Letters of Delegates to Congress:Volume 23 November 7, 1785-November 5, 1786
Henry Lee to George Washington
Dear Genl. [October 1? 1786](1)
I have not written to you for a long time having nothing important or agreable to communicate.
Nor have I now any thing agreable, but alas the reverse.
The commotions which have for some time past distracted the two eastern states, have risen in Massachusetts to an alarming height. In New Hampshire the firmness of their President the late General Sullivan has dissipated the troubles in that state.(2) I enclose a full narration of his decided conduct, and the effects which it produced.(3) But affairs are in a very different situation in Massachusetts. After various insults to government, by stopping the courts of Sussex &c, the insurgents have in a very formidable shape taken possession of the town of Springfield, at which place the supreme court was sitting. The friends to government arrayed under the Militia general of the district Shephard in support [of] the court, but their exertions were not effectual. The court removed and broke up, the insurgents continue possessed, of the town & General Shepherd has retired to the United states Arsenal one mile from Springfield. This Arsenal contains a very important share of our munitions of war. Congress have sent their secretary of this department, General Knox, to take the best measures in his power in concert with government for the safety of the Arsenal. What renders the conduct of the insurgents more alarming is, that they behave with decency & manage with system, they are encamped and reg-[Page 578]ularly supplied with provisions by their friends & have lately given orders to the delegates in Assembly from their particular towns, not to attend the meeting of the Legislature.
It must give you pleasure to hear in this very distressing scene, the late officers & soldiers are on the side of government unanimously. The Insurgents it is said are conducted by a Captain of the late army, who continued but a small period in service & possessed a very reputable character.(4) This event produces much suggestion as to its causes. Some attribute it to the weight of taxes and the decay of commerce, which has produced universal idleness.
Others, to British Councils the vicinity of Vermont & the fondness for novelty which always has & ever will possess more or less influence on man. The next accounts will I hope produce favorable intelligence, but present appearances do not justify this hope.
Has your china arrived, & does it please Mrs Washington. Be pleased to present my best respects to her & accept the repitition of my unceasing regard with which, I have the honor to be most sincerely, Your ob ser,
Henry Lee Junr.
RC (DLC: Washington Papers). Endorsed by Washington: "The Honble. Henry Lee about 1st Octr. 1786."
1 Date conjectured from the endorsement and Washington's reference to this letter in an October 31 reply as one of "the 1st." Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 29:33.
2 See King to Theodore Sedgwick, September 29, note 2.
3 This "full narration" is not in the Washington Papers, DLC; but for an eye-witness account and discussion of the episode from the perspective of a participant, see Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Transactions, 11 (1906--;7): 390--;97; and Lynn W. Turner, William Plumer of New Hampshire, 1759--;1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962), pp. 22--;25.
4 That is, Daniel Shays.
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
Mount Vernon, October 22, 1786.
My Dr. Humphreys: Your favor of the 24th. ulto. came to my hands about the middle of this month. For the enclosures it contained I pray you to receive my warmest acknowledgments and thanks. The Poem, tho' I profess not to be a connoisseur in these kind of writings, appears pretty in my eye, and has sentiment and elegance which must I think render it pleasing to others.
With respect to the circular letter,32 I see no cause for suppressing or altering any part of it, except as to the place of meeting. Philadelphia, on three accots. is my opinion must be more convenient to the majority of the delegation, than New York. 1st. as most central. 2dly. because there are regularly established packet-boats, well accommodated for Passengers, to it from the Southern States; and 3dly. because it appears to me that the seat of Congress would not be so well for this meeting. When you have digested your thoughts for publication, in the case of Captn. Asgill, I would thank you for a copy of them; having arrested the account I had furnished Mr. Tilghman, with an assurance of a more authentic one for his friend in England.
[Note 32: See Washington's letter to the State societies of the Cincinnati, Oct. 31, 1786, post.]
I am pleased with the choice of Delegates which was made at your State meeting; and wish the Representatives of all the State societies may appear at the Genl. Meeting, with as good dispositions as I believe they will. It gives me pleasure also to hear that so many Officers are sent to your Assembly: I am persuaded they will carry with them more liberality of sentiments, than is to be found among any other class of Citizens. The speech of our friend Cobb was noble, worthy of a patriot and himself; as was the conduct of Genl. Sullivan. But for God's sake tell me what is the cause of all these commotions:33 do they proceed from licentiousness, British-influence disseminated by the tories, or real grievances which admit of redress? If the latter, why were they delayed 'till the public mind had become so much agitated? If the former why are not the powers of Government tried at once? It is as well to be without, as not to live under their exercise. Commotions of this sort, like snow-balls, gather strength as they roll, if there is no opposition in the way to divide and crumble them. Do write me fully, I beseech you, on these matters; not only with respect to facts, but as to opinions of their tendency and issue. I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe. My health (I thank you for the enquiry) is restored to me; and all under this roof join me in most affectionate regards, and in regretting that your letter has held out no idea of visiting it again this winter, as you gave us hope of doing when you left us. To all the gentn. of my acquaintance who may happen to be in your circle, I beg to be remembered with sincere regard. To assure you of the
[Note 33: Shay's rebellion in Massachusetts.] sincerity of my friendship for you, would be unnecessary; as you must I think be perfectly satisfied of the high esteem and affection with which, I am, etc.34
[Note 34: From the "Letter Book" copy in the Washington Papers.]
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
Rufus King to Charles Thomson
Dr Sir Hartford 10 Decr. 1786
A party of men assembled at Concord under Shattuck, Parker & Page, to oppose the sitting of the court of common pleas at Cambridge on the 28th ult, but not meeting with assistance from Worcester & Bristol as they had been led to expect they gave up their design, and were [Page 47]returning to their respective homes, when a party of men under the Sheriff of Middlesex aided by the those from Boston commanded by Col. Hichborn, over took and apprehended Shattuck, Parker and Page.(1) These men are now confined in the Boston Goal. Tuesday the 5th instant was the day assigned for the sitting of the court of common Pleas at Worcester; previous to that day Shays repaired to that County, and assembled a force in opposition to the court. On Tuesday the Judges preceeded by the Sheriff went towards the Court House, but were denied admittance by the insurgents. The Sheriff read the Riot Act, some of the Judges harangued the Insurgents, and finally by agreement or otherwise the Judges were permitted to enter the court House, where they opened the court and immediately adjourned the scene to a late Day in January. It is reported that a majority of the council was against any measure which might have brought the Question to an issue of Force; otherwise the well affected militia would have been collected in opposition to the Insurgents. By information received last evening from Worcester, on Friday last Shays had under his command, a body of 1500 Men well armed at that place, and at Rutland, about 18 Miles distant. The convention Troops were some Time of the Barracks which they formerly occupied. The division at Worcester are quartered upon the Inhabitants. The Insurgents are plentifully supplied with provisions which are brought to them daily by their Friends---;they conduct with great decorum to individuals, and have not yet been discovered to have plundered in a single instance. Their Force increases and the Gentleman who gives me this information adds that he met 200 Men in one body after leaving Worcester on Friday, on their way to join Shays---;the avowed object of remaining their together since the adjournment of the court, is the liberation of Shattuck, Parker & Page---;and to accomplish this purpose, they affirmed on Friday, that Shays had sent an express to the Governor demanding the liberation of the Prisoners and giving notice if he was refused, that he would march his party to effect that Object in another way.
What measures have been pursued on the part of Government, I have not learnt. The post left Boston on Thursday morning, the idea then entertained there was that the Insurgents would separate after preventing the sitting of the Court.
