Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to C. W. F. Dumas, 15 May 1788

To C. W. F. Dumas

Paris May 15. 1788.

Sir

My first moments after my return having been necessarily occupied by letters which had come during my absence and which required immediate answers, I have not till now been able to resume my correspondence with you, and to inform you of my safe arrival here after a very agreeable tour through Germany. Our news from America comes down to the 14th. of March. At that time the state of the new Constitution was thus. It had been accepted in Massachusets by 187 Ayes against 168 Noes.

Connecticut 148 40
Pennsylvania 46 23
Delaware 22 0
New Jersey 39 0
Georgia 33 0
475 231

The conventions of the other states were to meet as follows

Maryland April 21.
S. Carolina May 12.
Virginia May. 26.
New York June 17.
 
New Hampshire June.
North Carolina July
Rhode island has not called a convention.

I have received a letter from General Washington wherein he gives it as his opinion that Virginia will accede to it. Mr. Madison inclines to the same opinion. In fact if Maryland and S. Carolina should have adopted it, as there is great reason to believe, the motives will become very cogent on Virginia for accepting also. She will see that 8. states have already concurred, that New Hampshire and North Carolina will probably concur, that the opposition to be made by Virginia and New York would have little effect, and joined with Rhode island would even be opprobrious. So that probably she will follow the example set by Massachusets of accepting the constitution unconditionally, and instructing her delegates to join with those of Massachusets in urging future amendment. In this case the matter will be fixed by nine states at the close of this month or beginning of the next, and we may have the news by the last of June. It is very possible that the President and new Congress may be sitting at New York in the month of September. I have no other material news from America. Here all seems peace without and war within. A great deal of good is offered to the nation, but some think there is more evil in the form of the offer.—I have the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC).

Except for the erroneous anticipation that North Carolina will probably concur, TJ’s appraisal was remarkably close to that made on the preceding day in America by Carrington (see Carrington to TJ, 14 May 1788). TJ doubtless intended Dumas to make the substance of this letter known through the pages of the Gazette de Leide, and Dumas promptly did so: the letter, freely edited and adapted to its new purpose by Dumas, appeared in the Supplément for 3 June 1788 under the title “Extrait d’une Lettre de New-York du 14 Mars.” Dumas did not alter TJ’s facts or conclusions, but he did omit the names of Washington and Madison and substituted for the sentence in which they occurred the following: “Les Personnes les plus instruites sont persuadées, que l’Amérique-Unie est à la veille de voir bientôt ce grand Ouvrage consommé selon le voeu des Amis de la Patrie, notamment que l’Etat de Virginie, dont l’influence est à juste titre très-considérable dans la Confédération, suivra l’exemple des deux autres principaux Membres, Massachusett’s et Pensylvanie.” At the conclusion of the tabulation of votes for and against the Constitution in the six states that had ratified, Dumas added this observation: “Ainsi, comptant ensemble la masse des suffrages de six Etats il y en a eu 475. qui ont approuvé le Projet de la Convention-Générale contre 231. qui l’ont rejetté, par conséquent plus des deux tiers. L’on n’en peut tirer que l’augure le plus favorable pour l’acceptation universelle de la nouvelle Forme.” Dumas also called this publication to Jay’s attention in a letter in which he stated: “You will see by the Leyden Gazette of June 3d, and the supplement of the 10th, that I am using the surest means of keeping up the credit of the United States in Holland; and I have the satisfaction to see that it succeeds, the more especially as that of all other countries, even of Holland itself, is falling. I must, however, remark, that the article headed Philadelphia April 23, in the supplement (No. 49) of the Leyden Gazette of June 17, is not mine, and that I know not who inserted it” (Dipl. Corr., 1783–89 description begins The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from the Signing of the Definitive Treaty of Peace … to the Adoption of the Constitution, Washington, Blair & Rives, 1837, 3 vols. description ends , iii, 617–8; Dumas misdated both RC and FC [Dumas Letter Book, Rijksarchief, The Hague; photostats in DLC] as 10 June; the letter was probably written 18 or 19 June). For understandable reasons, Dumas sent this letter by way of Amsterdam instead of, as usual, by way of Paris for TJ to see; the letter “headed Philadelphia April 23” may have been a letter from one of Mazzei’s correspondents: it contains the following reference to the Constitutional Society of which Mazzei was founder: “La Société Politique de Richmond, dans l’Etat de la Virginie, a pris, pour sujet de ses délibérations publiques, l’examen de la nouvelle Constitution: Après trois Séances de débats et de discussions, elle a été approuvée par une pluralité de 128. contre 15. voix”; the extract published was generally concerned with the progress of ratification of the Constitution.

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