George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edward Carrington, 20 November 1795

From Edward Carrington

Richmond Nov. 20. 1795


In mine of the 10th Instant, the day on which the assembly convened, I did myself the honor to give you, as nearly as I could, the temper in which it had met, and that which I supposed existed amongst the people at large, in respect to the Treaty & the administration of the Fedl Government, to which I added a conjecture, founded on former experience, that the spirit of dissatisfaction might extend, by the workings of Faction—the opponents of the Treaty deferred their measures until two days ago, when a proposition for a Simple vote of approbation of the Conduct of our two Senators in voting against the Treaty, was brought forward—this has given rise to a pretty full discussion of the constitutionality, as well as expediency of the Treaty, and terminated this evening in a passage of the proposition by a majority of 100 against 50.1 the discussion has been an able one on the side of the Treaty, but such was the apprehension that a vote in its favor, would be unpopular, that argument was lost—on the point of constitutionality many conversions were acknowledged, but on allegations of inexpediency, the vote, in most instances, remained the Same. what will be the issue in the Senate, I will not pretend to be certain but in all probability, it will accord with that in the lower House. neither in this proposition, or any other has it yet been attempted to obtain an approbation of the premature publication of the Treaty, for which I cannot account but from there being, at first, a diffidence in the attainability of a majority.2 whether such a measure will now be attempted I have not yet learned—Having given you this history of the proceeding, I feel some consolation in having it in my power to add, that during the discussion there has been preserved a decided respect for, & confidence in you—& the debate has been conducted with a decorum, in regard to the ratifying Senators, differing greatly from the spirit of indecency which has lately been brought into practice. the Support of the Treaty has fallen altogether on Genl Marshall & Mr Chas Lee3—Genl Lee has not yet arrived which is to be regretted. I shall do myself the pleasure of addressing you again in a few days, and shall indeavour to give true information. I have the Honor to be with the highest respect Dear Sir yr most Obt st

Ed. Carrington


1The resolution of approbation was moved on 17 Nov., and the House approved it on 20 Nov. after first rejecting a proposed substitute. The substitute resolution expressed “full confidence” in the senators “and in the other public servants in each branch of the general government” and then went on to declare discussion of the treaty “unnecessary in the House of Delegates, except as to its constitutionality.” It further asserted “that without a full investigation thereof,” the House could not “express any mature opinion” upon the senators’ conduct (Va. House of Delegates Journal 1795, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia, begun and held at the Capitol, in the city of Richmond, on Tuesday, the tenth day of November, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five. Richmond, 1795. description ends 19, 23–24, 26–28).

2Sen. Stevens Thomson Mason of Virginia had leaked the text of the Jay Treaty to the public in June (Boston citizens to GW, 13 July, and n.2). A number of the meetings of citizens opposed to the treaty passed resolutions commending him for that action (see, for example, Bordentown, N.J., citizens to GW, 10 Aug., and Amelia County, Va., citizens to GW, 28 Aug.).

3Writing to James Madison on 22 Nov., Joseph Jones described the positions of John Marshall and Charles Lee: “Marshall objected in a long speech tending to shew the impropriety of the motion wch. tho’ it avoided or meant to avoid a fair discussion of the treaty indirectly involved in it a reprobation of that instrument. He hoped they wod. have come forward fairly to the discussion and bring the question before the house on its merits. C. Lee of the same side but on somewhat different ground asserting they had nothing to do with it—the limits of the Gen. & State legislatures were marked were separate and distinct and ought not to encroach on each other. It belonged to the constituted authorities of the Genl. Govt. to act over that authority they had no controul or right of censure” (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 16:132–34; see also Thomas Mann Randolph to Thomas Jefferson, 22 Nov., in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 28:534–36).

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