George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from “A Friend to the People,” 8 November 1795

From “A Friend to the People”

Richmond November 8th 1795

Sir,

The last time I addressed you was from Baltimore.1 I took an opportunity about that time to write a few hasty thoughts in support of what I suggested to you, and published them in the Baltimore Telegraphe, in seven or eight Letters.2 I have since been through all the Western parts of this state, and should it aid in producing a good end, it will be among my chief delights. I wished to be here at this time, because the assembly Convenes next Tuesday.3 I took occasion in Berkely County, and the other Counties I passed through, where a newspaper was published to collect the sense of the people on the subject of the treaty, and published their sentiments in support of the measures our government pursued.4 I am now engaged in collecting a list of characters, with a number joined to each character, which may not be without utility in the future Communications I shall take the liberty to send you. It shall soon be transmitted.

A Friend to the People

ALS, DLC:GW.

1See “A Friend to the People” to GW, 28 July.

2Four letters by “A Friend to the People,” numbered 2 through 5 and titled “Defence of the Treaty,” were printed in The Baltimore Telegraphe of 22 and 25 Aug. and 5 and 12 September. Each of these letters begins with a general comment and then summarizes and discusses specific provisions of the Jay Treaty to show that they are fair and advantageous to the United States. Number 2 warns that the “studied contrivance” to “sow sedition among us” is contrary to the interests of the country and would leave us “objects of prey to our enemies.” It then discusses the third article of the treaty, contending that because a power is given “by implication” to the president and the Senate, the negotiation of commercial agreements is constitutional even though the constitution places the power to regulate commerce with Congress. That letter finishes by arguing that the article is fair, with reciprocal rights and restrictions for both countries. Number 3 begins with a burlesque of those who would oppose the treaty merely on account of friendship for France and ends with an argument that articles IV and V are just, with “equal fairness to both parties.” Letter number 4 claims that the objections to the treaty would harm the interest of merchants who trade with Great Britain by destroying “confidence and punctuality,” and then argues the fairness of the sixth article and the benefits of the seventh. The fifth letter claims that the government’s policy would weaken support in England for any war against the United States, while the “wishes of the resolution framers” would have the opposite effect. It then passes over Article VIII as merely technical and refutes Henry Tazewell’s objections that the ninth article infringes upon states’ rights and that the tenth article wrongly limits legislative discretion. The other letters have not been identified.

3The Virginia General Assembly convened on Tuesday, 10 November.

4Sometime in October, the Potowmack Guardian (Martinsburg, Va., now W.Va.) printed a letter from “A Friend to Government” addressed “To General Washington, The Friend and Saviour of his Country,” which might be the publication mentioned here. The author began by complaining that “The citizens of this country and neighbourhood have been most innocently traduced, and we fear injured in your good opinion by bad and wicked men, on the subject of the treaty which you lately ratified in concert with the Senate.” The author conceded that “there were some amongst us, when the treaty first made its appearance, who did not like it in all its parts” but changed their opinions “the instant” it was ratified by the Senate and confirmed by GW. “For we are fully assured that unless we place confidence in the constituted authorities, our peace, our prosperity and our happiness, is no more. We are too fully assured of your virtue and wisdom, and that you have guided us through the most perilous difficulties. We are too fully assured that we are chiefly indebted to you for the liberties we now enjoy. We are too fully assured that you have never yet erred in the manner our public affairs have been conducted.” The writer continued by criticizing the unauthorized publication of the treaty by Stevens Thomson Mason as an attempt “to create feuds and animosities among friends and relations,” adding, “our understandings instruct us to say, that division among ourselves would be destruction.” After noting that “we abhor and despise” men like Mason and Edmond Genet, the writer closed: “May God in his infinite goodness, long preserve your life, and in his divine wisdom long preserve you as our President” (reprinted in Aurora General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 26 Oct. 1795).

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