James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Duer, 23 June 1788

From William Duer

New york June 23d. 1788

Dear Sir,

As it is probable you may not hear by this Post from our Mutual Frend Colo. Hamilton, I take the Liberty of giving you a Short Sketch of our political Prospects, in this Quarter, on the great Question of the Constitution. My Information is from Colo. Laurence,1 who left Pokepsie on Saturday.

A Considerable Majority of the Convention are undoubtedly Anti-federal; or in other Words, wish for Amendments previous to the Adoption of the Government. A few of the Leaders (amongst which I think I may without Scruple class the Governor) would, if they could find Support, go further; and hazard Every thing rather than agree to any System which tended to a Consolidation of our Government. Of this however I have at present no Apprehensions; many of their Party having avowed themselves, Frends to the Union. With Respect to Amendments, as far as I can understand, the Party in Opposition, cannot agree amongst themselves. It is therefore possible that this Circumstance may create a Division in favor of the Fœderalists. As to the Rejection of the Constitution, there is not the least Probability of it. The great Points of Discussion, will probably be; whether they will adjourn without coming to any Decision; whether they will adopt it conditionally; or whether they will follow the Example of Massachusets & S Carolina.

The Conduct of your Convention will influence in a very great Degree ours; if you adjourn without doing any thing, we shall do the same—but if you do not, there is still some Prospect that we may adopt with proposed Amendments; for as to the second Point, the Inconsistency of it will I think be too apparent, after a Discussion, to command a majority. Whilst I am writing a Gentleman has fav[o]red me with a Copy of a Letter from an Intelligent Bystander, who has attended the Debates of our Convention. I therefore enclose it as a more faithful History than I can give.2 Mr Hopkins3 will do me the favor of delivering this. I am, with sentiments of the most perfect Esteem, Your Obedt Hble. Servt.

Wm. Duer

RC (DLC); Tr (NHi). RC docketed by JM. For enclosure, see n. 2.

1Possibly John Laurance (1750–1810), formerly judge advocate general of the Continental army and delegate to Congress from New York. Laurance was elected to the House of Representatives in 1789 and served in the Senate from 1796 to 1800 (Biographical Directory of Congress [1971 ed.], p. 1268).

2JM noted in the lower margin that the enclosure was a “letter from J. Kent to Robert Troup.” In 1835 Duer’s son, William A. Duer, wrote to JM on behalf of Chancellor James Kent requesting the original or a copy of the enclosure. JM evidently sent the original copy of Kent’s 20 June 1788 letter to Troup without retaining a copy for his own files (William A. Duer to JM, 25 May 1835 [DLC]; JM to Duer, 29 May 1835 [NHi]). For a summary of this letter, see William Kent, Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, LL.D. (Boston, 1898), p. 30. The enclosure is now in the James Kent Papers, New-York Historical Society.

3Possibly John Hopkins, Continental loan officer for Virginia.

Index Entries