Knowing that the situation of this unhappy commotion would be the subject of curiosity, & perhaps anxiety, with the Gentleman of Congress, I cannot suffer the post to pass without this communication. The Gentleman is personally known to me from whom I received my information, I therefore give it full credit so far as relates to the positions and numbers of the Insurgents.
I hope to be in New York some Time next week---;with Sentiments of Esteem & Respect, I am Dr. Sir your Obt. & very Humble Servant, R King(2)
RC (DNA: PCC, item 59).
1 For these events, see Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion, pp. 92--;93.
2 King also sent the following report to the secretary at war Henry Knox from Hartford on December 13.
"Shays disbanded his party on Sunday & Monday last. The Stageman passed them in detachments on the road yesterday and to Day, returning home rather chap fallen. Some of them say they will go no more, others that they are not yet tired of the business.
"The stageman informs, and this is the only information, that the returning Insurgents say that one of the Days has gone to Boston with a memorial &c &c and that Shays will remain at Worcester till he receives a Reply from the Governor. They add that Ward & Gill have given their paroles to deliver themselves into the Hands of Mr. Shays if the Govr. does not liberate Mathews, Page & Parker.
"Nothing certain can be collected except that Hunger & Cold compelled the Insurgents to separate. Farewel, R King.
"We have a prospect of compromising with N York, I hope to see you by the 21st." Knox Papers, Mhi.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
Henry Lee to George Washington
My dear General Nov. 11h. 86, N-York
I have your letter of the 31st Octr.(1) Besides the pleasure we all feel in knowing the health of Mount Vernon I am delighted and edified by your sentiments. This moment Genl. Knox & Mr. King left me having perused the part of your letr. which respects the Insurgents. They expressed the highest satisfaction in finding that your retirement had not abated your affectionate zeal for the prosperity of every part of the empire.
Every day brings new information of the designs & preparations of the malcontents---;they are training their people, have officered some considerable bodys & are forming connexions with their neighboring states and the Vermontese. A convention has assembled to devise ways & means of supporting their military arrangements, & of doing such other things as may be necessary for the prosecution of their intentions. We have authentic information that they contemplate a re-union with G. Britain, & it is not improbable but that the convention now sitting will formally make propositions of this nature to Lord Dorchester (Sir Guy Carleton) who is arrived at Quebec with plenipotentiary powers as Governor General of British America. They also declare their willingness to establish an imperial government in the U. States and I beleive could they be indulged with their favorite wish abolition of debts they would chearfully enter into the plan of a fOEderal government assimilating the British government.(2) In some matters these people certainly [Page 27] think right, altho they act wrong. A continuance of our present feeble political form is pregnant with daily evils & must drive us at last to a change---;then it would be wise that this necessary alteration should be effected in peace & governed by reason, not left to passion & accident. If the insurgent would submit to government, & by constitutional exertions induce their state to commence this change, they woud benefit themselves, their country & the Union. Good management might perhaps produce this wholesome conduct, but it is too probable that desperate & entriguing men may pursue private objects only.
I enclose you a piece signed Belisaurius. He is said to be Baron Steuben---;this excites universal wonder.(3)
I hope to see you & your lady next month. Our united love & respects to Mount Vernon. Adieu. With most affectionate regard your h sr,
H. Lee Junr
RC (DLC: Washington Papers).
1 See Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 29:33--;35.
2 For prevailing fears that the newly-arrived Sir Guy Carleton had sent agents among the Massachusetts' insurgents to sow disaffection, foment Indian war, and forestall American recovery of the northwest posts, see Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion, pp. 74--;76, 108--;9; and Robert A. Feer, Shays's Rebellion (New York: Garland Pub. Co., 1988), pp. 289--;306.
3 See Rufus King to Elbridge Gerry, November 5, 1786, note 4.
Rufus King to Henry Lee?
RC (DLC: Miscellaneous Manuscripts).
1 Not identified, but apparently a delegate from a state other than Massachusetts whom King expected to return soon to Congress (see postscript). The letter was acquired by the Library of Congress in 1908 with a group of 82 documents of almost entirely southern, and principally Virginian, provenance, 12 of which were addressed to Henry Lee or Henry Lee, Jr. If King was indeed addressing a Virginian, Henry Lee is the only delegate who fits the recipient's requirements. He had been reelected to Congress December 1, 1786, and was expected to return soon to New York, although he did not actually resume his seat until April 19. In addition, the two men were of the same general political persuasion, and Lee is known to have been keenly interested in the "disturbances" in Massachusetts.
2 Not found.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In the Year of our LORD, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-Seven.
An ACT, describing the Disqualifications to which Persons shall be subjected, who have been, or may be guilty of Treason, or giving Aid or Support to the present REBELLION, and to whom a Pardon may be extended.
WHEREAS the General Court, at their present sessions, have "Resolved, That the Governour, be authorized and empowered, in the name of the General Court, to promise a pardon, under such disqualifications as should thereafter be provided, to such private soldiers and others, who might have acted in the capacity of non-commissioned officers, as had been, or were in arms against the Commonwealth, with such exceptions as he, or the General Officer, commanding the troops, might judge necessary: Provided, they should deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance to this Commonwealth, within such time as might be limited by his Excellency, for that purpose:"
And whereas it is fit and expedient, That the conditions and disqualifications upon which the pardon and indemnity to the offenders, aforesaid, should be offered and given, should, as soon as possible, be established and made known:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, That no pardon or indemnity, shall be promised as aforesaid by the Governour, by virtue of any act or resolve of the General Court, that has been or shall be passed, to any person or persons, who have acted in the capacity of non-commission officers or privates, or persons of any other description, who, since the first day of August, seventeen hundred and eighty-six, have been, now are, or hereafter may be in arms against the authority and Government of this Commonwealth, or who have given or may hereafter give them counsel, aid, comfort or support, voluntarily, with intent to encourage the opposition to Government, unless they shall on or before such time as the Governour shall limit for that purpose, deliver up their arms to, and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, before some Justice of the Peace, within some county of this Commonwealth; and no pardon or indemnity shall be offered or given by the Governour to any of the offenders aforesaid, who are not citizens of this State.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That to whomsoever of the offenders aforesaid, the Governour shall think fit, by virtue of any act or resolve of the General Court, to promise a pardon and indemnity, for the offences aforesaid, it shall be under the following restrictions, conditions and disqualifications, that is to say, That they shall keep the peace for the term of three years, from the time of passing this act, and that during that term of time, they shall not serve as Jurors, be eligible to any Town-Office, or any other Office under the Government of this Commonwealth, and shall be disqualified from holding or exercising the employments of School-Masters, Innkeepers or Retailers of spirituous liquors, or either of them, or giving their votes for the same term of time, for any officer, civil or military, within this Commonwealth, unless such persons, or any of them, shall after the first day of May, seventeen hundred and eighty-eight, exhibit plenary evidence of their having returned to their allegiance, and kept the peace, and that they possess an unequivocal attachment to the Government, as shall appear to the General Court a sufficient ground to discharge them, or any of them, from all or any part of the disqualifications aforesaid.
Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall be the duty of the Justice before whom any offender or offenders aforesaid may deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath aforesaid, and he is accordingly directed, immediately on the expiration of the term to be limited by the Governour as aforesaid, to certify to the Clerks of the several towns, districts, and plantations, whereunto the offenders may belong, the names of all such who shall deliver up their arms and take and subscribe the oath aforesaid, and shall also, as soon as may be after the expiration of the said term, make a return to the Secretary of this Commonwealth, of the number of arms in his possession, and to whom they belong, and shall at the same time lodge with the Secretary, their original subscription to the oath of allegiance; and it shall be duty of the Justice to require such as shall take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, to subjoin to their names, their places of abode, and their additions, and if required, to give to each offender who shall deliver up his arms, and take and subscribe the oath aforesaid, a certificate of the same, under his seal; and he shall be intitled to ask and receive nine pence, of the offenders, for each certificate. And any Justice of the Peace to whom any arms may voluntarily be delivered as aforesaid, shall certify to the Major-General or commanding-officer of the division, in which the said Justice may live, the number of arms so delivered to him, and by whom they were delivered; and it shall be the duty of such Major-General or commanding-officer, to give such directions as he may think necessary, for the safe keeping such arms, in order that they may be returned to the person or persons who delivered the same, at the expiration of the said term of three years, in case such person or persons shall have complied with the conditions above-mentioned, and shall obtain an order for the re-delivery of such arms, from the Governour, who is hereby authorized and empowered to make such order, unless it appears to him, that the conditions aforesaid have not been complied with.
Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any offender or offenders aforesaid, who shall deliver up their arms and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, as aforesaid, or to whom a pardon may be promised by virtue of any future act or resolve of the General Court, shall vote, or offer to vote in any town or other meeting, for any office, civil or military, within the Commonwealth, or shall make, forge, or alter any certificate of a Justice, of his having delivered up his arms, and taken the oath of allegiance as aforesaid, he shall forfeit all his right and interest in and to the pardon and indemnity which may be promised him, by virtue of the authority aforesaid, and be subject to the same pains and penalties, as if such promise had never been made.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Governor be, and he hereby is authorized and empowered, to promise a pardon of their past offences, unconditional, and without any disqualifications, to all such privates, as have borne arms against the Government of this Commonwealth, who afterwards voluntarily took up arms previously to the first day of February current, in support of the said Government, and to those, who aggreably to the proposals of General Lincoln, of the twenty-ninth and thirtieth of January last, voluntarily came in, surrendered their arms, and took and subscribed the oath of allegiance, within three days, from the said twenty-ninth day of January, any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, that no pardon which shall be promised by the Governour, shall be construed to extend to indemnify any person or persons whatever, from any suits or prosecutions, to which they may be liable, for injuries done or committed, to the property or person, of any individual.
Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it is the duty of all officers civil and military, within this Commonwealth, to hold all offenders as aforesaid, who shall not within the term to be limited as aforesaid, deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, as rebels and open enemies, and they are directed and required, to encounter, pursue, conquer, apprehend, and secure them, so that they may be brought to trial and punishment; and all the citizens of this Commonwealth are hereby required to aid and support the said officers; in the execution of their said duty.
And be it further enacted, That the Governour be, and be here by is requested, to except out of the pardon he shall promise, by virtue of the resolve abovementioned all those who have been members of any General Court in this State, or of any State or county convention, or who have been employed heretofore in any commissioned office civil or military, those, who after delivering up their arms, and taking the oath of allegiance during the present rebellion, have again taken and borne arms against the Government; those who have fired upon, or wounded any of the loyal subjects of this Commonwealth, those who have acted as Committees, Counsellors or advisers to the Rebels; and those, who in former years have been in arms against the Government in the capacity of commissioned officers, and were afterwards pardoned and have been concerned in the present rebellion.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Clerks of the several towns, districts and plantations, be directed to read this act at the opening of their annual meetings in March and April next.
In the HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES, February 16, 1787.
This Bill having had three several Readings, passed to be enacted...........ARTEMAS WARD, Speaker.
In SENATE February 16, 1787.
This Bill having had two federal Readings, passed to be enacted...........SAMUEL PHILLIPS, jun, President.
By the Governor Approved,
A True Copy...........Attest.
JOHN AVERY, jun, Secretary.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
My Dr. Sir New York 18 Feb. 1787
Rufus King to Thomas Dwight
I am indeed obliged to you for your Letter giving me the earliest and only correct account of the State of the Insurgency which I received. The Packet sailed the morning after your Letter came to hand, and I was so strongly impressed with the Anxiety of Mr. Adams at London, that I could not refrain inclosing your Letter to him as the best information in my power to communicate relative to the situation of Massachusetts.(1)
We are without information of the proceedings of Genl. Lincoln in Berkshire; and I am extremely anxious to know the present Effects of the proceedings of the General Court, as well in relation to the declaration of the Rebellion & its consequent measures, as concerning the more delicate decision of disfranchising for a limited Time the persons who have born Arms and those who have aided them in the late proceedings against Government.
General Knox has ordered the Recruits at Hartford under Colo. Humphries to rendezvous at Springfield, I am uncertain of the num-[Page 100]
ber of this corps, but suppose it to amount to about 100 Rank & File.
I have only Time to add Assurances of real respect & Esteem & that I am sincerely your Obt. & very Humble servt., Rufus King
[P.S.] Pray inform me of the situation of Berkshire if your Leisure will permit.
RC (PHi: Gratz Collection).
1 Dwight's 11-page February 1 letter to King explaining recent developments concerning Shays' Rebellion at Springfield, Mass., and two enclosed intercepted January 25 letters of the Shaysite captain Luke Day, to Capt. Daniel Shays and to Gen. William Shephard, are in the Adams Family Papers, Mhi.
Journals of the Continental Congress, In Congress. Feb.y. 19. 1787
- 1. That though it appeared pretty certain that the main body of the insurgents had been dispersed it was by no means certain that the spirit of insurrection was subdued. The leaders too of the insurgents had not been apprehended, and parties of them were still in arms in disaffected places.
- 2. That great respect is due on such an occasion to the wishes and representations of the suffering member of the federal body, both of which must be judged of by what comes from her representatives on the floor. These tell us that the measures taken by Congs. have given great satisfaction & spirits to their constituents and have cooperated much in baffling the views of their internal enemies; that they are pursuing very critical precautions at this moment for their future safety and tranquility; and that the construction which will be put on the proposed resolution if agreed to by Congs. cannot fail to make very unhappy impressions, and may have very serious consequences. The propriety of these precautions depends on so many circumstances better known to the Govt. of Massts. than to Congs that it would be premature in Congs. to be governed by a disapprobation.
- 3. That every State ought to bear in mind the consequences of popular commotions if not thoroughly subdued, on the tranquility of the Union, & the possibility of its being itself the scene of them. Every State ought therefore to submit with cheerfulness to such indulgences to others, as itself may in a little time be in need of. He had been a witness of the temper of his own State (Virginia) on this occasion. It was understood by the Legislature that the real object of the military preparations on foot was the disturbance in Massts. & that very consideration inspired the ardor which voted toward their quota, a tax on tobacco which wd. not have been granted for scarce any other purpose whatever, being a tax operating very partially in the opinion of the people of that State who cultivate that article: yet this class of the Legislature were almost unanimous in making the sacrifice, because the fund was considered as the most certain that could be provided.
- 4. That it was probable the enlistments for the reasons given would be suspended without an order from Congs. in which case, the inconveniences suggested would be saved to the U. S. and the wishes of Massts. satisfied at the same time.
- 5. That as no bounty was given for the troops, and they could be dismissed at any time, the objections drawn from the consideration of expence, could have but little force.
- 6. That it was contended only for
a continuance of the apparent aid of Congs. for 3 or 4 weeks, the
members from Massts. themselves considering that as a sufficient
time. After the rejection of the motion as stated on the journal a dispute arose whether the vote should be entered among the secret or public proceedings. Mr Pinckney insisted that in the latter [former]1 case, his view which was to justify himself to his constituents would be frustrated. Most of those who voted with him were opposed to an immediate publication. The expedient of a temporary concealment was proposed as answering all purposes.
[Note 1: 1 The word "former" interlined in apparently another hand.]
