists in mine. I flatter myself the frankness with which I have delivered myself will not be displeasing to you. It has been prompted by motives which you would not disapprove. The letter inclosed in yours was immediately forwarded.


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