Log In Register

Source & Citation Info

title:“Letter to Jefferson”
date written:1787-10-11

permanent link
to this version:
last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:16 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Jan. 28, 2022, 10:09 p.m. UTC

"Letter to Jefferson." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.
Copy, Library of Congress, Jefferson Papers.

Letter to Jefferson (October 11, 1787)

Philadelphia 11. Oct. 1787.
I have given two or three papers which contain the substance of what has passed here respecting the federal convention. the connecting thread is all I shall send, except a few minutes of the proceedings of the convention.
After four months session the house broke up. the represented states, eleven & a half, having unanimously agreed to the act handed to you, there were only three dissenting voices; one from New England, a man of sense, but a Grumbletonian. he was of service by objecting to every thing he did not propose. it was of course more canvassed, & some errors corrected. the other two are from Virginia: but Randolph wishes it well, & it is thought would have signed it, but he wanted to be on a footing with a popular rival — both these men sink in the general opinion. no wonder they were opposed to a Washington & Madison. Dr. Franklin has gained much credit within doors for his conduct, & was the person who proposed the general signature. he had prepared his address in writing. the exertion of speaking being too great, they allowed another to read it. the day previous he sent for the Pennsylvania delegates; & it was reported that he did it to acquaint them of his disapprobation of certain points, & the impossibility of agreeing to them. his views were different. he wanted to allay every possible scruple, & make their votes unanimous. some of the sentiments of the address were as follows.
'We have been long together. every possible objection has been combated. with so many different &contending interests it is impossible that any one can obtain every object of their wishes. we have met to make mutual sacrifices for the general good, and we have at last come fully to understand each other, & settle the terms. delay is as unnecessary as the adoption is important. I confess it does not fully accord with my sentiments. but I have lived long enough to have often experienced that we ought not to rely too much on our own judgments. I have often found I was mistaken in my most favorite ideas. I have upon the present occasion given up, upon mature reflection, many points which, at the beginning, I thought myself immoveably & decidedly in favor of. this renders me less tenacious of the remainder. there is a possibility of my being mistaken. the general principle which has presided over our deliberations now guides my sentiments. I repeat, I do materially object to certain points, & have already stated my objections — but I do declare that these objections shall never escape me without doors; as, upon the whole, I esteem the constitution to be the best possible, that could have been formed under present circumstances; & that it ought to go abroad with one united signature, & receive every support &countenance from us. I trust none will refuse to sign it. if they do, they will put me in mind of the French girl who was always quarelling & finding fault with every one around her, & told her sister that she thought it very extraordinary, but that really she had never found a person who was always in the right but herself.' . . .
The attempt is novel in history; and I can inform you of a more novel one; that I am assured by the gentlemen who served, that scarcely a personality, or offensive expression escaped during the whole session. the whole was conducted with a liberality &candor which does them the highest honor. I may pronounce that it will be adopted. General Washington lives; & as he will be appointed President, jealousy on this head vanishes. the plan once adopted, difficulties will lessen. 9. states can alter easier than 13 agree. with respect to Rhode island, my opinion is that she will join speedily. she has paid almost all her debts by a sponge, & has more to gain by the adoption than any other state. it will enable us to gain friends, & to oppose with force the machinations of our enemies.

Resource Metadata





  • Unknown



Annotations (0)