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DEBATES IN THE CONGRESS OF THE CONFEDERATION, FROM NOVEMBER 14, 1782, TO FEBRUARY 13, 1783. - James Madison, The Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution in the Convention held at Philadelphia in 1787, vol. 5 (Debates in Congress, Madison’s Notes, Misc. Letters) 
The Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution in the Convention held at Philadelphia in 1787, with a Diary of the Debates of the Congress of the Confederation as reported by James Madison, revised and newly arranged by Jonathan Elliot. Complete in One Volume. Vol. V. Supplement to Elliot’s Debates (Philadelphia, 1836).
Part of: The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, 5 vols.
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DEBATES IN THE CONGRESS OF THE CONFEDERATION, FROM NOVEMBER 14, 1782, TO FEBRUARY 13, 1783.
In Congress,Monday,November 4, 1782.
Elias Boudinot was chosen president, by the votes of New Hampshire, represented by John Taylor Gilman and Phillips White; Rhode Island, by Jonathan Arnold and David Howell; Connecticut, by Benjamin Huntington and Eliphalet Dyer; New Jersey, by Elias Boudinot and John Witherspoon; Pennsylvania, by Thomas Smith, George Clymer, and Henry Wynkoop; Delaware, by Thomas M’Kean and Samuel Wharton; Maryland, by John Hanson, Daniel Carroll, and William Hemsley; the votes of Virginia, represented by James Madison and Theodorick Bland, and of South Carolina, represented by John Rutledge, Ralph Izard, David Ramsay, and John Lewis Gervais, were given to Mr. Bland; the vote of New York, represented by James Duane and Ezra L’Hommedieu, to Abner Nash; the vote of North Carolina, by Abner Nash, Hugh Williamson, and William Blount, to John Rutledge. Massachusetts, having no delegate but Samuel Osgood, had no vote. Georgia had no delegate.
A letter, dated October 30, 1782, from General Washington, was read, informing Congress of his putting the army into winter-quarters, and of the sailing of fourteen ships of the line from New York, supposed to be for the West Indies, and without troops.
A letter, dated July 8, from Mr. Carmichael, at St. Ildefonso, informing Congress of the good effect, in Europe, of the rejection of the proposal of Carleton by Congress and the states; that the king of Spain, speaking of the news at table, praised greatly the probity of the Americans, raising his voice in such a manner that all the foreign ministers might hear him. Mr. Carmichael adds, that he had discovered that the Imperial and Russian ministers, by directions from their courts, had renewed their offered mediation to His Most Catholic Majesty, and that he suspected England was at the bottom of it. Quære.
A letter, dated Nantz, September 5, from Mr. Laurens, notifying his intention to return to America; that, being so advised by his friends, he had applied to the court of London for a passport via Falmouth; that Cornwallis had interested himself therein, and that the passport had been promised.
A resolution passed, authorizing General Washington to obtain the exchange of two foreign officers, notwithstanding the resolution of the 16th of October, declaring that Congress will go into no partial exchanges until a general cartel be settled on national principles. This measure passed, without due consideration, by the votes of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. On the motion of Mr. OSGOOD, it was reconsidered, in order to refer the case to the secretary of war and General Washington, to take order. By Mr. MADISON opposition was made against any partial exchange in the face of the solemn declaration passed on the 16th of October, as highly dishonorable to Congress, especially as that declaration was made, in order to compel the enemy to a national convention with the United States. All exchanges had been previously made on the part of the former by the military authority of their generals. After the letter of General Carleton and Admiral Digby, notifying the purpose of the British king to acknowledge our independence, it was thought expedient by Congress to assume a higher tone. It was supposed, also, at the time of changing this mode, that it would be a test of the enemy’s sincerity with regard to independence. As the trial had been made, and the British commander, either from a want of power or of will, had declined treating of a cartel on national ground, it would be peculiarly preposterous and pusillanimous in Congress to return to the former mode. An adjournment suspended the vote on the question for referring the case to the secretary and general to take order.
On the reconsideration of the resolution for exchanging the two foreign officers, its repeal was unanimously agreed to.
A motion was made, by Mr. OSGOOD, to assign an early day for filling up the vacancy in the Court of Appeals. It was opposed on the principle of economy, and the expedient suggested, by Mr. DUANE, of empowering a single judge to make a court until the public finances would better bear the expense. In favor of the motion it was argued, first, that the proceedings of the court were too important to be confided to a single judge; secondly, that the decisions of a single judge would be less satisfactory in cases where a local connection of the judge subsisted with either of the parties; thirdly, that a single judge would be more apt, by erroneous decisions, to embroil the United States in disputes with foreign powers; fourthly, that if there were more than one judge, and one formed a court, there might, at the same time, be two interfering jurisdictions, and that, if any remedy could be applied to this difficulty, the course of decisions would inevitably be less uniform, and the provision of the Confederation for a court of universal appellant jurisdiction so far contravened; fifthly, as there was little reason to expect that the public finances would, during the war, be more equal to the public burdens than at present, and as the cases within the cognizance of the court would cease with the war, the qualification annexed to the expedient ought to have no effect. The motion was disagreed to, and a committee which had been appointed to prepare a new ordinance for constituting the Court of Appeals was filled up, and instructed to make report. On the above motion, an opinion was maintained by Mr. RUTLEDGE that, as the court was, according to the ordinance in force, to consist of three judges, any two of whom to make a court, unless three were in actual appointment, the decisions of two were illegal.
Congress went into the consideration of the report of the committee on the case of Captain Asgill, the British officer allotted to suffer retaliation for the murder of Captain Huddy. The report proposed,—
“That, considering the letter of the 29th of July last, from the Count de Vergennes to General Washington, interceding for Captain Asgill, the commander-in-chief be directed to set him at liberty.”
Previous to the receipt of this letter from the Count de Vergennes, Congress had been much divided as to the propriety of executing the retaliation, after the professions on the part of the British commanders of a desire to carry on the war on humane principles, and the promises of Sir Guy Carleton to pursue as effectually as possible the real authors of the murder; some supposing that these circumstances had so far changed the ground that Congress ought to recede from their denunciations,—others supposing that, as the condition of the menace had not been complied with, and the promises were manifestly evasive, a perseverance on the part of Congress was essential to their honor; and that, moreover, it would probably compel the enemy to give up the notorious author of the confessed murder. After the receipt of the letter from the Count de Vergennes, Congress were unanimous for a relaxation. Two questions, however, arose on the report of the committee. The first was, on what considerations the discharge of Captain Asgill ought to be grounded. On this question a diversity of opinions existed. Some concurred with the committee in resting the measure entirely on the intercession of the French court; alleging that this was the only plea that could apologize to the world for such a departure from the solemn declaration made both by Congress and the commander-in-chief. Others were of opinion that this plea, if publicly recited, would mark an obsequiousness to the French court, and an impeachment of the humanity of Congress, which greatly outweighed the circumstance urged in its favor; and that the disavowal of the outrage by the British general, and a solemn promise to pursue the guilty authors of it, afforded the most honorable ground on which Congress might make their retreat. Others, again, contended for an enumeration of all the reasons which led to the measure. Lastly, others were against a recital of any reason, and for leaving the justification of the measure to such reasons as would occur of themselves. This last opinion, after considerable discussions, prevailed, and the resolution was left as it stands on the Journals. The second question was, whether this release of Captain Asgill should be followed by a demand on General Carleton to fulfil his engagement to pursue with all possible effect the authors of the murder.
On one side, it was urged that such a demand would be nugatory, after the only sanction which could enforce it had been relinquished; that it would not be consistent with the letter of the Count de Vergennes, which solicited complete oblivion; and that it would manifest to the public a degree of confidence in British faith which was not felt and ought not to be affected.
On the opposite side, it was said that, after the confession and promise of justice by General Carleton, the least that could be done by General Washington would be to claim a fulfilment; that the intercession of the Count de Vergennes extended no farther than to prevent the execution of Captain Asgill and the substitution of any other innocent victim, and by no means was meant to shelter the guilty; that, whatever blame might fall on Congress for seeming to confide in the promises of the enemy, they would be more blamed if they not only dismissed the purpose of retaliating on the innocent, but at the same time omitted to challenge a promised vengeance on the guilty; that, if the challenge was not followed by a compliance on the part of the enemy, it would at least promulge and perpetuate, in justification of the past measures of Congress, the confessions and promises of the enemy on which the challenge was grounded, and would give weight to the charges both of barbarity and perfidy which had been so often brought against them.
In the vote on this question, six states were in favor of the demand, and the others either divided or against it.
The preceding question having been taken again, on a further discussion of the subject, there were, in favor of the demand, New Hampshire, Rhode Island. New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and of the other states some were divided.
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE, of South Carolina, “That the commander-in-chief, and of the southern department, be respectively directed, whenever the enemy shall commit any act of cruelty or violence, contrary to the laws and usage of war, on the citizens of these states, to demand adequate satisfaction for the same; and in case such satisfaction shall not be immediately given, but refused or evaded under any pretext whatsoever, to cause suitable retaliation to be forthwith made on British officers, without waiting for directions from Congress on the subject.”
When this motion was first made, it was espoused by many with great warmth, in particular by the delegates of North Carolina and South Carolina, as necessary to prevent the delays and uncertainties incident to a resort by the military commanders to Congress, and to convince the enemy that, notwithstanding the dismission of Captain Asgill, the general purpose of retaliation was firmly retained.
Against the motion it was objected, first, that the time and place in which it stood would certainly convey an indirect reprehension of General Washington, for bringing before Congress the case of Captain Asgill and Huddy; secondly, that it manifested a distrust in Congress, which, however well founded it might be with respect to retaliation, ought not to be proclaimed by themselves; thirdly, that political and national considerations might render the interference of the supreme authority expedient, of which the letter from the Count de Vergennes, in the late case, furnished an instance; that the resort of the military commanders to the sovereign for direction in great and difficult cases, such as those of retaliation would often prove, was a right of which they ought not to be deprived, but in the exercise of which they ought rather to be countenanced. These objections reduced the patrons of the motion to the delegates of North Carolina and South Carolina alone, or nearly so. In place of it, the declaratory motion on the journal was substituted. This again was objected to, as implying that, in the cases of retaliation taken up by the military commanders, they had proceeded on doubtful authority. To remove this objection, the amendment was proposed limiting the preamble to the single act of dis harging Captain Asgill. This, however, was not entirely satisfactory, because that particular act could have no constructive influence on the reputed authority of the generals. It was acceded to by the votes of several who were apprehensive that, in case of rejecting it, the earnestness of some might obtrude a substitute less harmless, or that the resolution might pass without the preamble, and be more offensive to the commander-in-chief. The first apprehension was the prevailing motive with many to agree to the proposition on the final question.
This day a letter was received from General Washington, enclosing one, of the 25th of October, from Sir Guy Carleton, relative to the demand made on him for a liquidation of accounts, and payment of the balance due for the maintenance of prisoners of war, in which the latter used an asperity of language so much the reverse of his preceding correspondence, that many regard it as portending a revival of the war against the United States.1
Saturday and Monday
The reappointment of Mr. Jefferson, as minister plenipotentiary for negotiating peace, was agreed to unanimously, and without a single adverse remark. The act took place in consequence of its being suggested, that the death of Mrs. Jefferson had probably changed the sentiments of Mr. Jefferson with regard to public life; and that all the reasons which led to his original appointment still existed, and, indeed, had acquired additional force from the improbability that Mr. Laurens would actually assist in the negotiation.
“A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE, declaring that when a matter was referred to any of the departments to take order, it was the sense and meaning of Congress that the same should be carried into execution.” On this motion some argued that such reference amounted to an absolute injunction; others insisted that it gave authority, but did not absolutely exclude discretion in the executive departments. The explanation that was finally acquiesced in, as most rational and conformable to practice, was, that it not only gave authority, but expressed the sense of Congress that the measure ought to be executed; leaving it so far, however, in the discretion of the executive department, as that, in case it differed in opinion from Congress, it might suspend execution, and state the objections to Congress, that their final direction might be given. In the course of debate it was observed, by Mr. MADISON, that the practice of referring matters to take order, especially where money was to be issued, was extremely exceptionable, inasmuch as no entry of such proceedings was made on the journals, but only noted in a memorandum book kept by the secretary, and then sent to the department, with the reference to take order endorsed by the secretary, but not signed by him; so that the transaction, even where public in its nature, never came before the public eye, and the department was left with a precarious voucher for its justification. The motion was, in the end, withdrawn; the mover alleging that, as he only aimed at rendering an uncertain point clear, and this had been brought about by a satisfactory explanation, he did not wish for any resolution on the subject.
The proceedings were confined to the report of the committee on the case of Vermont, entered on the journal. As it was notorious that Vermont had uniformly disregarded the recommendation of Congress of 1779, the report, which ascribed the evils prevalent in that district to a late act of New York, which violated that recommendation, was generally admitted to be unjust and unfair. Mr. HOWELL was the only member who openly supported it. The delegates from New York denied the fact that any violation had been committed on the part of that state. The temper of Congress, on this occasion, as the yeas and nays show, was less favorable to Vermont than on any preceding one—the effect probably of the territorial cession of New York to the United States. In the course of the debate, Mr. HOWELL cited the case of Kentucky as somewhat parallel to that of Vermont; said that the late creation of a separate court by Virginia, for the former, resembled the issuing of commissions by New York to the latter; that the jurisdiction would probably be equally resisted, and the same violences would follow as in Vermont. He was called to order by Mr. MADISON. The PRESIDENT and the plurality of Congress supported and enforced the call.
No Congress till
Monday, 18th, and Tuesday 19th, November
The Journals sufficiently explain the proceedings of those days.
Congress went into consideration of the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. Carroll, Mr. M’Kean, and Mr. Howell, on two memorials from the legislature of Pennsylvania. The memorials imported a disposition to provide for the creditors of the United States, within the state of Pennsylvania, out of the revenues allotted for Congress, unless such provision could be made by Congress. The report, as an answer to the memorials, acknowledged the merit of the public creditors, professed the wishes of Congress to do them justice; referring, at the same time, to their recommendation of the impost of five per cent, which had not been acceded to by all the states; to the requisition of one million two hundred thousand dollars, for the payment of one year’s interest on the public debt; and to their acceptance of the territorial cession made by New York. After some general conversation, in which the necessity of the impost, as the only fund on which loans could be expected, and the necessity of loans to supply the enormous deficiency of taxes, were urged, as also the fatal tendency of the plan intimated in the memorials, as well to the Union itself as to the system actually adopted by Congress, the report was committed.
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE, seconded by Mr. WILLIAMSON, to instruct the committee to report the best mode of liquidating the domestic debts, and of obtaining a valuation of the land within the several states, as the Article of Confederation directs. The first part of the instruction was negatived, provision having been previously made on that head. In place of it, the superintendent of finance was instructed to report the causes which impede that provision. The second part was withdrawn by the mover. A committee, however, was afterwards appointed, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Nash, Mr. Duane, Mr. Osgood, and Mr. Madison, to report the best scheme for a valuation.
A report was made by a committee, to whom had been referred several previous reports and propositions relative to the salaries of foreign ministers, delivering it as the opinion of the committee, that the salaries allowed to ministers plenipotentiary, to wit, two thousand five hundred pounds sterling, would not admit of reduction; but that the salary allowed to secretaries of legations, to wit, one thousand pounds sterling, ought to be reduced to five hundred pounds. This committee consisted of Mr. Duane, Mr. Izard, and Mr. Madison, the last of whom disagreed to the opinion of his colleagues as to the reduction of the two thousand five hundred pounds allowed to ministers plenipotentiary.
Against a reduction, it was argued that not only justice, but the dignity of the United States, required a liberal allowance to foreign servants; that gentlemen who had experienced the expense of living in Europe did not think that a less sum would be sufficient for a decent style; and that, in the instance of Mr. Arthur Lee, the expenses claimed by him, and allowed by Congress, exceeded the fixed salary in question.
In favor of a reduction were urged the poverty of the United States, the simplicity of republican governments, the inconsistency of splendid allowances to ministers whose chief duty lay in displaying the wants of their constituents, and soliciting a supply of them; and, above all, the policy of reconciling the army to the economical arrangements imposed on them, by extending the reform to every other department.
The result of this discussion was a reference of the report to another committee, consisting of Mr. Williamson, Mr. Osgood, and Mr. Carroll.
A motion was made by Mr. HOWELL, seconded by Mr. ARNOLD, recommending to the several states to settle with and satisfy, at the charge of the United States, all such temporary corps as had been raised by them respectively, with the approbation of Congress. The repugnance which appeared in Congress to go into so extensive and important a measure, at this time, led the mover to withdraw it.
A motion was made by Mr. MADISON, seconded by Mr. JONES,
“That the secretary of foreign affairs be authorized to communicate to foreign ministers, who may reside near Congress, all such articles of intelligence received by Congress as he shall judge fit; and that he have like authority with respect to acts and resolutions passed by Congress; reporting, nevertheless, the communications which, in all such cases, he shall have made.”
It was objected, by some, that such a resolution was unnecessary, the secretary being already possessed of the authority; it was contended by others that he ought, previously to such communication, to report his intention to do so; others, again, were of opinion that it was unnecessary to report at all.
The motion was suggested by casual information from the secretary that he had not communicated to the French minister the reappointment of Mr. Jefferson, no act of Congress having empowered or instructed him to do so.
The motion was committed to Mr. Williamson, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Peters.
A considerable time previous to this date, a letter had been received by Congress from Mr. Henry Laurens, informing them of his discharge from captivity, and of his having authorized in the British ministry an expectation that Earl Cornwallis should in his turn be absolved from his parole. Shortly after, a letter from Dr. Franklin informed Congress that, at the pressing instance of Mr. Laurens, and in consideration of the offer of General Burgoyne for Mr. Laurens by Congress, as well as the apparent reasonableness of the thing, he had executed an instrument setting Cornwallis at liberty from his parole, until the pleasure of Congress should be known. These papers had been committed to Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Montgomery, and Mr. Madison, who reported in favor of the ratification of the measure, against the opinion, however, of Mr. Rutledge, the first member of the committee. The report, after some discussion, had been recommitted, and had lain in their hands until, being called for, it was thought proper by the committee to obtain the sense of Congress on the main question, whether the act should be ratified or annulled; in order that a report might be made correspondent thereto. With this view, a motion was this day made by Mr. MADISON, seconded by Mr. OSGOOD, that the committee be instructed to report a proper act for the ratification of the measure. In support of this motion, it was alleged that, whenever a public minister entered into engagements without authority from his sovereign, the alternative which presented itself was either to recall the minister, or to support his proceedings, or perhaps both; that Congress had, by their resolution of the 17th day of September, refused to accept the resignation of Mr. Laurens, and had insisted on his executing the office of a minister plenipotentiary; and that, on the 20th day of September, they had rejected a motion for suspending the said resolution; that they had no option, therefore, but to fulfil the engagement entered into on the part of that minister; that it would be in the highest degree preposterous to retain him in so dignified and confidential a service, and at the same time stigmatize him by a disavowal of his conduct, and thereby disqualify him for a proper execution of the service; that it was improper to send him into negotiations with the enemy, under an impression of supposed obligations; that this reasoning was in a great degree applicable to the part which Dr. Franklin had taken in the measure; that, finally, the Marquis de la Fayette, who, in consequence of the liberation of Cornwallis, had undertaken an exchange of several officers of his family, would also participate in the mortification; that it was overrating far the importance of Cornwallis, to sacrifice all these considerations to the policy or gratification of prolonging his captivity.
On the opposite side, it was said that the British government having treated Mr. Laurens as a traitor, not as a prisoner of war, having refused to exchange him for General Burgoyne, and having declared, by the British general at New York, that he had been freely discharged, neither Mr. Laurens nor Congress would be bound, either in honor or justice, to render an equivalent; and that policy absolutely required that so barbarous an instrument of war, and so odious an object to the people of the United States, should be kept as long as possible in the chains of captivity; that as the latest advices rendered it probable that Mr. Laurens was on his return to America, the commission for peace would not be affected by any mark of disapprobation which might fall on his conduct; that no injury could accrue to Dr. Franklin, because he had guarded his act by an express reservation for the confirmation or disallowance of Congress; that the case was the same with the Marquis de la Fayette; that the declaration against partial exchanges, until a cartel on national principles should be established, would not admit even an exchange antecedent thereto.
These considerations were, no doubt, with some, the sole motives for their respective votes. There were others, however, who at least blended with them, on one side, a personal attachment to Mr. Laurens, and on the other, a dislike to his character, and a jealousy excited by his supposed predilection for Great Britain, by his intimacy with some of the new ministry, by his frequent passing to and from Great Britain, and by his memorial, whilst in the Tower, to the Parliament. The last consideration was the chief ground on which the motion had been made for suspending the resolution which requested his continuance in the commission for peace.
In this stage of the business, a motion was made by Mr. DUANE, seconded by Mr. RUTLEDGE, to postpone the consideration of it; which being lost, a motion was made by Mr. WILLIAMSON to substitute a resolution declaring that, as the British government had treated Mr. Laurens with so unwarrantable a rigor, and even as a traitor, and Cornwallis had rendered himself so execrable by his barbarities, Congress could not ratify his exchange. An adjournment was called for, in order to prevent a vote with so thin and divided a house.2
No Congress till
A letter from the lieutenant-governor of Rhode Island was read, containing evidence that some of the leaders in Vermont, and particularly Luke Nolton, who had been deputed in the year 1780 to Congress, as agent for that party opposed to its independence, but who had since changed sides, had been intriguing with the enemy in New York. The letter was committed. (See November the 27th.)
The consideration of the motion for ratifying the discharge of Cornwallis was resumed. Mr. WILLIAMSON renewed his motion, which failed. Mr. M’KEAN suggested the expedient of ratifying the discharge, on condition that a general cartel should be acceded to. This was relished at first by several members, but a development of its inefficacy, and inconsistency with national dignity, stifled it.
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE, seconded by Mr. RAMSAY, that the discharge should be ratified in case Mr. Laurens should undertake the office of commissioner for peace. This proposition was generally considered as of a very extraordinary nature, and, after a brief discussion, withdrawn.
In the course of these several propositions, most of the arguments stated on Friday last were repeated. Colonel HAMILTON, who warmly and urgently espoused the ratification, as an additional argument, mentioned that some intimations had been given by Colonel Laurens, of the army, with the privity of General Washington, to Cornwallis, previous to his capitulation, that he might be exchanged for his father, then in the Tower.
The report of the committee, on Mr. MADISON’S motion, on the 21st instant, relative to the secretary of foreign affairs, passed without opposition.
No Congress, but a grand committee* composed of a member from each state.
The states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, having redeemed more than their quota of the emissions prior to the 18th of March, 1780, had called on Congress to be credited for the surplus, on which the superintendent of finance reported, that they ought to be credited at the rate of one dollar specie for forty of the said emission, according to the act of March aforesaid. This report, being judged by Congress unjust, as the money had been called in by those states at a greater depreciation, was disagreed to. Whereupon, a motion was made by Mr. OSGOOD, that the states who had redeemed a surplus, should be credited for the same according to its current value at the time of redemption.
