George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Manning, 29 August 1789

From James Manning

Providence, State of Rhode Island Augt 29th 1789


Prevented, for some days, by necessary attentions to the College, from coming forwards, with the bearer, Benjamin Bourne Esquire with whom I am charged in a joint commission by the Town of Providence, I beg leave to introduce to your Excellencys notice & attention my colleague, and the business with which he is charged; to introduce to Congress the unanimous petition of the Town of Providence, praying a speedy relief from the insupportable burthens imposed on thier Commerce, by thier being considered as Foreigners in the late Acts regulating the Tonage & collection of the Imports in the United States—All the Seaport Towns, of consideration, in this State, vizt Newport, Bristol, Warren & Barrington unite in this application.1

We contemplate the day of our accession to the Federal Government, now, near at hand. At the election of the members of our lower house of Assembly, held on Tuesday last, we calculate on a decided Majority of Federalists chosen to represent us in the Assembly to meet in October next, when, we flatter ourselves, that a Convention will be called to adopt the Constitution. Any assistance towards obtaining this, to us, most interesting object, which your Excellency may please to lend, will confer a peculiar obligation on the Federalists of Rhode Island; and more especially on him, who with the most perfect consideration has the Honour to be Your Excellency’s most humble and most obedient Servt

James Manning

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

James Manning (1738–1791) was a Baptist clergyman and a founder of Brown University. Since 1765 he had served as its first president. Manning graduated from Princeton in 1762 and in 1786 represented Rhode Island in the Confederation Congress.

1This petition, dated 27 Aug. 1789, reads: “The Petition of the Freemen of the Town of Providence, in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, legally convened in Town-Meeting, on the 27th Day of August A.D. 1789, most respectfully Sheweth,

“That during the arduous Struggle of our Country for the Preservation of her Rights, Liberties and Independence, in the late War, with Great Britain, this Town was particularly noted for its Attachment to, and its Advances and Exertions for the Support of the Common Cause of the United States. Sensible that our most essential Interests depended on our being in the Union and that the former Confederation was unequal to its Exigences We made every Effort to obtain Delegates to be sent from this State to the General Convention which met at Philadelphia in 1787. After the Proceedings of that Convention were published this Town pleased with the Spirit of Liberty, tempered with Energy and Responsibility, which so Strikingly pervades the New Constitution made the most unremitted Exertions for obtaining a Convention of the State for its Adoption. We have not hithertoo Succeeded, but it is with Great Satisfaction that we have it in our Power, to inform Congress that from the Recent Election of the Members of our Lower House of Assembly, there is a Probability that this Desiriable Event will soon take Place. We now Experience the unhappy Consequences of our not belonging to the Union, in being Subjected to the same Imposts and Tonnage as Foreigners, which, considering our intimate Connexions with the United States, and our Dependence upon them for the Means of our Subsistance operates in a most greivous Manner against the Sea Port Towns of this State, who have been generally Supplied as well by Land as Water with Firewood, Corn, Flour, and other necessary Articles from the States now in the Union, and should our Trade and Communication with them continue to be restricted as at present, our Situation will be truly wretched.

“We claim an original Relation to the American Confederacy and are fully Sensible that we cannot exist independent of the Friendship and Good-will of our Sister-States: And as we hope the Formal Accession of this State to the New Constitution is not far Distant: And as our Seperation from the Union can by no means be imputed to the Sea Port Towns, the Inhabitants whereof are almost unanimously Zealous Advocates for the New-Constitution; And as a Continuance of the abovementioned Restrictions on the Inhabitants of this State will accumulate unmerited Distress upon that Part of the Community which has been most firmly attached to the Union—And as We Cannot but hope that the benign Disposition of Congress towards the Agricultural Part of the State manifested in the Admission of their Produce and Manufactures Duty-free, will also be extended to the Sea port Towns.

“We Therefore most humbly intreat the Attention of Congress to our distressed Situation and that they will be pleased to grant, for Such Time as to them in their Wisdom shall appear proper, That the Vessels belonging to the Citizens of this State may be admitted to Entry, in the Ports of the United States, exempt from the Payment of Foreign Tonnage, in the same Manner as Vessels belonging to their own Citizens, and that Foreign Merchandize on Importation by the Citizens of this State into the United States by Land or Water shall be Subject only to the same Duties and Regulations as by Law are required of their own Citizens” (RHi).

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