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Clymer, George (1739-1813) to Benjamin Rush re: coming glories of Constitution, future end of slavery & rum

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04769 Author/Creator: Clymer, George (1739-1813) Place Written: [New York] Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1789/[18 June ca.] Pagination: 3 p. + FF 23.5 x 19.7 cm

Summary of Content: Also concerns his hopes that slavery and alcohol would be abolished (prohibition), and the debate on the power to remove officials from office. He expects that the excise tax on rum will help defend people "against the poison." Concerning New Yorkers, "[t]he people here presumptuously call their town the Capital. I don't suppose this folly will be suffered to last very long...." Dating inferred per correspondence with Kenneth Bowling, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress.

Background Information: Signer of the U.S. Constitution.
The American Revolution bred an exhilarating sense of new possibilities. In the following letter, in which he anticipates the hopes of later abolitionists and ...temperance (anti-alcohol) reformers, George Clymer (1739-1810), a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Pennsylvania, reveals the extent to which American political leaders viewed government and its taxing authority not merely as an tool for furthering political interests, but also as an instrument of soulcraft--a means of moral betterment and character formation. To prevent the nation's republican experiment from unraveling into anarchy, many Americans were convinced that it was necessary to instill within citizens the kind of character, virtue, and moral ideals essential for self-government.
Since rum and mollasses were produced by slave labor on West Indian plantations, a tax on alcohol stood out as an antislavery measure.
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Full Transcript: 58
Dear Doctor
I received yours this day with Captain French's petition which I will lodge in the morning with the President, conceiving this case to come within the province of ...the Executive--
I don't know where has been the greatest neglect between us but I catch at your letter as a provocation to write you-- The impost has not yet taken its complete shape, but enough of it is seen to pronounce upon it, and I am afraid there are some of its features you will not like-- (Among the expected glories of the Constitution, next to the abolition of slavery was that of Rum, but molasses has shipwrecked New England virtue and we must look to a day still many distant for the promised blessing-- Some hope there is however that a Congressional excise will reach the distillations,) if not the states must individually defend [2] themselves against the poison. In another view Penna. need not complain of the bill, for many of her manufacturers will be tolerably well sheltered under it. To this knotty business has just succeeded another-- It has for three days past been maintained by Gerry &c. that in the removal of officers the President has Constitutionally but a divided power-- This position tending to the utter subversion of the Executive [struck: has] been combated with the utmost force of Madison and Ames, yet they still hold out against eloquence and reason and have asked another day-- I think I see however a clear majority against them.
The President has been ill for some days but is I hear better-- There are various accounts of his disorder. At first it was spoken of as bilious or aguish, now as inflamatory [sic].--
Some of the points above spoken of being fully sealed I shall then hope to see home for a short time which [3] I fervently pant after, esteeming my sojournment [sic] here as [struck: the] [inserted: a] most painful exile scarcely alleviated by a [strike out] sense of the errand I am upon. When we shall adjourn I know not, 'tho I believe many people will in a few weeks be as impatient as myself--but this uncertainty would not so much teaze [sic] me if I could have much expectation that the adjournment when it comes would be a removal too, but of this I can say nothing-- The people here presumptuously call their town the Capital, I don't suppose this folly will be suffered to last very long, the prevailing wish being to create a town for the permanent residence.-- Not having found [illegible, text loss] or any of the other Pennsylvanians so intelligent upon the [struck: subject] prospect of a Convention [inserted: as I expected]. I will be obliged to you for a line on that subject, should I not meet you in a few days.-- Tis now just midnight, and time to say how much I am your most &c.
Geo. Clymer
/Dr. Rush/
[inserted in margin: My Complts. to Mrs. Rush-- Thursday night--]

Dr. Benjamin Rush

G Clymer 56
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People: Clymer, George, 1739-1813

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: SlaveryAfrican American HistoryAbolitionTemperance and ProhibitionAlcoholGovernment and CivicsReform MovementTaxes or TaxationWashington, D.C.US Constitution

Sub Era: The Early Republic

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