This motion, with a letter afterwards received from the state of Massachusetts on the same subject, was referred to the grand committee in question.
The committee were unanimous that justice required an allowance to the states who should sink a surplus, to be apportioned on the different states. The different expedients were—
That Congress should renew their call on the states to execute the act of the 18th of March, 1780, and leave it to the states to levy the money by negotiations among themselves. This was Mr. HAMILTON’S idea. The objections against it were, that either nothing would be done in the case, or the deficient states would be at the mercy of the hoarding states; although the former were, perhaps, prevented from doing their part by invasions, and the prosperity of the latter enabled them to absorb an undue proportion.
By Mr. MADISON it was proposed that Congress should declare that, whenever it should appear that the whole of the bills emitted prior to the 18th of March, 1780, shall have been collected into the treasuries of the several states, Congress would proceed to give such credit for any surplus above the quotas assigned as equity might require, and debit the deficient states accordingly. In favor of this expedient, it was supposed that it would give a general encouragement to the states to draw the money outstanding among individuals into the public treasuries, and render a future equitable arrangement by Congress easy. The objections were, that it gave no satisfaction immediately to the complaining states, and would prolong the internal embarrassments which have hindered the states from a due compliance with the requisitions of Congress.
It was lastly proposed, by Mr. FITZSIMMONS, that the commissioners appointed to traverse the United States, for the purpose of settling accounts, should be empowered to take up all the outstanding old money, and issue certificates to be apportioned on the states as part of the public debt; the same rule to determine the credit for redemptions by the states. This proposition was, on the whole, generally thought by the committee least objectionable, and was referred to a sub-committee, composed of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Fitzsimmons, and Mr. Hamilton, to be matured and laid before the grand committee. One consideration suggested by Mr. HAMILTON in its favor was, that it would multiply the advocates for federal funds for discharging the public debts, and tend to cement the Union.3
The report of the committee on the letter from the lieutenant-governor of Rhode Island (see November 25) was made, and taken into consideration.
It was moved by Mr. M’KEAN, to insert, in the first clause on the journal, after directing the apprehension by General Washington, “in order that the persons may be brought to trial.” The reason urged for the motion was, that it might appear that the interposition was not meant to supersede civil process further than the necessity of the case required. Against the motion it was urged, that it would lead to discussions extremely perplexing and dilatory, and that it would be more proper after the apprehension should have taken place. The motion was lost, six states only being for it. (See p. 31.)
With respect to the main question, it was agreed on all sides, that it was indispensable to the safety of the United States that a traitorous intercourse between the inhabitants of Vermont and the enemy should be suppressed. There were, however, two modes proposed for the purpose, viz.: the direct and immediate interposition of the military force, according to the report; and, secondly, a reference in the first instance to the acting authority in Vermont, to be followed, in case of refusal or neglect of justice on the offenders, by an exertion of compulsive measures against the whole body.
In favor of the first mode it was said, that it would be the only effectual one, and the only one consistent with the part Congress had observed with regard to Vermont; since a reference to the authority of Vermont, which had itself been suspected and accused, would certainly be followed at the best by a mere mock trial; and would, moreover, be a stronger recognition of its independence than Congress had made or meant to make.
In favor of the second mode it was alleged, that the body of the people in Vermont were well attached to the revolution; that a sudden march of military force into the country might alarm them; that if their rulers abetted the traitors, it would disgrace them in the eyes of their own people, and that Congress would be justified, in that event, to “split Vermont up among the other states.” This expression, as well as the arguments on this side, in general, came from Mr. HOWELL, of Rhode Island, whose object was to render the proceedings of Congress as favorable as possible to the independence of Vermont.
In order to compromise the matter, Mr. ARNOLD moved that the commander-in-chief should be directed to make a previous communication of his intentions, and the evidence on which they were founded, to the persons exercising authority within the district in question.
It was suggested by Mr. MADISON, as a better expedient, that he should be authorized to make the communication, if he should deem it conducive to the more certain apprehension of the suspected persons.
The delegates from New York said they would agree, that, after the apprehension should have been effected, the commander might give notice thereof to the persons exercising authority in Vermont.
It was finally compromised as it stands on the Journal.
In the course of the debate, Mr. CLARK informed Congress that the delegates of New Jersey could not vote for any act which might oppose force to the authority of Vermont, the legislature of that state having so construed the resolutions of the 7th and 20th of August as to be incompatible therewith, and accordingly instructed their delegates.
The communication directed to the states on this occasion, through the commander-in-chief, was objected to by several members as an improper innovation. The object of it was to prevent the risk of discovery, if sent before the plans which might be taken by General Washington were sufficiently advanced, of which he was the proper judge.4
[Mr. Livingston, secretary of foreign affairs, called upon me, and mentioned his intention to resign in a short time his office; observing, that as he ultimately was decided to prefer his place of chancellor in New York to the other, and the two had become incompatible by the increase of business in the former, he thought it expedient not to return to Philadelphia, after a visit to New York, which was required by this increase. In the course of conversation, he took notice that the expense of his appointment under Congress had exceeded his salary about three thousand dollars per annum. He asked me whether it was probable Mr. Jefferson would accept the vacancy, or whether he would accept Mr. Jay’s place in Spain, and leave the vacancy to the latter. I told him, I thought Mr. Jefferson would not accept it himself, and doubted whether he would concur in the latter arrangement; as well as whether Congress would be willing to part with Mr. Jay’s services in the negotiations of peace; but promised to sound Mr. Jefferson on these points by the first opportunity.]
No Congress until
The secretary of foreign affairs resigned his office, assigning as a reason the increase of business in his office of chancellor of New York, whereby it was become impossible for him to execute the duties of both; informing Congress, at the same time, as a rule for providing for his successor, that his expenses exceeded his salary upwards of three thousand dollars per annum. The letter of resignation was committed to Mr. M’Kean and Mr. Osgood.
After a verbal report of the committee above mentioned, who acquainted Congress that, in conference with Mr. Livingston, he professed a willingness to remain in office till the 1st of January, to give time for the choice of a successor, Mr. M’KEAN proposed the resolution which stands on the secret Journals; several alterations having been made, however, in the course of its consideration. With respect to the preamble, particularly, a change took place. As it was first moved, it recited, as the ground of the resignation, the incompatibility of the office of foreign affairs with the chancellorship of New York. To this recital it was objected, by Mr. MADISON, that such a publication of preference of the office of chancellor of a particular state to the office of foreign affairs under the United States, tended to degrade the latter. Whereupon, the preamble on the Journal was substituted. In the course of this business, the expediency of augmenting the salary was suggested, but not much supported. Mr. HOWELL and Mr. CLARK opposed it strenuously.
The report of the committee on the case of Vermont, mentioned on Thursday, the 14th of November, was called for by Mr. M’KEAN, and postponed, on his motion, to make way for a set of resolutions, declaring that, as Vermont, in contempt of the authority of Congress and their recommendations of 1799, exercised jurisdiction over sundry persons professing allegiance to the state of New York, banishing them and stripping them of their possessions, the former be required to make restitution, &c.; and that, in case of refusal or neglect, Congress will enforce the same, &c. A motion was made by Mr. CLARK, seconded by Mr. HOWELL, to strike out the latter clause; in favor of which it was said, that such a menace ought to be suspended until Vermont should refuse to comply with the requisition; especially, said Mr. Howell, as the present proceeding, being at the instance of Phelps and other exiles, was an ex parte one.
Against the motion for expunging the clause, it was observed, that a requisition on Vermont without such a menace would have no effect; that if Congress interposed, they ought to do it with a decisive tone; that as it only enforced restitution in cases where spoliations had been committed, and therefore was conditional, the circumstance of its being ex parte was of no weight, especially as Congress could not call on Vermont to appear as a party after her repeated protestations against appearing.
On this occasion, Mr. CARROLL informed Congress, that he had entirely changed his opinion with regard to the policy requisite with regard to Vermont, being thoroughly persuaded that its leaders were perfidious men, and that the interest of the United States required their pretensions to be discountenanced; that in this opinion he was not a little confirmed by a late conversation with General Whipple, of New Hampshire, at Trenton, in which this gentleman assured him, that the governing party in Vermont were perfidiously devoted to the British interests, and that he had reason to believe that a British commission for a governor of that district had come over, and was ready to be produced at a convenient season. Some of the members having gone out of Congress, and it being uncertain whether there would be more than six states for the clause, an adjournment was moved for and voted.
The proceedings on this subject evinced still more the conciliating effect of the territorial cession of New York, on several states, and the effect of the scheme of an ultra-montane state, within Pennsylvania, on the latter state. The only states in Congress which stood by Vermont were Rhode Island (which is supposed to be interested in lands in Vermont) and New Jersey, whose delegates were under instructions on the subject.5
After the passing of the resolution concerning Captain Paul Jones, a motion was made by Mr. MADISON to reconsider the same, that it might be referred to the agent of marine to take order, as a better mode of answering the same purpose; since it did not become the sovereign body to give public sanction to a recommendation of Captain Jones to the commander of the French squadron, especially as there was no written evidence that the latter had signified a disposition to concur in the project of Captain Jones. The motion was lost; a few states only being in favor of it.
The reason assigned by those who voted against the promotion of colonels to brigadiers, according to districts, was, that such a division of the United States tends to foster local ideas, and might lead to a dismemberment.
The delegates from Pennsylvania reminded Congress that no answer had been given to the memorials (see November 20) from that state; that the legislature were proceeding in the measure intimated in the said memorials, and that they meant to finish it and adjourn this evening. The reasons mentioned by the delegates as prevailing with the legislature, were—first, the delay of Congress to give an answer, which was deemed disrespectful; secondly, the little chance of any funds being provided by Congress for their internal debts; thirdly, the assurance (given by one of their members, Mr. Joseph Montgomery, mentioned privately, not on the floor) that no impediment to the support of the war could arise from it, since Congress had provided means for that purpose in Europe.
A committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Hamilton, was appointed to confer immediately with a committee from the legislature on the subject of the memorials, and was instructed to make such communications, relative to our affairs abroad, as would correct misinformations. The committee which met them, on the part of the legislature, were Mr. Joseph Montgomery, Mr. Hill, and Mr. Jacob Rush.
The committee of Congress in the conference observed, that the delay of an answer had proceeded in part from the nature of so large an assembly, of which the committee of the legislature could not be insensible; but principally from the difficulty of giving a satisfactory one until Rhode Island should accede to the impost of five per cent., of which they had been in constant expectation; that, with respect to the prospect from Congress for the public creditors, Congress had required of the states interest for the ensuing year, had accepted the territorial cession of New York, and meant still to pursue the scheme of the impost; that as to their affairs in Europe, the loan of six millions of livres only last year had been procured from France by Dr. Franklin, in place of twelve asked by him, the whole of which had been applied; that the loan of five millions of guilders, opened by Mr. Adams, had advanced to about one and a half million only, and there seemed little progress to have been made of late; that the application for four millions, as part of the estimate for the ensuing year, was not founded on any previous information in its favor, but against every intimation on the subject, and was dictated entirely by our necessities; so that, if even no part of the requisitions from the states should be denied or diverted, the support of the war, the primary object, might be but deficiently provided for; that if this example, which violated the right of appropriation delegated to Congress by the Federal Articles, should be set by Pennsylvania, it would be both followed by other states, and extended to other instances; that, in consequence, our system of administration, and even our bond of union, would be dissolved; that the enemy would take courage from such a prospect, and the war be prolonged, if not the object of it be endangered; that our national credit would fail with other powers, and the loans from abroad, which had been our chief resource, fail with it; that an assumption, by individual states, of the prerogative of paying their own citizens the debts of the United States, out of the money required by the latter, was not only a breach of the federal system, but of the faith pledged to the public creditors, since payment was mutually guarantied to each and all of the creditors by each and all of the states; and that, lastly, it was unjust with respect to the states themselves, on whom the burden would fall, not in proportion to their respective abilities, but to the debts due to their respective citizens; and that at least it deserved the consideration of Pennsylvania whether she would not be loser by such an arrangement.
On the side of the other committee it was answered, that the measure could not violate the confederation, because the requisition had not been founded on a valuation of land; that it would not be the first example, New Hampshire and New York having appropriated money raised under requisitions of Congress; that if the other states did their duty in complying with the demands of Congress, no inconvenience would arise from it; that the discontents of the creditors would prevent the payment of taxes; Mr. Hill finally asking whether it had been considered in Congress, how far delinquent states could be eventually coerced to do justice to those who performed their part? To all which it was replied, that a valuation of land had been manifestly impossible during the war; that the apportionments made had been acquiesced in by Pennsylvania, and therefore the appropriation could not be objected to; that, although other states might have set previous examples, these had never come before Congress; and it would be more honorable for Pennsylvania to counteract than to abet them, especially as the example from her weight in the Union, and the residence of Congress, would be so powerful, that if other states did their duty the measure would be superfluous; that the discontents of the creditors might always be answered by the equal justice and more pressing necessity which pleaded in favor of the army, who had lent their blood and services to their country, and on whom its defence still rested; that Congress, unwilling to presume a refusal in any of the states to do justice, would not anticipate it by a consideration of the steps which such refusal might require, and that ruin must ensue, if the states suffered their policy to be swayed by such distrusts. The committee appeared to be considerably impressed with these remarks, and the legislature suspended their plan.6
Mr. Lowell and Mr. Read were elected judges of the Court of Appeals. Mr. P. Smith, of New Jersey, had the vote of that state, and Mr. Merchant, of Rhode Island, the vote of that state.
The resolutions respecting Vermont, moved by Mr. M’KEAN on the 27th day of November, were taken into consideration. They were seconded by Mr. HAMILTON, as entered on the Journal of this day. Previous to the question on the coercive clause, Mr. MADISON observed, that, as the preceding clause was involved in it, and the Federal Articles did not delegate to Congress the authority about to be enforced, it would be proper, in the first place, to amend the recital in the previous clause by inserting the ground on which the authority of Congress had been interposed. Some, who voted against this motion in this stage, having done so from a doubt as to the point of order, it was revived in a subsequent stage, when that objection did not lie. The objections to the motion itself were urged chiefly by the delegates from Rhode Island, and with a view, in this, as in all other instances, to perplex and protract the business. The objections were—first, that the proposed insertion was not warranted by the act of New Hampshire, which submitted to the judgment of Congress merely the question of jurisdiction; secondly, that the resolutions of August, 1781, concerning Vermont, having been acceded to by Vermont, annulled all antecedent acts founded on the doubtfulness of its claim to independence. In answer to the first objection, the act of New Hampshire was read, which, in the utmost latitude, adopted the resolutions of Congress, which extended expressly to the preservation of peace and order, and prevention of acts of confiscation by one party against another. To the second objection it was answered—first, that the said resolutions of August being conditional, not absolute, the cession of Vermont could not render them definitive; but, secondly, that prior to this accession, Vermont having, in due form, rejected the resolutions, and notified the rejection to Congress, the accession could be of no avail, unless subsequently admitted by Congress; thirdly, that this doctrine had been maintained by Vermont itself, which had declared that, inasmuch as the resolutions of August did not correspond with their overtures previously made to Congress, these had ceased to be obligatory; which act, it was to be observed, was merely declaratory, not creative, of the annulment.
The original motion of Mr. M’KEAN and Mr. HAMILTON was agreed to, seven states voting for it, Rhode Island and New Jersey in the negative.
An ordinance, extending the privilege of franking letters to the heads of all the departments, was reported and taken up. Various ideas were thrown out on the subject at large; some contending for the extension proposed; some for a total abolition of the privilege, as well in members of Congress as in others; some for a limitation of the privilege to a definite number or weight of letters. Those who contended for a total abolition, represented the privilege as productive of abuses, as reducing the profits so low as to prevent the extension of the establishment throughout the United States, and as throwing the whole burden of the establishment on the mercantile intercourse. On the other side it was contended, that, in case of an abolition, the delegates, or their constituents, would be taxed just in proportion to their distance from the seat of Congress; which was neither just nor politic, considering the many other disadvantages which were inseparable from that distance; that as the correspondence of the delegates was the principal channel through which a general knowledge of public affairs was diffused, any abridgment of it would so far confine this advantage to the states within the neighborhood of Congress; and that, as the correspondence at present, however voluminous, did not exclude from the mail any private letters which would be subject to postage, and if postage was extended to letters now franked, the number and size of them would be essentially reduced, the revenue was not affected in the manner represented. The ordinance was disagreed to, and the subject recommitted, with instruction to the committee, giving them ample latitude for such report, as they should think fit.
A Boston newspaper, containing, under the Providence head, an extract of a letter purporting to be written by a gentleman in Philadelphia, and misrepresenting the state of our loans, as well as betraying the secret proposal of the Swedish court to enter into a treaty with the United States, with the view of disproving to the people of Rhode Island the necessity of the impost of five per cent., had been handed about for several days. From the style and other circumstances, it carried strongly the appearance of being written by a member of Congress. The unanimous suspicions were fixed on Mr. Howell. The mischievous tendency of such publications and the necessity of the interposition of Congress, were also general subjects of conversation. It was imagined, too, that a detection of the person suspected would destroy in his state that influence which he exerted in misleading its counsels with respect to the impost. These circumstances led Mr. WILLIAMSON to move the following proposition on this subject:
“Whereas there is reason to suspect, that as well the national character of the United States, and the honor of Congress, as the finances of the said states, may be injured, and the public service greatly retarded, by some publications that have been made concerning the foreign affairs of said states,—Resolved, That a committee be appointed to inquire into this subject, and report what steps they conceive are necessary to be taken thereon.”
It was opposed by no one.
Mr. CLARK, supposing it to be levelled in part at him, rose and informed Congress, that, not considering the article relative to Sweden as secret in its nature, and considering himself at liberty to make any communications to his constituents, he had disclosed it to the assembly of New Jersey. He was told that the motion was not aimed at him, but the doctrine advanced by him was utterly inadmissible. Mr. RUTLEDGE observed, that, after this frankness on the part of Mr. Clark, as well as from the respect due from every member to Congress, and to himself, it might be concluded, that, if no member present should own the letter in question, no member present was the author of it. Mr. Howell was evidently perturbated, but remained silent.
The conference with the committee of the legislature of Pennsylvania, with subsequent information, had rendered it very evident that, unless some effectual measures were taken against separate appropriations, and in favor of the public creditors, the legislature of that state, at its next meeting, would resume the plan which they had suspended.
Mr. RUTLEDGE, in pursuance of this conviction, moved that the superintendent of finance be instructed to represent to the several states the mischiefs which such appropriations would produce. It was observed, with respect to this motion, that, however proper it might be as one expedient, it was, of itself, inadequate; that nothing but a permanent fund for discharging the debts of the public would divert the states from making provision for their own citizens; that a renewal of the call on Rhode Island for the impost ought to accompany the motion; that such a combination of these plans would mutually give efficacy to them, since Rhode Island would be solicitous to prevent separate appropriations, and the other states would be soothed with the hope of the impost. These observations gave rise to the motion of Mr. HAMILTON,—
“That the superintendent of finance be, and he is hereby, directed to represent to the legislatures of the several states the indispensable necessity for their complying with the requisitions of Congress for raising one million two hundred thousand dollars, for paying one year’s interest of the domestic debt of the United States, and two millions of dollars towards defraying the expenses of the estimate for the ensuing year, and the inconveniences, embarrassments, and injuries to the public service, which will arise from the states’ individually making appropriations of any part of the said two millions of dollars, or any other moneys required by the United States in Congress assembled; assuring them withal, that Congress are determined to make the fullest justice to the public creditors an invariable object of their counsels and exertions; that a deputation be sent to the state of Rhode Island, for the purpose of making a full and just representation of the public affairs of the United States, and of urging the absolute necessity of a compliance with the resolution of Congress of the 3d day of February, 1781, respecting the duty on imports and prizes, as a measure essential to the safety and reputation of these states.”
Against Mr. Rutledge’s part of the motion no objection was made; but the sending a deputation to Rhode Island was a subject of considerable debate, in which the necessity of the impost—in order to prevent separate appropriations by the states, to do equal justice to the public creditors, to maintain our national character and credit abroad, to obtain the loans essential for supplying the deficiencies of revenue, to prevent the encouragement which a failure of the scheme would give the enemy to persevere in the war—was fully set forth. The objections, except those which came against the scheme itself from the delegates of Rhode Island, were drawn from the unreasonableness of the proposition. Congress ought, it was said, to wait for an official answer to their demand of an explicit answer from Rhode Island, before they could, with propriety, repeat their exhortations. To which it was replied, that, although this objection might have some weight, yet the urgency of our situation, and the chance of giving a favorable turn to the negotiations on foot for peace, rendered it of little comparative significance. The objections were finally retracted, and both the propositions agreed to. The deputation elected were Mr. Osgood, Mr. Mifflin, and Mr. Nash, taken from different parts of the United States, and each from states that had fully adopted the impost, and would be represented without them, except Mr. Osgood, whose state, he being alone, was not represented without him.
The grand committee met again on the business of the old paper emissions, and agreed to the plan reported by the sub-committee in pursuance of Mr. FITZSIMMONS’S motion, viz., that the outstanding bills should be taken up, and certificates issued in place thereof at the rate of one real dollar for—nominal ones, and that the surpluses redeemed by particular states should be credited to them at the same rate. Mr. CARROLL alone dissented to the plan, alleging that a law of Maryland was adverse to it, which he considered as equipollent to an instruction. For filling up the blank, several rates were proposed. First, one for forty—on which the votes were, no, except Mr. Howell. Second, one for seventy-five—no; Mr. White and Mr. Howell, ay. Third, one for one hundred—no; Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Fitzsimmons, ay. Fourth, one for one hundred and fifty—no; Mr. Fitzsimmons, ay. The reasons urged in favor of one for forty were—first, an adherence to public faith; secondly, that the depreciation of the certificates would reduce the rate sufficiently low, they being now negotiated at the rate of three or four for one. The reason for one for seventy-five was—that the bills passed at that rate when they were called in, in the Eastern States; for one for one hundred—that, as popular ideas were opposed to the stipulated rate, and as adopting the current rate might hurt the credit of other securities, which derived their value from an opinion that they would be strictly redeemed, it was best to take an arbitrary rate, leaning to the side of liberality; for one for one hundred and fifty—that this was the medium depreciation when the circulation ceased. The opposition to these several rates came from the southern delegates, in some of whose states none, in others but little, had been redeemed, and in all of which the depreciation had been much greater. On this side it was observed, by Mr. MADISON, that the states which had redeemed a surplus, or even their quotas, had not done it within the period fixed by Congress, but in the last stages of depreciation, and in a great degree even after the money had ceased to circulate; that, since the supposed cessation, the money had generally changed hands at a value far below any rate that had been named; that the principle established by the plan of the 18th of March, 1780, with respect to the money in question, was, that the holder of it should receive the value at which it was current, and at which it was presumed he had received it; that a different rule, adopted with regard to the same money in different stages of its downfall, would give general dissatisfaction. The committee adjourned without coming to any decision.
