Writings of James Madison, Volume 1

Author: James Madison

To General Washington.

NEW YORK, September 14, 1788.

DEAR SIR,—The delay providing for the commencement of the Government was terminated yesterday, by an acquiescence of the minor number in the persevering demands of the major. The time for choosing the Electors is the first wednesday in January, and for choosing the President, the first wednesday in February. The meeting of the Government is to be the first wednesday in March, and in the city of New York. The times were adjusted to the meetings of the State Legislatures. The plan was the result of the dilemma to which the opponents of New York were reduced, of yielding to its advocates or strangling the Government in its birth. The necessity of yielding and the impropriety of further delay have been for some time obvious to me, but others did not view the matter in the same light. Maryland and Delaware were absolutely inflexible. It has, indeed, been too apparent that local considerations have very improperly predominated in this question, and that something more is aimed at than merely the first session of the Government at this place. Every circumstance has shewn that the policy is to keep Congress here till a permanent seat be chosen, and to obtain a permanent seat, at farthest, not beyond the Susquehannah. New Jersey, by its Legislature, as well as its delegation in Congress, has clearly discovered her view to be a temporary appointment of New York, as affording the best chance of a permanent establishment at Trenton. I have been made so fully sensible of these views in the course of the business, as well as of the impropriety of so excentric a position as New York, that I could have finally concurred in any plan more Southward to which the Eastern States would have acceded; and, previous to the definitive vote, a motion was made tendering a blank for that purpose. At any place South of the Delaware, the Susquehannah, at least, would have been secured, and a hope given to the Potowmac. As the case is, I conceive the Susquehannah to be the utmost to be hoped for, with no small danger of being stopped at the Delaware. Besides this consequence, the decision will, I fear, be regarded as at once a proof of the preponderancy of the Eastern strength, and of a disposition to make an unfair use of it; and it cannot but happen that the question will be entailed on the new Government, which will have enough of other causes of agitation in its Councils.

The meeting at Harrisburg is represented by its friends as having been conducted with much harmony and moderation. Its proceedings are said to be in the press, and will, of course, soon be before the public. I find all the mischief apprehended from Clinton’s circular letter in Virginia will be verified. The Anti-federalists lay hold of it with eagerness as the harbinger of a second Convention, and as the Governor espouses the project, it will certainly have the co-operation of our Assembly.

I enclose a sensible little pamphlet, which falls within the plan of investigating and comparing the the languages of the Aboriginal Americans.

With sincerest attachment, I am, Dr Sir, your obt and very hble servt.


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Chicago: James Madison Jr., "To General Washington.," Writings of James Madison, Volume 1 in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.416-417 Original Sources, accessed April 21, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DCTBZJT95QQJT9B.

MLA: Madison, James, Jr. "To General Washington." Writings of James Madison, Volume 1, in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.416-417, Original Sources. 21 Apr. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DCTBZJT95QQJT9B.

Harvard: Madison, J, 'To General Washington.' in Writings of James Madison, Volume 1. cited in , James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.416-417. Original Sources, retrieved 21 April 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DCTBZJT95QQJT9B.