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DEAR SIR, Your favor of the 17th of September, with sundry other and packets, came duly by the last packet. Such of them as were addressed to others were duly forwarded. The three boxes, marked I. M., G. W., and A. D., it appears, were never shipped from Havre. Whenever they arrive your commands with regard to the two last shall be attended to, as well as those relating to some of the contents of the first. I have not been able to get any satisfactory account of William S. Browne. Alderman Broom tells me that he professed to receive the money from him for the use of Mr. Burke. I shall not lose sight of the subject, and will give you the earliest information of the result of my enquiries.
The annexed list of trees will shew you that I have ventured to substitute half a dozen sorts of apples in place of the pippins alone, and to add 8 other sorts of American Trees, including twenty of the Sugar maple. They were obtained from a Mr. Prince, in the neighborhood of this city, who deals largely in this way, and is considered as a man of worth. I learn from him that he has executed various commissions for Europe and the West Indies, as well as places less distant, and that he has been generally very successful in preserv.g the trees from perishing by such distant transplantations. He does not use moss, as you prescribe, but encloses the roots in a bag of earth. As moss is not to be got, he says, it is uncertain whether necessity or choice gives the preference to the latter. I enclose a catalogue of his nursery. and annex the price of the sample I send you, that you may, if you incline, give orders for any other supply. I doubt whether the Virginia Red Birds are found in this part of America. Opossums are not rare in the milder parts of New Jersey, but are very rare this far Northward. I shall, nevertheless, avail myself of any opportunities which may happen for procuring and forwarding both.
Along with the box of trees, I send by the packet, to the care of Mr. Limosin, two barrels of New-town pippins, and two of Cranberries. In one of the latter the Cranberries are put up dry, in the other in water; the opinions and accounts differing as to the best mode, you will note the event of the experiment.
The Constitution proposed by the late Convention engrosses almost the whole political attention of America. All the Legislatures, except that of Rhode Island, which has assembled, have agreed in submitting it to State Conventions. Virginia has set the example of opening a door for amendments, if the Convention there should chuse to propose them. Maryland has copied it. The States which preceded referred the Constitution, as recommended by the General Convention, to be ratified or rejected as it stands. The Convention of Pennsylvania is now sitting. There are about 44 or 45 on the affirmative, and about half that number on the opposite side; a considerable number of the Constitutional party, as it was called, having joined the other party in espousing the Federal Constitution. The returns of deputies for the Convention of Connecticut are known, and prove, as is said by those who know the men, that a very great majority will adopt it in that State.
The event in Massachusetts lies in greater uncertainty. The friends of the New Government continue to be sanguine. New Hampshire, from every account, as well as from some general inducements felt there, will pretty certainly be on the affirmative side. So will New Jersey and Delaware. New York is much divided. She will hardly dissent from New England, particularly if the conduct of the latter should coincide with that of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A more formidable opposition is likely to be made in Maryland than was at first conjectured. Mr. Mercer, it seems, who was a member of the Convention, though his attendance was but for a short time, is become an auxiliary to Chase. Johnson, the Carrolls, Governor Lee, and most of the other characters of weight, are on the other side. Mr. T. Stone died a little before the Government was promulged.
The body of the people in Virginia, particularly in the upper
and lower Country, and in the Northern neck, are, as far as I
can gather, much disposed to adopt the New Constitution. The
middle Country, and the South side of James River, are principally in the opposition to it. As yet a large majority of the
people are under the first description; as yet, also, are a majority of the Assembly. What change may be produced by the
united influence and exertions of Mr. Henry, Mr. Mason, and
the Governor, with some' pretty able auxiliaries, is uncertain.
My information leads me to suppose there must be three parties
in Virginia. The first, for adopting without attempting amendments. This includes General Washington and the other deputies who signed the Constitution, Mr. Pendleton, (Mr. Marshall,
I believe,) Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Corbin, Mr. Zach y Johnson, Col.
Innes, (Mr. B. Randolph, as I understand,) Mr. Harvey, Mr.
