Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Harrison, 19 December 1783

From Benjamin Harrison

Council Chamber Decr. 19th. 1783.


I send you an act of our assembly by which you will see their willingness to join the other states in any plan that Congress and they may think necessary to force Great Britain into a generous commercial treaty with us. Great expectations are entertained here of the efficacy of the measure, tho’ I confess I expect nothing from it. The jaring interests of the States will ever prevent their delegating as much power to Congress as will be adequate to the purpose. I sent your favor of the 12th. to the Assembly and suggested a measure that pleases me better than the present one which is to recommend to the several states the appointment of a deputy to meet at Philadelphia to settle a general plan of opposition for the whole united States. To this I think none can object as it will remove their fears, by the appointments being only temporary and for a particular purpose. Whether the proposal will be adopted or not, I know not, as they are resolved to rise tomorrow and are as usual all hurry and confusion.

The impost bill has passed both houses and differs as I am told but in two instances from the recommendations of Congress; the first is the appointment of collectors which is given to the executive, the other postpones the time of its taking place till the other states shall pass similar acts which will probably never happen.

I am &c.

FC (Vi); caption reads: “The honorable Thomas Jefferson.”

On 18 Dec. Harrison sent TJ’s favor of the 12th. to the assembly with the following comment: “The enclosed letters from Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Mercer are just come to hand. As they throw some light on the situation of our trade I suppose they will be acceptable to the Assembly and therefore request the favor of You to communicate their contents to them. I am fearful from what Mr. Jefferson says of the opinions of many gentlemen in Congress that nothing effectual will be done by that body, and that the methods we are pursuing will not answer our expectations even if they should enter on the business, as it is much to be doubted whether the different states will give them power to act with vigor. Should this be the case and the present moment lost, we shall feel the ill effects of it a great length of time. If it should not be thought going beyond my line I would suggest the appointment of some gentleman of abilities acquainted with the subject to meet a deputy from each of the other states at Philadelphia to consult with them one general plan of conduct for the whole united States which would take off the objection, in which there is some weight, of putting the regulation of our commerce into the hands of Congress. I am the more confirmed in my opinion that the mode adopted will not answer the desirable end proposed from a perfect recollection of the arguments used when the subject was under consideration at the ra of the general confederation, a great majority of the states appearing then to revolt at the idea of delegating such a power” (Harrison to Speaker of the House, 18 Dec. 1783, Executive Letter Book, Vi). For action by the General Assembly on this recommendation, see Harrison to the Virginia delegates, 26 Dec. 1783.

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