A motion was made by Mr. RAMSAY, directing the secretary of war, who was about to visit his family in Massachusetts, to take Vermont in his way, and deliver the resolutions passed a few days since to Mr. Chittenden. For the motion, it was urged that it would insure the delivery, would have a conciliating effect, and would be the means of obtaining true and certain knowledge of the disposition and views of that people. On the opposite side, it was exclaimed against as a degradation of so high a servant of the United States, as exposing him to the temerity of leaders who were, on good ground, suspected of being hostile to the United States, and as treating their pretensions to sovereignty with greater complaisance than was consistent with the eventual resolutions of Congress. The motion was rejected.
A motion was made by Mr. GILMAN, that a day be assigned for determining finally the affair of Vermont. The opposition made to the motion itself by Rhode Island, and the disagreement as to the day among the friends of the motion, prevented a decision, and it was suffered to lie over.
For the letter of the superintendent of finance to Thomas Barclay, commissioner for settling accounts in Europe, agreed to by Congress, see Secret Journal of this date.
The secretary of war was authorized to permit the British prisoners to hire themselves out, on condition of a bond from the hirers for their return. The measure was not opposed, but was acquiesced in, by some, only as conformable to antecedent principles established by Congress on this subject. Colonel Hamilton, in particular, made this explanation.
Mr. WILSON made a motion, referring the transmission of the resolutions concerning Vermont to the secretary of war in such words as left him an option of being the bearer, without the avowed sanction of Congress. The votes of Virginia and New York negatived it. The president informed Congress, that he should send the resolutions to the commander-in-chief to be forwarded.
The report made by Mr. Williamson, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Madison, touching the publication in the Boston paper, supposed to be written by Mr. Howell, passed with the concurrence of Rhode Island; Mr. Howell hesitating, and finally beckoning to his colleague, Mr. Collins, who answered for the state in the affirmative. As the report stood, the executive of Massachusetts, as well as of Rhode Island, was to be written to, the Gazette being printed at Boston. On the motion of Mr. OSGOOD, who had seen the original publication in the Providence Gazette, and apprehended a constructive imputation on the Massachusetts delegates by such as would be ignorant of the circumstances, the executive of Massachusetts was expunged.
Mr. HOWELL verbally acknowledged himself to be the writer of the letter from which the extract was published in the Providence Gazette. At his instance, the subject was postponed until Monday.
The answer to the objections of Rhode Island as to the impost, penned by Mr. Howell, passed without opposition, eight states being present, of which Rhode Island was one, a few trivial alterations only being made in the course of discussion.
Mr. Howell, contrary to expectation, was entirely silent as to his affair.
Mr. CARROLL, in order to bring on the affair of Mr. Howell, moved that the secretary of foreign affairs be instructed not to write to the government of Rhode Island on the subject. The state in which such a vote would leave the business, unless the reason of it was expressed, being not adverted to by some, and others being unwilling to move in the case, this motion was incautiously suffered to pass. The effect of it, however, was soon observed, and a motion in consequence made by Mr. HAMILTON, to subjoin the words, “Mr. Howell having in his place confessed himself to be the author of the publication.” Mr. RAMSAY, thinking such a stigma on Mr. Howell unnecessary, and tending to place him in the light of a persecuted man, whereby his opposition to the impost might have more weight in his state, proposed to substitute, as the reason, “Congress having received the information desired on that subject.” The yeas and nays being called for by Mr. HAMILTON, Mr. Howell grew very uneasy at the prospect of his name being thereby brought on the Journals, and requested that the subject might be suspended until the day following. This was agreed to, and took place on condition that the negatived counter-direction to the secretary of foreign affairs should be reconsidered, and lie over also.
This day was chiefly spent on the case of Mr. Howell, whose behavior was extremely offensive, and led to a determined opposition to him those who were most inclined to spare his reputation. If the affair could have been closed without an insertion of his name on the Journal, he seemed willing to withdraw his protest; but the impropriety which appeared to some, and particularly to Mr. Hamilton, in suppressing the name of the author of a piece which Congress had so emphatically reprobated, when the author was found to be a member of Congress, prevented a relaxation as to the yeas and nays. Mr. HOWELL, therefore, as his name was necessarily to appear on the Journal, adhered to the motion which inserted his protest thereon. (See the Journal.) The indecency of this paper, and the pertinacity of Mr. Howell in adhering to his assertions with respect to the non-failure of any application for foreign loans, excited great and (excepting his colleagues, or rather Mr. Arnold) universal indignation and astonishment in Congress; and he was repeatedly premonished of the certain ruin in which he would thereby involve his character and consequence, and of the necessity which Congress would be laid under of vindicating themselves by some act which would expose and condemn him to all the world.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON for revising the requisitions of the preceding and present years, in order to reduce them more within the faculties of the states. In support of the motion, it was urged that the exorbitancy of the demands produced a despair of fulfilling them, which benumbed the efforts for that purpose. On the other side, it was alleged that a relaxation of the demand would be followed by a relaxation of the efforts; that unless other resources were substituted, either the states would be deluded, by such a measure, into false expectations, or, in case the truth should be disclosed to prevent that effect, that the enemy would be encouraged to persevere in the war against us. The motion meeting with little patronage, it was withdrawn.
The report of the committee on the motion of Mr. Hamilton proposed that the secretary of Congress should transmit to the executive of Rhode Island the several acts of Congress, with a state of foreign loans. The object of the committee was, that, in case Rhode Island should abet, or not resent, the misconduct of their representative, as would most likely be the event, Congress should commit themselves as little as possible in the mode of referring it to that state. When the report came under consideration, it was observed that the president had always transmitted acts of Congress to the executives of the states, and that such a change, on the present occasion, might afford a pretext, if not excite a disposition, in Rhode Island not to vindicate the honor of Congress. The matter was compromised by substituting the “secretary of foreign affairs, who, ex officio, corresponds with the governors, &c., within whose department the facts to be transmitted, as to foreign loans, lay.” No motion or vote opposed the report as it passed.7
The committee to confer with Mr. Livingston was appointed the preceding day, in consequence of the unwillingness of several states to elect either General Schuyler, Mr. Clymer, or Mr. Read, the gentlemen previously put into nomination, and of a hint that Mr. Livingston might be prevailed on to serve till the spring. The committee found him in this disposition, and their report was agreed to without opposition. See the Journal.
The motion to strike out the words “accruing to the United States” was grounded on a denial of the principle that a capture and possession, by the enemy, of movable property extinguished or affected the title of the owners. On the other side, this principle was asserted as laid down by the best writers, and conformable to the practice of all nations; to which was added, that, if a contrary doctrine were established by Congress, innumerable claims would be brought forward by those whose property had, on recapture, been applied to the public use. See Journal.
Letters were this day received from Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, and the Marquis de la Fayette. They were dated the 14th of October. That from the first enclosed a copy of the second commission to Mr. Oswald, with sundry preliminary articles, and distrusted the British court. That from the second expressed great jealousy of the French government, and referred to an intercepted letter from Mr. Marbois, opposing the claim of the United States to the fisheries. This despatch produced much indignation against the author of the intercepted letter, and visible emotions in some against France. It was remarked here that our ministers took no notice of the distinct commissions to Fitzherbert and Oswald; that although, on a supposed intimacy, and joined in the same commission, they, the ministers, wrote separately, and breathed opposite sentiments as to the views of France. Mr. Livingston told me that the letter of the Count de Vergennes, as read to him by the Chevalier Luzerne, very delicately mentioned and complained that the American ministers did not, in the negotiations with the British ministers, maintain the due communication with those of France. Mr. Livingston inferred, on the whole, that France was sincerely anxious for peace.
The President acquainted Congress that Count Rochambeau had communicated the intended embarkation of the French troops for the West Indies, with an assurance from the king of France that, in case the war should be renewed, they should immediately be sent back.
The letter from Mr. Jay, enclosing a copy of the intercepted letter from Marbois, was laid before Congress. The tenor of it, with the comments of Mr. Jay, affected deeply the sentiments of Congress with regard to France. The policy, in particular, manifested by France, of keeping us tractable by leaving the British in possession of posts in this country, awakened strong jealousies, corroborated the charges on that subject, and, with concomitant circumstances, may engender the opposite extreme of the gratitude and cordiality now felt towards France; as the closest friends, in a rupture, are apt to become the bitterest foes. Much will depend, however, on the course pursued by Britain. The liberal one Oswald seems to be pursuing will much promote an alienation of temper in America from France. It is not improbable that the intercepted letter from Marbois came through Oswald’s hands. If Great Britain, therefore, yields the fisheries and the back territory, America will feel the obligation to her, not to France, who appears to be illiberal as to the first, and favorable to Spain as to the second object, and, consequently, has forfeited the confidence of the states interested in either of them. Candor will suggest, however, that the situation of France is and has been extremely perplexing. The object of her blood and money was not only the independence, but the commerce and gratitude, of America; the commerce to render independence the more useful, the gratitude to render that commerce the more permanent. It was necessary, therefore, she supposed, that America should be exposed to the cruelties of her enemies, and be made sensible of her own weakness, in order to be grateful to the hand that relieved her. This policy, if discovered, tended, on the other hand, to spoil the whole. Experience shows that her truest policy would have been to relieve America by the most direct and generous means, and to have mingled with them no artifice whatever. With respect to Spain, also, the situation of France has been as peculiarly delicate. The claims and views of Spain and America interfere. The former attempts of Britain to seduce Spain to a separate peace, and the ties of France with the latter, whom she had drawn into the war, required her to favor Spain, at least to a certain degree, at the expense of America. Of this Great Britain is taking advantage. If France adheres to Spain, Great Britain espouses the views of America, and endeavors to draw her off from France. If France adheres to America in her claims, Britain might espouse those of Spain, and produce a breach between her and France; and in either case Britain would divide her enemies. If France acts wisely, she will in this dilemma prefer the friendship of America to that of Spain. If America acts wisely, she will see that she is, with respect to her great interests, more in danger of being seduced by Britain than sacrificed by France.
The deputation to Rhode Island had set out on the 22d, and proceeded half-a-day’s journey. Mr. NASH casually mentioned a private letter from Mr. Pendleton to Mr. Madison, informing him that the legislature of Virginia had, in consequence of the final refusal of Rhode Island, repealed her law for the impost. As this circumstance, if true, destroyed, in the opinion of the deputies, the chief argument to be used by them, viz., the unanimity of the other states, they determined to return and wait for the southern post, to know the truth of it. The post failing to arrive on the 23d, the usual day, the deputies on this day came into Congress and stated the case. Mr. MADISON read to Congress the paragraph in the letter from Mr. Pendleton. Congress verbally resolved, that the departure of the deputies for Rhode Island should be suspended until the further order of Congress; Mr. Madison promising to give any information he might receive by the post. The arrival of the post immediately ensued. A letter to Mr. Madison from Mr. Randolph confirmed the fact, and was communicated to Congress. The most intelligent members were deeply affected and prognosticated a failure of the impost scheme, and the most pernicious effects to the character, the duration, and the interests, of the Confederacy. It was at length, notwithstanding, determined to persist in the attempt for permanent revenue, and a committee was appointed to report the steps proper to be taken.
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE to strike out the salvage for recaptures on land, on the same principle as he did the words “accruing to the United States.” As the latter had been retained by barely seven states, and one of these was not present, the motion of Mr. Rutledge succeeded. Some of those who were on the other side, in consequence, voted against the whole resolution, and it failed. By compromise, it passed as reported by the committee.
The grand committee reported, after another meeting, with respect to the old money, that it should be rated at forty for one. The chair decided, on a question raised, that, according to rule, the blank should not have been filled up by the committee; so the rate was expunged.
From Tuesday, the 24th of December, the Journals suffice until—
A motion was made by Mr. CLARK, seconded by Mr. RUTLEDGE, to revise the instructions relative to negotiations for peace, with a view to exempt the American plenipotentiaries from the obligation to conform to the advice of France. This motion was the effect of impressions left by Mr. Jay’s letters, and the intercepted one from Marbois. This evidence of separate views in our ally, and the inconsistency of that instruction with our national dignity, were urged in support of the motion. In opposing the motion, many considerations were suggested, and the original expediency of submitting the commission for peace to the counsels of France descanted upon. The reasons assigned for this expediency were, that at the juncture when that measure took place, the American affairs were in the most deplorable situation, the Southern States being overrun and exhausted by the enemy, and the others more inclined to repose after their own fatigues than to exert their resources for the relief of those which were the seat of the war; that the old paper currency had failed, and with it public credit itself, to such a degree that no new currency could be substituted; and that there was then no prospect of introducing specie for the purpose, our trade being in the most ruinous condition, and the intercourse with the Havana in particular unopened. In the midst of these distresses, the mediation of the two imperial courts was announced. The general idea was, that the two most respectable powers of Europe would not interpose without a serious desire of peace, and without the energy requisite to effect it. The hope of peace was, therefore, mingled with an apprehension that considerable concessions might be exacted from America by the mediators, as a compensation for the essential one which Great Britain was to submit to. Congress, on a trial, found it impossible, from the diversity of opinions and interests, to define any other claims than those of independence and the alliance. A discretionary power, therefore, was to be delegated with regard to all other claims. Mr. Adams was the sole minister for peace; he was personally at variance with the French ministry; his judgment had not the confidence of some, nor his partiality, in case of an interference of claims espoused by different quarters of the United States, the confidence of others. A motion to associate with him two colleagues, to wit, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Jay, had been disagreed to by Congress; the former of these being interested as one of the land companies in territorial claims, which had less chance of being made good in any other way than by a repossession of the vacant country by the British crown; the latter belonging to a state interested in such arrangements as would deprive the United States of the navigation of the Mississippi, and turn the western trade through New York; and neither of them being connected with the Southern States. The idea of having five ministers taken from the whole Union was not suggested until the measure had been adopted, and communicated to the Chevalier de Luzerne to be forwarded to France, when it was too late to revoke it. It was supposed also that Mr. Laurens, then in the Tower, would not be out, and that Mr. Jefferson would not go; and that the greater the number of ministers, the greater the danger of discords and indiscretions. It was added that, as it was expected that nothing would be yielded by Great Britain which was not extorted by the address of France in managing the mediators, and as it was the intention of Congress that their minister should not oppose a peace recommended by them and approved by France, it was thought good policy to make the declaration to France, and by such a mark of confidence to render her friendship the more responsible for the issue. At the worst, it could only be considered as a sacrifice of our pride to our interest.
These considerations still justified the original measure in the view of the members who were present and voted for it. All the new members who had not participated in the impressions which dictated it, and viewed the subject only under circumstances of an opposite nature, disapproved it. In general, however, the latter joined with the former in opposing the motion of Mr. CLARK, arguing with them that, supposing the instruction to be wrong, it was less dishonorable than the instability that would be denoted by rescinding it; that if Great Britain was disposed to give us what we claimed, France could not prevent it; that if Great Britain struggled against those claims, our only chance of getting them was through the aid of France; that to withdraw our confidence would lessen the chance and degree of this aid; that if we were in a prosperous or safe condition, compared with that in which we adopted the expedient in question, this change had been effected by the friendly succors of our ally, and that to take advantage of it to loosen the tie would not only bring on us the reproach of ingratitude, but induce France to believe that she had no hold on our affections, but only in our necessities; that, in all possible situations, we should be more in danger of being seduced by Great Britain than of being sacrificed by France, the interests of the latter, in the main, necessarily coinciding with ours, and those of the former being diametrically opposed to them; that as to the intercepted letter, there were many reasons which indicated that it came through the hands of the enemy to Mr. Jay; that it ought, therefore, to be regarded, even if genuine, as communicated for insidious purposes, but that there was strong reason to suspect that it had been adulterated, if not forged; and that, on the worst supposition, it did not appear that the doctrines maintained, or the measures recommended in it, had been adopted by the French ministry, and consequently that they ought not to be held responsible for them.
Upon these considerations it was proposed by Mr. WOLCOTT, seconded by Mr. HAMILTON, that the motion of Mr. CLARK should be postponed, which took place without a vote.8
Mr. MADISON moved that the letter of Dr. Franklin, of the 14th of October, 1782, should be referred to a committee, with a view of bringing into consideration the preliminary article proposing that British subjects and American citizens should reciprocally have, in matters of commerce, the privilege of natives of the other party, and giving the American ministers the instruction which ensued on that subject. This motion succeeded, and the committee appointed consisted of Mr. Madison, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Clark, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Osgood.
The contract of General Wayne was confirmed with great reluctance, being considered as improper with respect to its being made with individuals, as admitting of infinite abuses, as out of his military line, and as founded on a principle that a present commerce with Great Britain was favorable to the United States—a principle reprobated by Congress and all the states. Congress, however, supposed that these considerations ought to yield to the necessity of supporting the measures which a valuable officer, from good motives, had taken upon himself.
The report of the committee made in consequence of Mr. Madison’s motion yesterday, instructing the ministers plenipotentiary on the article of commerce, passed unanimously, as follows:—
“Resolved, That the ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating peace be instructed, in any commercial stipulations with Great Britain which may be comprehended in a treaty of peace, to endeavor to obtain for the citizens and inhabitants of the United States a direct commerce to all parts of the British dominions and possessions, in like manner as all parts of the United States may be opened to a direct commerce of British subjects; or at least that such direct commerce be extended to all parts of the British dominions and possessions in Europe and the West Indies; and the said ministers are informed, that this stipulation will be particularly expected by Congress, in case the citizens and subjects of each party are to be admitted to an equality in matters of commerce with natives of the other party.”
Wednesday,January 1, 1783.
The decision of the controversy between Connecticut and Pennsylvania was reported.
The communications made from the minister of France concurred, with other circumstances, in effacing the impressions made by Mr. Jay’s letter and Marbois’s enclosed. The vote of thanks to Count Rochambeau passed with unanimity and cordiality, and afforded a fresh proof that the resentment against France had greatly subsided.
Nothing requiring notice.
The vote of thanks to the minister of France, which passed yesterday, was repealed in consequence of his having expressed to the president a desire that no notice might be taken of his conduct as to the point in question, and of the latter’s communicating the same to Congress. The temper of Congress here again manifested the transient nature of their irritation against France.
The motion of Mr. HOWELL, put on the Secret Journal, gave Congress a great deal of vexation. The expedient for baffling his scheme of raising a ferment in his state, and exposing the foreign transactions, was adopted only in the last resort; it being questioned by some whether the Articles of Confederation warranted it.
The answer to the note of the French minister passed unanimously, and was a further testimony of the abatement of the effects of Mr. Jay’s letter, &c.
The proceedings of the court in the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania were, after debates as to the meaning of the Confederation in directing such proceeding to be lodged among the acts of Congress, entered at large on the Journals. It was remarked, that the delegates from Connecticut, particularly Mr. Dyer, were more captious on the occasion than was consistent with a perfect acquiescence in the decree.
The memorial from the army was laid before Congress, and referred to a grand committee. This reference was intended as a mark of the important light in which the memorial was viewed.
Mr. Berkley having represented some inconveniences incident to the plan of a consular convention between France and the United States, particularly the restriction of consuls from trading, and his letter having been committed, a report was made proposing that the convention should for the present be suspended. To this it had been objected that, as the convention might already be concluded, such a step was improper; and as the end might be obtained by authorizing the minister at Versailles to propose particular alterations, that it was unnecessary. By Mr. MADISON it had been moved, that the report should be postponed, to make place for the consideration of an instruction and authority to the said minister for that purpose; and this motion had, in consequence, been brought before Congress. On this day the business revived. The sentiments of the members were various, some wishing to suspend such part of the convention only as excluded consuls from commerce; others thought this exclusion too important to be even suspended; others, again, thought the whole ought to be suspended during the war; and others, lastly, contended that the whole ought to be new modelled, the consuls having too many privileges in some respects, and too little power in others. It was observable that this diversity of opinions prevailed chiefly among the members who had come in since the convention had passed in Congress; the members originally present adhering to the views which then governed them. The subject was finally postponed; eight states only being represented, and nine being requisite for such a question. Even to have suspended the convention, after it had been proposed to the court of France, and possibly acceded to, would have been indecent and dishonorable, and, at a juncture when Great Britain was courting a commercial intimacy, to the probable uneasiness of France, of very mischievous tendency. But experience constantly teaches that new members of a public body do not feel the necessary respect or responsibility for the acts of their predecessors, and that a change of members and of circumstances often proves fatal to consistency and stability of public measures. Some conversation, in private, by the old members with the most judicious of the new, in this instance, has abated the fondness of the latter for innovations, and it is even problematical whether they will be again urged.
In the evening of this day the grand committee met, and agreed to meet again the succeeding evening, for the purpose of a conference with the superintendent of finance.
See the Journals.
In the evening, the grand committee had the assigned conference with Mr. Morris, who informed them explicitly that it was impossible to make any advance of pay, in the present state of the finances, to the army, and imprudent to give any assurances with respect to future pay, until certain funds should be previously established. He observed, that even if an advance could be made, it would be unhappy that it should appear to be the effect of demands from the army, as this precedent could not fail to inspire a distrust of the spontaneous justice of Congress, and to produce repetitions of the expedient. He said that he had taken some measures with a view to a payment for the army, which depended on events not within our command; that he had communicated these measures to General Washington under an injunction of secrecy; that he could not yet disclose them without endangering their success; that the situation of our affairs within his department was so alarming that he had thoughts of asking Congress to appoint a confidential committee to receive communications on that subject, and to sanctify, by their advice, such steps as ought to be taken. Much loose conversation passed on the critical state of things, the defect of a permanent revenue, and the consequences to be apprehended from a disappointment of the mission from the army; which ended in the appointment of Friday evening next for an audience to General M’Dougall, Colonel Brooks, and Colonel Ogden, the deputies on the subject of the memorial, the superintendent to be present.
Wednesday,January 8, Thursday,January 9, and Friday,January 10.
