James Madison Papers

From James Madison to George Washington, 25 [23] June 1788

To George Washington

Richmond June Tuesday 25. [23 June 1788]1

Dear Sir

We got through the constitution by paragraphs today. Tomorrow some proposition for closing the business will be made. On our side a ratification involving a few declaratory truths not affecting its validity will be tendered. The opposition will urge previous amendments. Their conversation to day seemed to betray despair. Col. Mason in particular talked in a style which no other sentiment could have produced. He held out the idea of civil convulsions as the effects of obtruding the Government on the people.2 He was answered by several and concluded with declaring his determination for himself to acquiesce in the event whatever it might be. Mr. H——y endeavoured to gloss what had fallen from his friend, declared his aversion to the Constitution to be such that he could not take the oath; but that he would remain in peaceable submission to the result.3 We calculate on a majority, but a bare one. It is possible nevertheless that some adverse circumstance may happen. I am Dr Sr. in haste Yrs. entirely

Js. Madison Jr

RC (DLC: Washington Papers); Tr (DLC). RC docketed by Washington.

1Tuesday was 24 June, but the contents of this letter indicate that JM actually wrote it on Monday, 23 June.

2Mason warned that “the adoption of a system so replete with defects … could not but be productive of the most alarming consequences. He dreaded popular resistance to its operation” (Robertson, Virginia Debates description begins David Robertson, Debates and Other Proceedings of the Convention of Virginia (2d ed.; Richmond, 1805). description ends , p. 418).

3Henry’s remarks were not reported. Robertson, who was the shorthand reporter, was absent on 23 June. The printer attempted to keep a record “by the assistance of his notes” but acknowledged that the entries were in an “incomplete and inaccurate state” (ibid., p. 412).

Index Entries