George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Jay, 17 July 1788

From John Jay

Poughkeepsie [N.Y.] 17 July 1788

Dear Sir

Since my arrival here I have written you two or three hasty letters—being constantly involved in Business or Company from wh. it would not be here very practicable or perhaps prudent to retreat, I have been able to write but very little—The Convention this moment adjourned and I am writing in their Chamber—a Question being about to be put on the mode of adoption which you have seen, we moved that the House adjourn for a month or two—It was yesterday carried against us—the former Question was again pressed with Earnestness—at that Period Mr M. Smith seconded by Mr Platt (both of whom dislike the Constitution, and are classed with its opposers) proposed the mode of adoption, of which the above is a Copy1—their own party were not pleased and the House adjourned.2 this morning it was expected that the Question to postpone the former plan, and proceed to the Consideration of the latter, would be put. The House went into a Committee of the whole according to the order of the Day—A long Silence ensued—the Party seemed embarrassed—fearful to divide among themselves, and yet many of them very averse to the new Plan. the Committee rose, and the House adjourned, with very little opposition—It is difficult to conjecture what may be done out of Doors to Day.3 I am inclined to think that the new plan will expel the other, and I wish it may, not because I approve of it, but because I prefer it as being less exceptionable than the other. with the greatest Respect & Esteem I am Dr Sir your affte & hble Servt

John Jay

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, NNC. In the draft, someone, Jay perhaps, attempted to convert the 7 in 17 July into an 8; see note 3.

1Jay in fact wrote his letter to GW at the end of his copy of the statement presented by Melancton Smith and Zephaniah Platt as the proposed mode of conditional ratification of the Constitution. See note 2.

2On 11 July Jay introduced a motion in the New York Ratifying Convention that the Constitution be ratified. On 15 July Melancton Smith, a leading Antifederalist in the convention, proposed an amendment to Jay’s motion. Smith’s amendment set forth a number of conditions under which the Constitution would be ratified. On the next day the convention voted down the federalist motion to have the convention adjourn until September. It was at this point, on 17 July, that Smith and Platt, his fellow delegate from Dutchess County, proposed the new “mode of adoption.” This called for unconditional ratification but accompanied by the retention of the right of New York to secede if the new government did not promptly consider amendments to the Constitution (Elliot, Debates, description begins Jonathan Elliot, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention of Philadelphia, in 1787. 2d ed. 5 vols. Philadelphia, 1896. description ends 2:410–11; De Pauw, Eleventh Pillar, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw. The Eleventh Pillar: New York State and the Federal Constitution. Ithaca, N.Y., 1966. description ends 221–27). In the end, on 25 July, the New York convention voted 30 to 27 to ratify the Constitution “in full confidence” that the necessary amendments would be adopted.

3Jay is describing here what transpired in the convention on 18 July.

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