George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Collins, 18 January 1790

From John Collins

State of Rhode-Island & Providence Plantations

Sir,January 18th 1790.

I have the Honor of transmitting to you an Act of the General Assembly of this State for calling a Convention, to take into Consideration the Constitution proposed for the United States, passed on the 17th of September, A.D. 1787, by the General Convention held at Philadelphia.1

This Event gives me the most sincere pleasure, as there is every Reason to hope that the Accession of this State will in a short Time not only entitle the Citizens thereof to all the Benefits of the Federal Government, but as it will render the Union complete, and affords a rational and pleasing prospect that the Thirteen States which by their United exertions, at the expence of their common blood and treasure obtained liberty and Independence, will be again joined in the firmest Bands of Friendship, under a Constitution calculated to secure to them the great Objects for which they fought and bled.

The Operation of the Federal Government, according to the existing Laws, will immediately prove greatly injurious to the Commercial Interests of this State, unless a further Suspension of them can be obtained:2 I do therefore, at the Request of the General Assembly, and in Behalf of the State, make this application to the Congress of the United States, requesting a further Suspension of the Acts of Congress subjecting the Citizens of this State to the payment of foreign Tonnage, and foreign Duties, during the pleasure of Congress.3

At the same Time that I desire you to communicate this Application to Congress,4 give me Leave, Sir, to hope for your favorable Influence in our Behalf.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect and Esteem, Sir, Your Most Obedient, and Most Humble Servant,

John Collins

Copy, in Tobias Lear’s handwriting, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages.

1The enclosed act of 17 Jan. called for a state convention to be held in South Kingstown on 1 Mar. at which delegates chosen by town meetings on 8 Feb. would vote on ratification of the federal Constitution. It also requested the governor immediately to transmit a copy of the act to the president of the United States and ordered copies sent to each town clerk in the state (DNA: RG 46, First Congress, President’s Messages).

2The original tonnage and collection acts signed by the president on 20 and 31 July 1789 treated North Carolina and Rhode Island as foreign nations, imposing duties on their merchant ships at least five times higher than on other American vessels and subjecting the imports of their merchants to the same seizures and forfeitures as foreign goods. In response to petitions from citizens of those states, Congress considered and passed “An Act to suspend part of an Act intituled ‘An Act to regulate the collection of the Duties imposed by Law on the Tonnage of Ships or Vessels, and on Goods, Wares, and Merchandises, imported into the United States,’ and for other purposes,” which postponed until 15 Jan. 1790 imposition of the higher tonnage duties on Rhode Island and North Carolina ships (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 69–70 [16 Sept. 1789]; James Manning to GW, 29 Aug. 1789; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 3:278, 4:309, 334, 337, 368, 6:1947, 1951, 1957–63, 1964). See also GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 28 Jan. 1790.

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