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Again, in April, he speaks of the personal characteristics of the more eminent members of the opposition in the Convention, clearly showing to which side he leaned :
“In point of virtues and real abilities the federal members are much superior. Henry is mighty and powerful, but too interested ; Mason too passionate, the governor by nature timid and undecided, and Grayson too blustering."
Randolph was still looked upon as an Antifederalist by the uninitiated. Madison, about the same time, writes of the opponent whom it is probable he most feared : “Colonel Mason is growing every day more bitter and outrageous in his efforts to carry his point, and will probably in the end be thrown by the violence of his passions into the politics of Mr. Henry' Washington wrote to Lafayette in April, expressing a belief that the Convention would favor the adoption of the Constitution. He adds: “There will, however, be powerful and eloquent speeches on both sides of the question.
Henry and Mason are its great adversaries. The Governor, if he opposes it at all, will do it feebly." The position of Edmund Randolph, still undefined to the public, was evidently no secret to Washington. George Mason's ally in the Convention of 1787 was to be his foe in the Convention of 1788, and already in April had given token of his tergiversation. Washington's influence in Fairfax County had doubtless contributed to the election there in March, of Federalists to the Convention. But Stafford County elected George Mason with Andrew Buchanan. The characteristic story is told of George Mason at this time, that “he was informed that if he opposed the ratification of the Federal Constitution the people of Alexandria would mob him, (when] he mounted his horse, rode to the town, and going up the court-house steps, said to the sheriff, 'Mr. Sheriff, will you make proclamation that George Mason 1 Ibid., p. 463. Writings of Madison," vol. i., p. 388. Writings of Washington," Sparks, vol. ix., p. 356.
will address the people?' A crowd assembled, and Mason addressed them, denouncing the Constitution with bitter invective, after which he mounted his horse and returned home.” One of the opposition delegates, from Loudoun County, was George Mason's nephew, Stevens Thomson Mason. His vote was always given to the Antifederalists, though his youth and modesty prevented him from speaking in the Convention.
Two letters of George Mason, written in April and May, are all that remain to us of his correspondence at this period. One of them is addressed to Robert Carter, of “Nomini,” and the other to John Francis Mercer, who had been a delegate in the Federal Convention from Maryland, and held similar views to Mason on the subject of the Constitution. He had taken charge of some law business for Colonel Mason on the death of Thomas Stone, which event occurred in Alexandria the previous October :
GUNSTON HALL, April 30th, 1788. DEAR SIR :
This will be delivered you by my son John, who is going to settle in Bordeaux, having lately entered into partnership with two Maryland gentlemen (Messrs. Joseph and James Fenwick) who about a year or two ago established a house there, the firm of which has hitherto been Joseph Fenwick and Company. Their capital will not be large (only about 1,000 sterling each), and their plan is to give no credit, nor even advance more than the value of effects in their hands for any man. This at the same time that it will enable them to send out their correspondent's goods, upon better terms than those can, who buy upon credit, will also be the most effectual means of rendering safe whatever property their friends shall think fit to commit to their charge. They are determined to examine themselves, into the prices and quality of all the goods they send to America ; and as wines, brandy, silks, cambrics, chintz, calicoes, and several other articles may be purchased in France, of which Bordeaux is one of the greatest trading towns, as cheap as in any part of Europe,
1 J. Esten Cooke in Magazine of American History, May, 1884.
they hope to be able to give general satisfaction ; and there being no other American house in Bordeaux they flatter themselves with considerable encouragement and preference, from their own country, so long as they continue to deserve it. They daily expect a ship of about 300 hhds, to load in Potomac river, upon consignment, to their address. Any tobacco, clear of trash and sound, although not of extraordinary quality, will answer the French market ; but from the number of British and Irish smugglers who frequent Bordeaux, I have reason to believe that fine, stout, dark, waxy tobacco, of the best quality, will find as good a market there as in Europe.
If you can make it convenient to encourage the house, with a consignment of some of your tobacco, I am sure you will find from them the strictest justice ; and I hope their attention to their friends' interest, by rendering the correspondence mutually advantageous, will merit a continuation of your favors,
I am, dear sir,
G. Mason. Robert Carter, Esq.,
Westmoreland County. Per Mr. John Mason.'
