To Thomas Jefferson
Philada. Sepr. 6. 1787.
My last was intended for the Augst. Packet and put into the hands of
Commodore Paul Jones. Some disappointments prevented his going, and as he did
not know but its contents might be unfit for the ordinary conveyance, he
retained it. The precaution was unnecessary. For the same reason the delay has
been of little consequence. The rule of secresy in the Convention rendered that
as it will this letter barren of those communications which might otherwise be
made. As the Convention will shortly rise I should feel little scruple in
disclosing what will be public here, before it could reach you, were it
practicable for me to guard by Cypher against an intermediate discovery. But I
am deprived of this resource by the shortness of the interval between the
receipt of your letter of June 20. and the date of this. This is the first day
which has been free from Committee service both before & after the hours of
the House, and the last that is allowed me by the time advertised for the
sailing of the Packet.
The Convention consists now as it has generally done of Eleven States.
There has been no intermission of its Sessions since a house was formed; except
an interval of about ten days allowed a Committee appointed to detail the
general propositions agreed on in the House. The term of its dissolution cannot
be more than one or two weeks distant. A Govermt. will probably be submitted to
the people of the states consisting of a President cloathed with
executive power, a Senate chosen by the Legislatures: and
another house chosen by the people of the states jointly
possessing the legislative power and a regular judiciary
establishment. The mode of constituting the executive is among the
few points not yet finally settled. The Senate will consist of two
members from each state and appointed sexennially: The
other, of members appointed biennially by the people of the
states in proportion to their number. The Legislative power will
extend to taxation trade and sundry other general matters. The powers of
Congress will be distributed according to their nature among the
several departments. The States will be restricted from paper money
and in a few other instances. These are the outlines. The extent
of them may perhaps surprize you. I hazard an opinion nevertheless that the
plan should it be adopted will neither effectually answer
its national object nor prevent the local mischiefs which every
where excite disgusts agst the state governments. The grounds of
this opinion will be the subject of a future letter.
I have written to a friend in Congs. intimating in a covert manner the
necessity of deciding & notifying the intentions of Congs. with regard to
their foreign Ministers after May next, and have dropped a hint on the
communications of Dumas.
Congress have taken some measures for disposing of their public land,
and have actually sold a considerable tract. Another bargain I learn is on foot
for a further sale.
Nothing can exceed the universal anxiety for the event of the Meeting
here. Reports and conjectures abound concerning the nature of the plan which is
to be proposed. The public however is certainly in the dark with regard to it.
The Convention is equally in the dark as to the reception wch. may be given to
it on its publication. All the prepossessions are on the right side, but it may
well be expected that certain characters will wage war against any reform
whatever. My own idea is that the public mind will now or in a very little time
receive any thing that promises stability to the public Councils & security
to private rights, and that no regard ought to be had to local prejudices or
temporary considerations. If the present moment be lost it is hard to say what
may be our fate.
Our information from Virginia is far from being agreeable. In many parts
of the Country the drouth has been extremely injurious to the Corn. I fear,
tho' I have no certain information, that Orange & Albemarle share in the
distress. The people also are said to be generally discontented. A paper
emission is again a topic among them. So is an instalment of all debts in some
places and the making property a tender in others. The taxes are another source
of discontent. The weight of them is complained of, and the abuses in
collecting them still more so. In several Counties the prisons & Court
Houses & Clerks offices have been wilfully burnt. In Green Briar the course
of Justice has been mutinously stopped, and associations entered into agst. the
payment of taxes. No other County has yet followed the example. The approaching
meeting of the Assembly will probably allay the discontents on one side by
measures which will excite them on another.
Mr. Wythe has never returned to us. His lady whose illness carryed him
away, died some time after he got home. The other deaths in Virga. are Col. A.
Gary, and a few days ago, Mrs Harrison, wife of Benjn. Harrison Junr. &
sister of J. F. Mercer. Wishing you all happiness I remain Dear Sir Yrs.