Gabriel Jones, Doctor Jones,
Mr. Harrison, the late Governor, is with Mr. Henry. So are a number of others. The General and Admiralty Courts, with most of the Bar, oppose the Constitution, but on what particular grounds I am unable to say. General Nelson, Mr. John Page, Col. Bland, &c., are also opponents, but on what principle and to what extent I am equally at a loss to say. In general, I must note that I speak with respect to many of these names from information that may not be accurate, and merely as I should do in a free and confidential conversation with you. I have not yet heard Mr. Wythe's sentiments on the subject. Doctor McClurg, the other absent deputy, is a very strenuous defender of the new Government. Mr. Henry is the great adversary who will render the event precarious. He is, I find, with his usual address, working up every possible interest into a spirit of opposition.
It is worthy of remark, that whilst in Virginia, and some of the other States in the middle and Southern Districts of the Union, the men of intelligence, patriotism, property, and independent circumstances, are thus divided, all of this description,
with a few exceptions, in the Eastern States, and most of the Middle States, are zealously attached to the proposed Constitution. In New England, the men of, the principal officers of Government, the Judges and lawyers, the Clergy, and men of property, furnish only here and there an adversary. It is not less worthy of remark, that in Virginia, where the mass of the people have been so much accustomed to be guided by their rulers on all new and intricate questions, they should on the present, which certainly surpasses the judgment of the greater part of them, not only go before, but contrary to their most popular leaders. And the phenomenon is the more wonderful, as a popular ground is taken by all the adversaries to the new Constitution. Perhaps the solution in both these cases would not be very difficult; but it would lead to observ.ions too diffusive, and to you unnecessary. I will barely observ.that the case in Virginia seems to prove that the body of sober and steady people, even of the lower order, are tired of the vicissitudes, injustice, and follies, which have so much characterized public measures, and are impatient for some change which promises stability and repose.
The proceedings of the present Assembly are more likely to cherish than remove this disposition. I find Mr. Henry has carried a Resolution for prohibiting the importation of Rum, brandy, and other ardent spirits; and if I am not misinformed, all manufactured leather, hats, and sundry other articles, are included in the prohibition. Enormous duties, at least, are likely to take place on the last and many other articles. A project of this sort, without the concurrence of the other States, is little short of madness. With such concurrence, it is not practicable without resorting to expedients equally noxious to liberty and economy. The consequences of the experiment in a single State as unprepared for manufactures as Virginia may easily be preconceived.
The Revised Code will not be resumed. Mr. Henry is an inveterate adversary to it. Col. Mason made a regular and powerful attack on the port Bill, but was left in a very small minority. I found at the last session that that regulation was not to be shaken, though it certainly owes its success less to its principal merits than to collateral and casual considerations. The popular ideas are, that by favoring the collection of duties on imports, it saves the solid property from direct taxes; and that it injures Great Britain by lessening the advantage she has over other nations in the trade of Virginia.
We have no certain information from the three Southern States concerning the temper relative to the new Government. It is in general favorable, according to the vague accounts we have. Opposition, however, will be made in each. Mr. Wiley Jones and Governor Caswell have been named as opponents in North Carolina.
So few particulars have come to hand concerning the state of things in Georgia, that I have nothing to add, on that subject, to the contents of my last by Commodore Jones.
We have two or three States only yet met for Congress. As many more can be called in, when their attendance will make a quorum. It continues to be problematical whether the interregnum will not be spun out through the winter.
We remain in great uncertainty here with regard to a war in Europe. Reports and suspicions are strongly on the side of one. Such an event may be considered in various relations to this country. It is pretty certain, I think, that if the present lax state of our General Government should continue, we shall not only lose certain capital advantages which might be drawn from it, but be in danger of being plunged into difficulties, which may have a very serv.us effect on our future fortunes.
- Letters and other writings of James Madison. Vol. I. 1769-1793. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippencott & Co, 1865, digitized by archive.org