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24
William Irvine to Josiah HarmarDear Col.
Febry. 27Th 1787
I received your favor of the 10th Decr. and will attend to your business whenever a fair oppertunity presents of being able to carry it through. We are obliged to watch for a proper time to strike here with as much attention and caution---;as a good General will an Enemy.
I intend to make Fort Pitt a Visit in May before that time I hope you will receive orders for making an establishment at Vinango---;I mean a detachment only. My motives for wishing this done shall explain to you after the thing is accomplished which will be with difficulty if at all. The grand object most people seem to have in view is to prevent intruders on the lands. I confess this is not the principle with me. The great War in Massachusetts is near a close---; but the people of that Government are by no means satisfied. The Legislature have it is thought carried their triumph too far. An Act to disarm* and Disfranchise for three years, all those who took up arms has passed it is thought the number is about 14,000---;outlaws. The numbers really disaffected by these measures will be three fold as all the near relations and particular friends to those disfranchised will feel sore. If this calculation & reasoning is Just---;is it not to be feared that insurgency will soon again raise its head? These troubles have doubtless had bad effect on the Recruiting. I believe the whole yet raised do not exceed 300. And it is said Massachusetts are about to raise 1500 Men for four months state Troops to keep the insurgents in awe. Under these circumstances I think it probable no competitors for the Command, will appear in the West for some time---; notwithstanding the poetick fire of an Humphry in the East---;shines with so much lustre.(1) Inclosed you have an Act of Congress---;which I hope will be productive of much good---;it may do good & can do no harm, which is greatly in favor of the measure. Several states have already appointed Delegates and I think all will. Such a respectable body of Men have not been convened on any occasion since the first Congress as it is supposed these will be.
Some States have complied in part with the requisitions of Congress---;some not at all, and others have flatly refused. There is therefore no alternative to giving up all at once for lost---;but that of attempting to revise and mend the Confederation---;or frame an entire new Government---;whether the proposed Convention will be able to effect either it is hard to say---;but an attempt is necessary and the sooner it is made it will be sooner compleated.
Under the present Government it is much to be feared---;that insurgency---;& Rebellion---;may pervade more States than Massachusetts. The people of Maryland are at this moment in great ferment about paper money, some are Violent for & others as much against it. The Assembly were generally for---;and the Sennate unanimously against. Such was the Animosity that an Adjournment took place for the purpose of appealing to the people. They are soon to meet again when I hope they will accommodate.
The foregoing hints I have t[h]rown out meerly to give you some general Ideas---;of what is passing. You will therefore not I am persuaded make an improper use of them. Pray present my respects to Mrs. Harmar---;and believe me to be with great regard, Dear Col., Your friend & Humble Servant, Wm. Irvine(2)
1 Undoubtedly a reference to "The Anarchiad," a mock-epic poem written by David Humphreys in collaboration with Joel Barlow, Lemuel Hopkins, and John Trumbull---;the Connecticut Wits---;for which see Stephen Mix Mitchell to Jeremiah Wadsworth, January 24, 1787, note 3.
2 An account of Irvine with the state of Pennsylvania---;"To fifty nine days attendance at Congress---;Viz from the 4th Decr. 1786 to the 1st Feby. 1787 inclusive"---;signed "Ex[amine] & settled, Jno. Nicholson, Comptrl. Genls Office Feby 3d 1787," is in the Gratz Collection, Phi.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788 Massachusetts Delegates to James Bowdoin
Sir, New York 4 March 1787.
Mr. Williams of Pittsfield arrived in this City on the Evening of the 2d instant, with a Dispatch from Genl. Lincoln representing to the Governor of this State the Countenance and support which had been afforded, to the Fugitives from Massachusetts, by the people inhabiting a District within this Jurisdiction & adjacent to the County of Berkshire, and giving information of the Incursion made from this State into that County on the 26th ult.(1) As your Excellency will undoubtedly have received official information of this Event before this reaches you, we forbear the communication of any particulars on that subject. The Intelligence received from Genl. Lincoln was by the Governor laid before the Legislature yesterday morning; and it is with real satisfaction that we now have the Honor to inclose to your Excellency, a Resolution, which they adopted in consequence thereof.(2)
Governor Clinton left this City early this morning, and will in the most Effectual & Expeditious manner cooperate with Genl. Lincoln "in apprehending & securing such of the Rebels as shall be found in this state."(3)
With perfect Respect we have the Honor to be yr. Excellency's Obt. & very Humble Servts., Rufus King
RC (MHi: Shays' Rebellion Collection). Written by Rufus King and signed by King and Nathan Dane.
1 For Gen. Benjamin Lincoln's February 21 dispatch to Gov. George Clinton, a copy of which Lincoln enclosed with a February 22 letter to Governor Bowdoin, see Bowdoin and Temple Papers (MHS Colls.), pp. 149--;50, 156--;58.
2 By this March 3 resolve, the New York Assembly authorized Governor Clinton to call out the militia and to cooperate with General Lincoln against the Shaysites who had fled into New York, from which they continued to mount raids against Stockbridge, [Page 128] Mass., and the surrounding countryside. Journal of the Assembly of the State of New York, 10th session, p. 80. DLC(ESR).
3 Assuming personal command of the New York militia, Governor Clinton met with General Lincoln at New Lebanon, N.Y., on March 17 to complete their plans, but the insurgents, sensing their danger, withdrew to safety in Vermont and Canada and the crisis passed. For an account of these developments and an assessment of Clinton's leadership against the threatened spread of rebellion to New York, see Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion, pp. 107--;14; and John P. Kaminski, George Clinton. Yeoman Politician of the New Republic (Madison, Wis.: Madison House, 1993), pp. 107--;9.
RC (PHarH: RG 27).
1 For this January 30 agreement, see JCC, 33:619--;29; and Massachusetts and New York Delegates to Congress, April 23, 1787.
2 See Massachusetts Delegates to James Bowdoin, March 4, note 3.
TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 1787.
[Note 2: 2 Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 151, pp. 243--254, read March 13, 1787. See March 8, 1787.]
[Note 1: 1 Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 20, II, p. 325, in the writing of Mr. William Blount. Read March 13 and question taken and lost May 8, 1787. See February 26 and March 1, 1787.]
[Note 2: 2 March 13, 1787. According to indorsement and Committee Book, Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 190, p. 140, the letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, October 23, 1786, was referred to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to report. According to the indorsement it was referred to the Secretary to report particularly on Mr. Jefferson's request to be permitted to travel on account of his health and on what respects the Marquis de Lafayette. See March 8, 1787.]
James Madison to George WashingtonDear Sir, New York March 18th. 1787
"...By our latest and most authentic information from Massts. it would seem that a calm has been restored by the expedition of Genl. Lincoln. The precautions taking by the State however betray a great distrust of its continuance. Besides their act disqualifying the malcontents fromvoting in the election of members for the Legislature &c. another has been passed for raising a corps of 1000 or 1,500 men, and appropriating the choicest revenues of the Country, to its support.(3) It is said that at least half of the insurgents decline accepting the terms annexed to the amnesty, and that this defiance of the law agst. Treason, is countenanced not only by the impunity with which they shew themselves on public occasions, even with insolent badges of their character, but by marks of popular favor conferred on them in various instances in the election to local offices...."
3 Hard on the heels of its February 4 declaration of rebellion, the Massachusetts General Court authorized the enlistment of up to 2,600 additional troops to suppress further uprisings and subsequently passed a Disqualification Act banning the insurgents from, among other things, voting, officeholding, and jury duty. But Benjamin Lincoln had yet to restore "calm" and the insurgents remained active throughout the spring. See Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion, pp. 106--;19. See also Massachusetts Delegates to James Bowdoin, February 21 and March 4.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
James Madison to Thomas Jefferson
RC (DLC: Madison Papers). Madison, Papers (Rutland), 9:317--;22. For flaws in the text of this letter in the early editions of Madison's papers and a comparison of the present text with a partial transcript of it made in 1834 by Nicholas P. Trist, see ibid., p. 322, document note and notes 1--;5.
