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title:“George Mason to Arthur Campbell”
authors:George Mason
date written:1783-5-7

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:05 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 1, 2023, 11:10 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Letter to Arthur Campbell." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 775-77. Print.
Recipient's Copy, Filson Club Library, Louisville, Ky.

George Mason to Arthur Campbell (May 7, 1783)

Fairfax County Gunston-Hall May 7th. 1783.
It is a long time since I had the Pleasure of hearing from you; it can hardly indeed be otherwise, as we live in almost the opposite Ends of the Country. It gave me much Satisfaction to see your Name again in the List of the Members of the Assembly. I retired from public Business from a thorough Conviction that it was not in my Power to do any Good, & very much disgusted with Measures, which appeared to me inconsistent with common Policy and Justice. I see from the Acts which have been passed since, the same System has been still pursued; Yet this has not extinguished my Love for my Country; and if I recover tollerable Health, and shou'd find just Cause to think I can do any important public Service, I will return again to the Assembly. I have great Hopes from a State of Peace & Tranquility. I hope the Assembly will revise several of our Laws, & abolish all such as are contrary to the fundamental Principles of Justice (I wish the very Memory of them cou'd be obliterated) and by a strict Adherence to the Distinctions between Right & Wrong for the future, restore that Confidence & Reverence in the People for the Legislature, which has been so greatly impaired by a contrary Conduct, and without which our Laws must soon become a dead-Letter. Frequent Interferance with private Property & Contracts,1 retrospective Laws destructive of all public Faith & all Confidence between Man & Man, and flagrant Violations of the Constitution, must disgust the best & wisest Part of the Community, cause a general Depravity of Manners & Morals, and finally produce Anarchy & Public Convulsion. This is but a melancholy Description; I wish it was not a true one.
The Establishment of American Liberty & Independence has placed Happiness & Prosperity within our Reach; but to attain & preserve them must depend upon our own Wisdom & Virtue; judging of the future from the Past, the Prospect is not promising. But as Shakespear says—Something too much of this! The People, in this Part of the Country, are made very uneasy by the Reports from below, that the Assembly will adopt some Measures, respecting British Debts, which may infringe the Articles of the Treaty, and involve us in a new Quarrel with Great Britain;2 who might make Reprisals upon our Coasts or Shipping, or station a Frigate or two to block up our Bay, without Danger of offending the late belligerent Powers in Europe, or even the other American States; who probably wou'd not be displeased to see us suffer for our Temerity & Folly. It is easy to foresee that in such an Event, our Situation wou'd neither be safe or honourable; a disgraceful & humiliating Submission wou'd perhaps not be the only Evils which wou'd befal us; but I trust that more prudent & dispassionate Councils will prevail, than to risque the smallest Infraction of the Treaty; which upon the Whole, is better than America had Cause to expect; all the great Points being ceded to us. In Conversation upon this Subject, we sometimes hear a very absurd Question—"If we are now to pay the Debts due to the British Merchants, what have we been fighting for all this while?" —Surely not to avoid our Debts; but to rescue our Country from the Oppression & Tyranny of the British Government, and secure the Rights and Liberty of ourselves & our Posterity; which we have happily accomplished. The Ministry in Great Britain, as well as the Torys here, have indeed constantly accused us of engaging in the War to avoid the Payment of our Debts; but every honest Man has denyed so injurious a Charge, with Indignation.
One of my Sons, & one William Allison, in Partnership, have erected a Snuff Manufactory in this County, & have made a large Quantity of Snuff; which will soon be sent into different Parts of the Country for Sale [and] fearing an Attempt of the British Merchants [to] ruin such a Manufacture here; they have petitioned the Assembly to impose a Duty upon Snuff imported from foreign Countrys;3 the Reasons for their Request are fully stated in their Petition; which I beg Leave to recommend to your Attention; and if you think it just & reasonable, I flatter myself it will be favour'd with your Interest in the Assembly, in it's Support. I am Dr. Sir, Your most obdt. Servt.

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