Washington's Third Letter to Henry Knox


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October, 1787. To Henry Knox.

The Constitution is now before the judgment-seat. It has, as was expected, its adversaries and supporters. Which will preponderate is yet to be decided. The former more than probably will be most active, as a major part of them will, it is to be feared, be governed by sinister and self-important motives, to which everything in their breasts must yield. The opposition from another class of them may perhaps (if they should be men of reflection, candour, and information), subside in the solution of the following simple questions: I. Is the Constitution, which is submitted by the convention, preferable to the government (if it can be called one) under which we now live? 2. Is it probable that more confidence would at the time be placed in another convention, provided the experiment should be tried, than was placed in the last one, and is it likely that a better agreement would take place therein? What would be the consequences if these should not happen, or even from the delay which must inevitably follow such an experiment? Is there not a constitutional door open for alterations or amendments? and is it not likely that real defects will be as readily discovered after as before trial? and will not our successors be as ready to apply the remedy as ourselves, if occasion should require it? To think otherwise will, in my judgment, be ascribing more of the amor patrice, more wisdom and more virtue to ourselves, than I think we deserve.

It is highly probable that the refusal of our governor and Colonel Mason to subscribe to the proceedings of the convention will have a bad effect in this State; for, as you well observe, they must not only assign reasons for the justification of their own conduct, but it is highly probable that these reasons will be clothed in most terrific array for the purpose of alarming. Some things are already addressed to the fears of the people, and will no doubt have their effect. As far, however, as the sense of this part of the country has been taken, it is strongly in favor of the proposed Constitution. Further I cannot speak with precision. If a powerful opposition is given to it, the weight thereof will, I apprehend, come from the south side of James River, and from the western counties.



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