1 John Jay's lengthy report of October 13, 1786, was taken up the following day, for which see Madison's Notes of Debates, March 20.
2 Words printed in braces in this text were written by Madison in cipher.
3 For evidence that Madison's and William Bingham's interview with the Spanish minister was far from "accidental," see Madison's Notes of Debates, March 13. For the Virginia delegates' subsequent meeting with Gardoqui, see Madison's Notes of Debates, March 29.
4 See Madison's letters to Jefferson of August 12 and December 4, 1786, in Madison, Papers (Rutland), 9:93--;99, 189--;92, and his letter of February 11 in this volume.
5 "Emigrants" supplied by Jefferson, for which Madison had omitted the code.
6 See the Virginia Delegates' Motion, August 21, 1786.
7 Madison interlined this word at a later time.
8 For Madison's April 18 motion to authorize Jefferson to negotiate with Madrid, John Jay's unfavorable April 20 report on that motion, and the April 23 debate on the issue, see JCC, 32:210, 217--;20; and Madison's Notes of Debates, April 23.
9 See Virginia Delegates to Edmund Randolph, March 5, note 1.
10 For this brief March 18 letter, see Madison, Papers (Rutland), 9:313--;14.
* - Interesting, "disarming and disfranchising for a limited time those who have been in arms" would indicate a preexistent right, correct? Consider, as well, the condition of disarming offenders for just a limited time, and this for the charge of treason. And this was before "the right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms shall NOT be Infringed" was even written. It would also provide some plausible reasoning as to just why the Second Amendment was demanded by We The People, yes?
** - "Sir, New York November 16th 1786
"As yet there have not appeared a sufficient Number of Members to form a Congress.
I arrived here on the 5th Instant and did myself the honor to address a letter to You on the 6th. I sent it by a Water Conveyance and hope it will be to hand before this. Ever since the above- mentioned Time my Colleague Mr. Nash has been so much indisposed as to be confined to his bed at some Times better and again worse, today he appears to be as ill as at any other Time and talks much of returning to Carolina with Capt. Tinker who will probably leave this in eight or ten days. I have been thus particular respecting Mr. Nash to show the Necessity there is for some other Gentleman of the Delegation to come on and if the State mean to be represented by three, two ought to come on. The Insurgents in Massachusetts seem inflexably determined not to give up their arms only to a superior force and a Gentleman lately from that State high in Office and of the best Information has given it as his decided Opinion that much blood will be shed before they will submit to Government.
"I have the Honor to be, Your Excellency's Most Obedient Servant,Wm. Blount"-- William Blount to Richard Caswell, [Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24.]
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
On March 23 Washington wrote to John Parke, of Delaware, thanking him for his poetical works and "The Honor which you have done me in dedicating your book to me....I always wish to give every possible encouragement to those works of Genius which are the production of an American."
On this same day (March 23) Washington wrote also to Matthew McConnell, thanking him for his Essay on the Domestic Debts of the United States. Copies of both of these letters are in the "Letter Book" in the Washington Papers.]
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
---;Hoc multa desunt.---;
[April 2, 1787]
"Quem Deus perdere vult, primo demantat,"(2) may, with great propriety, be applied to the majority of your Legislature.(3) When diseases gradually, and by means almost imperceptable, infect the body politic, the nicest discernment and closest attention are requisite in the application of a remedy, and after all, the most profound skill may be baffled in every attempt. The seeds of dissolution are sown in every political constitution, & the great care of the Legislators should be to watch their sprouts, to nip them in infancy, and to cherish, with a faustering hand, every tender plant that may enrich the soil. A conduct direc[t]ly contrary hereto most commonly counteracts its own intentions. For instead of destroying the bands of political society, the administrators, by exciting too sudden and too ardent a fever, serve as fuel themselves to feed, & become as ashes to smother its flames.
I do not feel any great degree of anxiety about the impolicy of this legislature. They represent only the present humors of the state; and even the state itself is but of very little consequence in the great scale of the Union. It cannot be expected that the Convention at Philadelphia will frame and recommend a system that will ever be federally adopted. They will probably investigate the defects of our present national government, and point out the means of removing them. The respective States will greatly differ in their ideas upon the subject, and their encreasing animosities will precipitate the period of anarchy and confusion. From these exuberant sources will arise a government that may be assisted in its formation and principles by the wisdom of the convention. For it is very possible that the majority of wealth, influence and numbers will meet their sentiments; and if so, the residue will be compelled to come in.
For instance; should the Convention report a plan to [Page 199] Congress, & this plan be by them recommended to the Legislatures for adoption, and it should be adopted, by a great majority of the States. Will not this majority be finally led to a seperate Association? And as the States forming it will probably be intermixed with the other states, will not the latter be absorbed by the superior influence of the former?
"Has the Legislature violated the articles of Confederation"? Yes, in thought, word and deed; but not in the instance particularly referred to in the query. Had Governor Bodoin demanded of Governor Collins certain Fugitives from justice agreably to those articles, and the state had refused to deliver them, the refusal would have been a direct violation. But Governor Bodoin's request was to issue a Proclamation offering a reward &c.,(4) The granting or refusing of which was a matter discretionary. The refusal, it is true, was unneighbourly and tantalising; but it was made under those peculiar circumstances wherein the Administration could demonstrate, "Quam prope ad peccatum sine peccato accedere prossunt."(5) It is in vain, my worthy friend, to think of particular violations. There is not a state which can throw the first stone. The evil is radical, and so must be the cure. Politicians differ widely in their opinions upon this head. Many are for a mixed monarchy; more, for a well organised Republic: Of the latter, are all the southern and middle states. New England seems to be divided, but inclining to the former sentiment. This sentiment will probably be embraced in the end, but not in the first assay of a new government. Some are warm espousers of seperate confederacies, to be united in the ties of commerce and defensive alliance. This is a visionary scheme, calculated by shallow heads, upon the basis of our present imbacility; & for this very reason may be adopted. But should it, like the morning dew before the rising Sun, it will no sooner appear than vanish...."
RC (RHi: Ward Papers). Addressed: "Colonel Samuel Ward, Warwick."
1 Samuel Ward, Jr. (1756--;1832), son of former Rhode Island delegate Samuel Ward (1725--;76), had been a captain in Varnum's Rhode Island Regiment in 1775 and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, 1778--;81. He was at this time a member of the Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati, of which Varnum was president since the death of Nathanael Greene. See Heitman, Historical Register, p. 417; and John Ward, "Lieut.-Colonel Samuel Ward of the Revolutionary War," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 6 (July 1875): 113--;23.
2 That is, "Whom God would ruin, he first deprives of reason," a phrase of "spurious Latinity and purely modern [17th century] origin." William Francis King, Classical and Foreign Quotations (London: J. Whitaker, 1904), p. 298.
3 Varnum was one of the most outspoken opponents of the Rhode Island Assembly's paper money policies, and had been counsel for the defense in the September 1786 trial of Trevett v. Weeden, the most serious constitutional challenge mounted against the assembly. See Polishook,Rhode Island and the Union, chapter 6, "The Paper Money Tangle," especially pp. 134--;42.
