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To James Madison from James McClurg, 5 August 1787

From James McClurg

Richmond Augt. 5. 87.

Dear Sir,

I am much obliged to you for your communication of the proceedings of the Convention, since I left them;1 for I feel that anxiety about the result, which it’s Importance must give to every honest citizen. If I thought that my return could contribute in the smallest degree to it’s Improvement, nothing should keep me away. But as I know that the talents, knowledge, & well-establish’d character, of our present delegates, have justly inspired this country with the most entire confidence in their determinations; & that my vote could only operate to produce a division, & so destroy the vote of the State, I think that my attendance now would certainly be useless, perhaps injurious.2

I am credibly inform’d that Mr. Henry has openly express’d his disapprobation of the circular letter of Congress, respecting the payment of British debts; & that he has declared his opinion that the Interests of this state cannot safely be trusted with that body.3 The doctrine of three Confederacies, or great Republics, has it’s advocates here. I have heard Hervie support it, along with the extinction of State Legislatures within each great department.4 The necessity of some independent power to controul the Assembly by a negative, seems now to be admitted by the most Zealous Republicans—they only differ about the mode of constituting such a power. B. Randolph seems to think that a Magistrate annually elected by the people might exercise such a controul as independently as the King of G.B. I hope that our representative, Marshall, will be a powerful aid to Mason in the next Assembly. He has observ’d the continual depravation of Mens manners, under the corrupting Influence of our Legislature; & is convinc’d that nothing but the adoption of some efficient plan from the Convention can prevent Anarchy first, & civil Convulsions afterwards. Mr. H——y has certainly converted a Majority of Prince Edward, formerly the most averse to paper-money, to the patronage of it. The opposers of this Scheme are generally favourers of Installments, together with a total prohibition of foreign Luxuries; that people having no temptation to spend their money, may devote it to Justice. The Importance of the next Assembly, with respect to so many objects of great public Interest, makes me wish most sincerely that Congress was deprived of you, at least for this Session.

Mr. Jones has left town, on a pilgrimage to the Temple of health, somewhere about the Mountains. He had been very sick, but seem’d well enough recover’d before he left us.

You will please to present my Compts. to your Colleagues, & my Acquaintance in your house, & believe me, with perfect esteem & regard, Dear Sir, Your friend, & humble Servt.

James McClurg

RC (DLC). Addressed by McClurg and franked. Docketed by JM.

1McClurg left Philadelphia sometime after 20 July. By the end of the month he had resumed his seat on the Council of State (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , III, 589; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , IV, 134).

2McClurg meant that if he returned the delegation might be split evenly on controversial issues: JM, Washington, and McClurg on one side; Mason, Randolph, and Blair on the other (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , III, 122). A division in the Virginia ranks appeared during the debate over the executive in late July, about the time JM wrote to McClurg. On 26 July Mason moved to reinstate the clause appointing the executive for seven years and making him ineligible for a second term. This motion passed, the Virginians voting in the affirmative. When the whole resolution came to a vote, however, the Virginia delegation was split and JM recorded the breakdown: Mason and Blair for, JM and Washington against. Randolph “happened to be out of the House,” but he was known to be against the reeligibility of the executive (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , II, 118–21, 54–55).

3McClurg was referring to the resolutions of 21 Mar. 1787 urging the states to repeal all laws contrary to the peace treaty between Great Britain and the U.S. The resolutions were embodied in the circular letter approved by Congress on 13 Apr. (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 124–25, 177–84). The circular letter was printed in 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 of 16 May 1787.

4The advocate of three confederacies was probably John Harvie, register of the Virginia Land Office and justice of the peace for Henrico County (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (10 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 188–89 nn. 1, 2; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , IV, 1).

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