We have now the honor of enclosing the proposition of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States that has been finally agreed upon by Congress. We can assure you Sir that nothing on our part has been omitted to procure the success of those Radical Amendments proposed by the Convention and approved by the Legislature of our Country, which as our Constituent we shall always deem our duty with respect and reverence to obey. The Journal of the Senate herewith transmitted will at once shew how exact and how unfortunate we have been in this business. It is impossible for us not to see the necessary tendency to consolidated Empire in the natural operation of the Constitution if no further Amended than now proposed. And it is equally impossible for us not to be apprehensive for Civil Liberty when we know no instance in the Records of history that shew a people ruled in freedom when subject to an undivided Government and inhabiting a Territory so extensive as that of the United States, and when, as it seems to us, the nature of Men and things Join to prevent it – The impracticability in such case of carrying representation sufficiently near to the people for procuring their confidence and consequent obedience compels a resort to fear resulting from great force and excessive power in Government. Confederated Republics when the federal hand is not possessed of absorbing power may permit the existence of freedom whilst it preserves Union, Strength, and Safety; such amendments therefore as may secure against the annihilation of the State Governments we devoutly wish to see adopted –

If a persevering application to Congress from the States that have desired such Amendments should fail of its Objects we are disposed to think, reasoning from Causes to effects, that unless a dangerous Apathy should invade the public mind it will not be many years before a Constitutional number of Legislatures will be found to demand a Convention for the purpose –

We’ve sent a complete set of the Journals of each house of Congress and thro’ the appointed Channel will be transmitted the Acts that have passed this Session. In these will be seen the extent and nature of the Judiciary the estimated expences of the Government and the means so far adopted for defraying the latter –

We beg Sir to be presented with all duty to the house of Representatives and to assure you that we are with every sentiment of respect and esteem Sir

Your Most Obedient and very humble Servants.

Richard Henry Lee

The complete set of Journals is ordered to be sent to each State by the respective Clerks with the Laws. They are not now ready. . . .


George Washington Papers, Library of Congress

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 2, 1779 – 1794, pp. 507 – 9. A variant copy, which does not contain the postscript, is printed in R. H. Lee, Memoir of Richard Henry Lee, 2:99.