James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 19 October 1787

From John Dawson

Richmond. Oct. 19. 1787.

Dear Sir

Your favour of the 2d. Int.1 I received in due time. Before this I presume you have heard that one hundred and five members attended at the state-house on the first day. Whether this is to be attributed to the ten pounds, or to a proper sense of duty I leave with you to determine—perhaps to both.2 On motion of Colo Mathews, seconded by Mr. B. Harrison, Mr. Prentis was call’d to the chair, without any opposition. On the wednesday the Senate elected Mr. Jones3 their Speaker. A number of papers had been laid before the house by the Executive. Among them are the proceedings of the convention, as forwarded by Congress.

On Thursday next we are to go into a committee of the whole house on this business. Altho the constitution offer’d has some able opponents, yet there is a decided majority in favour of it. There will be no opposition, I think, to a state convention, for it appears to be the general opinion that the legislature ought to send the Constitution to the people with out any mark either of censure or approbation. I enclose you a paper in which you will find a piece said, with truth I believe, to be written by Colo Mason.4 He is not yet arriv’d, but is hourly expected.

The System of Politicks this year will I apprehend be too much like that of the last. Mr. Nicholas has already declared in favour of scaling the provision certificates by permiting the people to pay their certificate tax by a fourth of the sum in specie.5 On tuesday the appointment of delegates to congress will take place. I suspect Mr. Harrison, Colo Bland & Mr. Corben will be brought forward.6

The freeholders of Fairfax have, in the most pointed terms directed Colo Mason to vote for a convention, and have as pointedly assur’d him he shall not be in it. With much respect & esteem I am dear Sir Yr. Friend & Very hm Sert

J Dawson.

—This moment I receiv’d your favour of the 11 Int.7


RC (DLC). Enclosure not found.

1Letter not found.

2By an act passed at the October 1785 session of the General Assembly, to take effect on 1 Jan. 1787, every delegate or senator who was absent from the assembly without sufficient cause was to “forfeit and pay to the use of this commonwealth ten pounds” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 128).

3John Jones of Brunswick County.

4Dawson may have enclosed a copy of the Va. Independent Chronicle description begins Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond: Augustine Davis, 1786–90). Beginning on 13 May 1789 entitled, Virginia Independent Chronicle, and General Advertiser. description ends for 17 Oct. 1787, which contained a piece by “Cato Uticensis” criticizing the Constitution. Mason’s authorship cannot be established.

5On opposition to the certificate tax, see McClurg to JM, 22 Aug. 1787 and n. 1.

6On 23 Oct. the assembly elected JM, Edward Carrington, Henry Lee, John Brown, and Cyrus Griffin delegates to represent Virginia in Congress (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1787, p. 12).

7The postscript was written on the verso of the last page of the letter. JM’s letter of 11 Oct. has not been found.

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