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title:“George Mason to William Cabell”
authors:George Mason
date written:1783-3-6

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:45 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 21, 2024, 10:19 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Letter to William Cabell." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 768-69. Print.
Recipient's Copy, Emmet Collection, New York Public Library, New York, N.Y.

George Mason to William Cabell (March 6, 1783)

Fairfax County Gunston-Hall May 6th: 1783.
I congratulate you most sincerely, upon the Establishment of American Liberty & Independence. Happiness & Prosperity are now within our Reach; but to attain & preserve them must depend upon our own Wisdom & Virtue. I hope the Assembly will revise several of our Laws, and abolish all such of them as are contrary to the fundamental Principles of Justice. This, & a strict adherence to the Distinctions between Right & Wrong for the future, is absolutely necessary, to restore that Confidence & Reverence in the People for the Legislature; which a contrary Conduct has so greatly impaired; and without which, their Laws must ever remain little better than a dead-Letter. Frequent Interferance with private Property & Contracts,1 retrospective Laws destructive of all public Faith, as well as Confidence between Man & Man, and flagrant Violations of the Constitution must disgust the best & wisest Part of the Community, occasion a general Depravity of Manners, bring the Legislature into Contempt, and finally produce Anarchy & public Convulsion. I write to you with the Freedom & Sincerity of a Friend, knowing that you destest such Measures as much as I do. They drove me out of the Assembly, with a thorough Conviction that it was not in my Power to do any Manner of Good. The Love of my Country is not extinguished by it; and if I recover tollerable Health, and have just Cause to think I can do any essential Public Service I shall return again into the Legislature.
We are told here, that the present Assembly intend to dissolve themselves, to make Way for a General Convention, to new-model the Constitution. Will such a Measure be proper, without a Requisition from a Majority of the People? If it can be done without such Requisition, may not the Caprice of future Assemblies repeat it, from time to time, until the Constitution shall have totally lost all Stability, and Anarchy introduced in it's Stead?2 Or at any Rate, will it not be better to defer it a Year or two, until the present Ferment (occasioned by the lates sudden Change) has subsided, & Men's Minds have had time to cool?
We are very much alarm'd, in this Part of the Country, least the Assembly shou'd pass some Laws infringing the Articles of Peace, and thereby involve us in a fresh Quarrel with Great Britain; who might make Reprisals upon our Shipping or Coasts, without much Danger of offending the late belligerent Powers in Europe, or even the other American States. But I trust that more prudent & dispassionate Councils will prevail.
One of my Sons & one William Allison have lately erected a Snuff-Manufactory in this County, and have already made a large Quantity of Snuff; which they intend to send soon into different Parts of the C[ountry]. Fearing the Attempts of the British Merchants [to ruin] such a Manufacture here, they have presented [a] Petition to the Assembly, for laying a Duty up [on] Snuff imported from foreign Countrys;3 the Rea[son]s for this are fully stated in their Petition; which I beg the Favour of you to examine; and if you think their Request just & reasonable, I flatter myself they will be favoured with your Interest in the General Assembly. I am, with much Respect & Esteem, dear Sir, Yr. most obdt. Servt.

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