The full content of this document is only available to subscribing institutions. More information can be found via

Collection Reference Number GLC02437.03558
From Archive Folder The Henry Knox Papers [0080] April-June 1787 
Title Henry Knox to Mercy Otis Warren replying to her letter, discussing the Constitutional Convention and giving his opinions on government
Date 30 May 1787
Author Knox, Henry (1750-1806)  
Recipient Warren, Mercy Otis  
Document Type Correspondence
Content Description Replies to her letter from 2 May (GLC02437.03539). Discusses a financial matter involving Winslow Warren (Warren's son), Mr. Hawkins, Knox's brother William, and Mr. Breck. Apologizes for not being able to fully comply with her request from 2 May due to William's limited power in that regard. Knox discusses the present state of government, and the divided nature of the states, in the context of the Constitutional Convention, which gathered at Philadelphia 25 May. Discusses "the present awful crisis- I arrange in my imagination two or three hundred millions of [our] posterity with their eyes fixed on our conduct, ready to applaud our wisdom or to execrate our folly." Praises a book by Mr. Adams, noting that it should have been called "The Soul of a Free Government," (likely commenting on John Adams's book, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America"). Comments that "paper money - and ex post facto Laws are the main springs of the American governments." Mentions the Cincinnati (likely the Society of the Cincinnati). Reflects on the Constitutional Convention and the men attending it: "Should they possess the hardihood to be unpopular and propose an efficient national government from the entanglements of the present defective state [systems], we may yet be a happy and great nation." Adds, "Should they possess local and not general views should they propose to patch up the wretched & defective thing called the confederation- look out ye patriots- supplicate heaven separate anarchies will take place..." Discusses the issue of state's rights versus national power, "The state governments should be deprived of the power of injuring themselves or the nation. The people have parted with power enough to form an excellent constitution- But it is intercepted and diffused among hordes which cannot use it to good purpose- It must be [concerted] in a national government. The power of that government should be divided between a strong executive, senate, and assembly.... every thing should be defined, marked, and checked according to the highest human wisdom- an attempt to overleap the bounds of the Constitution should be punished on the absolute certainty of great severity." Writes that in this letter, he only suggested the smallest possible changes that can be made to the government. Anything less "will be to precipitate us in to the gulph of separate anarchies or the issue of which we may see established seperate tyrannies." This is Knox's draft. The sent copy of this letter is in the Warren-Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Subjects US Constitution  Revolutionary War General  Women's History  Children and Family  Finance  US Constitutional Convention  President  Literature and Language Arts  Law  Coins and Currency  Economics  Fraternal Organization  Society of the Cincinnati  Articles of Confederation  Rebellion  Congress  President  Continental Congress  Government and Civics  
People Knox, Henry (1750-1806)  Warren, Mercy Otis (1728-1814)  Warren, Winslow (fl. 1790)  Adams, John (1735-1826)  
Place written New York, New York
Theme Women in American History; Children & Family; Creating a New Government; The Presidency; Arts & Literature
Sub-collection The Henry Knox Papers
Copyright The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Module Settlement, Commerce, Revolution and Reform: 1493-1859
Related documents Mercy Otis Warren to Henry Knox about her son's financial problems and asking about politics  
Transcript Show/hide   Download PDF