James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from William Grayson, 22 November 1786

From William Grayson

N. York 22nd. Nov. 1786.

Dear Sir.

Your kind favor has come to hand, & since that I have heard of my being again appointed in the delegation of our State. I am sorry to inform you that my health still continues in a languishing way. I am nearly in the same situation as when you left me; I hope however that the cold weather & exercise with proper medicine will produce an alteration for the better.

We have little news here. There is no Congress yet: of course no President elected.1 Mr. Nash of N: Carolina is talked of. He at present lies dangerously ill at this place.2

The affair of the Missisippi hangs at present in suspence: I rather think nothing has been done in it. The M. Bay delegation have been more on the conciliatory plan, since the late insurrections in that State. They I believe depend greatly on the foederal aid, of course wish not only for a continuance of the confederation, but that it may be made more adequate to the purposes of government.

I am sorry to inform you, that it is the belief of people here well informed that this insurrection threatens the most serious consequences; and that the objects are more extensive than the mere stopping the Courts of justice. It is supposed that Vermont is leagued with them, and that they are secretly supported by emissaries of a certain nation; though as to this latter conjecture, I have heard no satisfactory proof.3

Before I came to this place Congress passed a Vote for augmenting the troops: the object you may easily comprehend.4

I hope that you and Mr. Jones will come forward soon; my health will not permit a constant attendance and the idea of the State’s being unrepresented is extremely mortifying to me indeed if I do not shortly get better it will be my desire to return home. I heartily wish I had went with you and Mr. Monro.

The Vote of the Assembly on the affair of paper money does them the highest honor: & augurs well of the session. I remain with the most sincere reguard Yr. Affect. frd. & Most Obedt Servt

Willm. Grayson

It is said a commercial treaty is nearly formed between Spain and Great Brittain.5

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Congress lacked a quorum from 3 Nov. 1786 to 16 Jan. 1787. Then for one day—17 Jan. 1787—seven states were present, but the attempt to choose a president failed because the states could not agree on one man. Congress did not again meet until 2 Feb., when the delegates elected Arthur St. Clair of Pennsylvania president (Burnett, The Continental Congress, pp. 673–74).

2Abner Nash arrived in New York around 1 Nov. 1786, was immediately taken ill, and died 2 Dec. 1786 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, xciii).

3Shays’s Rebellion provoked widespread rumors of British involvement. John Jay wrote to Jefferson, “A Variety of Considerations and some Facts afford Room for Suspicions, that there is an understanding between the Insurgents in Massachusetts and some leading Persons in Canada, but whether with or without the Consent or Connivance of the british Government, is still to be ascertained. There is so much Evidence of their having sent Emissaries to Quebec, and of Propositions made to and received by them from a Character of Distinction there, that I am induced to think there is at least some Truth in it.… Intimations have been given that the People of Vermont are less and less anxious to be admitted into the Confederacy, and that they rather incline to a Connection of some kind or other with Britain than with us. This also remains to be proved. Two Circumstances however give it some Appearance of Probability, Vizt. It is said and believed that they talked with Sr Guy Carlton during the War, and they know that by remaining separate from the States, they will also remain uncharged with our Debts” (14 Dec. 1786, Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , X, 596; see also Edward Carrington to Edmund Randolph, 8 Dec. 1786, Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 516). Sir Guy Carleton, appointed governor of Quebec in 1786, was supposed to have been sent to Canada with explicit instructions to harass the Americans as much as possible with the object of fomenting disturbances in their governments (Jefferson to Jay, 11 Aug. 1786, Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , X, 221, 222 n.). Vermonters had been in contact by way of Canada with British officials ever since the Revolution, but Vermont provided no more than refuge and sympathy for the Shaysites (Dunbar, “Monarchical” Tendencies in the U.S., p. 110; Chilton Williamson, Vermont in Quandary: 1763–1825 [Montpelier, 1949], p. 171).

4The delegates in Congress resolved to use whatever means and power they had to suppress the insurrection in Massachusetts. Fearful of the states’ reaction to forceful action by the federal government, they voted on 20 Oct. to raise a special body of troops under the guise of defending the western frontier against hostile Indians, but in fact for the purpose of supporting Governor Bowdoin against the Shaysites (Burnett, The Continental Congress, p. 672; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 892).

5John Adams reported to Jay in a letter of 27 Oct. that Britain was pursuing treaties of commerce with various European nations, among them “perhaps, Spain” (Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, II, 679).

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