Name

William Grayson

Career

Public life

Identifier

Anti-Federalist

Region

NA/Mid-Atlantic region

Era

Maritime Republic (1751-1815)

Born

1736

Died

1790

Source

ANB

Text

Lawyer, soldier, and statesman...

Grayson returned to law until he was elected to the general assembly in 1784. He was appointed to Congress from Virginia later that year. In Congress, as acting president, he offered energetic support to the Northwest Ordinance, which he privately hymned as beneficial to Virginians in excluding slavery, and thus potential competitors for the world tobacco market, from the Midwest. He returned to the general assembly in 1788.

Grayson's experience in the Continental Congress convinced him that the federal government should be yielded greater power. The proposal made by the Philadelphia convention of 1787 displeased him in its great nationalism, however, and he became an opponent of the proposed constitution in the ratifying convention held in Richmond. The friends of the states' predominance in American politics, whom their opponents mislabeled "Antifederalists," counted Grayson among their leading champions because he was, in the general opinion of his fellows, the single greatest debater in Virginia´┐Ż

Grayson's Antifederalism was founded on the premise that the other twelve states would never be able to sustain a union of which Virginia was not a member. The eastern states, he said, must have a union, for their fisheries were vulnerable to British depredations; New York and Pennsylvania could have no fur trade without union; the small states would never quarrel with the giants´┐Ż

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