George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Mason, 7 October 1787

From George Mason

Gunston Hall Octor 7th 1787.

Dear Sir

Upon examining my Fields in this Neck, I think they will not produce more than about one third of my usual Crops; at my other plantations they are something better, & may turn out about two thirds of the usual Crop. I think I shall be obliged to buy two hundred Barrells of Corn at least; and have lately written to a Gentlemen in Maryland (who owes me a Sum of Money) to know if he can supply me with that Quantity; I have not received his Answer, and have no great Dependence from that Quarter. When on the Convention, Dr Williamson & Colo. Davie shewed me several Letters from North Carolina, mentioning the great Crops of Corn there, and that some of the principal Crop-Masters were then offering to contract for their Corn at a Dollar per Barrel; it was this gave me the Idea of supplying myself from thence; as soon as I get down to Richmond, I intend to write to Dr Williamson (who lives in Edenton) to know, with certainty, upon what Terms a Quantity can be engaged, to be delivered in all March, for ready Money; & as soon as I recieve his Answer, will advise you thereof. If I can be of any Service to You in making such a Contract as You approve, it will give me a great deal of pleasure.1

I got very much hurt in my Neck & Head, by the unlucky Accident on the Road; it is now wearing off; tho’ at times still uneasy to me.2

I take the Liberty to enclose You my Objections to the new Constitution of Government; which a little Moderation & Temper, in the latter End of the Convention, might have removed. I am however most decidedly of Opinion, that it ought to be submitted to a Convention chosen by the people, for that special purpose; and shou’d any Attempt be made to prevent the calling such a Convention here, such a Measure shall have every Opposition in my power to give it.

You will readily observe, that my Objections are not numerous (the greater part of the inclosed paper containing reasonings upon the probable Effects of the exceptionable parts) tho’ in my mind, some of them are capital ones.3

Mrs Mason, & the Family, here join in their Compliments to your Lady and Family, with dear Sir Your affecte & obdt Sert

G. Mason


1No further reference to obtaining corn in North Carolina or to correspondence with Hugh Williamson (1735–1819) has been found in Mason’s or GW’s papers. William Richardson Davie (1756–1820) practiced law in North Carolina and was a political leader and later governor of the state.

2Daniel Carroll (1730–1796) of Montgomery County, Md., wrote to James Madison on 28 Oct. and reported that after leaving Philadelphia he overtook Mason and James McHenry “on the road: By the time they had reachd within 9 Miles of Baltimore, they had exhausted all the stories of their youth &ca. and had enterd into a discusn. of the rights to the Western World. You know they are champions on opposite sides of this question. The Majr. having pushd the Col. hard on the Charters of Virginia the latter had just wax’d warm, when his Char[i]oteer put an end to the dispute, by jumbling their Honors together by an oversett. I came up soon after. They were both hurt—the Col. most so—he lost blood at Baltimore, & is well” (Rutland and Hobson, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 10:226–27).

3Mason’s enclosure, his Objections to the Constitution of Government Formed by the Convention (DLC:GW), is included in CD-ROM:GW and is printed in Rutland, Mason Papers, description begins Robert A. Rutland, ed. The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. 3 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1970. description ends 3:991–94. For the text of Mason’s statement and its publication beginning in November, see George Mason: Objections to the Constitution, in Kaminski and Saladino, Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, description begins John P. Kaminski et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. 26 vols. to date. Madison, Wis., 1976—. description ends 8:41–46. GW made an abstract of Mason’s statement, c.7 Oct. 1787, on the cover. It reads:

“Declaration of Rights.

In the lower Ho.—only the Shadow of representn.

The Senate have the power of altering all Money Bills—and of originating appropriations of Money & the Sallary of the officers of their own appoint[men]t in conjunction with the Presidt.

Their great Powers—viz.—Makg treaties—Trying impeachments—appointing ambassadors and all other public Officers—Influence on the Executive—Duration in Office.

Judiciaries so constructed as to absorb all power & to destroy the Judiciaries of the sevl States. and to render law tedious, expensive &ca.

President no Constitutional Council—dangers arising therefrom.

Ditto—Granting Pardons. Consequences of it.

By declaring all treaties supreme laws of the Land the Executive & the Senate in many cases have an exclusive power of Legislation. this might have been avoided—by &ca.

A Majority to make Commercial regulations and Navigation Laws ruinous to the 5 Southern States because &ca.

Construction of the general clause at the end of the enumerated powers—will admit Monopolies—Constitute new crimes—inflict unusual punishments—& leave no power in the State governments. or secure the people in their rights.

Liberty of the press—No declaration to secure it or the Tryal by Jury in civil causes—Nor against the Danger of Standing armies in time of Peace.

The State Legislatures are restraind ⟨illegible⟩ from laying export Duties on their own produce.

The general legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of Slaves for the term of 20 odd years—tho’ &ca.

Ex post facto Laws

This Governt &ca.” (AD, DLC:GW).

For the reaction of GW and James Madison to Mason’s criticism of the Constitution, see GW to Madison, 10 Oct., and Madison to GW, 18 October. It was through the agency of GW’s secretary Tobias Lear that Mason’s “Objections to the Constitution” first appeared in print on 22 Nov. in the Virginia Journal, and Alexandria Advertiser. Lear wrote John Langdon on 3 Dec. that George Mason had given his objections “in manuscript to persons in all parts of the country where he supposed they would make an impression, but avoided publishing them.—I waited for a long time in expectation that they would appear in the publick papers, but finding they did not, I conveyed a copy of them to the printer of the Virginia Journal who published them, this has had a good effect as the futility of them strikes every unprejudiced person who reads them.—I have answered some of them & am now answering the rest, but as it is under an assumed signature, it is not known, even to the General, by whom it is done” (Kaminski and Saladino, Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, description begins John P. Kaminski et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. 26 vols. to date. Madison, Wis., 1976—. description ends 8:196–98). Lear’s attack on Mason’s “Objections” under the name of “Brutus appeared in the Virginia Journal, and Alexandria Advertiser; Mason’s “Objections” were printed in newspapers throughout the country.

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