On the report* for valuing the land conformably to the rule laid down in the Federal Articles, the delegates from Connecticut contended for postponing the subject during the war, alleging the impediments arising from the possession of New York, &c., by the enemy, but apprehending, as was supposed, that the flourishing state of Connecticut, compared with the Southern States, would render a valuation, at this crisis, unfavorable to the former. Others, particularly Mr. HAMILTON and Mr. MADISON, were of opinion that the rule of the Confederation was a chimerical one, since, if the intervention of the individual states were employed, their interests would give a bias to their judgments, or that at least suspicions of such bias would prevail; and without their intervention, it could not be executed but at an expense, delay, and uncertainty, which were inadmissible; that it would perhaps be, therefore, preferable to represent these difficulties to the states, and recommend an exchange of this rule of dividing the public burdens for one more simple, easy, and equal. The delegates from South Carolina generally, and particularly Mr. RUTLEDGE, advocated the propriety of the constitutional rule, and of an adherence to it, and of the safety of the mode in question arising from the honor of the states. The debates on the subject were interrupted by a letter from the superintendent of finance, informing Congress that the situation of his department required that a committee should be appointed, with power to advise him on the steps proper to be taken; and suggesting an appointment of one, consisting of a member from each state, with authority to give their advice on the subject. This expedient was objected to as improper, since Congress would thereby delegate an incommunicable power, perhaps, and would, at any rate, lend a sanction to a measure without even knowing what it was, not to mention the distrust which it manifested of their own prudence and fidelity. It was, at length, proposed and agreed to, that a special committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Osgood, and Mr. Madison, should confer with the superintendent of finance on the subject of his letter, and make report to Congress. After the adjournment of Congress, this committee conferred with the superintendent; who, after being apprized of the difficulties which had arisen in Congress, stated to them that the last account of our money affairs in Europe showed that, contrary to his expectations and estimates, there were three and a half millions of livres short of the bills actually drawn; that further drafts were indispensable to prevent a stop to the public service; that, to make good this deficiency, there was only the further success of Mr. Adams’s loan, and the friendship of France, to depend on; that it was necessary for him to decide on the expediency of his staking the public credit on those contingent funds by further drafts; and that, in making this decision, he wished for the sanction of a committee of Congress; that this sanction was preferable to that of Congress itself only as it would confide the risk attending bills drawn on such funds to a smaller number, and as secrecy was essential in the operation, as well to guard our affairs in general from injury, as the credit of the bills in question from debasement. It was supposed, both by the superintendent and the committee, that there was, in fact, little danger of bills drawn on France, on the credit of the loan of four millions of dollars applied for, being dishonored; since, if the negotiations on foot were to terminate in peace, France would prefer an advance in our favor to exposing us to the necessity of resorting to Great Britain for it; and that if the war should continue, the necessity of such an aid to its prosecution would prevail. The result was, that the committee should make such report as would bring the matter before Congress under an injunction of secrecy, and produce a resolution authorizing the superintendent to draw bills, as the public service might require, on the credit of applications for loans in Europe. The report of the committee to this effect was, accordingly, the next day made and adopted unanimously. Mr. DYER alone at first opposed it, as an unwarrantable and dishonorable presumption on the ability and disposition of France. Being answered, however, that without such a step, or some other expedient, which neither he nor any other had suggested, our credit would be stabbed abroad, and the public service wrecked at home, and that, however mortifying it might be to commit our credit, our faith, and our honor, to the mercy of a foreign nation, it was a mortification which could not be avoided without endangering our very existence, he acquiesced, and the resolution was entered unanimously. The circumstance of unanimity was thought of consequence, as it would evince the more the necessity of the succor, and induce France the more readily to yield to it. On this occasion several members were struck with the impropriety of the late attempt to withdraw from France the trust confided to her over the terms of peace, when we were under the necessity of giving so decisive a proof of our dependence on her. It was also adverted to, in private conversation, as a great unhappiness, that, during negotiations for peace, when an appearance of vigor and resource were so desirable, such a proof of our poverty and imbecility could not be avoided.
The conduct of Mr. Howell, &c., had led several, and particularly Mr. PETERS, into an opinion that some further rule and security ought to be provided for concealing matters of a secret nature. On the motion of Mr. PETERS, a committee composed of himself, Mr. Williamson, &c., was appointed to make a report on the subject. On this day the report was made. It proposed that members of Congress should each subscribe an instrument pledging their faith and honor not to disclose certain enumerated matters.
The enumeration being very indistinct and objectionable, and a written engagement being held insufficient with those who without it would violate prudence or honor, as well as marking a general distrust of the prudence and honor of Congress, the report was generally disrelished; and, after some debate, in which it was faintly supported by Mr. WILLIAMSON, the committee asked and obtained leave to withdraw it.
A discussion of the report on the mode of valuing the lands was revived. It consisted chiefly of a repetition of the former debates.
In the evening, according to appointment on Tuesday last, the grand committee met, as did the superintendent of finance. The chairman, Mr. WOLCOTT, informed the committee that Colonels Ogden and Brooks, two of the deputies from the army, had given him notice that General M’Dougall, the first of the deputation, was so indisposed with the rheumatism as to be unable to attend, and expressed a desire that the committee would adjourn to his lodging at the Indian Queen Tavern, the deputies being very anxious to finish their business, among other reasons, on account of the scarcity of money with them. At first the committee seemed disposed to comply; but it being suggested, that such an adjournment by a committee of a member from each state would be derogatory from the respect due to themselves, especially as the mission from the army was not within the ordinary course of duty the idea was dropped. In lieu of it, they adjourned to Monday evening next, on the ostensible reason of the extreme badness of the weather, which had prevented the attendance of several members.
The report on the valuation of land was referred to a grand committee.
A motion was made by Mr. PETERS, seconded by Mr. MADISON, “that a committee be appointed to consider the expediency of making further applications for loans in Europe, and to confer with the superintendent of finance on the subject.” In support of this motion, Mr. PETERS observed that, notwithstanding the uncertainty of success, the risk of appearing unreasonable in our demands on France, and the general objections against indebting the United States to foreign nations, the crisis of our affairs demanded the experiment; that money must, if possible, be procured for the army, and there was ground to expect that the court of France would be influenced by an apprehension that, in case of her failure, and of a pacification, Great Britain might embrace the opportunity of substituting her favors. Mr. MADISON added, that it was expedient to make the trial, because, if it failed, our situation could not be made worse; that it would be prudent in France, and therefore it might be expected of her, to afford the United States such supplies as would enable them to disband their army in tranquillity, lest some internal convulsions might follow external peace, the issue of which ought not to be hazarded; that as the affections and gratitude of this country, as well as its separation from Great Britain, were her objects in the revolution, it would also be incumbent on her to let the army be disbanded under the impression of deriving their rewards through her friendship to their country; since their temper on their dispersion through the several states, and being mingled in the public councils, would much affect the general temper towards France; and that, if the pay of the army could be converted into a consolidated debt bearing interest, the requisitions on the states for the principal might be reduced to requisitions for the interest, and by that means a favorable revolution so far introduced into our finances.
The motion was opposed by Mr. DYER, because it was improper to augment our foreign debts, and would appear extravagant to France. Several others assented to it with reluctance, and several others expressed serious scruples, as honest men, against levying contributions on the friendship or fears of France or others, whilst the unwillingness of the states to invest Congress with permanent funds rendered a repayment so precarious. The motion was agreed to, and the committee chosen—Mr. Gorham, Mr. Peters, and Mr. Izard.
In the evening, according to appointment, the grand committee gave an audience to the deputies of the army, viz.: General M’Dougall and Colonels Ogden and Brooks. The first introduced the subject by acknowledging the attention manifested to the representations of the army by the appointment of so large a committee; his observations turned chiefly on the three chief topics of the memorial, namely, an immediate advance of pay, adequate provision for the residue, and half-pay. On the first, he insisted on the absolute necessity of the measure, to soothe the discontents both of the officers and soldiers; painted their sufferings and services, their successive hopes and disappointments throughout the whole war, in very high-colored expressions; and signified that, if a disappointment were now repeated, the most serious consequences were to be apprehended; that nothing less than the actual distresses of the army would have induced, at this crisis, so solemn an application to their country; but the seeming approach of peace, and the fear of being still more neglected when the necessity of their services should be over, strongly urged the necessity of it. His two colleagues followed him with a recital of various incidents and circumstances tending to evince the actual distresses of the army, the irritable state in which the deputies left them, and the necessity of the consoling influence of an immediate advance of pay. Colonel OGDEN said, he wished not, indeed, to return to the army, if he was to be the messenger of disappointment to them. The deputies were asked, first, what particular steps they supposed would be taken by the army in case no pay could be immediately advanced; to which they answered, that it was impossible to say precisely; that although the sergeants, and some of the most intelligent privates, had been often observed in sequestered consultations, yet it was not known that any premeditated plan had been formed; that there was sufficient reason to dread that at least a mutiny would ensue, and the rather as the temper of the officers, at least those of inferior grades, would with less vigor than heretofore struggle against it. They remarked, on this occasion, that the situation of the officers was rendered extremely delicate, and had been sorely felt, when called upon to punish in soldiers a breach of engagements to the public, which had been preceded by uniform and flagrant breaches by the latter of its engagements to the former. General M’DOUGALL said, that the army were verging to that state, which, we are told, will make a wise man mad; and Colonel BROOKS said, that his apprehensions were drawn from the circumstance that the temper of the army was such that they did not reason or deliberate coolly on consequences, and, therefore, a disappointment might throw them blindly into extremities. They observed, that the irritations of the army had resulted, in part, from the distinctions made between the civil and military lists, the former regularly receiving their salaries, and the latter as regularly left unpaid. They mentioned, in particular, that the members of the legislatures would never agree to an adjournment without paying themselves fully for their services. In answer to this remark it was observed, that the civil officers, on the average, did not derive from their appointments more than the means of their subsistence; and that the military, although not furnished with their pay properly so called, were in fact furnished with the same necessaries.
On the second point, to wit, “adequate provision for the general arrears due to them,” the deputies animadverted with surprise, and even indignation, on the repugnance of the states—some of them at least—to establish a federal revenue for discharging the federal engagements. They supposed that the ease, not to say affluence, with which the people at large lived, sufficiently indicated resources far beyond the actual exertions; and that if a proper application of these resources was omitted by the country, and the army thereby exposed to unnecessary sufferings, it must naturally be expected that the patience of the latter would have its limits. As the deputies were sensible that the general disposition of Congress strongly favored this object, they were less diffuse on it. General M’DOUGALL made a remark which may deserve the greater attention, as he stepped from the tenor of his discourse to introduce it, and delivered it with peculiar emphasis. He said that the most intelligent and considerate part of the army were deeply affected at the debility and defects in the federal government, and the unwillingness of the states to cement and invigorate it, as, in case of its dissolution, the benefits expected from the revolution would be greatly impaired; and as, in particular, the contests which might ensue among the states would be sure to embroil the officers which respectively belonged to them.
On the third point, to wit, “half-pay for life,” they expressed equal dissatisfaction at the states which opposed it, observing that it formed a part of the wages stipulated to them by Congress, and was but a reasonable provision for the remnant of their lives, which had been freely exposed in the defence of their country, and would be incompatible with a return to occupations and professions for which military habits, of seven years’ standing, unfitted them. They complained that this part of their reward had been industriously and artfully stigmatized in many states with the name of pension, although it was as reasonable that those who had lent their blood and services to the public should receive an annuity thereon, as those who had lent their money; and that the officers, whom new arrangements had, from time to time, excluded, actually labored under the opporbrium of pensioners, with the additional mortification of not receiving a shilling of the emoluments. They referred, however, to their memorial to show that they were authorized and ready to commute their half-pay for any equivalent and less exceptionable provision.
After the departure of the deputies, the grand committee appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Rutledge, to report arrangements, in concert with the superintendent of finance, for their consideration.
Congress adjourned for the meeting of the grand committee, to whom was referred the report concerning the valuation of the lands, and who accordingly met.
The committee were, in general, strongly impressed with the extreme difficulty and inequality, if not impracticability, of fulfilling the article of the Confederation relative to this point; Mr. Rutledge, however, excepted, who, although he did not think the rule so good a one as a census of inhabitants, thought it less impracticable than the other members. And if the valuation of land had not been prescribed by the Federal Articles, the committee would certainly have preferred some other rule of appointment, particularly that of numbers, under certain qualifications as to slaves. As the Federal Constitution, however, left no option, and a few* only were disposed to recommend to the states an alteration of it, it was necessary to proceed, first, to settle its meaning; secondly, to settle the least objectionable mode of valuation. On the first point it was doubted, by several members, whether the returns which the report under consideration required from the states would not be final, and whether the Articles of Confederation would allow Congress to alter them after they had fixed on this mode; on this point, no vote was taken. A second question, afterwards raised in the course of the discussion, was, how far the articles required a specific valuation, and how far it gave a latitude as to the mode; on this point, also, there was a diversity of opinions, but no vote taken.
Secondly, as to the mode itself, referred to the grand committee, it was strongly objected to by the delegate from Connecticut, Mr. Dyer, by Mr. Hamilton, by Mr. Wilson, by Mr. Carroll, and by Mr. Madison, as leaving the states too much to the bias of interest, as well as too uncertain and tedious in the execution. In favor of the report was Mr. Rutledge, the father of it, who thought the honor of the states, and their mutual confidence, a sufficient security against frauds and the suspicion of them. Mr. Gorham favored the report also, as the least impracticable mode, and as it was necessary to attempt at least some compliance with the federal rule before any attempt could be properly made to vary it. An opinion entertained by Massachusetts, that she was comparatively in advance to the United States, made her anxious for a speedy settlement of the mode by which a final apportionment of the common burden could be effected. The sentiments of the other members of the committee were not expressed.
Mr. HAMILTON proposed, in lieu of a reference of the valuation to the states, to class the lands throughout the United States under distinctive descriptions, viz., arable, pasture, wood, &c., and to annex a uniform rate to the several classes, according to their different comparative value, calling on the states only for a return of the quantities and descriptions. This mode would have been acceptable to the more compact and populous states, but was totally inadmissible to the Southern States.
Mr. WILSON proposed, that returns of the quantity of land and of the number of inhabitants in the respective states should be obtained, and a rule deduced from the combination of these data. This also would have affected the states in a similar manner with the proposition of Mr. Hamilton. On the part of the Southern States it was observed, that, besides its being at variance with the text of the Confederation, it would work great injustice, as would every mode which admitted the quantity of lands within the states into the measure of their comparative wealth and abilities.
Lastly, it was proposed by Mr. MADISON, that a valuation should be attempted by Congress without the intervention of the states. He observed, that, as the expense attending the operation would come ultimately from the same pockets, it was not very material whether it was borne in the first instance by Congress or the states, and it at least deserved consideration whether this mode was not preferable to the proposed reference to the states.
The conversation ended in the appointment of a sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Carroll and Mr. Wilson, who were desired to consider the several modes proposed, to confer with the superintendent of finance, and make such report to the grand committee as they should judge fit.
A letter dated the 19th of December, from General Greene, was received, notifying the evacuation of Charleston. It was, in the first place, referred to the secretary of Congress for publication; excepting the passage which recited the exchange of prisoners, which, being contrary to the resolution of the 16th of October against partial exchanges, was deemed improper for publication. It was in the next place referred to a committee, in order that some complimentary report might be made in favor of General Greene and the southern army. Dr. RAMSAY, having come in after this reference, and being uninformed of it, moved that a committee might be appointed to devise a proper mode of expressing to General Greene the high sense entertained by Congress of his merits and services. In support of his motion, he went into lavish praises of General Greene, and threw out the idea of making him a lieutenant-general. His motion being opposed as somewhat singular and unnecessary, after the reference to General Greene’s letter, he withdrew it.
A letter was received from General Washington, enclosing a certificate from Mr. Chittenden, of Vermont, acknowledging the receipt of the communication which General Washington had sent him of the proceedings of Congress on the 5th of December.
Mr. RUTLEDGE informed Congress, that there was reason to apprehend that the train of negotiation in Europe had been so misrepresented in the state of South Carolina, as to make it probable that an attempt might be made in the legislature to repeal the confiscation laws of that state; and even if such attempt should fail, the misrepresentations could not fail to injure the sale of property confiscated in that state. In order, therefore, to frustrate these misrepresentations, he moved that the delegates of South Carolina might be furnished with an extract from the letter of the 14th of October, from Dr. Franklin, so far as it informed Congress “that something had been mentioned to the American plenipotentiaries relative to the refugees and to English debts, but not insisted on; it being answered, on their part, that this was a matter belonging to the individual states, and on which Congress could enter into no stipulations.” The motion was seconded by Mr. GERVAIS, and supported by Mr. RAMSAY. It was opposed by Mr. ELLSWORTH and Mr. WOLCOTT as improper, since a communication of this intelligence might encourage the states to extend confiscations to British debts,—a circumstance which would be dishonorable to the United States, and might embarrass a treaty of peace. Mr. FITZSIMMONS expressed the same apprehensions; so did Mr. GORHAM. His colleague, Mr. OSGOOD, was in favor of the motion. By Mr. MADISON the motion was so enlarged and varied as “to leave all the delegates at liberty to communicate the extract to their constituents, in such form and under such cautions as they should judge prudent.” The motion, so varied, was adopted by Mr. Rutledge, and substituted in place of the original one. It was, however, still opposed by the opponents of the original motion. Mr. Madison observed that, as all the states had espoused, in some degree, the doctrine of confiscations, and as some of them had given instructions to their delegates on the subject, it was the duty of Congress, without inquiring into the expediency of confiscations, to prevent, as far as they could, any measures which might impede that object in negotiations for peace, by inducing an opinion that the United States were not firm with respect to it; that in this view it was of consequence to prevent the repeal, and even the attempt of a repeal, of the confiscation law of one of the states; and that if a confidential communication of the extract in question would answer such a purpose, it was improper for Congress to oppose it. On a question, the motion was negatived, Congress being much divided thereon. Several of those who were in the negative were willing that the delegates of South Carolina should be licensed to transmit to their state what related to the refugees, omitting what related to British debts, and invited Mr. Rutledge to renew his motion in that qualified form. Others suggested the propriety of his contradicting the misrepresentations in general, without referring to any official information received by Congress. Mr. Rutledge said he would think further on the subject, and desired that it might he over.
The committee on the motion of Mr. Peters, of the 13th instant, relative to a further application for foreign loans, reported that they had conferred with the superintendent of finance, and concurred in opinion with him, that the applications already on foot were as great as could be made prudently, until proper funds should be established. The latent view of this report was to strengthen the argument in favor of such funds, and the report, it was agreed, should lie on the table, to be considered along with the report which might be made on the memorial from the army, and which would involve the same subject.9
The report thanking General Greene for his services was agreed to without opposition or observation. Several, however, thought it badly composed, and that some notice ought to have been taken of Major Burnet, aid to General Greene, who was the bearer of the letter announcing the evacuation of Charleston.
Mr. Webster and Mr. Judd, agents for the deranged officers of the Massachusetts and Connecticut lines, were heard by the grand committee in favor of their constituents. The sum of their representations was, that the said officers were equally distressed for, entitled to, and in expectation of, provision for fulfilling the rewards stipulated to them as officers retained in service.
From Friday, 17, to Tuesday, 21.
A letter from Mr. Adams, of the 8th of October, 1782, containing prophetic observations relative to the expedition of Lord Howe for the relief of Gibraltar, and its consequences, &c. &c., excited, &c. &c.
Another letter from the same, relative to the treaty of amity and commerce, and the convention with the States General concerning vessels recaptured, copies of which accompanied the letters. These papers were committed to Mr. Madison, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Ellsworth.10
Congress adjourned to give the committee on the treaty and convention time to prepare a report thereon.
The report of the committee last mentioned—consisting of a state of the variations, in the treaty of amity and commerce with the States General, from the plan proposed by Congress, of a form of ratification of the said treaty and of the convention, and of a proclamation comprehending both—was accepted and passed; the variations excepted, which were not meant to be entered on the Journals. Both the committee and Congress were exceedingly chagrined at the extreme incorrectness of the American copies of these national acts, and it was privately talked of as necessary to admonish Mr. Adams thereof, and direct him to procure, with the concurrence of the other party, a more correct and perspicuous copy. The report of the committee, as agreed to, having left a blank in the act of ratification for the insertion of the treaty and convention, and these being contained both in the Dutch and American languages,—the former column signed by the Dutch plenipotentiaries only, and the latter by Mr. Adams only,—the secretary asked the direction of Congress whether both columns, or the American only, ought to be inserted. On this point several observations were made, and different opinions expressed. In general, the members seemed to disapprove of the mode used, and would have preferred the use of a neutral language. As to the request of the secretary, Mr. Wilson was of opinion that the American columns only should be inserted. Several others concurred in this opinion; supposing that, as Mr. Adams had only signed those columns, our ratifications ought to be limited to them. Those who were of a different opinion considered the two parts as inseparable, and as forming one whole, and consequently that both ought to be inserted. The case being a new one to Congress, it was proposed and admitted that the insertion might be suspended till the next day, by which time some authorities might be consulted on the subject.
A committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Mifflin, and Mr. Williamson, reported, in consequence of a motion of Mr. Bland, a list of books proper for the use of Congress, and proposed that the secretary should be instructed to procure the same. In favor of the report, it was urged, as indispensable, that Congress should have at all times at command such authors on the law of nations, treaties, negotiations, &c., as would render their proceedings in such cases conformable to propriety; and it was observed, that the want of this information was manifest in several important acts of Congress. It was further observed, that no time ought to be lost in collecting every book and tract which related to American antiquities and the affairs of the United States, since many of the most valuable of these were every day becoming extinct; and they were necessary, not only as materials for a History of the United States, but might be rendered still more so by future pretensions against their rights from Spain, or other powers which had shared in the discoveries and possessions of the New World. Against the report were urged, first, the inconvenience of advancing even a few hundred pounds at this crisis; secondly, the difference of expense between procuring the books during the war and after a peace. These objections prevailed by a considerable majority. A motion was then made by Mr. WILSON, seconded by Mr. MADISON, to confine the purchase, for the present, to the most essential part of the books. This also was negatived.
