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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 22 November 1789

From Edmund Randolph

Richmond November 22. 1789

Dear Sir

Immediately upon the receipt of your private communication of my appointment, I wrote to you with a head, very much disordered by a fever.1 As soon as I recovered, I should have written to you again, had I not heard of your tour to the East. By this time I presume you have returned, & therefore beg leave to inform you, that I shall leave Virginia on the 15th of January for New-York. The reason, why I do not make an official reply to your official favor is stated in my former letter.2 Should you wish to see me earlier than the day, which I have fixed above, I will endeavour to obey your summons.

In a fortnight the assembly will rise. Mr Henry has quitted, rather in discontent, that the present assembly is not so pliant as the last. He moved before his departure to postpone the consideration of the amendments until the next session. His motion now lies upon the table, to be discussed tomorrow. I think the result will be, to ratify the first ten, and adjourn the remaining two over, on account of their ambiguity.3

A motion will also be made tomorrow to publish an inflammatory letter, written by our senators to the assembly.4 This will be opposed so far, as relates to a publication under legislative sanction. As soon as I can with propriety procure a copy, I will forward it to you. We have reduced the taxes a fourth below the taxes of the last year, and about 25000£ short of our actual demand. Mr Henry pressed a reduction of a third, and declared that he would come even to a half. He also urged commutables; but the payment is to be made in Specie, and warrants equivalent only.5 For this year the military certificates will probably support their value. But the draught, which will be made from the next assembly, of men, who are friends to public faith, will I fear leave them in an unprotected state.

The plan for a revisal of our la⟨ws⟩ as mentioned in my former letter, has been approved, after a marked malignity shewn to it by our demagogues.

In a day or two we shall be agitated by a question on the sale of the glebes.6 The partizans of this iniquity wish to keep it off until next year. But it is determined to prepare an antidote for their misrepresentations, by stating the title of the church in a pointed manner. If we find it practicable, we shall draw the assembly to a final decision. I am dear Sir your obliged and affectionate friend & servant

Edm: Randolph.

ALS, DLC:GW.

2For Randolph’s letter of 8 Oct., see GW to Randolph, 28 Sept. 1789, n.3.

3For the actions of the Virginia legislature on amendments to the Constitution, see James Madison to GW, 20 Nov. 1789, n.5.

4The letter from senators Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson to the Virginia house of delegates is printed in Randolph to GW, 26 Nov. 1789, n.4.

6The issue of the glebe lands of the Episcopal church agitated dissenters in Virginia for some years. The parish lands had been granted by the Crown to the parishes of the established church for the care of the poor, although dissenters charged they were not always used for that purpose. At the October 1789 session of the Virginia general assembly, seven Baptist congregations petitioned the house of delegates that all lands belonging to the church should be sold and “the churches heretofore used by the Episcopalians, may be used in common by all religious societies.” On 27 Nov. a committee of the assembly reported that since the subject of the petition “involves in it one of the great rights of the people; and justice, as well as policy, dictate that it ought to be acted on with the greatest deliberation,” the remonstrance ought to be referred to the next session of the assembly (Journal of the House of Delegates, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates, of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the nineteenth of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Nine, and of the Commonwealth the Fourteenth. Richmond, [1789]. description ends 1789, 83, 113). The Baptists were finally able to get a vote on selling the glebe lands in November 1790, but it was defeated by a vote of 52 to 89 (Journal of the House of Delegates, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates, of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the nineteenth of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Nine, and of the Commonwealth the Fourteenth. Richmond, [1789]. description ends 1790, 73). The question surfaced from time to time during the 1790s and was not settled until “An Act to repeal certain acts, and to declare the construction of the bill of rights and constitution, concerning religion,” passed 24 Jan. 1799, repealed all of the statutes granting privileged status to the Episcopal church. “An Act concerning the glebe lands and churches within this commonwealth,” 12 Jan. 1802, reiterated the right of the assembly to authorize the sale of land and property attached to the glebes, subject to certain rights of tenants on the land (Shepherd, Statutes at Large, description begins Samuel Shepherd, ed. The Statutes at Large of Virginia, from October Session 1792, to December Session 1806, Inclusive. n.s. 3 vols. Richmond, 1835–36. description ends 2:149, 314–16).

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