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settlements within the Federal domain; thirdly, the final settlement of the accounts between the Union and its members; fourthly, the treaty with Spain.
1. Between six and seven hundred thousand acres have been surveyed in townships, under the land ordinance, and are to be sold forthwith. The place where Congress sit is fixed for the sale. Its eccentricity, and remoteness from the premises, will, I apprehend, give disgust. On the most eligible plan of selling the unsurveyed residue, Congress are much divided; the Eastern States being strongly attached to that of townships, notwithstanding the expense incident to it; the Southern being equally biassed in favor of indiscriminate locations, notwithstanding the many objections against that mode. The dispute will probably terminate in some kind of compromise, if one can be hit upon.
2. The government of the settlements on the Illinois and Wabash is a subject very perplexing in itself, and rendered more so by our ignorance of many circumstances on which a right judgment depends. The inhabitants at those places claim protection against the savages, and some provision for both criminal and civil justice. It appears also that land-jobbers are among them, who are likely to multiply litigations among individuals, and, by collusive purchases of spurious titles, to defraud the United States.
3. The settlement of the public accounts has long been pursued in varied shapes, and with little prospect of success. The idea which has long been urged by some of us, seems now to be seriously embraced, of establishing a plenipotentiary tribunal for
the final adjustment of the mutual claims, on the great and simple principle of equity. An ordinance for this purpose has been reported by the Treasury Board, and has made some progress through Congress. It is likely to be much retarded by the thinness of Congress, as indeed is almost every other matter of importance.
4. The Spanish negotiation is in a very ticklish situation. You have been already apprized of the vote of seven States last fall for ceding the Mississippi for a term of years. From sundry circumstances it was inferred that Jay was proceeding under this usurped authority. A late instruction to him to lay the state of the negotiation before Congress has discovered that he has adjusted with Guardoqui an article for suspending the use of the Mississippi by the citizens of the United States. The report, however, leaves it somewhat doubtful how far the United States are committed by this step, and a subsequent report of the Secretary on the seizure of Spanish property in the Western country, and on information of discontents touching the occlusion of the Mississippi, shews that the probable consequences of the measure perplex him extremely. It was nevertheless conceived by the instructed delegations to be their duty to press a revocation of the step taken, in some form which would least offend Spain, and least irritate the patrons of the vote of seven States. Accordingly a motion was made to the following effect—that the present state of the negotiation with Spain, and of the affairs of the United States, rendered it expedient that you should proceed, under a special com
mission, to Madrid, for the purpose of making such representations as might at once impress on that Court our friendly disposition and induce it to relax on the contested points; and that the proper communications and explanations should be made to Guardoqui relative to this change in the mode of conducting the negotiation. This motion was referred to Mr. Jay, whose report disapproves of it. In this state the matter lies. Eight States only being present, no effective vote is to be expected. It may, notwithstanding, be incumbent on us to try some question which will at least mark the paucity of States who abet the obnoxious project. Massachusetts and New York alone, of the present States, are under that description; and Connecticut and New Hampshire alone of the absent. Maryland and South Carolina have hitherto been on the right side. Their future conduct is somewhat problematical. The opinion of New Hampshire is only conjectured. The conversion of Rhode Island countenances a hope that she too may, in this instance, desert the New England standard.
The prospect of a full and respectable Convention grows stronger every day. Rhode Island alone has refused to send Deputies. Maryland has probably appointed by this time. Of Connecticut alone doubts are entertained. The anti-federal party in that State is numerous and persevering. It is said that the elections which are now going on are rather discouraging to the advocates of the Convention. Pennsylvania has added Dr. Franklin to her deputation. There is some ground to calculate on the attendance of General Washington. Our Governor,
Mr. Wythe, Mr. Blair, and Col. Mason will pretty certainly attend. The last, I am informed, is renouncing his errors on the subject of the Confederation, and means to take an active part in the amendment of it. Mr. Henry pretty soon resigned the
. undertaking. General Nelson was put into his place, who has also declined. He was succeeded by Mr. R. H. Lee, who followed his example. Doctor M'Clurg has been since appointed, and as he was on the spot must have been previously consulted."
TO GENERAL WASHINGTON,
New York, September 30, 1787. Dear Sir,
I found, on my arrival here, that certain ideas, unfavorable to the act of the Convention which had created difficulties in that body, had made their way into Congress. They were patronized chiefly by
. Mr. R. H. Lee, and Mr. Dane, of Massachusetts. It was first urged, that, as the new Constitution was more than an alteration of the Articles of Confederation, under which Congress acted, and even subverted those Articles altogether, there was a constitutional impropriety in their taking any positive agency in the work. The answer given was, that the Resolution of Congress in February had recommended the Convention as the best means of obtaining a firm National Government ; that, as the powers of the Convention were defined, by their commissions, in nearly the same terms with the
powers of Congress given by the Confederation on the subject of alterations, Congress were not more restrained from acceding to the new plan, than the Convention were from proposing it. If the plan was within the powers of the Convention, it was within those of Congress; if beyond those powers, the same necessity which justified the Convention would justify Congress; and a failure of Congress to concur in what was done would imply, either that the Convention had done wrong in exceeding their powers, or that the government proposed was in itself liable to insuperable objections; that such an inference would be the more natural, as Congress had never scrupled to recommend measures foreign to their constitutional functions, whenever the public good seemed to require it; and had in several instances, particularly in the establishment of the new Western Governments, exercised assumed powers of a very high and delicate nature, under motives infinitely less urgent than the present state of our affairs, if any faith were due to the representations made by Congress themselves, echoed by twelve States in the Union, and confirmed by the general voice of the people. An attempt was made in the next place by R. H. L., to amend the act of the Convention before it should go forth from Congress. He proposed a Bill of Rights, provision for juries in civil cases, and several other things corresponding with the ideas of Colonel Mason. He was supported by Mr. Melancthon Smith of this state. It was contended, that Congress had an undoubted right to insert amendments, and that it was their duty to make use of it in a case where the essential guards of liberty