George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jabez Bowen, 17 January 1790

From Jabez Bowen

Providence [R.I.] Jany 17 1790


Your favour of the 27th ulto came safe to hand, and if I made an impropper request in my former Letter1 you[r] Excellency will Pardon me, as it arose from the great Anxiety I had on viewing our almost forlorn situation.

I now have the pleasure Sir of informing you that the General Assembly have passed a Resolve, Recommending The People to Choose Delegates to meet in a State Convention on the second Monday of March at South Kingston, That the Question was carrid in the Lower house by a Majority of Five There being Thirty four Yes and Twenty Nine Nos. The Vote laboured much in the Upper house, being twice sent back with a Non concurrance, but was finally carrid by the Vote of Govr Collins. This Question being determined in our favour I can almost assure your Excellency of its being finally Adopted by a Respectable Majority.2

a Resolve passed the Genl Assembly requesting Congress to renew The Indulgence before granted to the Navigation of This State,3 and which it was the intention of the Assembly should be sent forward, but was omitted Thro hurry, which Resolve I do my self the Honour of inclosing.4 I doubt not but you will chearfully forward this Business, when I tell you, it will be highly pleasing to every Citizen of this State but in a particular manner to the Federalists.

We shall continue our Exertions to get the best men chosen to Represent The Freemen in Convention and in due time shall anounce to you the good tidings.5 I Remain Sir with sentiments of the highest Esteeme Your Excellencys most Obedient and verry Humb. Servant

Jabez Bowen

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1See Bowen to GW, 15 Dec. 1789. Bowen currently represented Providence in the Rhode Island general assembly.

2Rhode Island’s lower house passed two bills on 15 and 16 Jan. appointing a state convention to ratify the federal Constitution; both bills were defeated in the upper house. After adjourning to 17 Jan., a Sunday, the lower house passed a third bill calling for a convention, which became law only upon Gov. John Collins casting the tie-breaking vote in the upper house (Polishook, “Edes’s Report,” description begins Irwin H. Polishook. “Peter Edes’s Report of the Proceedings of the Rhode Island General Assembly, 1787–1790.” Rhode Island History 25 (1966): 33–42, 87–97, 117–129; 26 (1967): 15–31. description ends 26:29–30).

3A bill requesting Collins to write to the president concerning suspension of the federal tonnage and impost acts in Rhode Island also passed on the last day of the session (Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 10:373–74).

4The enclosed resolution reads: “Whereas the Operation of the Federal Government, according to the existing Laws of Congress, will prove greatly injurious to the Commercial Interests of this State, unless a further Suspension of the same can be obtained: And whereas this General Assembly, at the present Session, have passed an Act recommending a State Convention, in Conformity to the Recommendation of the General Convention held at Philadelphia, and of the Congress of the United States and there is every Reason to hope that the Accession of this State to the Federal Union will, in a short Time, entitle the Citizens thereof to all the Benefits of the Federal Governmen⟨t⟩ And whereas it is necessary that Application be made in the mean Time, for a Suspension of the Acts of Congress subjecting the Citizens of this State to foreign Tonnage, and foreign Duties:

“It is therefore Voted and Resolved, That His Excellency the Governor be, and he is hereby, requested to make Application, in the Name of this State, to the Congress of the United States, for reviving the Indulgence granted to the Citizens of this State, by an Act of Congress of their last Session, during the good Pleasure of Congress” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

5GW’s secretary Tobias Lear replied for the president, on 4 Feb. 1790, noting: “The Congress of the United States have taken the matter into consideration, and it is to be hoped that the adoption of the Constitution by the State of Rhode Island will, after this instance, render similar applications unnecessary from that State” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). See also John Collins to GW, 18 Jan. 1790; GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 28 Jan. 1790.

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