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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

Introduction,   pp. xxiii-xxxix


Page xxviii

I. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
tion was still remembered. On 1 November 1786 the creditor faction
in the legislature, led by James Madison and allies of George Mason,
overwhelmingly adopted a resolution charging that paper money "would
be unjust, impolitic, and destructive of public and private confidence
and of that virtue which is the basis of a republican government." The
legislature also defeated some other debtor relief measures, although
it passed a law permitting the payment of 1786 taxes in tobacco.
In the spring and summer of 1787 petitions for a variety of relief
measures were circulated and articles on these subjects appeared in
newspapers. John Marshall was worried that debtors would gain control
of the legislature in the April elections. Some debtors, however, began
to take more drastic actions. They tried to shut down county courts,
and they threatened sheriffs who collected taxes. In May the court-
house was burned down in King William County, and in July the prison
and county clerk's office in New Kent County were destroyed by fire.
John Price Posey was arrested for the New Kent burning. In August
an association was organized in Greenbrier County to oppose the pay-
ment of debts and taxes. In the same month, the office of the clerk
of Westmoreland County was broken into and records and papers,
dating back to 1776, were stolen. These activities were widely reported
in newspapers and caused concern among Virginia's delegates to the
Constitutional Convention.
When the legislature met in October 1787, it received a number of
petitions for paper money and debtor relief. On 3 November George
Mason presented a series of resolutions condemning paper money as
"ruinous to Trade and Commerce, and highly injurious to the good
People of this Commonwealth." He challenged its supporters to "come
boldly forward, & explain their real Motives" (Mason to George Wash-
ington, 6 November, Rutland, Mason, III, 1011). No one came forward
and the resolutions condemning paper money were adopted unani-
mously. Archibald Stuart referred to Mason's speech as the "funeral
Sermon of Paper Money" (to John Breckinridge, 6 November, Breck-
inridge Family Papers, DLC). Again, some debtor relief measures were
defeated, but two relatively minor ones were passed. The legislature
amended the execution act so that it guaranteed that sales under ex-
ecution would be postponed for a year if the property could not be
sold for at least three-quarters of its appraised value. Another measure
allowed tobacco to be used for the payment of 1787 taxes. Joseph
Jones wrote James Madison that the execution bill was "calculated to
give some relief to Debtors, without any direct interference with private
contracts" (18 December, Rutland, Madison, X, 330). After exhausting
the appeal process, the arsonist John Price Posey was hanged on 25
January 1788.
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