Some days prior to this, sundry papers had been laid before Congress by the war-office, showing that a cargo of supplies which had arrived at Wilmington for the British and German prisoners of war, under a passport from the commander-in-chief, and which were thence proceeding by land to their destination, had been seized by sundry persons in Chester county, under a law of Pennsylvania, which required in such cases a license from the executive authority, who exposed to confiscation all articles not necessary for the prisoners, and referred the question of necessity to the judgment of its own magistrates. Congress unanimously considered the violation of the passport, issued under their authority, as an encroachment on their constitutional and essential rights; but, being disposed to get over the difficulty as gently as possible, appointed a committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Wolcott, and Mr. Madison, to confer with the executive of Pennsylvania on the subject. In the first conference, the executive represented to the committee the concern they felt at the incident, their disposition to respect and support the dignity and rights of the federal sovereignty, and the embarrassments in which they were involved by a recent and express law of the state to which they were bound to conform. The committee observed to them, that the power of granting passports for the purpose in question being inseparable from the general power of war delegated to Congress, and being essential for conducting the war, it could not be expected that Congress would acquiesce in any infractions upon it; that as Pennsylvania had concurred in the alienation of this power to Congress, any law whatever contravening it was necessarily void, and could impose no obligation on the executive. The latter requested further time for a consideration of the case, and laid it before the legislature, then sitting; in consequence of which a committee of their body was appointed, jointly with the executive, to confer with the committee of Congress. In this second conference, the first remarks made by the committee of Congress were repeated. The committee of the legislature expressed an unwillingness to intrench on the jurisdiction of Congress, but some of them seemed not to be fully satisfied that the law of the state did so. Mr. Montgomery, lately a member of Congress, observed that, although the general power of war was given to Congress, yet that the mode of exercising that power might be regulated by the states in any manner which would not frustrate the power, and which their policy might require. To this it was answered, that if Congress had the power at all, it could not, either by the Articles of Confederation or the reason of things, admit of such a controlling power in each of the states; and that to admit such a construction would be a virtual surrender to the states of their whole federal power relative to war, the most essential of all the powers delegated to Congress. The committee of the legislature represented, as the great difficulty with them, that even a repeal of the law would not remedy the case without a retrospective law, which their constitution would not admit of, and expressed an earnest desire that some accommodating plan might be hit upon. They proposed, in order to induce the seizors to waive their appeal to the law of the state, that Congress would allow them to appoint one of two persons who should have authority to examine into the supplies, and decide whether they comprehended any articles that were not warranted by the passport. The committee of Congress answered, that whatever obstacles might lie in the way of redress by the legislature, if no redress proceeded from them, equal difficulties would lie on the other side; since Congress, in case of a confiscation of the supplies under the law, which the omission of some formalities required by it would probably produce, would be obliged, by honor and good faith, to indemnify the enemy for their loss out of the common treasury; that the other states would probably demand a reimbursement to the United States from Pennsylvania, and that it was impossible to say to what extremity the affair might be carried. They observed to the committee of the legislature and executive, that although Congress was disposed to make all allowances, and particularly in the case of a law passed for a purpose recommended by themselves, yet they could not condescend to any expedient which in any manner departed from the respect which they owed to themselves and to the Articles of union. The committee of Congress, however, suggested that, as the only expedient which would get rid of the clashing of the power of Congress and the law of the state would be the dissuading the seizors from their appeal to the latter, it was probable that, if the seizors would apply to Congress for redress, such steps would be taken as would be satisfactory. The hint was embraced, and both the executive and the committee of the legislature promised to use their influence with the persons of most influence among the seizors for that purpose. In consequence thereof, a memorial from John Hannum, Persifor Frazer, and Joseph Gardner, was sent in to Congress, committed to the same committee of Congress, and their report of this day agreed to, in which the president of Pennsylvania is requested to appoint one of the referees. It is proper to observe, that this business was conducted with great temper and harmony; and that President Dickinson, in particular, manifested throughout the course of it, as great a desire to save the rights and dignity of Congress, as those of the state over which he presided. As a few of the seizors only were parties to the memorial to Congress, it is still uncertain whether others may not adhere to their claims under the law, in which case all the embarrassments will be revived.
In a late report which had been drawn up by Mr. Hamilton, and made to Congress, in answer to a memorial from the legislature of Pennsylvania, among other things showing the impossibility Congress had been under of paying their creditors, it was observed, that the aid afforded by the court of France had been appropriated by that court, at the time, to the immediate use of the army. This clause was objected to as unnecessary, and as dishonorable to Congress. The fact also was controverted. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Fitzsimmons justified the expediency of retaining it, in order to justify Congress the more completely in failing in their engagements to the public creditors. Mr. WILSON and Mr. MADISON proposed to strike out the words “appropriated by France,” and substitute the words “applied by Congress to the immediate and necessary support of the army.” This proposition would have been readily approved, had it not appeared, on examination, that in one or two small instances, and particularly in the payment of the balance due to Arthur Lee, Esquire, other applications had been made of the aid in question. The report was finally recommitted.
A letter from the superintendent of finance was received and read, acquainting Congress that, as the danger from the enemy, which led him into the department, was disappearing, and he saw little prospect of provision being made, without which injustice would take place, of which he would never be the minister, he proposed not to serve longer than May next, unless proper provision should be made. This letter made a deep and solemn impression on Congress. It was considered as the effect of despondence in Mr. Morris of seeing justice done to the public creditors, or the public finances placed on an honorable establishment; as a source of fresh hopes to the enemy, when known; as ruinous both to domestic and foreign credit; and as producing a vacancy which none knew how to fill, and which no fit man would venture to accept. Mr. GORHAM, after observing that the administration of Mr. Morris had inspired great confidence and expectation in his state, and expressing his extreme regret at the event, moved that the letter should be committed. This was opposed, as unnecessary and nugatory, by Mr. WILSON, since the known firmness of Mr. Morris, after deliberately taking a step, would render all attempts to dissuade him fruitless; and that, as the memorial from the army had brought the subject of funds before Congress, there was no other object for a committee. The motion to commit was disagreed to. Mr. WILSON then moved that a day might be assigned for the consideration of the letter. Against the propriety of this, it was observed, by Mr. MADISON, that the same reasons which opposed a commitment opposed the assignment of any day. Since Congress could not, however anxious their wishes or alarming their apprehensions might be, condescend to solicit Mr. Morris, even if there were a chance of its being successful, and since it would be equally improper for Congress, however cogent a motive it might add in the mind of every member to struggle for substantial funds, to let such a consideration appear in their public acts on that subject, the motion of Mr. Wilson was not passed. Congress, supposing that a knowledge of Mr. Morris’s intentions would anticipate the ills likely to attend his actual resignation, ordered his letter to be kept secret.11
Nothing being said to-day as to the mode of insertion of the treaty and convention with the States General, the secretary proceeded in retaining both columns.
In consequence of the report of the grand committee on the memorial from the army, by the sub-committee, the following report* was made by the former to Congress, and came under consideration to-day.
The grand committee, having considered the contents of the memorial presented by the army, find that they comprehend five different articles.
First. Present pay.
Second. A settlement of accounts of the arrearages of pay, and security for what is due.
Third. A commutation of the half-pay allowed by different resolutions of Congress for an equivalent in gross.
Fourth. A settlement of the accounts of deficiencies of rations and compensation.
Fifth. A settlement of accounts of deficiencies of clothing and compensation.
The committee are of opinion, with respect to the first, that the superintendent of finance be directed, conformably to measures already taken for that purpose, as soon as the state of the public finances will permit, to make such payment, and in such manner as he shall think proper, till the further order of Congress.
With respect to the second article, so far as relates to the settlement of accounts, that the several states be called upon to complete the settlement, without delay, with their respective lines of the army up to the—day of August, 1780; that the superintendent be also directed to take such measures as shall appear to him most proper and effectual for accomplishing the object in the most equitable and satisfactory manner, having regard to former resolutions of Congress, and the settlements made in consequence thereof.—And so far as relates to the providing of security for what shall be found due on such settlement,—Resolved, that the troops of the United States, in common with all the creditors of the same, have an undoubted right to expect such security; and that Congress will make every effort in their power to obtain, from the respective states, general and substantial funds adequate to the object of funding the whole debt of the United States; and that Congress ought to enter upon an immediate and full consideration of the nature of such funds, and the most likely mode of obtaining them.
With respect to the third article, the committee are of opinion that it will be expedient for Congress to leave it to the option of all officers entitled to half-pay, either to preserve their claim to that provision as it now stands by the several resolutions of Congress upon that subject, or to accept—years’ full pay, to be paid to them in one year after the conclusion of the war, in money, or placed upon good funded security, bearing an annual interest of six per cent.; provided that the allowance to widows and orphans of such officers as have died or been killed, or may die or be killed, in the service during the war, shall remain as established by the resolution of the—day of—.
With respect to the fourth and fifth articles, the committee beg leave to delay their report until they have obtained more precise information than they now possess on the subject.
The first clause of this report, relative to immediate pay, passed without opposition. The superintendent had agreed to make out one month’s pay. Indeed, long before the arrival of the deputies, he had made contingent and secret provision for that purpose; and to insure it now, he meant, if necessary, to draw bills on the late application for loans. The words “conformably to measures already taken,” referred to the above secret provision, and were meant to show that the payment to the army did not originate in the memorial, but in an antecedent attention to the wants of the army.
In the discussion of the second clause, the epoch of the—of August, 1780, was objected to by the eastern delegates. Their states having settled with their lines down to later periods, they wished now to obtain the sanction of Congress to them. After some debate, a compromise was proposed by Mr. HAMILTON, by substituting the last day of December, 1780. This was agreed to without opposition, although several members disliked it. The latter part of the clause, beginning with the word “Resolved,” &c., was considered as a very solemn point, and the basis of the plans by which the public engagements were to be fulfilled, and union cemented. A motion was made by Mr. BLAND to insert, after the words “in their power,” the words “consistent with the Articles of Confederation.” This amendment, as he explained it, was not intended to contravene the idea of funds extraneous to the Federal Articles, but to leave those funds for a consideration subsequent to providing constitutional ones. Mr. Arnold, however, eagerly seconded it. No question, however, was taken on it, Congress deeming it proper to postpone the matter till the next day, as of the most solemn nature, and to have as full a representation as possible. With this view, and to get rid of Mr. Bland’s motion, they adjourned; ordering all the members not present, and in town, to be summoned.
The secretary of Congress having suggested to a member that the contract with the court of France specifying the sums due from the United States, although extremely generous on the part of the former, had been ratified without any such acknowledgments by the latter; that this was the first instance in which such acknowledgments had been omitted, and that the omission would be singularly improper at a time when we were soliciting further aids; these observations being made to Congress, the ratification was reconsidered, and the words “impressed with,” &c., inserted.
The report on the memorial was resumed. By Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Fitzsimmons, 12 and one or two others who had conversed with Mr. Morris on the change of the last day of December for the—day of August, it was suggested that the change entirely contravened the measures pursued by his department; and moved for a reconsideration of it, in order to inquire into the subject. Without going into details, they urged this as a reason sufficient. The eastern delegates although they wished for unanimity and system in future proceedings relative to our funds and finances, were very stiff in retaining the vote which coincided with the steps taken by their constituents. Of this much complaint was made. Mr. RUTLEDGE, on this occasion, alleging that Congress ought not to be led by general suggestions derived from the office of finance, joined by Mr. Gervais, voted against the reconsideration. The consequence was, that South Carolina was divided, and six votes only in favor of the reconsideration. Mr. HAMILTON having expressed his regret at the negative, and explained more exactly the interference of the change of the epoch with the measures and plans of the office of finance, which had limited all state advances and settlements to August—, 1780, Mr. RUTLEDGE acknowledged the sufficiency of the reasons, and at his instance the latter date was reinstated. On this second question Connecticut also voted for August.
The—day of August being reinstated, before a question on the whole paragraph was taken, Mr. GORHAM objected to the word “general” before funds, as ambiguous, and it was struck out; not, however, as improper, if referring to all the states, and not to all objects of taxation. Without this word the clause passed unanimously, even Rhode Island concurring in it.
Congress proceeded to the third clause relative to the commutation of half-pay. A motion was made, by Mr. HAMILTON, to fill the blank with “six;” this was in conformity to tables of Dr. Price, estimating the officers on the average of good lives. Liberality in the rate was urged by several as necessary to give satisfaction, and prevent a refusal of the offer. For this motion there were six ayes, five noes; the Southern States and New York being in the affirmative, the Eastern and New Jersey in the negative. Colonel BLAND proposed six and a half, erroneously supposing the negative of six to have proceeded from its being too low. It was, on the contrary, rather doubtful whether the Eastern States would concur in any arrangement on this head, so averse were they to what they call pensions. Several having calculated that the annual amount of half-pay was between four and five hundred thousand dollars, and the interest of the gross sum nearly two thirds of that sum, Congress were struck with the necessity of proceeding with more caution, and for that purpose committed the report to a committee of five—Mr. Osgood, Mr. Fitzsiminons, Mr. Gervais, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Wilson.
On the motion of Mr. WILSON, Monday next was assigned for the consideration of the resolution on the second clause of the report on the memorial from the army. He observed, that this was necessary to prevent the resolution from being, like many others, vox et præterea nihil.
A letter from General Washington was received, notifying the death of Lord Stirling, and enclosing a report of the officer sent to apprehend Knowlton and Wells. (See p. 8.)
The following is an extract from the report:—
“He (one Israel Smith) further said, that Knowlton and Wells had received a letter from Jonathan Arnold, Esquire, at Congress, part of which was made public, which informed them that affairs in Congress were unfavorable to them, and would have them to look out for themselves. What other information this letter contained, he could not say. I found, in my march through the state, that the last-mentioned gentleman was much in favor with all the principal men in that state I had any conversation with.”
Mr. ARNOLD, being present at the reading, informed Congress that he was surprised how such a notion should have prevailed with respect to him; that he had never held any correspondence with either Knowlton or Wells; and requested that he might be furnished with the extract above. In this he was indulged without opposition. But it was generally considered, notwithstanding his demal of the correspondence, that he had, at least at second-hand, conveyed the intelligence to Vermont.
A long petition was read, signed, as alleged, by nearly two thousand inhabitants (but all in the same hand-writing) of the territory lately in controversy between Pennsylvania and Virginia, complaining of the grievances to which their distance from public authority exposed them, and particularly of a late law of Pennsylvania interdicting even consultations about a new state within its limits, and praying that Congress would give a sanction to their independence, and admit them into the Union. The petition lay on the table, without a single motion or remark relative to it.
The order of the day was called for—to wit, the resolution of Saturday last in favor of adequate and substantial funds.
The subject was introduced by Mr. WILSON, with some judicious remarks on its importance, and the necessity of a thorough and serious discussion of it. He observed, that the United States had, in the course of the revolution, displayed both an unexampled activity in resisting the enemy, and an unexampled patience under the losses and calamities occasioned by the war. In one point only, he said, they had appeared to be deficient, and that was, a cheerful payment of taxes. In other free governments, it had been seen that taxation had been carried farther, and more patiently borne, than in states where the people were excluded from the governments; the people considering themselves the sovereign as well as the subject, and as receiving with one hand what they paid with the other. The peculiar repugnance of the people of the United States to taxes, he supposed, proceeded, first, from the odious light in which they had been, under the old government, in the habit of regarding them; secondly, from the direct manner in which taxes in this country had been laid, whereas in all other countries taxes were paid in a way that was little felt at the time. That it could not proceed altogether from inability, he said, must be obvious; nay, that the ability of the United States was equal to the public burden, could be demonstrated. According to calculations of the best writers, the inhabitants of Great Britain paid, before the present war, at the annual rate of at least twenty-five shillings sterling per head. According to like calculations, the inhabitants of the United States, before the revolution, paid, indirectly and insensibly, at the rate of at least ten shillings sterling per head. According to the computed depreciation of the paper emissions, the burden insensibly borne by the inhabitants of the United States had amounted, during the first three or four years of the war, to not less than twenty millions of dollars per annum—a burden, too, which was the more oppressive as it fell very unequally on the people. An inability, therefore, could not be urged as a plea for the extreme deficiency of the revenue contributed by the states, which did not amount, during the past year, to half a million of dollars; that is, to one sixth of a dollar per head. Some more effectual mode of drawing forth the resources of the country was necessary. That, in particular, it was necessary that such funds should be established as would enable Congress to fulfil those engagements which they had been enabled to enter into. It was essential, he contended, that those to whom was delegated the power of making war or peace should, in some way or other, have the means of effectuating these objects; that, as Congress had been under the necessity of contracting a large debt, justice required that such funds should be placed in their hands as would discharge it; that such funds were also necessary for carrying on the war, and as Congress found themselves, in their present situation, destitute both of the faculty of paying debts already contracted, and of providing for future exigencies, it was their duty to lay that situation before their constituents, and at least to come to an éclaircissement on the subject. He remarked, that the establishment of certain funds for paying would set afloat the public paper; adding, that a public debt, resting on general funds, would operate as a cement to the Confederacy, and might contribute to prolong its existence, after the foreign danger ceased to counteract its tendency to dissolution. He concluded with moving that it be resolved,—
“That it is the opinion of Congress that complete justice cannot be done to the creditors of the United States, nor the restoration of public credit be effected, nor the future exigencies of the war provided for, but by the establishment of general funds, to be collected by Congress.”
This motion was seconded by Mr. FITZSIMMONS.
Mr. BLAND desired that Congress would, before the discussion proceeded further, receive a communication of sundry papers transmitted to the Virginia delegates by the executive of that state, two of which had relation to the question before Congress. These were—first, a resolution of the General Assembly, declaring its inability to pay more than fifty thousand pounds, Virginia currency, towards complying with the demands of Congress; secondly, the act repealing the act granting the impost of five per cent. These papers were received and read.
Mr. WOLCOTT expressed some astonishment at the inconsistency of these two acts of Virginia; supposed that they had an unfavorable aspect on the business before Congress, and proposed that the latter should be postponed for the present. He was not seconded.
Mr. GORHAM favored the general idea of the motion, animadverting on the refusal of Virginia to contribute the necessary sums, and at the same moment repealing her concurrence in the only scheme that promised to supply a deficiency of contributions. He thought the motion, however, inaccurately expressed, since the word “general” might be understood to refer to every possible object of taxation, as well as to the operation of a particular tax throughout the states. He observed that the non-payment of the one million two hundred thousand dollars demanded by Congress, for paying the interest of the debts for the year—, demonstrated that the constitutional mode of annual requisitions was defective; he intimated that lands were already sufficiently taxed, and that polls and commerce were the most proper objects. At his instance, the latter part of the motion was so amended as to run “establishment of permanent and adequate funds to operate generally throughout the United States.”
Mr. HAMILTON went extensively into the subject; the sum of it was as follows: he observed that funds considered as permanent sources of revenue were of two kinds—first, such as would extend generally and uniformly throughout the United States, and would be collected under the authority of Congress; secondly, such as might be established separately within each state, and might consist of any objects which were chosen by the states, and might be collected either under the authority of the states or of Congress. Funds of the first kind, he contended, were preferable; as being, first, more simple, the difficulties attending the mode of fixing the quotas laid down in the Confederation rendering it extremely complicated, and in a manner insuperable; secondly, as being more certain, since the states, according to the said plan, would probably retain the collection of the revenue, and a vicious system of collection prevailed generally throughout the United States—a system by which the collectors were chosen by the people, and made their offices more subservient to their popularity than to the public revenue; thirdly, as being more economical, since the collection would be effected with fewer officers, under the management of Congress, than under that of the states.
Mr. GORHAM observed, that Mr. Hamilton was mistaken in the representation he had given of the collection of taxes in several of the states, particularly in that of Massachusetts, where the collection was on a footing which rendered it sufficiently certain.
Mr. WILSON, having risen to explain something which had fallen from him, threw out the suggestion that several branches of the revenue, if yielded by all the states, would perhaps be more just and satisfactory than any single one; for example, an impost on trade combined with a land tax.
Mr. DYER expressed a strong dislike to a collection by officers appointed under Congress, and supposed the states would never be brought to consent to it.
Mr. RAMSAY was decidedly in favor of the proposition. Justice, he said, entitled those who had lent their money and services to the United States to look to them for payment; that if general and certain revenues were not provided, the consequence would be that the army and public creditors would have soon to look to their respective states only for satisfaction; that the burden in this case would fall unequally on the states; that rivalships relative to trade would impede a regular impost, and would produce confusion among the states; that some of the states would never make, of themselves, provision for half-pay, and that the army would be so far defrauded of the rewards stipulated to them by Congress; that although it might be uncertain whether the states would accede to plans founded on the proposition before the house, yet, as Congress was convinced of its truth and importance, it was their duty to make the experiment.
Mr. BLAND thought, that the ideas of the states on the subject were so averse to a general revenue in the hands of Congress, that if such a revenue were proper it was unattainable; that as the deficiency of the contributions from the states, proceeded, not from their complaints of their inability,* but of the inequality of the apportionments, it would be a wiser course to pursue the rule of the Confederation, to wit, to ground the requisition on an actual valuation of lands; that Congress would then stand on firm ground, and try a practicable mode.
The subject yesterday under discussion was resumed. A division of the question was called for by Mr. WOLCOTT, so as to leave a distinct question on the words “to be collected by Congress,” which he did not like.
Mr. WILSON considered this mode of collection as essential to the idea of a general revenue, since, without it, the proceeds of the revenue would depend entirely on the punctuality, energy, and unanimity of the states, the want of which led to the present consideration.
Mr. HAMILTON was strenuously of the same opinion.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS informed Congress that the legislature of Pennsylvania had, at their last meeting, been dissuaded from appropriating their revenue to the payment of their own citizens, creditors of the United States, instead of remitting it to the Continental treasury, merely by the urgent representations of a committee of Congress, and by the hope that some general system in favor of all the public creditors would be adopted; that the legislature were now again assembled, and, although sensible of the tendency of such an example, thought it their duty, and meant, in case the prospect of such a system vanished, to proceed immediately to the separate appropriations formerly in contemplation.
On the motion of Mr. MADISON, the whole proposition was new-modelled, as follows:—
“That it is the opinion of Congress that the establishment of permanent and adequate funds, to operate generally throughout the United States, is indispensably necessary for doing complete justice to the creditors of the United States, for restoring public credit, and for providing for the future exigencies of the war.”
The words “to be collected under the authority of Congress” were, as a separate question, left to be added afterwards.
Mr. RUTLEDGE objected to the term “generally,” as implying a degree of uniformity in the tax which would render it unequal. He had in view, particularly, a land tax, according to quality, as had been proposed by the office of finance. He thought the prejudices of the people opposed the idea of a general tax; and seemed, on the whole, to be disinclined to it himself, at least if extended beyond an impost on trade; urging the necessity of pursuing a valuation of land, and requisitions grounded thereon.
Mr. LEE seconded the opposition to the term “general.” He contended that the states would never consent to a uniform tax, because it would be unequal; that it was, moreover, repugnant to the Articles of Confederation; and, by placing the purse in the same hands with the sword, was subversive of the fundamental principles of liberty. He mentioned the repeal of the impost by Virginia—himself alone opposing it, and that, too, on the inexpediency in point of time—as proof of the aversion to a general revenue. He reasoned upon the subject, finally, as if it was proposed that Congress should assume and exercise a power immediately, and without the sanction of the states, of levying money on them.
Mr. WILSON rose, and explained the import of the motion to be, that Congress should recommend to the states the investing them with power. He observed that the Confederation was so far from precluding, that it expressly provided for, future alterations; that the power given to Congress by that act was too little, not too formidable; that there was more of a centrifugal than centripetal force in the states, and that the funding of a common debt in the manner proposed would produce a salutary invigoration and cement to the Union.
Mr. ELLSWORTH acknowledged himself to be undecided in his opinion; that, on the one side, he felt the necessity of Continental funds for making good the Continental engagements; but, on the other, desponded of a unanimous concurrence of the states in such an establishment. He observed, that it was a question of great importance, how far the federal government can or ought to exert coercion against delinquent members of the Confederacy; and that without such coercion, no certainty could attend the constitutional mode which referred every thing to the unanimous punctuality of thirteen different councils. Considering, therefore, a Continental revenue as unattainable, and periodical requisitions from Congress as inadequate, he was inclined to make trial of the middle mode of permanent state funds, to be provided at the recommendation of Congress, and appropriated to the discharge of the common debt.
