James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from John Dawson, 17 December 1789

From John Dawson

Richmond Thursday 17th. Dcr. 1789

My dear Sir!

I take the liberty of forwarding to you two resolutions which have pass’d both houses, on the subject of the permanent seat of the General Goverment. To the first of these there was considerable opposition from the South side of James river, under an apprehension that it woud not be advantageous to that part of the State; and from some of the Antis who considerd it as a favour to Congress—they however pass’d by large majorities, & my only fear is that the money will never be demanded.1

The amendments recommended by Congress were taken up and all of them pass’d our house—the Senate amended the resolution by posponing the consideration of the 3d, 8th, 11th, & 12th, untill the next session of assembly—we adher’d, and so did they. A conference took place, and both houses remain’d obstinate, consequently the whole resolution was lost, and none of the amendments will be adopted by this assembly.2

On tuesday last Mr. Griffin opend court in this place, but there being no business, soon closed it.3 Some time since Mr. E. Randolph mentiond to the house the subject of a state Goverment, and introduc’d a plan which he had prepard, and which met with the general disapprobation of the house—indeed a proposition was made to throw it under the Table which I verily believe woud have been done, had it not been agreed to pospone any consideration of it untill the 31 of March.4 I fear that by this impolitic step, it will be difficult to procure a Convention for the purpose of amending our State Constitution for many years.

You, no doubt have heard of the safe arrival of your friend Mr. Jefferson and of the favourable accounts he gives of France. By the act of Congress establishing the office of Secretary of foreign affairs, I find he is authorisd to appoint an assistant, an office which I have no objection to accept of; and as I am unacquainted with Mr. Jefferson, I must, (if you who know what pretentions I have, think me a proper person) request that you will speak to him shoud you see him, or write to him on the subject. The general assembly on yesterday by a general vote elected me a member of the privey council,5 which, (shoud I accept of it) I shall readily resign to fill the other place, where I shall have an excellent opportunity of acquiring political knowledge.

I shall wish to hear from you as early as possible on this subject, and trust you will continue your communications from New York. With my best wishes for your health & happiness I am Your real Friend & hm: Sert.

J Dawson

The assembly will probably rise on Saturday.

RC and enclosure (DLC).

1The enclosed resolutions, in the hand of House clerk Charles Hay, were adopted by the General Assembly on 14 Dec. The first resolution called for the appropriation of a sum of not less than $120,000 by Virginia to the federal government for the purpose of constructing public buildings in case Congress chose to locate the permanent capital on the banks of the Potomac. The second resolution ordered the governor and council to provide Congress with full information about the state of the navigation of the Potomac. See JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, in the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1789, pp. 115, 129.

2See JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, in the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1789, pp. 119, 120. Continued bickering between the two houses delayed ratification by Virginia until 15 Dec. 1791 (Dumbauld, Bill of Rights, p. 50).

3After Edmund Pendleton declined the office of district judge, Washington appointed Cyrus Griffin temporary judge during the recess of the Senate. Griffin’s appointment became permanent in February 1790 (Washington to Joseph Jones, 30 Nov. 1789, Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXX, 468–69; DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds., Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America (3 vols. to date; Baltimore, 1972—). description ends , II, 59, 62).

4See Jones to JM, 2 Nov. 1789 and n. 2.

5Dawson was elected to replace Cyrus Griffin, who had been forced to resign from the Council of State (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, in the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1789, p. 133; Jones to JM, 2 Nov. 1789 and n. 3).

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