George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Mason, 6 November 1787

From George Mason

Richmond Novemr 6th 1787.

Dear Sir

On Saturday last, in a Committee of the whole House upon the State of the Commonwealth, to whom was referred sundry Petitions, some praying for an Emission of Paper Money, & others for making Property, at an appraised value, a Tender in Discharge of Debts, I moved & carryed the Resolutions of which I inclose a Copy.1 During the Discussion of the Subject, after treating the Petitions as founded upon Fraud & Knavery, I called upon any of the Members of the House, who were Advocates for such Measures, if any such there were, to come boldly forward, & explain their real Motives; but they declined entering into the Debate, & the Resolutions passed unanimously—I hope they have given this iniquitous Measure a mortal Stab, & that we shall not again be troubled with it.

A Resolution this Day passed for an absolute P[r]ohibition of all imported Spirits, with some others, in my Opinion almost equally impolitic, & calculated to subject the Eastern Part of the State to the arbitrary Impositions of the western: the Prohibition of the single Article of Rum wou’d cut off a nett Revenue of eleven thousand pounds per annum. When the Bill is brought in I think they will find such insuperable Difficultys in the Mode of carrying it into Execution, as will oblige them to abandon the Project.2

I take the Liberty of enclosing a Copy of the Resolutions upon the proposed federal Government; by which it will appear that the Assembly have given time for full Examination & Discussion of the Subject, and have avoided giving any Opinion of their own upon the Subject.3

I beg to be presented to Your Lady & Family; and am, with the greatest Respect & Regard, dear Sir Your affecte & obdt Servt

G. Mason

P.S. A Plan is before the House for a three Years Installment of all Debts; tho’ in my Opinion very exceptionable, it is better than the Plans of that kind heretofore proposed, & I believe will be adopted, in Spight of every Opposition that can be made to it, I shall therefore, instead of pointing the little Opposition I can make, against the whole, endeavour to change the plan, by making the Consent of the Creditor necessary, & the Instalments voluntary, & in such Cases giving the Force of Judgements to the Instalment-Bonds.4

ALS, DLC:GW.

1Mason’s enclosed Resolutions Condemning the Use of Paper Money, 3 Nov. 1787, is printed in 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 3:1008–9.

2Instead of prohibiting the importing of spirits, the Virginia legislature imposed a heavy tax on wine, porter, ale, beer, and imported rum (12 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 412–32). For Mason’s description of the failed bill, see his letter to GW of 27 November.

3After deciding that the proposed constitution should “be submitted to a Convention of the people for their full and free investigation and discussion,” the house of delegates on 25 Oct. provided for the election of delegates in March and for their meeting in convention at the state house in Richmond on the fourth Monday in May, later changed to 1 June (House of Delegates Journal, 1786–1790 description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Holden in the City of Richmond, in the County of Henrico, on Monday the Sixteenth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-Six. Richmond, 1828. description ends ). Mason enclosed a printed copy of these resolutions of 25 October. See also The General Assembly Calls a State Convention 25–31 October in Kaminski and Saladino, Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, description begins John P. Kaminski et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. 26 vols. to date. Madison, Wis., 1976—. description ends 8:110–20.

4The legislature rejected any installment plan for the collection of debts, but it passed “An act directing the mode of proceeding under certain executions,” which gave debtors additional protection (12 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 457–67).

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