Mr. HAMILTON, in reply to Mr. ELLSWORTH, dwelt long on the inefficacy of state funds. He supposed, too, that greater obstacles would arise to the execution of the plan than to that of a general revenue. As an additional reason for the latter to be collected by officers under the appointment of Congress, he signified, that, as the energy of the federal government was evidently short of the degree necessary for pervading and uniting the states, it was expedient to introduce the influence of officers deriving their emoluments from, and consequently interested in supporting the power of, Congress.*
Mr. WILLIAMSON was of opinion, that Continental funds, although desirable, were unattainable, at least to the full amount of the public exigencies. He thought, if they could be obtained for the foreign debt, it would be as much as could be expected, and that they would also be less essential for the domestic debt.
Mr. MADISON observed, that it was needless to go into proofs of the necessity of paying the public debts; that the idea of erecting our national independence on the ruins of public faith and national honor must be horrid to every mind which retained either honesty or pride; that the motion before Congress contained a simple proposition, with respect to the truth of which every member was called upon to give his opinion; that this opinion must necessarily be in the affirmative, unless the several objects of doing justice to the public creditors, &c. &c., could be compassed by some other plan than the one proposed; that the two last objects depended essentially on the first; since the doing justice to the creditors would alone restore public credit, and the restoration of this would alone provide for the future exigencies of the war. Is, then, a Continental revenue indispensably necessary for doing complete justice, &c.? This is the question. To answer it, the other plans proposed must first be reviewed.
In order to do complete justice to the public creditors, either the principal must be paid off, or the interest paid punctually. The first is admitted to be impossible on any plan. The only plans opposed to the Continental one for the latter purpose are, first, periodical requisitions according to the Federal Articles; secondly, permanent funds established by each state within itself, and the proceeds consigned to the discharge of public debts.
Will the first be adequate to the object? The contrary seems to be maintained by no one. If reason did not sufficiently premonish, experience has sufficiently demonstrated, that a punctual and unfailing compliance, by thirteen separate and independent governments, with periodical demands of money from Congress, can never be reckoned upon with the certainty requisite to satisfy our creditors, or to tempt others to become our creditors in future.
Secondly. Will funds separately established within each state, and the amount submitted to the appropriation of Congress, be adequate to the object? The only advantage which is thought to recommend this plan is, that the states will be with less difficulty prevailed upon to adopt it. Its imperfections are, first, that it must be preceded by a final and satisfactory adjustment of all accounts between the United States and individual states, and by an apportionment founded on a valuation of all the lands throughout each of the states, in pursuance of the law of the Confederation; for although the states do not as yet insist on these prerequisites in the case of annual demands on them, with which they very little comply, and that only in the way of an open account, yet these conditions would certainly be exacted in case of a permanent cession of revenue; and the difficulties and delays, to say the least, incident to these conditions, can escape no one. Secondly, the produce of the funds being always, in the first instance, in the hands and under the control of the states separately, might, at any time, and on various pretences, be diverted to state objects. Thirdly, that jealousy which is as natural to the states as to individuals, and of which so many proofs have appeared, that others will not fulfil their respective portions of the common obligations, will be continually and mutually suspending remittances to the common treasury, until it finally stops them altogether. These imperfections are too radical to be admitted into any plan intended for the purposes in question.
It remains to examine the merits of a plan of a general revenue operating throughout the United States, under the superintendence of Congress.
One obvious advantage is suggested by the last objection to separate revenues in the different states; that is, it will exclude all jealousy among them on that head, since each will know, whilst it is submitting to the tax, that all the others are necessarily at the same instant bearing their respective portions of the burden. Again, it will take from the states the opportunity, as well as the temptation, to divert their incomes from the general to internal purposes, since those incomes will pass directly into the treasury of the United States.
Another advantage attending a general revenue is, that, in case of the concurrence of the states in establishing it, it would become soonest productive, and would, consequently, soonest obtain the objects in view; nay, so assured a prospect would give instantaneous confidence and content to the public creditors at home and abroad, and place our affairs in a most happy train.
The consequences, with respect to the Union, of omitting such a provision for the debts of the Union, also claimed particular attention. The tenor of the memorial from Pennsylvania, and of the information just given on the floor by one of its delegates, (Mr. FITZSIMMONS,) renders it extremely probable that that state would, as soon as it should be known that Congress had declined such provision, or the states rejected it, appropriate the revenue required by Congress to the payment of its own citizens and troops, creditors of the United States. The irregular conduct of other states on this subject, enforced by such an example, could not fail to spread the evil throughout the whole continent. What, then, would become of the Confederation? What would be the authority of Congress? What the tie by which the states could be held together? What the source by which the army could be subsisted and clothed? What the mode of dividing and discharging our foreign debts? What the rule of settling the internal accounts? What the tribunal by which controversies among the states could be adjudicated?
It ought to be carefully remembered, that this subject was brought before Congress by a very solemn appeal from the army to the justice and gratitude of their country. Besides immediate pay, they ask for permanent security for arrears. Is not this request a reasonable one? Will it be just or politic to pass over the only adequate security that can be devised, and, instead of fulfilling the stipulations of the United States to them, to leave them to seek their rewards separately from the states to which they respectively belong? The patience of the army has been equal to their bravery; but that patience must have its limits, and the result of despair cannot be foreseen, nor ought to be risked.
It has been objected, against a general revenue, that it contravenes the articles of Confederation. These articles, as has been observed, presupposed the necessity of alterations in the federal system, and have left a door open for them. They, moreover, authorize Congress to borrow money. Now, in order to borrow money, permanent and certain provision is necessary; and if this provision cannot be made in any other way, as has been shown, a general revenue is within the spirit of the Confederation.
It has been objected, that such a revenue is subversive of the sovereignty and liberty of the states. If it were to be assumed, without the free gift of the states, this objection might be of force; but no assumption is proposed. In fact, Congress are already invested by the states with the constitutional authority over the purse as well as the sword. A general revenue would only give this authority a more certain and equal efficacy. They had a right to fix the quantum of money necessary for the common purposes. The right of the states is limited to the mode of supply. A requisition of Congress on the states for money is as much a law to them as their revenue acts, when passed, are laws to their respective citizens. If, for want of the faculty or means of enforcing a requisition, the law of Congress proves inefficient, does it not follow that, in order to fulfil the views of the Federal Constitution such a change should be made as will render it efficient? Without such efficiency the end of this Constitution, which is to preserve order and justice among the members of the Union, must fail; as without a like efficiency would the end of state constitutions, which is to preserve like order and justice among their respective members.
It has been objected, that the states have manifested such aversion to the impost on trade, as renders any recommendations of a general revenue hopeless and imprudent. It must be admitted that the conduct of the states on that subject is less encouraging than were to be wished. A review of it, however, does not excite despondence. The impost was adopted immediately, and in its utmost latitude, by several of the states. Several, also, which complied partially with it at first, have since complied more liberally. One of them, after long refusal, has complied substantially. Two states only have failed altogether; and, as to one of them, it is not known that its failure has proceeded from a decided opposition to it. On the whole, it appears that the necessity and reasonableness of the scheme have been gaining ground among the states. He was aware that one exception ought to be made to this inference; an exception, too, which it peculiarly concerned him to advert to. The state of Virginia, as appears by an act yesterday laid before Congress, has withdrawn its assent once given to the scheme. This circumstance could not but produce some embarrassment in a representative of that state advocating the scheme—one, too, whose principles were extremely unfavorable to a disregard of the sense of constituents. But it ought not to deter him from listening to considerations which, in the present case, ought to prevail over it. One of these considerations was, that, although the delegates who compose Congress more immediately represented, and were amenable to, the states from which they respectively come, yet, in another view, they owed a fidelity to the collective interests of the whole: secondly, although not only the express instructions, but even the declared sense of constituents, as in the present case, were to be a law in general to their representatives, still there were occasions on which the latter ought to hazard personal consequences, from a respect to what his clear conviction determines to be the true interest of the former; and the present he conceived to fall under this exception: lastly, the part he took on the present occasion was the more fully justified to his own mind, by his thorough persuasion that, with the same knowledge of public affairs which his station commanded, the legislature of Virginia would not have repealed the law in favor of the impost, and would even now rescind the appeal.
The result of these observations was, that it was the duty of Congress, under whose authority the public debts had been contracted, to aim at a general revenue, as the only means of discharging them; and that the dictate of justice and gratitude was enforced by a regard to the preservation of the Confederacy, to our reputation abroad, and to our internal tranquillity.
Mr. RUTLEDGE complained that those who so strenuously urged the necessity and competency of a general revenue,* operating throughout all the United States at the same time, declined specifying any general objects from which such a revenue could be drawn. He was thought to insinuate that these objects were kept back intentionally, until the general principle could be irrevocably fixed, when Congress would be bound, at all events, to go on with the project; whereupon—
Mr. FITZSIMMONS expressed some concern at the turn which the discussion seemed to be taking. He said, that, unless mutual confidence prevailed, no progress could be made towards the attainment of those ends which all, in some way or other, aimed at. It was a mistake to suppose that any specific plan had been preconcerted among the patrons of a general revenue.
Mr. WILSON, with whom the motion originated, gave his assurances that it was neither the effect of preconcert with others, nor of any determinate plan matured by himself; that he had been led into it by the declaration, on Saturday last, by Congress, that substantial funds ought to be provided; by the memorial of the army from which that declaration had resulted; by the memorial from the state of Pennsylvania, holding out the idea of separate appropriations of her revenue unless provision were made for the public creditors; by the deplorable and dishonorable situation of public affairs, which had compelled Congress to draw bills on the unpromised and contingent bounty of their ally, and which was likely to banish the superintendent of finance, whose place could not be supplied, from his department. He observed, that he had not introduced details into the debate, because he thought them premature, until a general principle should be fixed; and that, as soon as the principle should be fixed, he would, although not furnished with any digested plan, contribute all in his power to the forming such a one.
Mr. RUTLEDGE moved, that the proposition might be committed, in order that some practicable plan might be reported before Congress should declare that it ought to be adopted.
Mr. IZARD seconded the motion, from a conciliatory view.
Mr. MADISON thought the commitment unnecessary, and would have the appearance of delay; that too much delay had already taken place; that the deputation of the army had a right to expect an answer to their memorial as soon as it could be decided by Congress. He differed from Mr. Wilson in thinking that a specification of the objects of a general revenue would be improper, and thought that those who doubted its practicability had a right to expect proof of it from details, before they could be expected to assent to the general principle; but he differed also from Mr. Rutledge, who thought a commitment necessary for the purpose; since his views would be answered by leaving the motion before the House, and giving the debate a greater latitude. He suggested, as practicable objects of a general revenue, first, an impost on trade; secondly, a poll-tax under certain qualifications; thirdly, a land-tax under ditto.*
Mr. HAMILTON suggested a house and window tax. He was in favor of the mode of conducting the business urged by Mr. Madison.
On the motion for the commitment, six states were in favor of it, and five against it; so it was lost. In this vote, the merits of the main proposition very little entered.
Mr. LEE said, that it was a waste of time to be forming resolutions and settling principles on this subject. He asked whether these would ever bring any money into the public treasury. His opinion was, that Congress ought, in order to guard against the inconvenience of meetings of the different legislatures at different and even distant periods, to call upon the executives to convoke them all at one period, and to lay before them a full state of our public affairs. He said, the states would never agree to those plans which tended to aggrandize Congress; that they were jealous of the power of Congress, and that he acknowledged himself to be one of those who thought this jealousy not an unreasonable one; that no one who had ever opened a page, or read a line, on the subject of liberty, could be insensible to the danger of surrendering the purse into the same hands which held the sword.
The debate was suspended by an adjournment.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS reminded Congress of the numerous inaccuracies and errors in the American column of the treaty with Holland, and proposed that a revision of it, as ratified, should take place, in order that some steps might be taken for redressing the evil. He added, that an accurate comparison of it with the treaty with France ought also to be made, for the purpose of seeing whether it consisted in all its parts with the latter.† He desired the committee who had prepared the ratification to give some explanation on the subject to Congress.
Mr. MADISON, as first on that committee, informed Congress, that the inaccuracies and errors, consisting of misspelling, foreign idioms, and foreign words, obscurity of the sense, &c., were attended to by the committee, and verbally noted to Congress when their report was under consideration; that the committee did not report in writing, as the task was disagreeable, and the faults were not conceived to be of sufficient weight to affect the ratification. He thought it would be improper to reconsider the act, as had been suggested, for the purpose of suspending it on that account or any other; but had no objection, if Congress were disposed, to instruct Mr. Adams to substitute, with the consent of the other party, a more correct counterpart in the American language. The subject was dropped, nobody seeming inclined to urge it.
On the motion of Mr. RUTLEDGE, and for the purpose of extending the discussion to particular objects of general revenue, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider of the most effectual means of restoring public credit; and the proposition relative to general revenue was referred to the committee. Mr. Carroll was elected into the chair, and the proposition taken up.
Mr. BLAND proposed to alter the words of the proposition, so as to make it read establishment of funds “on taxes or duties, to operate generally,” &c. This was agreed to as a more correct phraseology. Mr. HAMILTON objected to it at first, supposing, through mistake, that it might exclude the back lands, which was a fund in contemplation of some gentlemen.
Mr. MADISON, having adverted to the jealousy of Mr. RUTLEDGE, of a latent scheme to fix a tax on land according to its quantity, moved that between the words “generally” and “to operate” might be inserted the words “and in just proportion.”
Mr. WILSON said he had no objection to this amendment, but that it might be referred to the taxes individually, and unnecessarily fetter Congress; since, if the taxes collectively should operate in just proportion, it would be sufficient. He instanced a land-tax and an impost on trade, the former of which might press hardest on the southern, and the latter on the eastern, but both together might distribute the burden pretty uniformly. From this consideration he moved that the words “on the whole” might be prefixed to the words “in just proportion.” This amendment to the amendment of Mr. MADISON was seconded by Mr. BOUDINOT, and agreed to without opposition, as was afterwards the whole amendment.
Mr. WILSON, in order to leave the scheme open for the back lands as a fund for paying the public debts, moved that the proposition might be further altered so as to read, “indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice,” &c. The motion was seconded by Mr. BOUDINOT, and passed without opposition.
The main proposition by Mr. WILSON, as thus amended, then passed without opposition, in the words following:—
“That it is the opinion of Congress that the establishment of permanent and adequate funds on taxes or duties, which shall operate generally, and, on the whole, in just proportion, throughout the United States, is indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice to the public creditors, for restoring public credit, and for providing for the future exigencies of the war.”
Mr. BLAND proposed, as the only expedient that could produce immediate relief to the public creditors, that Congress should, by a fixed resolution, appropriate to the payment of interest all the moneys which should arise from the requisitions on the states. He thought this would not only give relief to the public creditors, but, by throwing into circulation the stagnant securities, enliven the whole business of taxation. This proposition was not seconded.
Mr. WILSON proceeded to detail to Congress his ideas on the subject of a Continental revenue. He stated the internal debt, liquidated and unliquidated, at 21,000,000 dollars; the foreign debt at 8,000,000 dollars; the actual deficiency of 1782, at 4,000,000 dollars; the probable deficiency of 1783 at 4,000,000 dollars; making, in the whole, 37,000,000 dollars; which, in round numbers, and probably without exceeding the reality, may be called 40,000,000 dollars. The interest of this debt, at six per cent., is 2,400,000 dollars; to which it will be prudent to add 600,000 dollars, which, if the war continues, will be needed, and in case of peace may be applied to a navy. An annual revenue of 3,000,000 of dollars, then, is the sum to be aimed at, and which ought to be under the management of Congress. One of the objects already mentioned, from which this revenue was to be sought, was a poll-tax. This, he thought, was a very proper one, but, unfortunately, the Constitution of Maryland, which forbids this tax, is an insuperable obstacle. Salt he thought a fit article to be taxed, as it is consumed in a small degree by all, and in great quantities by none. It had been found so convenient a subject of taxation, that among all nations which have a system of revenue it is made a material branch. In England, a considerable sum is raised from it. In France, it is swelled to the sum of 54,000,000 of livres. He thought it would be improper to levy this tax during the war, whilst the price would continue so high; but the necessary fall of price at the conclusion of it would render the tax less sensible to the people. The suspension of this particular tax during the war would not be inconvenient, as it might be set apart for the debt due to France, on which the interest would not be called for during the war. He computed the quantity of salt imported into the United States, annually, at 3,000,000 of bushels, and proposed a duty of one third of a dollar per bushel, which would yield 1,000,000 of dollars. This duty, he observed, would press hardest on the Eastern States, on account of the extraordinary consumption in the fisheries.
The next tax which he suggested was on land. One dollar on every hundred acres, according to the computation of the superintendent of finance, would produce 500,000 dollars. This computation, he was persuaded, might be doubled; since there could not be less than 100,000,000 of acres comprehended within the titles of individuals, which, at one dollar per hundred acres, yields 1,000,000 of dollars. This tax could not be deemed too high, and would bear heaviest, not on the industrious farmer, but on the great landholder. As the tax on salt would fall with most weight on the Eastern States, the equilibrium would be restored by this, which would be most felt by the Middle and Southern States.
The impost on trade was another source of revenue, which, although it might be proper to vary it somewhat, in order to remove particular objections, ought to be again and again urged upon the states by Congress. The office of finance has rated this at 500,000 dollars. He thought a peace would double it, in which case the sum of 3,000,000 would be made up. If these computations, however, should be found to be too high, there will still be other objects which would bear taxation. An excise, he said, had been mentioned. In general, this species of taxation was tyrannical and justly obnoxious, but in certain forms had been found consistent with the policy of the freest states. In Massachusetts, a state remarkably jealous of its liberty, an excise was not only admitted before, but continued since, the revolution. The same was the case with Pennsylvania, also remarkable for its freedom. An excise, if so modified as not to offend the spirit of liberty, may be considered as an object of easy and equal revenue. Wine and imported spirits had borne a heavy excise in other countries, and might be adopted in ours. Coffee is another object which might be included. The amount of these three objects is uncertain, but materials for a satisfactory computation might be procured. These hints and remarks he acknowledged to be extremely imperfect, and that he had been led to make them solely by a desire to contribute his mite towards such a system as would place the finances of the United States on an honorable and prosperous footing.
Mr. GORHAM observed, that the proposition of Mr. Bland, however salutary its tendency might be in the respect suggested, could never be admitted, because it would leave our army to starve, and all our affairs to stagnate, during its immediate operation. He objected to a duty on salt, as not only bearing too heavily on the Eastern States, but as giving a dangerous advantage to rivals in the fisheries. Salt, he said, exported from England for the fisheries, is exempted particularly from duties. He thought it would be best to confine our attention, for the present, to the impost on trade, which had been carried so far towards an accomplishment, and to remove the objections which had retarded it, by limiting the term of its continuance, leaving to the states the nomination of the collectors, and by making the appropriation of it more specific.
Mr. RUTLEDGE was also for confining our attention to the impost, and to get that before any further attempts were made. In order to succeed in getting it, however, he thought it ought to be asked in a new form. Few of the states had complied with the recommendation of Congress, literally. Georgia had not yet complied. Rhode Island had absolutely refused to comply at all. Virginia, which at first complied but partially, has since rescinded even that partial compliance. After enumerating the several objections urged by the states against the scheme, he proposed, in order to remove them, the following resolution, viz.:-
“That it be earnestly recommended to the several states, to impose and levy a duty of five per cent., ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, on all goods, wares, and merchandises, of foreign growth and manufacture, which may be imported into the said states, respectively, except goods of the United States or any of them, and a like duty on all prizes and prize goods condemned in the court of admiralty of said states; that the money arising from such duties be paid into the Continental treasury, to be appropriated and applied to the payment of the interest, and to sink the principal, of the money which the United States have borrowed in Europe, and of what they may borrow; for discharging the arrears due to the army, and for the future support of the war, and to no other use or purpose whatsoever; that the said duties be continued for twenty-five years, unless the debts above mentioned be discharged in the mean time, in which case, they shall cease and determine; that the money arising from the said duties, and paid by any state, be passed to the credit of such state on account of its quota of the debt of the United States.”
The motion was seconded by Mr. LEE.
Mr. WOLCOTT opposed the motion, as unjust towards those states which, having few or no ports, receive their merchandise through the ports of others; repeating the observation that it is the consumer, and not the importer, who pays the duty. He again animadverted on the conduct of Virginia in first giving, and afterwards withdrawing, her assent to the impost recommended by Congress.
Mr. ELLSWORTH thought it wrong to couple any other objects with the impost; that the states would give this, if any thing; and that, if a land tax or excise were combined with it, the whole scheme would fail. He thought, however, that some modification of the plan recommended by Congress would be necessary. He supposed, when the benefits of this Continental revenue should be experienced, it would incline the states to concur in making additions to it. He abetted the opposition of Mr. Wolcott to the motion of Mr. Rutledge, which proposed that each state should be credited for the duties collected within its ports; dwelt on the injustice of it; said that Connecticut, before the revolution, did not import one fiftieth, perhaps not one hundredth, part of the merchandise consumed within it, and pronounced that such a plan would never be agreed to. He concurred in the expediency of new-modelling the scheme of the impost by defining the period of its continuance; by leaving to the state the nomination, and to Congress the appointment, of collectors, or vice versa, and by a more determinate appropriation of the revenue. The first object to which it ought to be applied was, he thought, the foreign debt. This object claimed a preference, as well from the hope of facilitating further aids from that quarter as from the disputes in which a failure may embroil the United States. The prejudice against making a provision for foreign debts which should not include the domestic ones was, he thought, unjust, and might be satisfied by immediately requiring a tax, in discharge of which loan-office certificates should be receivable. State funds, for the domestic debts, would be proper for subsequent consideration. He added, as a further objection against crediting the states for the duties on trade respectively collected by them, that a mutual jealousy of injuring their trade by being foremost in imposing such a duty would prevent any from making a beginning.
Mr. WILLIAMSON said, that Mr. Rutledge’s motion, at the same time that it removed some objections, introduced such as would be much more fatal to the measure. He was sensible of the necessity of some alterations, particularly in its duration, and the appointment of the collectors. But the crediting the states, severally, for the amount of their collections, was so palpably unjust and injurious, that he thought candor required that it should not be persisted in. He was of opinion that the interest of the states which trade for others also required it, since such an abuse of the advantage possessed by them would compel the states for which they trade to overcome the obstacles of nature, and provide supplies for themselves. North Carolina, he said, would probably be supplied pretty much through Virginia, if the latter forbore to levy a tax on the former; but in case she did not forbear, the ports of North Carolina, which are nearly as deep as those of Holland, might, and probably would, be substituted. The profits drawn by the more commercial states, from the business they carry on for the others, were of themselves sufficient, and ought to satisfy them.
Mr. RAMSAY differed entirely from his colleague, Mr. Rutledge. He thought that, as the consumer pays the tax, the crediting the states collecting the impost unjust. North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut, would suffer by such a regulation, and would never agree to it.
