James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 27 December 1787

From Edmund Randolph

Richmond decr. 27. 1787.

My dear friend

Altho’ many mails have passed since I wrote to you last, I am not without excuses of a satisfactory nature; which are too long and unimportant to you to hear in detail. Having shaken off the impediments to writing, I shall be hereafter punctual.

My letter is now inclosed to you.1 What the general opinion is, I would not undertake to vouch because I stay much at home, and I find daily reason to distrust reports, which always receive a tincture from the wishes of the narrator. But I rather suspect, that the current sets violently against the new constitution. Nay I must be permitted to express a fear, lest true fœderalism should be pressed hard in the convention. General Wilkinson from Kentucke, who is now here, is not to be appeased in his violence against the constitution; and it is presumed that thro his means the vote of Kentucky will have the same direction. He is rivetted by Colo. Harry Lee, declaring to him, that the surrender of the Mississippi would probably be among the early acts of the new congress. Mr. Meriwether Smith moved yesterday for a circular letter from our to the other legislatures, intimating the likelihood of amendment here. But his motion was changed into an instruction to the executive to forward the late act.2 Mr. Henry is implacable. Colo. Mason seems to rise beyond his first ground. He will be elected, it is said, for Stafford, and Colo. Mercer, it is also said, will be sent for by the people of that county for a similar purpose.3 I need not assure you, that it would give me no pleasure to see my conduct in refusing to sign, sanctified, if it was to produce a hazard to the union; and if I know myself, I have no extreme ardor to acquire converts to my opinions. But I verily believe, that the only expedient which can save the fœderal government in any shape in Virginia, will be the adoption of some such plan, as mine.4 However the high-toned friends to the constitution are still very sanguine, that the whole will run thro with ease.

A district bill has passed the delegates. It sticks with the Senate, who are employed in making amendments, to which the delegates will not agree. The fate of the bill is uncertain.

The prohibition of the importation of spirituous liquors is gone & indeed cannot be executed, even if it was to be enacted into a law.

A sinking fund has been established and the executive are to speculate with it in the purchase of public securities.

A heavy impost is laid in certificates on goods imported. The object of it was to detach from the fœderal government those, who might be allured by the revenue. Yrs mo. afftely

E. R.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found.

1Randolph’s published letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, 10 Oct. 1787, explaining his reasons for not signing the Constitution. See Randolph to JM, 23 [ca. 29] Oct. 1787 and n. 3. A copy of the letter in pamphlet form is in the Rare Book Division, Library of Congress. The letter was also printed in the Va. Independent Chronicle description begins Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond: Augustine Davis, 1786–90). Beginning on 13 May 1789 entitled, Virginia Independent Chronicle, and General Advertiser. description ends of 2 Jan. 1788 and the Va. Gazette and Weekly Advertiser description begins Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser (Richmond: Thomas Nicolson et al., 1781–97). description ends of 3 and 10 Jan. 1788.

2Resolved, That the Governor be desired to transmit to the Executive and Legislature of the respective States, a copy of the act passed at the present session, entitled ‘an act, concerning the Convention to be held in June next,’” (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 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1787, p. 119; 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 , XII, 462–63).

3Mason was elected, but his Stafford colleague at the June convention was Andrew Buchanan, also an Antifederalist (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , p. 244; Elliot, Debates [1836 ed.], III, 588, 590). John Francis Mercer had moved to Anne Arundel County in Maryland and opposed the Constitution in the Maryland ratifying convention (Rutland, Papers of George Mason, I, lxxix).

4During the closing days of the Philadelphia convention Randolph had proposed that the state conventions should be permitted to submit amendments “to a second General Convention, with full power to settle the Constitution finally” (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , II, 479, 561). He repeated this proposition, with some modifications, in his public letter on the Constitution (P. L. Ford, Pamphlets on the Constitution, p. 274).

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