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FREE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI.
tended from Virginia. The convention adjourned on the 14th, proposing that all the States should meet in the following May at Philadelphia“ to render the Constitution adequate to the exigencies of the Union.”
Monroe was uneasy at this time concerning the projects of Jay and his party. He saw in them an attempt to break up the Union, and he wrote to the prominent men in Virginia to ascertain and influence their views on the subject. In a letter to Madison of the 29th of September, he says:
“I wrote some weeks since to Colonel Mason upon this subject, at the time I wrote Governor Henry, but have received no answer from him, from which circumstance, as well as that of R. H. Lee's being in the opposite sentiment, there is room to conjecture he is not with us.”
It was generally taken for granted, it seems, that Lee and Mason would concur in their political views. General Henry Lee, who was in Congress at this time, also wrote to General Washington, incidentally giving his testimony to the consideration in which George Mason was held, and the desire that was felt to bring him back into public life. In regard to the navigation of the Mississippi, which Spain, in the projected treaty with her Jay was negotiating, proposed to close to the United States for thirty years, he says: “Should this matter come before our Assembly, much will depend on Mr. Mason's sentiments." And Washington replies on the 31st:
“Colonel Mason is at present in a fit of the gout. What his sentiments on the subject are, I know not, nor whether he will be able to attend the Assembly during the present session. For some reasons, however, which need not be mentioned, I am inclined to believe he will advocate the navigation of that river." ?
There was another subject on which much was expected from George Mason ; this was the question of emitting
1 Bancroft's “ History of the Constitution," vol. ii., p. 397.
? “Correspondence of the American Revolution,” Sparks, vol. iv., p. 140; "Writings of Washington,” Sparks, vol. ix., p. 205.
paper money. And on the 12th of August Madison had written to Jefferson, referring to the action of the several States who advocated the measure: “Whether Virginia is to remain exempt from the epidemic malady, will depend on the ensuing Assembly. My hopes rest chiefly on the exertions of Colonel Mason, and the failure of the experiment elsewhere."! Bancroft says that aided by an unfavorable balance of trade and the burden of heavy taxation, an effort, it was known, would be made by Meriwether Smith and others to issue a paper medium. in 1786: “Aware of the danger, Washington insisted that George Mason should be a candidate for the Assembly; and his election proved a counterpoise to the public cry." Colonel Mason had not consented to serve again in the Assembly, but the honor was forced upon him; and Washington, in his journal of April 17, 1786, speaks of going “up to Alexandria to an election of delegates to represent the county, Colo. Mason and Doctr. Stuart elected.” And he adds, the “suffrages of the people fell upon the first contrary to, and after he had declared he could not serve, and on the other whilst he was absent at Richmond. Capt. West who had offered his services and was present was rejected. The votes were, for Col. Mason 109, for Dr. Stuart 105, and for Capt. West 84.". George Mason's health did not permit him to attend at this year's session of the Assembly, but he was present the following October. The question of paper money was brought up 1786-7, and was defeated ; its emission was denounced as "unjust, impolitic, and destructive of public confidence, and of that virtue which is the basis of republican government.". George Nicholas headed the long list of those who voted in favor of this resolution, and doubtless George Mason's influence was felt here, as in the assessment controversy, though he was not present. On
APPOINTED A DELEGATE TO PHILADELPHIA.
the 4th of December, 1786, the Assembly appointed seven deputies to the convention in Pennsylvania, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, John Blair, James Madison, George Mason, and George Wythe.' Patrick Henry declined the appointment, and James McClurg was nominated in his place.
