Benjamin Harrison to the Virginia Delegates in Congress
In Council December 5th. 1783.
The last post brought no letter from you which I am really sorry for as the definitive treaty which we hear is certainly arrived is much wanted by the assembly and would perhaps prevent some steps being taken that may be contrary to it. Do Congress mean to take no measures to counteract the designs of the British respecting our trade? If they do it must be immediately to have any effect here as the assembly will rise in a fortnight. Our taxes are again postponed ‘till the first of february and one half are to be commuted for. I fear this fluctuation in our Councils will be attended with the worst of consequences, our credit was low before and this will probably totally destroy it.
I am &c.
FC (Vi); caption reads: “The Virginia delegates in Congress.”
Harrison was much concerned here and in other communications about the designs of the British respecting our trade. On 3 Oct. 1783 he had written the delegates (before TJ had left Virginia): “The determinations of the French and English respecting our trade is really alarming and in the end will prove ruinous to us if not counteracted by some spirited conduct on our part. I think the way is plain and easy with the latter, but with the former little can be done as trade has never been an object with the french court tho’ the want of it has been severely felt by the nation at large and frequently brought the Kingdom to the brink of ruin. Great Britain knows its intrinsic value and if we prohibit the use of their manufactures or west india commodities except when brought by our own vessels or by those of other nations and thereby oblige them to make their purchases in cash, they will very soon come to a compromise. How far the powers of Congress may be competent to bring about this or any other regulation that will better answer the end is not for me to say, but surely they should at least take up the matter and recommend some general regulation to the States. Unfortunately for us the subject is not well understood here nor is that attention paid to it that its importance requires: yet we are sometimes reasonable people and can understand things if we please to give them due consideration. It will be your parts therefore to smooth the way by a plain and pointed state of the advantages that will derive to the Union by a spirited opposition to the measures of the British ministry” (Executive Letter Book, Vi). See also Harrison to the Delegates, 26 Dec. 1783.