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title:“Joseph Varnum to General Washington”
date written:1787-6-18

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"Letter to General Washington." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Joseph Varnum to General Washington (June 18, 1787)

Although the letter is unsigned it is known to have come from Joseph Varnum.
Newport June 18th 1787
Sir —
The inclosed address,1 of which I presume your Excellency has received a duplicde, was returned to me from New York after my arrival in this State. I flatterd myself that our Legislature, which convened on monday last, would have receded from the resolution therein refer'd to, and have complied with the recommendation of Congress in sending deligates to the federal convention. The upper house, or Governor, & Council, embraced the measure, but it was negatived in the house of Assembly by a large majority, notwithstanding the greatest exertions were made to support it.
Being disappointed in their expectations, the minority in the administration and all worthy citizens of this State, whose minds are well informd regreting the peculiarities of their Situation place their fullest confidence in the wisdom & moderation of the national council, and indulge the warmest hopes of being favorably consider'd in their deliberations. From these deliberations they anticipate a political System which must finally be adopted & from which will result the Safety, the honour, & the happiness of the United States.
Permit me, Sir, to observe, that the measures of our present Legislature do not exhibit the real character of the State. They are equally reprobated, & abhor'd by Gentlemen of the learned professions, by the whole mercantile body, & by most of the respectable farmers and mechanicks. The majority of the administration is composed of a licentious number of men, destitute of education, and many of them, Void of principle. From anarchy and confusion they derive their temporary consequence, and this they endeavor to prolong by debauching the minds of the common people, whose attention is wholly directed to the Abolition of debts both public & private. With these are associated the disaffected of every description, particularly those who were unfriendly during the war. Their paper money System, founded in oppression & fraud, they are determined to Support at every hazard. And rather than relinquish their favorite pursuit the trample upon the most sacred obligations. As a proof of this they refused to comply with a requisition of Congress for repealing all laws repugnant to the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and urged as their principal reason, that it would be calling in question the propriety of their former measures These evils may be attributed, partly to the extreme freedom of our own constitution, and partly to the want of energy in the federal Union: And it is greatly to be apprehended that they cannot Speedily be removed but by uncommon and very serious exertions. It is fortunate however that the wealth and resources of this State are chiefly in possion of the well Affected, & that they are intirely devoted to the public good.
I have the honor of being Sir, with the greatest Veneration & esteem, Your excellencys very obedient & most humble servant —
His excellency Genl Washington
No 6.
Letter to General Washington dated Newport June 18. 1787.
[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]
  • 1 The address referred to was that of several gentlemen of Rhode Island pledging their support to the result of the deliberations of the Convention. For the copy of this address, see above, VII.
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