Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 Back to the Exhibit

Sen. William Grayson of Virginia to Patrick Henry, 29 September 1789

      I have received your favor for which I am exceedingly thankful; indeed I was very uneasy at not hearing from you, apprehending some indisposition might have prevented you: I remain still in a low state of health; but hope to get better from a cessation of business and from exercise.

      The session is this moment closed and the members would have parted [in] tolerable temper if the disagreable altercations on the score of the seat of government had not left very strong impressions on the minds of the Southern gentlemen; they suppose with too much reason that the same kind of bargaining which took effect with respect to the Susquehannah may also take effect in other great National matters which may be very oppressive to a defenceless naked Minority---the bill has been ultimately defeated in the Senate & the point remains open, but gentlemen now begin to feel the observations of the Antis, when they inform them of the different interests in the Union & the probable consequences that would result therefrom [torn] the Southern States, who would be the milch cow out of whom the substance would be extracted; If I am not mistaken, they will e’er long have abundant cause to conclude that the idea of a difference between carrying States & productive States & manufacturing States & slave States is not a mere phantom of the imagination---lf they reflect at all on the meaning of protecting duties---by way of encouragement to manufactures & apply the consequences to their own constitents, I think they would now agree that we were not totally beside ourselves in the [Virginia ratifying] Convention--In my opinion whenever the impost will come into action the freedom of the South will be let into some secrets that they do not or will not at present apprehend. you would be astonished at the progress of manufactures in the seven Easternmost States if they go on in the same proportion for seven years they will pay very little on imports: while the South will continue to labor under the pressure: This added to the advantage of carrying for the productive States will place them in the most desirable situation whatever.

      With respect to amendments matters have turned out exactly as I apprehended from the extraordy. doctrine of playing the after game: the lower house sent up amendments which held out a safeguard to pers[on]al liberty in a great many instances, but this disgusted the Senate. and though w[e] made every exertion to save them, they are so mutilated scarified & gutted that in fact they are good for nothing, & I believe as many others do, that they will do more harm than benefit: The Virginia amendments were all brought into view, and regularly rejected Perhaps they may think differently on the subject the next session, as Rhode Island has refused for the present acceeding to the constitution; her reasons you will see in the printed papers: There are a set of gentlemen in both houses who during this session have been for pushing matters to an extraordy. length; this has appeared in their attachment to titles, in their desire of investing the Presidt. with the power of removal from Office & lately by their exertion to make the writs run in his name; their maxim seems to have been to make up by construction what the constitution wants in energy.

      The Judicial bill has passed but wears so monstrous an appearance that I think it will be felo de Se1 in the execution; thise amendment of Virginia respecting this matter has more friends in both houses than any other, & I still think it probable that this alteration may be ultimately procured: Whenever the federal Judy. comes into operation I think the pride of the States will take the alarm, which added to the difficulty of attendance from the extent of the district in many cases, the ridiculous situation of the Venue, & a thousand other circumstances, will in the end procure it’s distruction.

      The salaries I think are rather high & for the temper or circumstances of the Union, & furnish another cause of discontent to those who are dissatisfied with the government.

      I have made every exertion in favor of Mr. [Joseph] Martin, but there have been such representations agt. him, that I fear he will derive no benefit from any thing in my power to effect.

      With respect to the lands at the Natches,2 they are unquestionably according to prevailing ideas the property of Georgia, but the Spaniards are in the actual possession and hold it by force: Georgia some time since ordered ago offered to cede a great part of their state including this territory to Congress, but the cession was so loaded as they conceived with unreasonable conditions that they rejected it: it is highly probable that the present treaty will produce peace with the Creeks, & that excellent lands may be procured reasonably on the Altimaha. if I can be of any service to you in this or any other matter your commands will be a pleasure.


(Letter courtesy of the Library of Congress)

digitized from DHFFC transcription   
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