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title:“George Mason to Thomas Jefferson”
authors:George Mason
date written:1788-5-26

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:28 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 5, 2023, 7:15 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Letter to Thomas Jefferson." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 18. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1995. 79-80. Print.
Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress

George Mason to Thomas Jefferson (May 26, 1788)

Gunston Hall, 26 May
... I make no Doubt that You have long ago received Copys of the new Constitution of Government, framed last Summer, by the Delegates of the several States, in general Convention at Philadelphia. Upon the most mature Consideration I was capable of and from Motives of sincere Patriotism, I was under the Necessity of refusing my Signature, as one of the Virginia Delegates; and drew up some general Objections; which I intended to offer, by Way of Protest; but was discouraged from doing so, by the precipitate, & intemperate, not to say indecent Manner, in which the Business was conducted, during the last week of the Convention, after the Patrons of this new plan found they had a decided Majority in their Favour which was obtained by a Compromise between the Eastern, & the two Southern States, to permit the latter to continue the Importation of Slaves for twenty odd Years; a more favourite Object with them, than the Liberty and Happiness of the People.1 These Objections of mine were first printed very incorrectly, without my Approbation, or Privity; which laid me under some kind of Necessity of publishing them afterwards, myself.–I take the Liberty of enclosing You a Copy of them. You will find them conceived in general Terms; as I wished to confine them to a narrow compass.- There are many other things very objectionable in the proposed new Constitution; particularly the almost unlimited Authority over the Militia of the several States; whereby, under Colour of regulating, they may disarm, or render useless the Militia, the more easily to govern by a standing Army; or they may harrass the Militia, by such rigid Regulations, and intollerable Burdens, as to make the People themselves desire it's Abolition.-2 By their Power over the Elections, they may so order them, as to deprive the People at large of any Share in the Choice of their Representatives.-3 By the Consent of Congress, Men in the highest Offices of Trust in the United States may receive any Emolument, Place, or Pension from a forreign Prince, or Potentate; which is setting themselves up to the highest Bidder.–4But it would be tedious to enumerate all the Objections; and I am sure they cannot escape Mr. Jefferson's Observation. Delaware-Pensylvania-Connecticut-Georgia, and Maryland have ratifyed the new Government (for surely it is not a Confederation) without Amendments–Massachusets has accompanyed the Ratification with proposed Amendments–Rhode Island has rejected it–New Hampshire, after some Deliberation, adjourned their Convention to June–The Convention of South Carolina is now sitting–The Convention of new York meets in June–that of North Carolina in July-and the Convention of Virginia meets on the first Monday in June. I shall set out for Richmond this week, in order to attend it.–From the best Information I have had, the Members of the Virginia Convention are so equally divided upon the Subject, that no Man can, at present, form any certain Judgement of the Issue. There seems to be a great Majority for Amendments; but many are for ratifying first, and amending afterwards. This Idea appears to me so utterly absurd, that I can not think any Man of Sense candid, in Proposing it...

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