4 Rhode Island's governor John Collins had responded to Massachusetts' appeal by issuing a proclamation against the fugitives from Shays' rebellion as requested, but the assembly had voted it down by a large majority and in act of defiance had even invited one prominent fugitive, Dr. Samuel Willard, to witness its proceedings. See ibid., pp. 177--;78.
5 Cf. "Quam prope ad crimen sine crimen!---;How near to guilt, without being guilty! Put interrogatively, this was a favourite query with the Jesuits, who refined very extensively upon the point." Henry Thomas Riley, A Dictionary of Latin and Greek Quotations, Proverbs, Maxims and Mottos (London: George Bell, 1876), pp. 357--;58.
The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 [Farrand's Records, Volume 3]
XXVII. William Grayson to James Monroe.1
[Note 1: 1 Documentary History of the Constitution, IV, 170--171.]
N York May 29th. 1787.
The draught made from Congress of members for the Convention has made them very thin & no business of course is going on here: I do not believe that this will be the case untill that body shall be dissolved, which I hardly think will be the case these three months. What will be the result of their meeting I cannot with any certainty determine, but I hardly think much good can come of it: the people of America don't appear to me to be ripe for any great innovations & it seems they are ultimately to ratify or reject: the weight of Genl. Washington as you justly observe is very great in America, but I hardly think it is sufficient to induce the people to pay money or part with power.
The delegates from the Eastwd. are for a very strong government, & wish to prostrate all ye. state legislature, & form a general system out of ye. whole; but I don't learn that the people are with them, on ye. contrary in Massachuzets they think that government too strong & are about rebelling again, for the purpose of making it more democratical: In Connecticut they have rejected the requisition for ye. present year decidedly, & no Man there would be elected to the office of a constable if he was to declare that he meant to pay a copper towards the domestic debt: -- R. Island has refused to send members -- the cry there is for a good government after they have paid their debts in depreciated paper: -- first demolish the Philistines / i, e, their Creditors/ & then for propriety.
N Hamshire has not paid a shilling, since peace, & does not ever mean to pay one to all eternity: -- if it was attempted to tax the people for ye domestic debt 500 Shays would arise in a fortnight. -- In N. York they pay well because they can do it by plundering N Jersey & Connecticut. -- Jersey will go great lengths from motives of revenge and Interest: Pensylvany will join provided you let the sessions of the Executive of America be fixed in Philada. & give her other advantages in trade to compensate for the loss of State power. I shall make no observations on the southern States, but I think they will be/ perhaps from different motives/ as little disposed to part with efficient power as any in the Union.
JOHN HANCOCK, Esquire,
Governour of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
JOHH AVERY, jun. Secretary.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
Nathan Dane to Nathaniel Gorham
Dear Sir. New York June 22. 1787
The inclosed paper I believe contains all that has been done of any importance by the General Court during their present Session. I imagine the Yeas & nays as they stand on the resolve of the 13th are true evidence of the disposition of the House(1) ---;those in the negative argued that the troops were unnecessary---;probably they thought so---; but I think you will not be at a loss to discover the principle on which they acted and formed their opinions when you shall cast your eye upon the accurate division of men---;men on the one hand that have been for years steady in support of Government &c---;on the other men who for years have opposed taxes, proposed paper money, tender laws, &c.
Dr. Holten has arrived---;and I wish the officers of Congress and members not engaged in the Convention would return to New York. I do not know how it may be in the Southern States---;but, I assure you, the present State of Congress has a very disagreeable effect in the Eastern States. The people hear of a Convention in Philada. and that Congress is done sitting, &c. Many of them are told, it seems, that Congress will never meet again probably---;Dr. H. says he saw several sober men who had got an idea that the people were to be called on to take arms to carry into effect immediately the report of the Convention &c. I see no help for men's being so absurd & distracted---;but these things have a pernicious effect on the industry, peace, & habits of the people. Are not the printers imprudent to publish so many contradictory pieces about the proceedings of your body which must be mere conjecture? You know many people always believe all they see in the new papers without the least examination. It appears to me that Congress at this time especially ought to be together & doing business as usual, and if we mean to avoid convulsions those appearances which to the unthinking look so much like abandoning the established Government ought not to be suffered to take place. To be here idle in the present situation of things is become extremely painful and I hope you will [use] your influence with Mr. Meredith, Hawkins, &c, &c to return to Congress.
Your affecte. friend, N. Dane
RC (MHi: Washburn Collection).
1 This vote was on "the resolve reported by the Committee appointed to consider the expediency of repealing the disqualifying act & for raising a number of troops not exceeding eight hundred nor less than five hundred men to be stationed in the western counties, and for pardoning all persons concerned in the late [Shays'] rebellion excepting as therein mentioned," which was adopted 108 to 100. See "Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, commencing Wednesday 30 May 1787," DLC(ESR), pp. 60--;63.
Thursday, August 23. (1787)
of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29,
James Madison to George Washington
Another mail has arrived from Boston without terminating the conflict between our hopes and fears. I have a letter from Mr. King of the 27 which after dilating somewhat on the ideas in his former letters, concludes with the following paragraph.(1) "We have avoided every question which would have shewn the division of the House. Of consequence we are not positive of the numbers on each side. By the last calculation we made on our side, we were doubtful whether we ex-[Page 635]ceeded them or they us in numbers. They however say that they have a majority of eight or twelve against us. We by no means despair." Another letter of the same date from another member gives the following picture.(2) "Never was there an assembly in this State in possession of greater ability & information than the present Convention---;yet I am in doubt whether they will approve the Constitution. There are unhappily three parties opposed to it. 1. All men who are in favour of paper money & tender laws; those are more or less in every part of the State. 2. All the late insurgents & their abettors. In the three great western Counties they are very numerous. We have in the Convention 18 or 20 who were actually in Shay's army. 3. A great majority of the members from the Province of Main. Many of them & their Constituents are only squatters upon other people's land, and they are afraid of being brought to account. They also think though erroneously that their favorite plan, of being a separate State will be defeated. Add to these the honest doubting people, and they make a powerful host. The leaders of this Party are a Mr. Wedgery, Mr Thomson, & Mr Nason from the province of Main---;A Docr. Taylor from the County of Worster & Mr. Bishop from the neighbourhood of R. Island. To manage the cause agst. them are the present and late Govr., 3 Judges of the supreme Court---; 15 members of the Senate---;20 from among the most respectable of the Clergy, 10 or 12 of the first characters at the bar, Judges of probate, High Sheriffs of Counties & many other respectable people, Merchants &c---;Genls. Heath, Lincoln, Brooks & others of the late army. With all this ability in support of the cause, I am pretty well satisfied we shall lose the question, unless we can take off some of the opposition by amendments. I do not mean such as are to be made conditions of the ratification, but recommendatory only. Upon this plan I flatter myself we may possibly get a majority of 12 or 15 if notmore."(3)
The Legislature of this State has voted a Convention on June 17.
I remain Yrs. most respectfully & Affecly., Js Madison Jr
RC (DLC: Washington Papers). Madison, Papers (Rutland), 10:464--;65.
1 Cf. ibid., p. 437.
2 For Nathaniel Gorham's letter of January 27, see ibid., pp. 435--;36.
3 Prospects for ratification of the Constitution in Massachusetts was also noted in the following February 4 delegate letter which appeared in the February 7 issue of the Pennsylvania Packet under the heading "Extract of a letter from a Member of Congress at New-York, Feb. 4."
"By letters from Massachusetts, the delegates from that state are in hopes that there is little danger of that state's acceding to the constitution, though at first setting of their convention the contrary was apprehended.
"The New-Yorkers have fixed a day in April for a convention [actually June 17---;April 29 was the date set to elect delegates to the convention] by a majority only of three in the senate, and two in the other house."
