The owner of the Indian Queen appeared instantly. Bowing respectfully, he asked, “Gentlemen, is there anything else you desire … another ale, tea and cakes, a plate of cheese? We have excellent cognacs.”
“No, no,” Morris said. “We’re ready to retire. Thank you for your hospitality.”
The innkeeper never looked at Morris; instead he aimed a witless grin at Washington.
“My pleasure. The general’s always welcome at the Indian Queen.”
All evening, Madison had found the Innkeeper’s solicitous behavior irritating. Now he was amused by his inadvertent slight toward the rest of the party. Washington often elicited bumbling adulation.
“Thank you,” Washington said, with a regal nod of the head. “We’ll be in Philadelphia for a spell, so we’ll visit your fine establishment again.”
“Yes, the Federal Convention. A noble endeavor. My best wishes.”
“And what might those wishes be?” Washington asked.
When the innkeeper recalled the incident for friends, relatives, and customers, his answer would undoubtedly be eloquent and coherent. He would tell everyone that the great General George Washington had asked for his advice and he had responded with sage counsel.
Washington betrayed nothing. Looking genuinely interested, he said, “Success comes in many guises. Do you support a strong federal government?”
Now, the innkeeper looked nervous. “Dear General, with deepest respect, I don’t think so. I, uh … well, I work hard: all day and well into the night. Please excuse me, sir, I don’t mean to be impertinent, but taxes already lighten my purse. A larger government will surely demand more money. I see no benefit.”
Washington looked like he was mulling over a new concept. “Taxes are a congenital disease of government.”
“Philadelphia seems unaffected by these ills. People prosper, trade flourishes, and our vigorous commerce supports many public works. In time, the rest of the country will follow our lead.” Then, with a little stronger voice, the innkeeper added, “Most of our problems emanate from politicians. They already meddle too much.”
Madison found the man’s newfound tongue intriguing. Obviously his purse held greater import than the risk of offending the great hero of the Revolution.