But one letter of George Mason's, written in 1786, has been preserved. This was addressed to “Col. John Fitzgerald, Merchant in Alexandria." It is on the subject of Colonel Mason's tobacco shipments to Bordeaux, where he hears of the failure of a certain house to which his consignments had been sent: “ I should think,” he writes, “it will be proper for me, without loss of time, to write to some merchant of credit in Bordeaux, authorizing him to take possession of the tobacco and sell it on my account, for which purpose perhaps a power of attorney from me may be necessary in case the authority merely of a letter should be disputed. Mercantile transactions are so out of my line of life that I am really at a loss how to proceed, and shall be obliged to you for your advice.":
The year 1787 was to bring George Mason out of his retirement into a wider field of action than he had ever before entered. He had come forward at the call of his State to serve in the Federal Convention, a council to which all were now anxiously looking as the final effort to amend the Union. It was to meet in Philadelphia in May. Madison, who was an ardent advocate of a stronger federal government, wrote from Congress to Jefferson on the 23d of April :
“ The prospect of a full and respectable convention grows stronger every day.
Our Governor, Mr. Wythe, Mr. Blair, and Col. Mason will pretty certainly attend. The last, I am informed, is renouncing his errors on the subject of the confederation, and means to take an active part in the amend. ment of it."
* Journal of the Assembly.
9 MS. Letter.
Colonel Mason's " errors,
errors,” in the eyes of Madison, consisted undoubtedly in his wholesome fears of drawing too tight the bonds of union. With Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee he was jealous of unnecessary encroachments on the sovereignty of Virginia. Edmund Randolph, then governor, was at this time of the same party. The following letters were written to Edmund Randolph in reply to the latter, who had given Colonel Mason notice of the time appointed for the meeting of the convention, and informed him that the money to defray his expenses would be provided by the State.
GUNSTON HALL, April 12th, 1787. DEAR SIR :
I have received your favour, notifying the time appointed for the meeting of the deputies of the different States in the city of Philadelphia, and informing me that the money was ready in the treasury to be advanced us, for defraying our expenses; this last is, at present, an article of such importance to me, that without it, I could hardly have attended ; having been disappointed in the payment of several sums of tobacco sold; so that I have lately been obliged to commence suits in Virginia and Maryland, for nearly the amount of six thousand pounds, upon contracts, in which I expected punctuality.
I have desired the bearer, my neighbor Col. Wagener, to bring me up, from the treasury, the sum of sixty pounds. Should our stay in Philadelphia prove shorter than I expect, whatever money may remain, more than my due, shall be punctually returned. You will oblige me exceedingly in giving whatever directions may be necessary from the Executive, for remitting the said sum of sixty pounds to me by Col. Wagener ; as I shall not probably meet with another safe hand, in time.
I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing you at Gunston Hall, on your way to Philadelphia ; and have the honor to be, with greatest respect,
I MS. Letter. The address is missing in the original.
LETTERS TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
GUNSTON HALL, April 23d, 1787. DEAR SIR :
I have received your favor by Col. Wagener with the sum of sixty pounds from the treasury. I was unacquainted with the sum allotted for each deputy, and was afraid of exceeding it. Considering the number of deputies from the different States, the great distance of some of them, and the probability that we may be obliged to wait many days before a full meeting can be obtained, we may, perhaps, be much longer from home than I at first expected. I will, therefore, accept your very obliging offer of getting the balance of the sum of £100 (vizt. £40), invested for me in Philadelphia Bank notes, or good notes on Mr. Robert Morris, either of which, I presume, will be equal to cash in the city of Philadelphia, and you will do me the favor to bring them up
Whatever remains more than our allowance of six dollars per day, shall be punctually returned to the treasury.
I think to set out time enough to spend a day or two in Annapolis, in order to have a little conversation with some of the Maryland deputies on the subject of the convention, and if the weather proves fine to cross the bay there ; otherwise to go through Baltimore. I expect to have the pleasure of seeing you at Gunston Hall on your way, and if you will do me the favor to let me know at what time to expect you, I will regulate my movements accordingly. I am, with the greatest regard and esteem, dear Sir, Your most obedient servant,
I“ Virginia Calendar Papers," vol. iv., p. 272.