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 24 November 6, 1786-February 29, 1788
James Madison to Thomas Jefferson
Congress have done no business of consequence yet, nor is it probable that much more of any sortwill precede the event of the great question before the public.
The Assembly of Virginia have passed the district Bill of which I formerly gave you an account.(6) There are 18 districts, with 4 new Judges, Mr. Gabl Jones, Richd. Parker, St. George Tucker and Jos. Prentis. They have reduced much the taxes, and provided some indulgences for debtors. The question of British debts underwent great vicicitudes. It was after long discussion resolvd. by a majority of 30 agst. the utmost exertions of Mr. Henry that they sd. be paid as soon as the other States sd. have complied with the treaty. A few days afterwards he carried his point by a majority of 50 that G.B. should first comply. Adieu, Yrs. Affety., Js. Madison Jr
P.S. Mr. St. John(7) has given me a very interesting description of a System of Nature lately published at Paris---;will you add it for me. The Boxes which were to have come for myself, G.W. & A.D. &c have not yet arrived.
1 For Jefferson's October 8 letter of introduction for the comte de Moustier and his sister-in-law, the marquise de Bréhan, see ibid., pp. 187--;88.
2 The "publication" by Charles Alexandre de Calonne, who had been discharged as controller general of finance in April 1787, was apparently his defense of his tenure, Rêquete au Roi. Adressée à Sa Majesté, par M. de Calonne, Ministre d'État, published in London in 1787. See Jefferson, Papers (Boyd), 12:246--;47.
3 That is, the Mercure de France.
4 See Madison to Jefferson, December 20.
5 At this point in the manuscript Madison later inserted an asterisk to which he keyed at the bottom of the page: "see letter from Col. Davie to J.M.," an apparent reference to a June 10, 1788, letter from William R. Davie discussing attitudes in North Carolina toward the Constitution, which is the only extant Davie letter in Madison's papers.
6 That is, in his letter of December 9.
7 Michel-Guillaume St. Jean de Crèvecoeur.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 25 March 1, 1788-December 31, 1789
Cyrus Griffin to James Madison
My dear sir N. York 24 March 1788.
Before the date of this letter I hope you are gotten safe to Orange, and found all things in a situation the most agreeable.
We are still going forward in the same tract of Seven states, of course not a great deal can be done, and indeed not a great deal to do.
A prospect of the new Constitution seems to deaden the activity of the human mind as to all other matters; and yet I greatly fear that constitution may never take place; a melancholy Judgment most certainly---;and would to heaven that nothing under the Sun shall be more erroneous!
The adjournment of N. Hampshire, the small majority of Massachusets, a certainty of rejection in Rhode Island, the formidable opposition in the state of N. York, the convulsions and Committee meetings in Pennsylvania, and above all the antipathy of Virginia to the system, operating together, I am apprehensive will prevent the noble[Page 25]
[Page 26] fabrick from being enacted. The constitution is beautiful in Theory---;I wish the experiment to be made---;in my opinion it would be found a government of sufficient energy only.
Neither of the packets have yet arrived, and what has detained the french no one at this place can determine.
Not a word from our Ministers abroad.
Congress have taken final leave of the Chavalier by a very polite and friendly letter.(1)
The Marchioness is recovering rapidly, and the Count in good health; I mention them because they entertain a very exalted [opinion] of you and talk much upon that subject.
Daniel Shays and Eli Parsons have petitioned the Legislature of Massachusets for pardon---;and will succeed.(2)
The frequent attacks upon the post-office has produced the enclosed performance.(3)
The customary papers are sent to you within this cover. I am, my dear Sir, with friendship and Sincerity, your obedient Servant, C Griffin
RC (DLC: Madison Papers).
Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume
CHAPTER XI. JOHN AND SAMUEL ADAMS.
home this principle could also be put in jeopardy. To him the town meeting was the primary guardian of liberty, and it was because Congress represented either town meetings, or the equivalent of town meetings, that he regarded it as a proper depository of power. But beyond this he would not go. He was for placing the entire direction of public affairs in the hands of congressional committees acting under the immediate direction of Congress; and he not only resolutely opposed the establishment of departments of finance and of foreign affairs, but when these departments were filled by the election of Morris and Livingston, he not only looked on these eminent men with distrust as intruders on the domain of popular rights, but he almost uniformly threw his influence against the measures they held necessary for the public good. Nor was this all. Washington was in military affairs more or less supreme; and while he respected Washington's moral character and while he was not a participant in any cabal for his removal, yet he opposed almost every project which Washington thought necessary for military success, while he over and over again insisted that Washington's "Fabian dilatoriness" should be overruled by peremptory congressional instructions to attack the enemy no matter at what odds. And the jealousy with which he watched Washington as the embodiment of military power appears from the frequent letters by and to him among his papers, in which the "Fabian policy" of the "great man" is disapproved and his measures for building up the army objected to. And this may be attributed not so much to personal opposition to Washington as to his dislike of executive authority and to his acceptance of the view, elsewhere commented on, that in revolutions heroic and impetuous force is rather embarrassed than aided by the arts of military and diplomatic science, and the mechanism constructed by these arts it can sweep aside by its natural onslaught.
of parliamentary government was followed in a few years by a restoration of the Stuarts. Washington's submission to the legislative action, however unwise that action was, was followed in a few years by the call of a Constitutional Convention, of which he was president, and by the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.
- (1) That of rightful organization of popular power to overthrow the British rule.
- (2) That of the wrong-headed diversion of these forces for the obstruction of the building up an adequate revolutionary government.
- (3) That of the rightful and harmonious adjustment of popular and of administrative power, which he advocated and enforced after the perfection of the Constitution of the United States.
The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 [Farrand's Records, Volume 3]
CCCXLI. James Madison to J. G. Jackson.2
[Note 2: 2 Documentary History of the Constitution, V, 312--315.]
Montpr. Decr. 27-1821.
With respect to that portion of the mass, which contains the voluminous proceedings of the Convention, it has always been my intention that they should some day or other see the light. But I have always felt at the same time the delicacy attending such a use of them; especially at an early season. In general I have leaned to the expediency of letting the publication be a posthumous one. The result of my latest reflections on the subject, I cannot more conveniently explain, than by the inclosed extract from a letter* confidentially written since the appearance of the proceedings of the Convention as taken from the Notes of Chf: Juste Yates.
[Note *: * See letter of the of Sepr. 1821. to Ths. Ritchie [CCCXL].]
Of this work I have not yet seen a copy. From the scraps thrown [Page 449]into the Newspapers I cannot doubt that the prejudices of the author guided his pen, and that he has committed egregious errors at least, in relation to others as well as to myself.
That most of us carried into the Convention a profound impression produced by the experienced inadequacy of the old Confederation, and by the monitory examples of all similar ones ancient & modern, as to the necessity of binding the States together by a strong Constitution, is certain. The necessity of such a Constitution was enforced by the gross and disreputable inequalities which had been prominent in the internal administrations of most of the States. Nor was The recent & alarming insurrection headed by Shays, in Massachusetts without a very sensible effect on the pub: mind. Such indeed was the aspect of things, that in the eyes of all the best friends of liberty a crisis had arrived which was to decide whether the Amn. Experiment was to be a blessing to the world, or to blast for ever the hopes which the republican cause had enspired; and what is not to be overlooked the disposition to give to a new System all the rigour consistent with Republican principles, was not a little stimulated by a backwardness in some quarters towards a Convention for the purpose, which was ascribed to a secret dislike to popular Govt. and a hope that delay would bring it more into disgrace, and pave the way for a form of Govt. more congenial with Monarchical or aristocratical predilections.
