James Madison Papers

Rufus King to William Grayson and Madison, 11 March 1787

Rufus King to William Grayson and Madison

Sunday Morng. 11. Mar. 1787

Extra[c]t of a Letter from a Gentleman in Boston
of the 4th. March 1787. to R King—1

“—— has come back from Virginia with News that the Commissioners on the part of New York alarmed the Virginia Delegates, with an account that the Commissioners on the part of Massachusetts were for a monarchy; & that those Delegates wrote their Legislature of it, who shut their Galaries and made a most serious Business of the Matter.2 Pray let me know by the next Post, what you hear of this, and what has been said.”

The Commissioners alluded to, are those who settled the late Territorial controversy between Massachusetts & New York.3

Mr. King presents his compliments to Col. Grayson & Mr. Madison, and for the Satisfaction of his friend, who wrote the Letter, from which the above is an Extract, begs to be informed whether they have any Knowledge of a Letter written by the Delegates of Virginia or any of them, containing the information suggested in the Extract, or of any Proceedings of the Virginia Legislature of the nature alledged.4

Mr. K. intreats Col. Grayson and Mr. Madison to have the Goodness to excuse the Freedom of this note, and hopes that they will be assured that nothing wd. have authorised this Enquiry except the anxiety of a worthy Gentleman rendered uneasy by the foregoing charge.

RC (DLC). Addressed by King to “The Hon. Mr. Grayson & Mr. Madison.” Docketed by JM, “See the answr. on file.”

1The identity of King’s correspondent is unknown.

2This was probably Jeremiah Wadsworth of Connecticut, who visited Virginia during February, delivered a letter from David Humphreys to Washington at Mount Vernon. and met with JM on his way back through New York (Humphreys to Washington, 20 Jan. 1787 [DLC: Washington Papers]; Fitzpatrick, Washington Diaries, III, 168; JM to Eliza House Trist, 19 Mar. 1787). In his letter to Washington, Humphreys described briefly the meeting of the commissioners and noted that conversations with them had revealed that “M[r.] King, Mr. Sedgwick & several others (I believe I might say John Jay) who have been mortally opposed to the Cincinnati, now look with considerable confidence to that quarter for our political preservation” (Humphreys to Washington, 20 Jan. 1787 [DLC: Washington Papers]). Certain public men feared the Society of the Cincinnati as an aristocratic body with monarchical leanings. Indeed, rumors were widespread that some citizens considered monarchy a preferable form of government to the impotent Confederation (Dunbar, “Monarchical” Tendencies in the U.S., pp. 54–75).

3The territorial controversy between Massachusetts and New York was settled on 16 Dec. 1786 through an agreement signed by commissioners representing each state: John Lowell, James Sullivan, Theophilus Parsons, and Rufus King for Massachusetts; James Duane, Robert R. Livingston, Robert Yates, John Haring, Melancton Smith, and Egbert Benson for New York (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXIII, 619–28).

4Existing letters between the Virginia delegates and their state governor and legislature contain nothing pertaining to the accusation made by the Boston gentleman (see JM and William Grayson to King, 11 Mar. 1787).

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