Mr. BLAND was equally against the regulation. He thought it replete with injustice, and repugnant to every idea of finance. He observed, that this point had been fully canvassed, at the time when the impost was originally recommended by Congress, and finally exploded. He was, indeed, he said, opposed to the whole motion of Mr. Rutledge. Nothing would be a secure pledge to creditors that was not placed out of the control of the grantors. As long as it was in the power of the states to repeal their grants, in this respect, suspicions would prevail, and would prevent loans. Money ought to be appropriated by the states as it is by the Parliament of Great Britain. He proposed that the revenue to be solicited from the states should be irrevocable by them without the consent of Congress or of nine of the states. He disapproved of any determinate limitation to the continuance of the revenue, because the continuance of the debt could not be fixed, and that was the only rule that could be proper or satisfactory. He said he should adhere to these ideas in the face of the act of Virginia repealing her assent to the impost; that it was trifling with Congress to enable them to contract debts, and to withhold from them the means of fulfilling their contracts.
Mr. LEE said, he seconded the motion of Mr. Rutledge, because he thought it most likely to succeed; that he was persuaded the states would not concur in the impost on trade without a limitation of time affixed to it. With such a limitation, and the right of collection, he thought Virginia, Rhode Island, and the other states, probably would concur. The objection of his colleague, Mr. Bland, he conceived to be unfounded. No act of the states could be irrevocable, because, if so called, it might, notwithstanding, be repealed. But he thought there would be no danger of a repeal, observing that the national faith was all the security that was given in other countries, or that could be given. He was sensible that something was, of necessity, to be done in the present alarming crisis, and was willing to strike out the clause crediting the states for their respective collections of the revenue on trade, as it was supposed that it would impede the measure.
Mr. HAMILTON disliked every plan that made but partial provision for the public debts, as an inconsistent and dishonorable departure from the declaration made by Congress on that subject. He said, the domestic creditors would take the alarm at any distinctions unfavorable to their claims; that they would withhold their influence from any such measures recommended by Congress; and that it must be principally from their influence on their respective legislatures, that success could be expected to any application from Congress for a general revenue.
The answer to the memorials from the legislature of Pennsylvania was agreed to as it stands on the Journal, New Jersey alone dissenting.
In the course of its discussion, several expressions were struck out which seemed to reprehend the states for the deficiency of their contributions. In favor of these expressions, it was urged that they were true, and ought to be held forth as the cause of the public difficulties, in justification of Congress. On the other side, it was urged that Congress had, in many respects, been faulty as well as the states—particularly in letting their finances become so disordered before they began to apply any remedy; and that, if this were not the case, it would be more prudent to address to the states a picture of the public distresses and danger than a satire on then faults; since the latter would only irritate them, whereas the former would tend to lead them into the measures supposed by Congress to be essential to the public interest.
The propriety of mentioning to the legislature of Pennsylvania the expedient, into which Congress had been driven, of drawing bills on Spain and Holland without previous warrant, the disappointment attending it, and the deductions ultimately ensuing from the aids destined to the United States by the court of France, was also a subject of discussion. On one side, it was represented as a fact which, being dishonorable to Congress, ought not to be proclaimed by them, and that in the present case it could answer no purpose. On the other side, it was contended that it was already known to all the world; that, as a glaring proof of the public embarrassments, it would impress the legislature with the danger of making those separate appropriations which would increase the embarrassments; and particularly would explain, in some degree, the cause of the discontinuance of the French interest due on the loan-office certificates.
Mr. RUTLEDGE, and some other members, having expressed less solicitude about satisfying or soothing the creditors within Pennsylvania, through the legislature, than others thought ought to be felt by every one, Mr. WILSON, adverting to it with some warmth, declared that, if such indifference should prevail, he was little anxious what became of the answer to the memorials. Pennsylvania, he was persuaded, would take her own measures without regard to those of Congress, and that she ought to do so. She was willing, he said, to sink or swim according to the common fate, but that she would not suffer herself, with a mill-stone of six millions* of the Continental debt about her neck, to go to the bottom alone.
The instruction to the Virginia delegates from that state, relative to tobacco exported to New York, under passport from the secretary of Congress, was referred to a committee. Mr. FITZSIMMONS moved that the information received from said state of its inability to contribute more than—towards the requisitions of Congress, should be also committed. Mr. BLAND saw no reason for such commitment. Mr. GORHAM was in favor of it. He thought such a resolution from Virginia was of the most serious import, especially if compared with her withdrawal of her assent to the impost. He said, with much earnestness, that, if one state should be connived at in such defaults, others would think themselves entitled to a like indulgence. Massachusetts, he was sure, had a better title to it than Virginia. He said the former had expended immense sums in recruiting her line, which composed almost the whole northern army; that one million two hundred thousand pounds (a dollar at six shillings) had been laid out; and that without this sum the army would have been disbanded.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS abetting the animadversions on Virginia, took notice that of—dollars required by Congress from her for the year 1782, she had paid the paltry sum of thirty-five thousand dollars, and was, notwithstanding, endeavoring to play off from further contributions. The commitment took place without opposition.
The sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Wilson, had this morning a conference with the superintendent of finance, on the best mode of estimating the value of land throughout the United States. The superintendent was no less puzzled on the subject than the committee had been. He thought some essay ought to be made for executing the Confederation, if it should be practicable; and if not, to let the impracticability appear to the states. He concurred with the sub-committee, also, in opinion, that it would be improper to refer the valuation to the states, as mutual suspicions of partiality, if not a real partiality, would render the result a source of discontent; and that even if Congress should expressly reserve to themselves a right of revising and rejecting it, such a right could not be exercised without giving extreme offence to the suspected party. To guard against these difficulties it was finally agreed, and the sub-committee accordingly reported to the grand committee,—
That it is expedient to require of the several states a return of all surveyed and granted land within each of them; and that, in such returns, the land be distinguished into occupied and unoccupied.
“That it also was expedient to appoint one commissioner for each state, who should be empowered to proceed, without loss of time, into the several states, and to estimate the value of the lands therein, according to the returns above mentioned, and to such instructions as should, from time to time, be given him for that purpose.”
This report was hurried in to the grand committee for two reasons; first, it was found that Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Bland, and several others, relied so much on a valuation of land, and connected it so essentially with measures for restoring public credit, that an extreme backwardness on their part affected all these measures, whilst the valuation of land was left out. A second reason was, that the sub-committee were afraid that suspicions might arise of intentional delay, in order to confine the attention of Congress to general funds, as affording the only prospect of relief.
The grand committee, for like reasons, were equally impatient to make a report to Congress; and accordingly, after a short consultation, the question was taken, whether the above report of the sub-committee, or the report referred to them, should be preferred. In favor of the first were Mr. Wilson, Mr. Carroll, Mr. Madison, Mr. Elmore, Mr. Hamilton. In favor of the second were Mr. Arnold, Mr. Dyer, Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Rutledge, and Mr. Gilman. So the latter was immediately handed in to Congress, and referred to a committee of the whole, into which they immediately resolved themselves.
A motion was made by Mr. BLAND, seconded by Mr. MADISON, that this report should be taken up in preference to the subject of general funds. Mr. WILSON opposed it as irregular and inconvenient to break in on an unfinished subject; and supposed that, as some further experiment must be intended than merely a discussion of the subject in Congress, before the subject of general funds would be seriously resumed, he thought it unadvisable to interrupt the latter.
Mr. MADISON answered, that the object was not to retard the latter business, but to remove an obstacle to it; that as the two subjects were, in some degree, connected, as means of restoring public credit, and inseparably connected in the minds of many members, it was but reasonable to admit one as well as the other to a share of attention; that if a valuation of land should be found, on mature deliberation, to be as efficacious a remedy as was by some supposed, it would be proper at least to combine it with the other expedient, or perhaps to substitute it altogether; if the contrary should become apparent, its patrons would join the more cordially in the object of a general revenue.
Mr. HAMILTON concurred in these ideas, and wished the valuation to be taken up, in order that its impracticability and futility might become manifest. The motion passed in the affirmative, and the report was taken up.
The phraseology was made more correct in several instances.
A motion was made by Mr. BOUDINOT, seconded by Mr. ELLSWORTH, to strike out the clause requiring a return of “the names of the owners,” as well as the quantity of land. Mr. ELLSWORTH also contended for a less specific return of the parcels of land. The objection against the clause was, that it would be extremely troublesome, and equally useless. Mr. BLAND thought these specific returns would be a check on frauds, and the suspicion of them. Mr. Williamson was of the same opinion, as were also Mr. Lee, Mr. Gorham, and Mr. Ramsay.* The motion was withdrawn by Mr. Boudinot.
Saturday and Monday.
An indecent and tart remonstrance was received from Vermont against the interposition of Congress in favor of the persons who had been banished, and whose effects had been confiscated. A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON, seconded by Mr. DYER, to commit it. Mr. WOLCOTT, who had always patronized the case of Vermont, wished to know the views of a commitment. Mr. HAMILTON said his view was, to fulfil the resolution of Congress which bound them to enforce the measure. Mr. DYER said his was, that so dishonorable a menace might be as quickly as possible renounced. He said General Washington was in favor of Vermont; that the principal people of New England were all supporters of them; and that Congress ought to rectify the error into which they had been led, without longer exposing themselves to reproach on this subject. It was committed without dissent.
Mr. WILSON informed Congress that the legislature of Pennsylvania, having found the ordinance of Congress, erecting a court for piracies, so obscure on some points that they were at a loss to adapt their laws to it, had appointed a committee to confer with a committee of Congress. He accordingly moved, in behalf of the Pennsylvania delegation, that a committee might be appointed for that purpose. After some objections, by Mr. MADISON, against the impropriety of holding a communication with Pennsylvania through committees, when the purpose might be as well answered by a memorial, or an instruction to its delegates, a committee was appointed, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Wilson.
The report proposing a commutation for the half-pay due to the army was taken up. On a motion to allow five and a half years’ whole pay in gross to be funded and bear interest,—this being the rate taken from Dr. Price’s calculation of annuities,—New Hampshire was, no; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no; Virginia, ay, (Mr. LEE, no;) other states, ay: so the question was lost. Five years was then proposed, on which New Hampshire was, no; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no: so there were but six ayes, and the proposition was lost. Mr. WILLIAMSON proposed five and a quarter, and called for the yeas and nays. Messrs. WOLCOTT and DYER observed, that they were bound by instructions on this subject. Mr. ARNOLD said the case was the same with him. They also queried the validity of the act of Congress which had stipulated half-pay to the army, as it had passed before the Confederation, and by a vote of less than seven states. Mr. MADISON said that he wished, if the yeas and nays were called, it might be on the true calculation, and not on an arbitrary principle of compromise; as the latter, standing singly on the Journal, would not express the true ideas of the yeas, and might even subject them to contrary interpretations. He said that the act was valid, because it was decided according to the rule then in force; and that, as the officers had served under the faith of it, justice fully corroberated it, and that he was astonished to hear these principles controverted. He was also astonished to hear objections against a commutation come from states, in compliance with whose objections against the half-pay itself this expedient had been substituted. Mr. WILSON expressed his surprise, also, that instructions should be given which militated against the most peremptory and lawful engagements of Congress, and said that, if such a doctrine prevailed, the authority of the Confederacy was at an end. Mr. ARNOLD said that he wished the report might not be decided on at this time; that the Assembly of Rhode Island was in session, and he hoped to receive their further advice. Mr. BLAND enforced the ideas of Mr. Madison and Mr. Wilson. Mr. GILMAN thought it would be best to refer the subject of half-pay to the several states, to be settled between them and their respective lines. By general consent the report lay over.
Mr. LEE communicated to Congress a letter he had received from Mr. Samuel Adams, dated Boston, December 22, 1782, introducing Mr.—, from Canada, as a person capable of giving intelligence relative to affairs in Canada, and the practicability of uniting that province with the confederated states. The letter was committed.
In committee of the whole on the report concerning a valuation of the lands of the United States,—
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE, which took the sense of Congress on this question—whether the rule of apportionment, to be grounded on the proposed valuation, should continue in force until revoked by Congress, or a period be now fixed beyond which it should not continue in force. The importance of the distinction lay in the necessity of having seven votes on every act of Congress. The Eastern States were, generally, for the latter, supposing that the Southern States, being impoverished by the recent havoc of the enemy, would be underrated in the first valuation. The Southern States were, for the same reason, interested in favor of the former. On the question there were six ayes only, which produced a dispute whether, in a committee of the whole, a majority would decide, or whether seven votes were necessary.
In favor of the first rule, it was contended by Mr. GORHAM and others, that in committees of Congress the rule always is, that a majority decides.
In favor of the latter, it was contended that, if the rule of other committees applies to a committee of the whole, the vote should be individual per capita, as well as by a majority; that in other deliberative assemblies the rules of voting were not varied in committees of the whole, and that it would be inconvenient in practice to report to Congress, as the sense of the body, a measure approved by four or five states, since there could be no reason to hope that, in the same body, in a different form, seven states would approve it; and, consequently, a waste of time would be the result.
The committee rose, and Congress adjourned.
Wednesday,February 5, and Thursday,February 6.
In order to decide the rule of voting in a committee of the whole, before Congress should go into the said committee, Mr. BLAND moved that the rule should be to vote by states, and the majority of states in committee to decide. Mr. WILSON moved to postpone Mr. Bland’s motion, in order to resolve that the rule be to vote by states, and according to the same rules which govern Congress. As this general question was connected, in the minds of members, with the particular question to which it was to be immediately applied, the motion for postponing was negatived chiefly by the Eastern States. A division of the question on Mr. Bland’s motion was then called for, and the first part was agreed to, as on the Journal. The latter clause—to wit, a majority to decide—was negatived; so nothing as to the main point was determined. In this uncertainty, Mr. OSGOOD proposed that Congress should resolve itself into a committee of the whole. Mr. CARROLL, as chairman, observed that, as the same difficulty would occur, he wished Congress would, previously, direct him how to proceed. Mr. HAMILTON proposed that the latter clause of Mr. Bland’s motion should be reconsidered, and agreed to, wrong as it was, rather than have no rule at all. In opposition to which it was said, that there was no more reason why one, and that not the minor, side should wholly yield to the inflexibility of the other, than vice versa; and that, it they should be willing to yield on the present occasion, it would be better to do it tacitly than to saddle themselves with an express and perpetual rule which they judged improper. This expedient was assented to, and Congress accordingly went into a committee of the whole.
The points arising on the several amendments proposed were, first, the period beyond which the rule of the first valuation should not be in force. On this point Mr. COLLINS proposed five years, Mr. BLAND ten years, Mr. BOUDINOT seven years: New Jersey having instructed her delegates thereon. The Connecticut delegates proposed three years. On the question for three years, New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, ay; Connecticut, ay; all the other states, no. On the question for five years, all the states ay, except Connecticut.
The second point was whether, and how far, the rule should be retrospective. On this point the same views operated as on the preceding. Some were against any retrospection, others for extending it to the whole debt, and others for extending it so far as was necessary for liquidating and closing the accounts between the United States and each individual state.
The several motions expressive of these different ideas were at length withdrawn, with a view that the point might be better digested, and more accurately brought before Congress; so the report was agreed to in the committee, and made to Congress. When the question was about to be put, Mr. MADISON observed that the report lay in a great degree of confusion; that several points had been decided in a way too vague and indirect to ascertain the real sense of Congress; that other points involved in the subject had not received any decision; and proposed the sense of Congress should be distinctly and successively taken on all of them, and the result referred to a special committee, to be digested, &c. The question was, however, put, and negatived, the votes being as they appear on the Journal. The reasons on which Mr. Hamilton’s motion was grounded appear from its preamble.
On motion of Mr. LEE, who had been absent when the report was yesterday negatived, the matter was reconsidered. The plan of taking the sense of Congress on the several points, as yesterday proposed by Mr. Madison, was generally admitted as proper.
The first question proposed in committee of the whole by Mr. MADISON, was: Shall a valuation of land within the United States, as directed by the Articles of Confederation, be immediately attempted?—Eight ayes; New York, only, no. The states present were New Hampshire, Massachusetts. Connecticut, New York. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina; Rhode Island, one member; Maryland, one.
By Mr. WILSON—
Q. Shall each state be called on to return to the United States, in Congress assembled, the number of acres granted to, or surveyed for, any person, and also the number of buildings within it?—Eight ayes; North Carolina, no—supposing this not to accord with the plan of referring the valuation to the states, which was patronized by that delegation. A supplement to this question was suggested as follows:—
Q. Shall the male inhabitants be also returned, the blacks and whites being therein distinguished?—Ay; North Carolina, no—for the same reason as above Connecticut divided.
By Mr. MADISON—
Q. Shall the states be called on to return to Congress an estimate of the value of their lands, with the buildings and improvements within each, respectively?
After some discussion on this point, in which the inequalities which would result from such estimates were set forth at large, and effects of such an experiment in Virginia had been described by Mr. Mercer, and a comparison of an average valuation in Pennsylvania and Virginia, which amounted in the latter to fifty percent. more than in the former,—although the real value of land in the former was confessedly thrice that of the latter,—had been quoted by Mr. Madison, the apprehensions from a reference of any thing more to the states than a report of simple facts increased; and on the vote the states were as follows: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, no—Mr. Bland, ay; Mr. Lee, silent; Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, ay; New York, divided: so it passed in the negative.
By Mr. MADISON—
Q. Shall a period be now fixed, beyond which the rule to be eventually established by Congress shall not be in force?—ay, unanimously.
By Mr. MADISON—
Q. What shall that period be? Connecticut was again for three years; which being rejected, five years passed unanimously.
By Mr. MADISON—
Q. Shall the rule so to be established have retrospective operation, so far as may be necessary for liquidating and closing the accounts between the United States and each particular state?—ay; Connecticut, no. Mr. DYER and Mr. MERCER understood this as making the amount of the several requisitions of Congress, and not of the payments by the states, the standard by which the accounts were to be liquidated, and thought the latter the just quantum for retrospective appointment. Their reasoning, however, was not fully comprehended.
Committee of the Whole.
Mr. MERCER revived the subject of retrospective operation, and after it had been much discussed, and the difference elucidated which might happen between apportioning, according to the first valuation which should be made, merely the sums paid on the requisitions of Congress, and apportioning the whole requisitions, consisting of the sums paid and the deficiencies, which might not be paid until some distant day, when a different rule, formed under different circumstances of the states, should be in force, the assent to the last question, put yesterday, was reversed, and there was added to the preceding question, after “five years,”—“and shall operate as a rule for apportioning the sums necessary to be raised for supporting the public credit and other contingent expenses, and for adjusting all accounts between the United States and each particular state, for moneys paid or articles furnished by them, and for no other purpose whatsoever.” On this question there were six ayes; so it became a vote of the committee of the whole.
For the report of the committee on the resolutions of Virginia, concerning the contract under which tobacco was to be exported to New York, and the admission of circumstantial proof of accounts against the United States, where legal vouchers had been destroyed by the enemy, see the Journal of this date.
Mr. MERCER informed Congress that this matter had made much noise in Virginia; that she had assented to the export of the first quantity, merely out of respect to Congress, and under an idea that her rights of sovereignty had been encroached upon; and that, as a further quantity had been exported without the license of the state, the question was unavoidable, whether the authority of Congress extended to the act. He wished, therefore, that Congress would proceed to decide the question.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS, in behalf of the committee, observed that they went no future than to examine whether the proceedings of the officers of Congress were conformable to the resolution of Congress, and not whether the latter were within the power of Congress.
Mr. LEE said, the report did not touch the point; that the additional quantity had been exported without application to the state, although the first quantity was licensed by the state with great reluctance, in consequence of the request of Congress, and of assurances against a repetition; and that the superintendent and secretary of Congress ought, at any rate, to have made application to the executive before they proceeded to further exportations.
Mr. RUTLEDGE said, the report went to the very point, that Virginia suspected the resolutions of Congress had been abused by the officers of Congress, and the report showed that no such abuse had taken place; that if this information was not satisfactory, and the state should contest the right of Congress in the case, it would then be proper to answer it on that point, but not before. He said, if the gentleman (Mr. Lee) meant the committee, authorized by Congress on the 29th day of May, 1782, to make explanations on the subject to the legislature of Virginia, had given the assurances he mentioned, he must be mistaken; for none such had been given. He had, he said, formed notes of his remarks to the legislature; but, according to his practice, had destroyed them after the occasion was over, and therefore could only assert this from memory; that nevertheless his memory enabled him to do it with certainty.
Mr. LEE, in explanation, said he did not mean the committee; that the abuse complained of was not that the resolutions of Congress had been exceeded, but that the export had been undertaken without the sanction of the state. If the acts were repeated, he said, great offence would be given to Virginia.
The report was agreed to, as far as the tobacco was concerned, without a dissenting voice; Mr. Lee uttering a no, but not loud enough to be heard by Congress or the Chair. The part relating to the loss of vouchers was unanimously agreed to.
Committee of the Whole.
The report for the valuation of land was amended by the insertion of “distinguishing dwelling-houses from others.”
The committee adjourned, and the report was made to Congress.
Mr. LEE and Mr. GERVAIS moved that the report might be postponed to adopt another plan, to wit,—
“To call on the states to return a valuation, and to provide that, in case any return should not be satisfactory to all parties, persons should be appointed by Congress, and others by the states, respectively, to adjust the case finally.”
On this question New Hampshire was divided; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, ay; Connecticut, no; New York, divided; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, no; Virginia, no; Mr. Madison and Mr. Jones, no; Mr. Lee and Mr. Bland, ay; North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, ay: so the motion failed.
The report made by the committee of the whole having decided that the mode to be grounded on the return of facts called for from the states ought now to be ascertained,—
Mr. RUTLEDGE proposed, seconded by Mr. GILMAN, that the states should be required to name commissioners, each of them one, who, or any nine of them, should be appointed and empowered by Congress, to settle the valuation. Mr. Gorham was against it, as parting with a power which might be turned by the states against Congress. Mr. Wolcott against it; declares his opinion that the Confederation ought to be amended by substituting numbers of inhabitants as the rule; admits the difference between freemen and blacks; and suggests a compromise, by including in the numeration such blacks only as were within sixteen and sixty years of age. Mr. WILSON was against relinquishing such a power to the states; proposes that the commissioners be appointed by Congress, and their proceedings subject to the ratification of Congress. Mr. MERCER was for submitting them to the revision of Congress; and this amendment was received. Mr. PETERS against the whole scheme of valuation, as holding out false lights and hopes to the public. Mr. RUTLEDGE thinks commissioners appointed by the states may be trusted, as well as commissioners appointed by Congress, or as Congress themselves. Mr. WILSON observes that, if appointed by the states, they will bring with them the spirit of agents for their respective states; if appointed by Congress, they will consider themselves as servants of the United States at large, and be more impartial.
