George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 16 March 1786

From John Jay

New York 16 March 1786

Dear Sir

Under the same cover with my Letter to You of 2 Instant, I transmitted a Pamphlet, in which I have since remarked the Errors mentioned in the inclosed printed Paper.

altho’ you have wisely retired from public Employments, and calmly view from the Temple of Fame, the various Exertions of the Sovereignty and Independence which Providence has enabled You to be so greatly & gloriously instrumental in securing to your country; yet I am persuaded you cannot view them with the Eye of an unconcerned Spectator.

Experience has pointed out Errors in our national Government, which call for Correction, and which threaten to blast the Fruit we expected from our “Tree of Liberty.” The convention proposed by Virginia may do some good and would perhaps do more, if it comprehended more Objects1—an opinion begins to prevail that a general convention for revising the articles of Confederation would be expedient. Whether the People are yet ripe for such a Measure, or whether the System proposed to be attained by it, is only to be expected from Calamity & Commotion, is difficult to ascertain. I think we are in a delicate Situation, and a Variety of Considerations and Circumstances give me uneasiness. It is in Contemplation to take measures for forming a general convention—the Plan is not matured—if it should be well concerted and take Effect, I am fervent in my Wishes, that it may comport with the Line of Life you have marked out for yourself, to favor your country with your counsels on such an important & single occasion. I suggest this merely as a Hint for Consideration, and am with the highest Respect & Esteem Dear Sir your most obt & very hble Servant

John Jay


1On the last day of its session, 21 Jan. 1786, the house of delegates appointed five commissioners, including James Madison and Edmund Randolph, to “meet such commissioners as may be appointed by the other States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situations and trade of the said States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony; and to export to the several States, such an act relative to this great object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress effectually to provide for the same.” The Virginia delegates were to “immediately transmit to the several States, copies of the preceding resolution, with a circular letter requesting their concurrence therein, and proposing a time and place for the meeting aforesaid” (House of Delegates Journal, 1781–1785). description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico, on Monday, the Seventh Day of May, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-One. Richmond, 1828. description ends The meeting was called for Annapolis in September. Twelve delegates from only five states, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, attended, and met from 11 to 14 September. The report of the delegates to the legislatures of the five states, drafted by Alexander Hamilton, is in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 3:686–90.

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