George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 10 September 1792

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia Sepr 10. 1792.

Dear Sir

When I had the honor of receiving your favor of the third instant, I was too much indisposed by a fever to answer it by the return of the mail.

The movements, said to be meditated at the next session of the Virginia assembly, are the disfranchisement of the excise-officers, by taking from them the right of suffrage, and also the establishment of a state-bank, in opposition to the Branch Bank. Since I wrote to you last, Mr Andrews, the delegate for Williamsburg has been here; and contradicted most of the hostile reports, which had come from the mouth of Mr Corbin.1 Still, however, it seems probable, that the legislature will so far oppose the Branch-bank, as to refuse to permit a higher interest than five per cent: to be received, or to repeal the act, which prohibits the circulation of bank notes. It surprizes me, I confess, that these should be considered as obstacles; since no-body means to dispute, according to my information, the validity of the law itself, now that it is passed, and is in operation.2 At a late court in Chester County, in this state several persons were indicted for an assault on an excise officer. Notwithstanding a strong defence, they were convicted and fined; the jury having said to the attorney-general, that it was not a question with them, whether the law was good, or bad; but that they would never countenance an opposition to laws in such a form.3 This event, which I shall endeavour to have published with all its circumstances, will increase the abhorrence, which several of the very party, who are associated with Gallatin and Smilie, feel themselves compelled to express, in order to avoid the imputation of a love of anarchy. The probability is, that the proceedings at Pittsburg will contribute to defeat the ticket, which has been proposed by that party.4 I have the honor, dear sir, to be with the most affectionate attachment yr obliged & obedient serv.

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DLC:GW. This letter is identified as “Private” on the cover sheet.

1Robert Andrews represented Williamsburg in the Virginia house of delegates from 1790 to 1799. Francis Corbin represented Middlesex County in the Virginia house of delegates from 1784 to 1794.

2Debate over ratification of the U.S. Constitution helped to solidify previous political differences within Virginia into Federalist and Antifederalist factions, a division which became even clearer during the post-ratification debates over which amendments should be added to the Constitution. The first ten amendments that were eventually adopted did not protect states’ rights sufficiently for Virginia’s Antifederalists who examined every decision by the Washington administration for signs of monarchical tendencies and who found the various components of Hamilton’s financial plan particularly alarming (see DenBoer, “The House of Delegates,” description begins Gordon Roy DenBoer. “The House of Delegates and the Evolution of Political Parties in Virginia, 1782–1792.” Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1972. description ends 277–84).

For Virginia governor Henry Lee’s plan to create a state bank in opposition to the Bank of the United States, see Lee to Madison, 10 Sept. 1792, in 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 14:363. The Virginia general assembly passed acts establishing state banks at Alexandria and Richmond on 23 Nov. and 23 Dec. 1792, respectively (see 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 , 13:592–607). For a later report on the political climate in Virginia’s general assembly, see Randolph’s Memorandum to GW, 30 Jan. 1793.

3On 26 Sept. 1792 the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) printed the following notice: “At the last Court of Quarter Sessions for the county of Chester, in this State, Joseph Evans and Robert Fletcher, with several others, were indicted for a riot, assault and battery on Jacob Humphreys, who was in the execution of his office under what is commonly called the ‘Excise Law’ of the United States. The other defendants had not, at the time of the trial, been taken. The Jury convicted both the defendants, and Fletcher was fined 50l.”

Jared Ingersoll (1749–1822), a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, served as the attorney general of Pennsylvania from 1790 to 1799 and from 1811 to 1817. He was born in New Haven, Conn., and graduated from Yale in 1766. Ingersoll represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress in 1780 and in the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

4Albert Gallatin and John Smilie, residents of Fayette County, Pa., and members of the Pennsylvania legislature, attended the extralegal convention held by opponents of the excise tax on whiskey in Pittsburgh on 21–22 Aug. 1792. Gallatin was elected clerk of the meeting (see Linn and Egle, Whiskey Insurrection Papers, description begins John B. Linn and William H. Egle, eds. “Papers Relating to What Is Known as the Whiskey Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania Archives, 2d ser., 4 (1890): 1–462. description ends 25–26). For background on the opposition to the excise tax on whiskey, see Hamilton to GW, 1 Sept. 1792, and notes. For a contemporary report on efforts to defeat Federalist candidates in the upcoming national elections, see John Beckley to James Madison, 1 Aug. 1792, in 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 14:345–47.

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