VIRGINIA, GUNSTON HALL, May 1, 1788. DEAR SIR :
Your favor of the 18th of April did not come to hand until today. I am exceedingly obliged to you for the trouble you have taken to investigate the situation of my affair with Rutland. Had my former counsel, Mr. Stone, taken half as much, it would have saved me a great deal of vexation, and probably much loss, which, I fear, by his neglect I shall now sustain.
I thoroughly agree with you in thinking Mr. James Little's debt, under the circumstances you mention, must have preference to mine, and that my case, so far as it is affected by that debt, is without remedy. The only thing which could be done is what you have so kindly determined to do, to see that the sale is fairly conducted, that the value, as near as circumstances will admit, may be procured for that part of the property on which the fi:fa: LETTER TO JOHN FRANCIS MERCER.
1 MS. Letter.
was served for Mr. Little's debt, that my security may be as little [word illegible] by it as possible. I should be glad to know whether Rutland's new store, or warehouse and wharf (which I conceive the most valuable part of his improvements) are upon the part advertised to be sold for Mr. Little's debt. From Rutland's account of things, I am also inclined to suspect there has been some attempt made by him and Mr. Duvall, to subject my mortgaged property to some demand of the State against them. Upon reflecting on some past circumstances, I have some hopes that, upon examination it will appear that Mrs. Rutland was of age when she relinquished her right of dower, on the twentysecond of February, 1787. Mr. Rutland went to London with a shipload of tobacco in 1783, and I remember it was reported he was engaged to this lady some time before he left the country. However, if Mrs. Rutland was not of age at the the time she relinquished her right of dower, I hope she will be prevailed on to relinquish it now; not only from motives of justice, as I gave Mr. Rutland the indulgence I did, upon the assurance of her relinquishment of dower, but because her relinquishment will do her no injury though it may benefit me; for the land will be sold by virtue of Mr. Carroll's mortgage made before her marriage, which I presume will bar her claim of dower against the purchaser, and her pretension of dower as to my mortgage would have no other effect than injuring me, in causing the land to sell for less than its value. I think I have been informed that Mr. Rutland had a tract of land or two, particularly one in Montgomery, Frederick or Washington, at the time of my judgment against him, which Mr. Stone did not include in my mortgage, thinking the mortgaged premises sufficient without ; and if I remember right, there is a clause in the mortgage declaring, if they should prove insufficient, that I do not lose my remedy against any other part of his property. Those lands then, if he had such at the time, are still subject to my judgment, in whatsoever hands they may now be, and it may probably be a matter of importance to me; as I very much fear that the incumbrances upon the mortgaged premises, which I knew nothing of, confiding entirely in Mr. Stone on the occasion, will fall short of securing my debt. I beg the favor of you, my dear sir, to inquire particularly in this matter, and I must also entreat you to push my attachment against Mr. Stephen West to as speedy decision as you can ; I presume Mr. West can have no defence to make but such as tends merely to delay.
I wish to know, as soon as you can conveniently inform me, whether you have got my papers from Mr. Stone's executors, particularly the state of the case in Ross's suit against me for a tract of the Ohio Company's land, and your opinion of the said suit. I think I gave you some memorandum also respecting the Ohio Company's title to a tract of land adjoining Fort Cumberland, called the Treasury of Walnut Bottom fraudulentiy granted by Governor Eden to one French, a creature of his.
From the returns I have seen of the elections here, I think the Convention of Virginia will be so equally divided, that no man can at present form a judgment of what may be the determination. The Federalists, as they improperly style themselves, talk of a considerable majority ; but it is notorious that many of them [torn] honor of their cause be it spoken, stick at no falsehood or [torn] to accomplish their purpose. As soon as any tolerably (torn] judgment can be formed of the politics of our Convention I will not fail to communicate them to you.
I beg my compliments to your lady, and am, with the most sincere esteem and regard, dear sir, Your affectionate friend and servant,
G. Mason. Col. John Francis Mercer,
Richard Henry Lee, from his home in Westmoreland, wrote to George Mason at this time, giving his views as to the course Virginia should pursue in the coming convention.
CHANTILLY, May 7, 1788. DEAR SIR :
Your son delivered me the letter that you were pleased to write me on the 30th instant, and I have promoted his views, as far as it is in my power at present, by directing the tobacco I had intended to sell in the country, to be put on board his vessel. I am inclined to think, for the reasons assigned by him, that the
1 MS. Letter.