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Constitutional Journal

-Tuesday, July 31, 1787

Yesterday it was reported that the drafting Committee is being particularly guided in its efforts by the New York State Constitution of 1777.

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GEN. George Washington made a solitary, poignant pilgrimage to Valley Forge today and reported finding his winter military camp of 1777 in ruins and reclaimed by the wilderness.

On the way back from the scene of the blackest moment in his military career, the General stopped to talk to some local farmers, who gave him useful information for planting buckwheat at his Mount Vernon plantation. He had never seen Valley Forge in the summer and was reported to have inspected the ruins on horseback.

He confided none of his innermost emotions to his trout-fishing companion, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, although his thoughts and emotions must have been of that winter a decade ago. Philadelphia was in the hands of the enemy, his army was near naked and starving, and a plot was maturing to remove him as military commander of the army. Now, only 10 years later, he is peacefully fishing for trout on this hot summer day and waiting as President of the Convention to find out what final form the new national government might take.

William Pierce of Georgia offered this assessement after weeks of watching General Washington silently preside over the Convention debates:

``Having conducted these states to independence and peace, he now appears to assist in framing a Government. ... He may be said to be the deliverer of his Country; - like Peter the great he appears as the politician and the States-man; and like Cincinnatus he returned to his farm perfectly contented with being only a plain citizen ... and now only seeks for the approbation of his Country-men by being virtuous and useful.''

The noted French author Michel Guillaume Jean de Cr`evecoeur four days ago wrote from New York to a friend in Paris expressing astonishment that General Washington would come out of retirement to expose his reputation to a Second American Revolution by serving as President of the Convention.

The author of the best-selling book ``Letters of an American Farmer'' has returned to America after a two-year absence. In that time, he reports, great changes have taken place. The Spanish have closed the Mississippi to American navigation and the British have increased their forces in Canada. The people, he adds, look to General Washington and the Convention to solve these and other political and economic problems with a new national government.

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James Monroe, writing from Fredericksburg, Va., to Thomas Jefferson in Paris, also looks to the General and the Convention. He said in his July 27 letter to the American Minister to France, ``I trust that the presence of Gen. Washington will have great weight to the body itself ... and that the signature of his name to whatever act shall be the result of their deliberations will secure its passage thro [throughout] the Union.

With all eyes and expectations turned towards Philadelphia and General Washington, his decision to go trout fishing provided a period of relaxation and reflection on how far the country has come in 10 short years.

These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.

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