James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Alexander Hamilton, 27 June 1788

To Alexander Hamilton

Richd. June 27. [1788]

My dear Sir

This day put an end to the existence of our Convention. The inclosed is a copy of the Act of Ratification. It has been followed by a number of recommendatory alterations; many of them highly objectionable. One of the most so is an article prohibiting direct taxes where effectual laws shall be passed by the States for the purpose.1 It was impossible to prevent this error. The minority will sign an address to the people. The genesis of it is unknown to me. It is announced as an exhortation to acquiescence in the result of the Convention.2 Notwithstanding the fair professions made by some, I am so uncharitable as to suspect that the ill will to the Constitution will produce [illegible] every peaceable effort to disgrace & destroy it. Mr. H——y declared previous to the final question that although he should submit as a quiet citizen, he should wait with impatience for the favorable moment of regaining in a constitutional way, the lost liberties of his country. My conjecture is that exertions will be made to engage ⅔ds of the Legislatures in the task of regularly undermining the government. This hint may not be unworthy of your attention. Yrs. Affecly.

Js. M. Jr

RC (DLC: Hamilton Papers). Addressed by JM and franked. Enclosure not found.

1The proposed amendment directed that “when the congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately inform the executive power of each state, of the quota of such state according to the census herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised; and if the legislature of any state shall pass a law which shall be effectual for raising such quota at the time required by congress, the taxes and excises laid by congress, shall not be collected in such state” (Robertson, Virginia Debates description begins David Robertson, Debates and Other Proceedings of the Convention of Virginia (2d ed.; Richmond, 1805). description ends , p. 473).

2Before the convention adjourned the defeated Antifederalists held a meeting to “prepare an address to reconcile the minds of their constituents” to the Constitution. George Mason had a statement ready, which was laid before the meeting, but it tended “to irritate, rather than to quiet the public mind.” Benjamin Harrison, John Tyler, and Robert Lawson were critical of the address, and Harrison moved to adjourn the meeting without taking any action. “Mr. Mason discovering their sentiments to prevail generally, prudently and with temper withdrew his address” (Va. Independent Chronicle, 9 July 1788).

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