George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Mason, 5 April 1769

From George Mason

Gunston-Hall 5th April 1769.

Dear Sir

I have Yr Favour of this Day, inclosing the Resolves of the Merchts in philadelphia &c. which I return by the Bearer, as I had before recd Duplicates of them from our Friend the Doctor.1 I entirely agree with You that no regular plan of the Sort proposed can be entered into here—before the Meeting of the Genl Court at least, if not that of the Assembly; when a Number of Gentlemen, from the different parts of the Country, will have an Opportunity of conferring together, & acting in Concert; in the mean Time it may be necessary to publish Something preparatory to it in our Gazettes, to warn the people at least of the impending Danger, & induce them the more readily & chearfully to concur in the proper Measures to avert it; & Something of this Sort I had begun; but am unluckily Stop’d by a Disorder which affects my Head & Eyes in such a Manner, that I am totally incapable of Business, proceeding from a slight Colds checking an Attack of an Erisipelas, or St Anthony’s-fire (a Complaint I am very subject to) so soon as I am able, I shall resume it, & sh⟨all⟩ then write you more fully, or endeavour to see You: in the mean Time pray commit to Writing such Hints as may occur.2

Our All is at Stake, & the little Conveniencys & Comforts of Life, when set in Competition with our Liberty, ought to be rejected not with reluctance but with Pleasure: yet it is plain that in the Tobo Colonys We can’t at present confine our Importations within such narrow Bounds as the Northern Colonys, a plan of this kind, to be practicable, must be adapted to our Circumstances; for not steadily executed, it had better have remain’d unattempted—We may retrench all Manner of Superfluitys, Finery of all Denominations, & confine ourselves to Linnens Woolens &c. not exceeding a certain price:3 it is amazing how much this (if adopted in all the Colonys) woud lessen the american Imports, and distress the various Traders & Manufacturers in Great Britain—this wou’d quickly awaken their Attention—they woud see, they woud feel the Oppressions We groan under, & exert themselves to procure us Redress: this once obtain’d, we shou’d no longer discontinue our Importations, confining ourselves still never to import any Article that shou’d hereafter be taxed by Act of parliament for raising a Revennue in America; for however singular I may be in my Opinion, I am thoroughly convinced that (Justice & Harmony happily restored) it is not the Interest of these Colonys to refuse British Manufactures: our supplying our Mother-Country with gross Materials, & taking her Manufactures in return is the true chain of Connection between us; these are the Bands, which, if not broken by Oppression, must long hold us together by maintaing a constant Reciprocation of Interest: proper Caution shou’d therefore be used in drawing up the proposed plan of Association. It might not be amiss to let the Ministry understand that untill we obtain a Redress of Grievances, we will withhold from them our Commoditys, particularly refrain from making Tobacco, by which the Revennue wou’d lose fifty times more than all their Oppressions cou’d raise here.

Had the Hint I have given with regard to the Taxation of Goods imported into America been thought of by our Merchants before the repeal of the Stamp Act, the late american Revennue Acts wou’d probably never have been attempted.

I am wth Mrs Mason’s Comps. & my own to Your Lady & Family Dr Sir Yr most obdt Servt

G. Mason

P.S. Next Friday is the Day appointed for the Meeting of the Vestry.4


2It is possible that Mason finished his piece in time to have it printed as letter no. 2 from Atticus on 11 May in the Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) and in both Purdie and Dixon’s and Rind’s Virginia Gazette. See Rutland, Mason Papers description begins Robert A. Rutland, ed. The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. 3 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1970. description ends , 1:106–9. Mason and GW were together from 17 to 21 May. See GW to Mason, this date.

3In writing to the Philadelphia merchant associators in March, the Annapolis merchants had this to say about the peculiarities of the Chesapeake colonies’ trade with the Mother Country: “You must no doubt be sensible from your knowledge of the different manner in which the Trade of this Province and Pensilvania is carried on, that such an Agreement as yours cannot be so readily entered into here as in your Province. The Importers in the one are chiefly if not wholly confined to the City of Philadelphia; but in Maryland the Merchants are Scattered all over the Province consequently their general Consent to any particular measure cannot be readily Obtained. However that Difficulty might be easily got over if the Importation of Goods was entirely confind to Merchants; But here every Gentleman and Planter Imports Goods more or less for their Family use by which means [I] may venture to say that not above [ ] of the Goods brought into this Province are imported by the Merchants & Traders. Such being the case not only the Consent of the Merchant importers is necessary, but that of all the Gentlemen & Planters who import Goods for their own use, otherwise the end proposed by the Agreement would be entirely defeated.

“We must likewise observe that when the Agreement for not importing Goods is entered into here, many Articles must be added to those exceptions in yours which the circumstance of the Province will render absolutely necessary tho’ they may not be so in Pensilvania” (Hamilton, Letters to Washington description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed. Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers. 5 vols. Boston and New York, 1898–1902. description ends , 3:352–54).

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