This view of the crisis made it natural for many in the Convention to lean more than was perhaps in strictness warranted by a proper distinction between causes temporary as some of them doubtless were, and causes permanently inherent in popular frames of Govt. It is true also, as has been sometimes suggested that in the course of discussions in the Convention, where so much depended on compromise, the patrons of different opinions often set out on negociating grounds more remote from each other, than, the real opinions of either were from the point at which they finally met.
For myself, having from the first moment of maturing a political opinion, down to the present one, never ceased to be a votary of the principle of self-Govt: I was among those most anxious to rescue it from the danger which seemed to threaten it; and with that view was willing to give to a Govt. resting on that foundation, as much energy as would ensure the requisite stability and efficacy. It is possible that in some instances this consideration may have been allowed a weight greater than subsequent reflection within the Convention, or the actual operation of the Govt. would sanction. It may be remarked also that it sometimes happened that opinions as to a particular modification or a particular power of the Govt. had [Page 450] a conditional reference to others which combined therewith would vary the character of the whole.
But whatever might have been the opinions entertained in forming the Constitution, it was the duty of all to support it in its true meaning as understood by the Nation at the time of its ratification. No one felt this obligation more than I have done; and there are few perhaps whose ultimate & deliberate opinions on the merits of the Constitution, accord in a greater degree with that obligation.
. "In Massachusetts a law was passed for making real and per sonal estate a tender in the discharge of executions and actions commenced at law. Other laws were also passed, considered oppressive; one for collecting former taxes not paid in certain specified articles; and another for rendering processes of law less expensive. The distress which prevailed in the country at length produced insurrections. In August, nearly fifteen hundred insurgents assembled under arms at Northampton, and took possession of the court-house. Their object was to prevent the sittings of the court of common pleas, and of course, the issuing of executions under these obnoxious law. The governor issued a proclamation, calling on the citizens to suppress such treasonable proceedings; but his proclamation was utterly disregarded. In the next month, a scene similar to that at Northampton was acted at Worcester. A body of men, exceeding three hundred, assembled and compelled the court there sitting to adjourn.
"Nor was Massachusetts the only state where a disposition to insurgency manifested itself. In New Hampshire a large body of malcontents assembled at Exeter, where the general assembly of the state was convened, and surrounding the house where they were in session, held them prisoners for several hours. The insurrection here was soon crushed by the energetic measures of the government. The leader of the malcontents in Massachusetts was Daniel Shays. At the head of three hundred men, he marched into Springfield, where the supreme judicial court was in session, and took possession of the court-house. He then appointed a committee, who waited on the court with an order couched in the humble form of a petition, requesting them not to proceed to business; and both parties retired. The number of insurgents increased; the posture of affairs became alarming; and an army of 4000 men was at length ordered out for their dispersion. This force was placed under the command of General Lincoln. His first measure was to march to Worcester; and he afforded such protection to the court at that place, that it resumed and executed the judicial functions. Orders were given to General Shepard to collect a sufficient force to secure the arsenal at Springfield. Accordingly, he raised about 900 men, which were reinforced by 300 militia from the county of Hampshire. At the head of his force, he marched as directed, to Springfield.
"On the 25th of January, Shays approached at the head 1100 men. Shepard sent out one of his aids to know the intention of the insurgents and to warn them of their danger. Their answer was that they would have the barracks, and they proceeded to within a few hundred yards of the arsenal. They were then informed that the militia were posted there by order of the governor; and that they would be fired upon, if they approached nearer. They continued to advance, when General Sbepard ordered his men to fire, but to direct their fire over their heads; even this did not intimidate them, or retard their movements. The artillery was then levelled against the centre column, and the whole body thrown into confusion. Shays attempted in vain to rally them. They made a precipitate retreat to Ludlow, about ten miles from Springfield. Three men were killed and one wounded. They soon after retreated to Petersham; but General Lincoln pursuing their retreat, they finally dispersed.
"Some of the fugitives retired to their homes; but many, and among them their principal officers, took refuge in the states New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
"Commissioners were appointed by the government of Massachusetts, empowered to promise pardon, on certain conditions, to all concerned in the rebellion. Several hundreds received the benefit of the commission. Fourteen only were sentenced to death, and these were afterwards pardoned."
[HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES OR REPUBLIC OF AMERICA: EXHIBITED IN CONNEXION WITH ITS CHRONOLOGY & PROGRESSIVE GEOGRAPHY; BY MEANS OF A SERIES OF MAPS: The first of which shows the country as inhabited by various tribes of Indians at the time of its discovery, and the remainder, its state at different subsequent epochas; so arranged, as to associate the principal events of the history and their dates with the places in which they occurred: arranged on the plan of teaching History adopted in Troy Female Seminary. DESIGNED FOR SCHOOLS AND PRIVATE LIBRARIES. OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC BY EMMA WILLARD, PRINCIPAL OF TROY FEMALE SEMINARY. NEW YORK: WHITE, GALLAHER & WHITE. 1828.Pg. 270-71] .Interesting, isn't it? For now we see what the REAL meaning of “shall not be infringed” entails. The REAL reason that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was demanded. Was in FACT due to a perverse 'law' passed by the Massachusetts legislature. Which 'law' disarmed for three years those that had committed the high felonious crime of treason.
Even the United States Supreme Court had ruled that our federal government was specifically forbidden from infringing upon We The People's right to keep and bear arms. To Wit:
"... It cannot be supposed that they intended to secure to them rights and privileges and rank, in the new political body throughout the Union which every one of them denied within the limits of its own dominion. More especially, it cannot be believed that the large slaveholding States regarded them as included in the word citizens, or would have consented to a Constitution which might compel them to receive them in that character from another State. For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police [Page 60 U. S. 417] regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognised as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, and inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State...."
"...The Territory being a part of the United States, the Government and the citizen both enter it under the authority of the Constitution, with their respective rights defined and marked out, and the Federal Government [Page 60 U. S. 450] can exercise no power over his person or property beyond what that instrument confers, nor lawfully deny any right which it has reserved.
"A reference to a few of the provisions of the Constitution will illustrate this proposition.
"For example, no one, we presume, will contend that Congress can make any law in a Territory respecting the establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people of the Territory peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.
"Nor can Congress deny to the people the right to keep and bear arms, nor the right to trial by jury, nor compel anyone to be a witness against himself in a criminal proceeding.
"These powers, and others in relation to rights of person which it is not necessary here to enumerate, are, in express and positive terms, denied to the General Government, and the rights of private property have been guarded with equal care."
--Chief Justice Roger Taney, United States Supreme Court, Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856).
In United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875), the court ruled the following:
"The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed, but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow citizens of the rights it recognizes, to what is called, in The City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 139, the "powers which relate to merely municipal legislation, or what was, perhaps, more properly called internal police," "not surrendered or restrained" by the Constitution of the United States."Which FACT was reaffirmed in Presser v. Illinois in 1886. And even referenced in the infamous United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) [mis]decision:
Concerning The Militia -- Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252; Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U. S. 275; Fife v. State, 31 Ark. 455; Jeffers v. Fair, 33 Ga. 347; Salina v. Blaksley, 72 Kan. 230; 83 P. 619; People v. Brown, 253 Mich. 537; 235 N.W. 245; Aymette v. State, 2 Humphr. (Tenn.) 154; State v. Duke, 42 Texas 455; State v. Workman, 35 W.Va. 367; 14 S.E. 9; Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, Vol. 1, p. 729; Story on The Constitution, 5th Ed., Vol. 2, p. 646; Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. X, p. 471, 474.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
It is made quite clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Is the natural and inalienable right of all free American citizens. And that it cannot be taken away by any legislative enactment.