Letter to Thomas Jefferson

James Madison

Orange

April 22, 1788

The proposed Constitution still engrosses the public attention. The elections for the Convention here are but just over and promulged. From the returns, (excepting those from Kentucky, which are not yet known,) it seems probably, though not absolutely certain, that a majority of the members elect are friends to the Constitution. The superiority of abilities, at least seems to lie on that side. The characters of most note which occur to me are marshaled thus: For the Constitution, Pendleton, Wythe, Blair, Innes, Marshall, Doctor W. Jones, G. Nicholas, Wilson Nicholas, Gabl Jones, Thomas Lewis, F. Corbin, Ralph Wormley Jr., White of Frederick, General Gates, General A. Stephens, Archibald Stuart, Zachy Johnson, Doctor Stuart, Parson Andrews, H. Lee, Jr., Bushrod Washington, considered as a young gentleman of talents; against the Constitution, Mr. Henry, Mason, Harrison, Grayson, Tyler, M. Smith, W. Ronald, Lawson, Bland, Wm. Cabell, Dawson.

The Governor is so temperate in his opposition, and goes so far with the friends of the Constitution, that he cannot properly be classed with its enemies. Monroe is considered by some as an enemy; but I believe him to be a friend. There are other individuals of weight whose opinions are unknown to me. R. H. Lee is not elected. His brother, F.L. Lee, is a warm friend to the Constitution, as I am told; but, also, is not elected. So are John and Mann Page.

The adversaries take very different grounds of opposition. Some are opposed to the substance of the plan; others, to particular modifications only. Mr. Henry is supposed to aim at disunion. Col. Mason is growing every day more bitter and outrageous in his efforts to carry his point, and will probably, in the end, be thrown by the violence of his passions into the politics of Mr. Henry. The preliminary question will be, whether previous alterations shall be insisted on or not. Should this be carried in the affirmative, either a conditional ratification or a proposal for a new Convnetion will ensue. In either event, I think the Constitution and the Union will be both endangered. It is not to be expected that the States which have ratified will reconsider their determinations, and submit to the alterations prescribed by Virginia. And if a second Convention should be formed, it is as little to be expected that the same spirit of compromise will prevail in it as produced an amicable result to the first. It will be easy, also, for those who have latent views of disunion, to carry them on under the mask of contending for alterations, popular in some, but inadmissible in other parts of the United States.

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