George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Madison, 8 November 1786

From James Madison

Richm[on]d Novr 8th 1786

Dear Sir

I am just honoured with your favor of the 5th inst: The intelligence from Genl Knox is gloomy indeed, but is less so than the colours in which I had it thro’ another channel.1 If the lessons which it inculcates should not work the proper impressions on the American Public, it will be a proof that our case is desperate. Judging from the present temper and apparent views of our Assembly, I have some ground for leaning to the side of Hope. The vote against Paper money has been followed by two others of great importance. By one of them sundry petitions for applying a scale of depreciation to the Military Certificates was unanimously rejected. By the other the expediency of complying with the Recomm[end]ation from Annapolis in favor of a general revision of the federal system was unanimously agreed to. A bill for the purpose is now depending and in a form which attests the most federal spirit. As no opposition has been yet made and it is ready for the third reading, I expect it will soon be before the public.2 It has been thought advisable to give this subject a very solemn dress, and all the weight which could be derived from a single State. This idea will also be pursued in the selection of characters to represent Virga in the federal Convention. You will infer our earnestness on this point from the liberty which will be used of placing your name at the head of them. How far this liberty may correspond with the ideas by which you ought to be governed will be best decided where it must ultimately be decided. In every event it will assist powerfully in marking the zeal of our Legislature, and its opinion of the magnitude of the occasion. Mr Randolph has been elected successor to Mr Henry. He had 73 votes.3 Col. Bland had 28 & R. H. Lee 22. The Delegation to Congress drops Col. H. Lee, a circumstance which gives much pain to those who attend to the mortification in which it must involve a man of sensibility. I am even yet to learn the ground of the extensive disapprobation which has shewn itself.4 I am Dear Sir most respectfully & Affecty Yr Obedt & hble servt

J. Madison Jr.

ALS, DLC:GW; signed copy, in Madison’s hand, DLC: Madison Papers.

1Madison is referring to his letters from Henry Lee of 19 and 25 October.

2Madison’s “A Bill For appointing deputies from the Commonwlth. to a Convention proposed to be held in the City of Philada. in May next for the purpose of revising the federal Constitution” was introduced in the house of delegates on 6 November. The house passed the bill on 9 Nov. and the senate on 23 Nov. (Rutland and Rachal, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 9:164).

3The editors of the Madison Papers take the number to be 79 instead of 73. In his file copy, Madison wrote 77. He also changed Bland’s total from 28 to 26 (ibid., 166–67).

4Madison wrote Henry Lee on 9 Nov. expressing his regret that the house of delegates had not reelected Lee to Congress as was customary until a man had served for three years. Madison wrote Lee again on 23 Nov. to refute Lee’s charge that he was involved in the rejection of Lee by the delegates. On 4 Dec. Madison wrote Thomas Jefferson: “Col. H. Lee of the last delegation was dropt. The causes were different I believe & not very accurately known to me. One of them is said to have been his supposed heterodoxy touching the Mississppi” (ibid., 189–92). See David Stuart’s explanation of the rejection of Lee in his letter to GW of this date (8 Nov.). When Joseph Jones refused to serve, the house on 1 Dec. reelected Lee.

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