From Edmund Randolph
Richmond July 17. 1785
My dear friend
By some inexplicable mystery, the inclosed letter from Mr. Jones, and my intended answer to your last epistolary favor, have still remained in my possession. Being engaged when the gentleman, who brought your friendly attention to me, I doubt whether I gave him an intelligible reply to his question, if my answer was ready.
Our apparent disobedience to the appointment of the assembly must be ascribed to the forgetfulness of our friend Henry. Genl. Washington having inquired from me the reason of our non-attendance at the time and place, marked for the conference by the government of Maryland, I immediately applied to the govr. for information, whether he had communicated the resolve of that state to the deputies. He could not recollect; but seemed anxious to avail himself of the probability of having inclosed it to you with several other public papers. Even Mason and Henderson knew nothing of the meeting; and would have been absent but for the activity and urgency of the general.1 But I am yet disposed to believe, that the communication with Pennsylvania has been forgotten: nor can I procure satisfaction on this head.2
I dedicate to you, as the patron of the protestant Episcopal church, the inclosed journal.3 Between friends my experience in the last convention does not make me anxious to step forward in another. We have squeezed out a little liberality from them; but at a future day they will be harder than adament, and perhaps credulous, that they possess authority. Smith of P. Edward has waged war with the assembly, from which the act of incorporation sprang.4 He talks judiciously, but with a temper well-roused.
I have been preparing for my journey to Frederick for some time. But my aversion to leave home, where my choicest delights, one of which is at present incumbered, will remain, makes me doubt of the journey. Adieu my dear Madison and believe me to be yours mo. sincerely
RC (DLC). Cover and enclosure missing. Docketed by JM.
1. The conference held at Mount Vernon suffered from an administrative oversight in that the instructions to notify the appointed representatives were not effectively carried out. The General Assembly resolution appointed George Mason, Alexander Henderson, Randolph, and JM. Mason claimed he learned of the appointment only by accident. The Maryland commissioners appeared in Alexandria and gathered up Mason and Henderson, both of whom lived nearby. JM and Randolph, far from the immediate scene, were uninformed of the session until after it had taken place (Rutland, Papers of George Mason, II, 812–14).
2. JM wrote the resolution of 28 Dec. 1784 which invited Pennsylvania to participate in the interstate conference on “regulations touching the navigation and jurisdiction of the Potowmac” (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 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1784, p. 91). The conference was either ignored by the Pennsylvania executive, or the careless clerk who failed to notify the Virginia commissioners also forgot to forward the invitation to Philadelphia.
3. Randolph undoubtedly enclosed a copy of the Journal of a Convention of the Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Virginia, Begun and Holden in the City of Richmond, Wednesday, May 18, 1785 (Richmond, 1785; Sabin description begins Joseph Sabin et al., eds., Bibliotheca Americana … (29 vols.; New York and Portland, Me., 1868–1936). description ends 100513).
4. John Blair Smith was president of Hampden-Sydney Academy in Prince Edward County and leading opponent of the controversial Protestant Episcopal Incorporating Act (Smith to JM, 21 June 1784; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 532–37). Smith wrote a petition protesting the General Assessment bill which was approved by the Hanover Presbytery and sent to the General Assembly, probably on 12 Nov. 1785 (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 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1785, p. 34). JM was critical of the Presbyterian stance, as his letter to Monroe, 12 Apr. 1785, indicated.