Mr. GORHAM, seconded by Mr. Wilson, proposes to postpone, in order to require the states to appoint commissioners to give Congress information for a basis for a valuation. On the question, New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, ay; Rhode Island, ay; Connecticut, ay; New York, ay; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Virginia, no; North Carolina, no; South Carolina, no: so it was decided in the negative.
To make the resolution more clear, after the words “or any nine of them,” the words “concurring therein” were added. Mr. RUTLEDGE says, that subjecting the acts of the commissioners to the revision of Congress had so varied his plan that he should be against it. On the main question, New Hampshire, ay; Massachusetts, ay; Rhode Island, ay; Connecticut, ay; New York, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, ay; Virginia, ay, (Mr. Madison, no;) North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, ay: so it was agreed to; and the resolution, declaring that a mode should now be fixed, struck out, as executed. The whole report was then committed to a special committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Gorham, and Mr. Gilman, to be formed into a proper act.13
The declaration of Congress as to general funds, passed on January the 29th, appears on the Journals; and Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, in order to consider the funds to be adopted and recommended to the states.
On motion of Mr. MIFFLIN, the impost of five per cent. was taken into consideration. As it seemed to be the general opinion that some variations from the form in which it had been first recommended would be necessary for reconciling the objecting states to it, it was proposed that the sense of the committee should be taken on that head. The following questions were accordingly propounded:—
Question 1. Is it expedient to alter the impost as recommended on the—day of—, 1781?
Mr. LEE said the states, particularly Virginia, would never concur in the measure unless the term of years were limited, the collection left to the states, and the appropriation annually laid before them.
Mr. WOLCOTT thought the revenue ought to be commensurate, in point of time as well as amount, to the debt; that there was no danger in trusting Congress, considering the responsible mode of its appointment; and that to alter the plan would be a mere condescension to the prejudices of the states.
Mr. GORHAM favored the alteration for the same reason as Mr. Lee. He said private letters informed him that the opposition to the impost law was gaining ground in Massachusetts, and the repeal of Virginia would be very likely to give that opposition the ascendence. He said, our measures must be accommodated to the sentiments of the states, whether just or unreasonable.
Mr. HAMILTON dissented from the particular alterations suggested, but did not mean to negative the question.
Mr. BLAND was for conforming to the ideas of the states as far as would, in any manner, consist with the object.
On the question, the affirmative was unanimous, excepting the voice of Mr. WOLCOTT.
Question 2. Shall the term of duration be limited to twenty-five years?
Mr. MERCER professed a decided opposition to the principle of general revenue; observed that the liberties of England had been preserved by a separation of the purse from the sword; that, until the debts should be liquidated and apportioned, he would never assent, in Congress or elsewhere, to the scheme of the impost.
Mr. BLAND proposed an alternative of twenty-five years, or until the requisitions of Congress, according to the Articles of Confederation, shall be found adequate. On this proposition the votes were, of New Hampshire, divided; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New York, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, no; Virginia, ay; North Carolina, divided; South Carolina, ay: so the proposition was not agreed to.
On the main question for twenty-five years, it was voted in the affirmative.
Question 3. Shall the appointment of collectors be left to the states, they to be amenable to, and under the control of, Congress?—Ay; several states, as New York and Pennsylvania, dissenting.
The committee report to Congress the alterations yesterday agreed on with respect to the five per cent. impost.
The deputy secretary at war reported to Congress the result of the inquiry directed by them, on the 24th of January, into the seizure of goods destined for the British prisoners of war, under passport from General Washington. From this report, it appeared that some of the seizors had pursued their claim under the law of the state; and that, in consequence, the goods had been condemned and ordered for sale. The papers were referred to a committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Gorham, and Mr. Lee, who, after having retired for a few moments, reported that the secretary of war should be authorized and directed to cause the goods to be taken from the places where they had been deposited; to employ such force as would be sufficient; and that the Duke de Lauzun, whose legion was in the neighborhood, should be requested to give the secretary such aid as he might apply for.
This report was generally regarded by Congress as intemperate, and the proposed recourse to the French legion as flagrantly imprudent. Mr. HAMILTON said, that if the object had been to embroil the country with their allies, the expedient would have been well conceived.* He added, that the exertion of force would not, under these circumstances, meet the sense of the people at large. Mr. GORHAM said, he denied this with respect to the people of Massachusetts.
Mr. LEE, on the part of the committee, said that the Duke de Lauzun had been recurred to as being in the neighborhood, and having cavalry under his command, which would best answer the occasion; and that the report was founded on wise and proper considerations.
Mr. MERCER, Mr. WILLIAMSON, Mr. RAMSAY, Mr. WILSON, and Mr. MADISON, strenuously opposed the report, as improper altogether, as far as it related to the French legion, and in other respects so until the state of Pennsylvania should, on summons, refuse to restore the articles seized.
Mr. RUTLEDGE, with equal warmth, contended for the expediency of the measures reported.
Mr. MERCER and Mr. MADISON at length proposed that Congress should assert the right on this subject, and summon the state of Pennsylvania to redress the wrong immediately. The report was recommitted, with this proposition, and Mr. Wilson and Mr. Mercer added to the committee.
The speech of the king of Great Britain on the 5th of December, 1782, arrived and produced great joy in general, except among the merchants who had great quantities of merchandise in store, the price of which immediately and materially fell. The most judicious members of Congress, however, suffered a great diminution of their joy from the impossibility of discharging the arrears and claims of the army, and their apprehensions of new difficulties from that quarter.
Mr. Jones, Mr. Rutledge, and Mr. Wilson, to whom had been referred, on Tuesday last, a letter from Mr. Jefferson, stating the obstacles to his voyage, reported that they had conferred with the agent of marine, who said there was a fit vessel ready for sea in this port, but was of opinion the arrival of the British king’s speech would put a stop to the sailing of any vessels from the ports of America until something definitive should take place; and that if Congress judged fit that Mr. Jefferson should proceed immediately to Europe, it would be best to apply to the French minister for one of the frigates in the Chesapeake. The general opinion of Congress seemed to be that, under present circumstances, he should suspend his voyage until the further order of Congress; and on motion of Mr. GORHAM, seconded by Mr. WOLCOTT, the secretary of foreign affairs was accordingly, without opposition, directed to make this known to Mr. Jefferson.
The report of the committee for obtaining a valuation of land was made and considered. See the Journal of this date.
The report respecting a valuation of land being lost, as appears from the Journal, was revived by the motion of Mr. DYER, seconded by Mr. MERCER, as it stands: the appointment of commissioners by Congress for adjusting the quotas being changed for a grand committee, consisting of a delegate present from each state, for that purpose.
A motion was made to strike out the clause requiring the concurrence of nine voices in the report to Congress; and on the question, Shall the words stand? the states being equally divided, the clause was expunged. It was therefore reconsidered and reinserted.
The whole report was agreed to, with great reluctance, by almost all—by many from a spirit of accommodation only, and the necessity of doing something on the subject. Some of those who were in the negative, particularly Mr. Madison, thought the plan not within the spirit of the Confederation; that it would be ineffectual, and that the states would be dissatisfied with it.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON, seconded by Mr. FITZSIMMONS, to renew the recommendation of the—February, 1782, for vesting Congress with power to make abatements in favor of states, parts of which had been in possession of the enemy. It was referred to a committee.
Committee of the Whole on the Subject of general Funds.
Mr. RUTLEDGE and Mr. MERCER proposed, that the impost of five per cent., as altered and to be recommended to the states, should be appropriated exclusively, first to the interest of the debt to the army, and then, in case of surplus, to the principal. Mr. Rutledge urged, in support of this motion, that it would be best to appropriate this fund to the army as the most likely to be obtained, as their merits were superior to those of all other creditors, and as it was the only thing that promised, what policy absolutely required, some satisfaction to them.
Mr. WILSON replied, that he was so sensible of the merits of the army, that if any discrimination were to be made among the public creditors, he should not deny them perhaps a preference, but that no such discrimination was necessary; that the ability of the public was equal to the whole debt, and that before it be split into different descriptions, the most vigorous efforts ought to be made to provide for it entire; that we ought first, at least, to see what funds could be provided, to see how far they would be deficient, and then, in the last necessity only, to admit discriminations.
Mr. GORHAM agreed with Mr. Wilson. He said an exclusive appropriation to the army would, in some places, be unpopular, and would prevent a compliance of those states whose citizens were the greatest creditors of the United States; since, without the influence of the public creditors, the measure could never be carried through the states; and these, if excluded from the appropriation, would be even interested in frustrating the measure, and keeping, by that means, their cause a common one with the army.
Mr. MERCER applauded the wisdom of the Confederation in leaving the provision of money to the states; said that when this plan was deviated from by Congress, their objects should be such as were best known and most approved; that the states were jealous of one another, and would not comply unless they were fully acquainted with, and approved, the purpose to which their money was to be applied; that nothing less than such a preference of the army would conciliate them; that no civil creditor would dare to put his claims on a level with those of the army; and insinuated that the speculations which had taken place in loan-office certificates might lead to a revision of that subject on principles of equity; that if too much were asked from the states, they would grant nothing. He said that it had been alleged, that the large public debt, if funded under Congress, would be a cement of the Confederacy. He thought, on the contrary, it would hasten its dissolution; as the people would feel its weight in the most obnoxious of all forms—that of taxation.
On the question, the states were all no, except South Carolina, which was ay.*
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE, seconded by Mr. BLAND, to change the plan of the impost in such a manner as that a tariff might be formed for all articles that would admit of it; and that a duty, ad valorem, should be collected only on such articles as would not admit of it.
In support of such alteration, it was urged that it would lessen the opportunity of collusion between collector and importer, and would be more equal among the states. On the other side, it was alleged that the states had not objected to that part of the plan, and a change might produce objections; that the nature and variety of the imports would require necessarily the collection to be ad valorem on the greater part of them; that the forming of a book of rates would be attended with great difficulties and delays; and that it would be in the power of Congress, by raising the rate of the article, to augment the duty beyond the limitation of five per cent., and that this consideration would excite objections on the part of the states. The motion was negatived.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON, seconded by Mr. WILSON, that, whereas Congress were desirous that the motives and views of their measures should be known to their constituents in all cases where the public safety would admit, when the subject of finances was under debate, the doors of Congress should be open. Congress adjourned, it being the usual hour, and the motion being generally disrelished. The Pennsylvania delegates said, privately, that they had brought themselves into a critical situation by dissuading their constituents from separate provision for creditors of the United States, within Pennsylvania, hoping that Congress would adopt a general provision, and they wished their constituents to see the prospect themselves, and to witness the conduct of their delegates. Perhaps the true reason was, that it was expected the presence of public auditors, numerous and weighty, in Philadelphia, would have an influence, and that it would be well for the public to come more fully to the knowledge of the public finances.
A letter was received from Mr. William Lee, at Ghent, notifying the desire of the emperor of Austria to form a commercial treaty with the United States, and to have a resident from them. Committed to Messrs. Izard, Gorham, and Wilson.
The motion made yesterday by Mr. HAMILTON, for opening the doors of Congress when the subject of the finances should be under debate, was negatived; Pennsylvania alone being ay.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON, seconded by Mr. BLAND, to postpone the clause of the report, made by the committee of the whole, for altering the impost, viz., the clause limiting its duration to twenty-five years, in order to substitute a proposition declaring it to be inexpedient to limit the period of its duration; first, because it ought to be commensurate to the duration of the debt; secondly, because it was improper in the present stage of the business, and all the limitation of which it would admit had been defined in the resolutions of—, 1782.
Mr. HAMILTON said, in support of his motion, that it was in vain to attempt to gain the concurrence of the states by removing the objections publicly assigned by them against the impost; that these were the ostensible and not the true objections; that the true objection on the part of Rhode Island was the interference of the impost with the opportunity afforded by their situation of levying contributions on Connecticut, &c., which received foreign supplies through the ports of Rhode Island; that the true objection on the part of Virginia was her having little share in the debts due from the United States, to which the impost would be applied; that a removal of the avowed objections would not therefore remove the obstructions, whilst it would admit, on the part of Congress, that their first recommendation went beyond the absolute exigencies of the public; that Congress, having taken a proper ground at first, ought to maintain it till time should convince the states of the propriety of the measure.
Mr. BLAND said, that as the debt had been contracted by Congress with the concurrence of the states, and Congress was looked to for payment by the public creditors, it was justifiable and requisite in them to pursue such means as would be adequate to the discharge of the debt; and that the means would not be adequate, if limited in duration to a period within which no calculations had shown that the debt would be discharged.
On the motion, the states were—New Hampshire, divided; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, ay; Connecticut, divided; New York, ay; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Virginia, no, (Mr. Bland, ay;) North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, ay. Mr. RUTLEDGE said he voted for postponing, not in order to agree to Mr. Hamilton’s motion, but to move, and he accordingly renewed the motion made in committee of the whole, viz., that the impost should be appropriated exclusively to the army. This motion was seconded by Mr. LEE.
Mr. HAMILTON opposed the motion strenuously; declared that, as a friend to the army as well as to the other creditors and to the public at large, he would never assent to such a partial distribution of justice; that the different states, being differently attached to different branches of the public debt, would never concur in establishing a fund which was not extended to every branch; that it was impolitic to divide the interests of the civil and military creditors, whose joint efforts in the states would be necessary to prevail on them to adopt a general revenue.
Mr. MERCER favored the measure, as necessary to satisfy the army, and to avert the consequences which would result from their disappointment on this subject. He pronounced, that the army would not disband until satisfactory provision should be made, and that this was the only attainable provision; but he reprobated the doctrine of permanent debt supported by a general and permanent revenue, and said that it would be good policy to separate, instead of cementing, the interests of the army and the other public creditors; insinuating that the claims of the latter were not supported by justice, and that the loan-office certificates ought to be revised.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS observed, that it was unnecessary to make a separate appropriation of the impost to one particular debt; since, if other funds should be superadded, there would be more simplicity and equal propriety in an aggregate fund for the aggregate debt funded, and that, if no other funds should be superadded, it would be unjust and impolitic; that the states whose citizens were the chief creditors of the United States would never concur in such a measure; that the mercantile interest, which comprehended the chief creditors of Pennsylvania, had by their influence obtained the prompt and full concurrence of that state in the impost; and if that influence were excluded, the state would repeal its law. He concurred with those who hoped the army would not disband unless provision should be made for doing them justice.
Mr. LEE contended, that, as every body felt and acknowledged the force of the demands of the army, an appropriation of the impost to them would recommend it to all the states; that distinct and specific appropriation of distinct revenue was the only true system of finance, and was the practice of all other nations who were enlightened on this subject; that the army had not only more merit than the mercantile creditors, but that the latter would be more able, on a return of peace, to return to the business which would support them.
Mr. MADISON said, that, if other funds were to be superadded, as the gentleman (Mr. Rutledge) who made the motion admitted, it was at least premature to make the appropriation in question; that it would be best to wait till all the funds were agreed upon, and then appropriate them respectively to those debts to which they should be best fitted; that it was probable the impost would be judged best adapted to the foreign debt, as the foreign creditors could not, like the domestic, ever recur to particular states for separate payments; and that, as this would be a revenue little felt, it would be prudent to assign it to those for whom the states would care least, leaving more obnoxious revenues for those creditors who would excite the sympathy of their countrymen, and could stimulate them to do justice.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was against the motion; said he did not wish the army to disband until proper provision should be made for them; that if force should be necessary to excite justice, the sooner force was applied the better.
Mr. WILSON was against the motion of Mr. Rutledge; he observed that no instance occurred in the British history of finance in which distinct appropriations had been made to distinct debts already contracted; that a consolidation of funds had been the result of experience; that an aggregate fund was more simple, and would be most convenient; that the interest of the whole funded debt ought to be paid before the principal of any part of it; and, therefore, in case of surplus of the impost beyond the interest of the army debt, it ought, at any rate, to be applied to the interest of the other debts, and not, as the motion proposed, to the principal of the army debt. He was fully of opinion that such a motion would defeat itself; that, by dividing the interest of the civil from that of the military creditors, provision for the latter would be frustrated.
On the question on Mr. Rutledge’s motion, the states were—New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no; Virginia, no; (Mr. Lee and Mr. Mercer, ay;) North Carolina, no; South Carolina, ay.
On the clause reported by the committee of the whole, in favor of limiting the impost to twenty-five years, the states were—New Hampshire, ay; Massachusetts, ay; Connecticut, divided; (Mr. Dyer, ay; Mr. Wolcott, no;) New York, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, ay; (Mr. Wilson and Mr. Fitzsimmons, no;) Virginia, ay; (Mr. Bland, no;) North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, ay: so the question was lost.
On the question whether the appointment of collectors of the impost shall be left to the states, the collectors to be under the control of, and be amendable to, Congress, there were seven ayes; New York and Pennsylvania being no, and New Jersey divided.
The motion for limiting the impost to twenty-five years having been yesterday lost, and some of the gentlemen who were in the negative desponding of an indefinite grant of it from the states, the motion was reconsidered.
Mr. WOLCOTT and Mr. HAMILTON repeat the inadequacy of a definite term. Mr. RAMSAY and Mr. WILLIAMSON repeat the improbability of an indefinite term being acceded to by the states, and the expediency of preferring a limited impost to a failure of it altogether.
Mr. MERCER was against the impost altogether, but would confine his opposition within Congress. He was in favor of the limitation, as an alleviation of the evil.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS animadverted on Mr. Mercer’s insinuation yesterday touching the loan-office creditors, and the policy of dividing them from the military creditors; reprobated every measure which contravened the principles of justice and public faith; and asked, whether it were likely that Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, to whose citizens half the loan-office debt was owing, would concur with Virginia, whose citizens had lent but little more than three hundred thousand dollars, in any plan that did not provide for that in common with other debts of the United States. He was against a limitation to twenty-five years.
Mr. LEE wished to know whether by loan-office creditors were meant the original subscribers or the present holders of the certificates, as the force of their demands may be affected by this consideration.
Mr. FITZSIMMOMS saw the scope of the question, and said that, if another scale of depreciation was seriously in view, he wished it to come out, that every one might know the course to be taken.
Mr. GORHAM followed the sentiments of the gentleman who last spoke; expressed his astonishment that a gentleman (Mr. Lee) who had enjoyed such opportunities of observing the nature of public credit should advance such doctrines as were fatal to it. He said it was time that this point should be explained; that if the former scale for the loan-office certificates was to be revised and reduced, as one member from Virginia (Mr. Mercer) contended, or a further scale to be made out for subsequent depreciation of certificates, as seemed to be the idea of the other member, (Mr. Lee,) the restoration of public credit was not only visionary, but the concurrence of the states in any arrangement whatever was not to be expected. He was in favor of the limitation, as necessary to overcome the objections of the states.
Mr. MERCER professed his attachment to the principles of justice, but declared that he thought the scale by which the loans had been valued unjust to the public, and that it ought to be revised and reduced.
On the question for the period of twenty-five years, it was decided in the affirmative, seven states being in favor of it; New Jersey and New York only being no.
Mr. MERCER called the attention of Congress to the case of the goods seized under a law of Pennsylvania, on which the committee had not yet reported, and wished that Congress would come to some resolution declaratory of their rights, and which would lead to an effectual interposition on the part of the legislature of Pennsylvania. After much conversation on the subject, in which the members were somewhat divided as to the degree of peremptoriness with which the state of Pennsylvania should be called on, the resolution on the Journal, which is inserted below, was finally adopted; having been drawn up by the secretary, and put into the hands of a member, the resolution passed without any dissent.*
Resolved, That it does not appear to Congress that any abuse has been made of the passport granted by the commander-in-chief for the protection of clothing and other necessaries sent from New York, in the ship Amazon, for the use of the British and German prisoners of war.
Resolved, That the goods imported in the said ship Amazon, and contained in the returns late before Congress by the assistant secretary at war, are fully covered and protected by the sale passport, and ought to be sent with all expedition, and without any let or hinderance, to the prisoners for whose use they were designed.
[The evening of this day was spent at Mr. Fitzsimmons’s by Mr. Gorham, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Peters, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Madison. The conversation turned on the subject of revenue, under the consideration of Congress, and on the situation of the army. The conversation on the first subject ended in a general concurrence (Mr. Hamilton excepted) in the impossibility of adding to the impost on trade any taxes that would operate equally throughout the United States, or be adopted by them. On the second subject, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Peters, who had the best knowledge of the temper, transactions, and views of the army, informed the company, that it was certain that the army had secretly determined not to lay down their arms until due provision and a satisfactory prospect should be afforded on the subject of their pay; that there was reason to expect that a public declaration to this effect would soon be made; that plans had been agitated, if not formed, for subsisting themselves after such declaration; that, as a proof of their earnestness on this subject, the commander was already become extremely unpopular, among almost all ranks, from his known dislike to every unlawful proceeding; that this unpopularity was daily increasing and industriously promoted by many leading characters: that his choice of unfit and indiscreet persons into his family was the pretext, and with some the real motive; but the substantial one, a desire to displace him from the respect and confidence of the army, in order to substitute General ******* as the conductor of their efforts to obtain justice. Mr. Hamilton said, that he knew General Washington intimately and perfectly; that his extreme reserve, mixed sometimes with a degree of asperity of temper, (both of which were said to have increased of late,) had contributed to the decline of his popularity; but that his virtue, his patriotism and firmness, would, it might be depended upon, never yield to any dishonorable or disloyal plans into which he might be called; that he would sooner suffer himself to be cut to pieces; that he, (Mr. Hamilton,) knowing this to be his true character, wished him to be the conductor of the army in their plans for redress, in order that they might be moderated and directed to proper objects, and exclude some other leader who might foment and misguide their councils; that with this view he had taken the liberty to write to the general on this subject, and to recommend such a policy to him.]
Mr. MERCER made some remarks tending to a reconsideration of the act declaring general funds to be necessary, which revived the discussion of that subject.
Mr. MADISON said, that he had observed, throughout the proceedings of Congress relative to the establishment of such funds, that the power delegated to Congress by the Confederation had been very differently construed by different members, and that this difference of construction had materially affected their reasonings and opinions on the several propositions which had been made; that, in particular, it had been represented by sunday members that Congress was merely an executive body; and, therefore, that it was inconsistent with the principles of liberty and the spirit of the constitution, to submit to them a permanent revenue, which would be placing the purse and the sword in the same hands; that he wished the true doctrine of the Confederation to be ascertained, as it might, perhaps, remove some embarrassments; and towards that end would offer his ideas in the subject.
He said, that he did not conceive, in the first place, that the opinion was sound, that the power of Congress, in cases of revenue, was in no respect legislative, but merely executive; and, in the second place, that, admitting the power to be executive, a permanent revenue collected and dispensed by them in the discharge of the debts to which it should be appropriated would be inconsistent with the nature of an executive body, or dangerous to the liberties of the republic.
As to the first opinion, he observed that, by the Articles of Confederation, Congress had clearly and expressly the right to fix the quantum of revenue necessary for the public exigencies, and to require the same from the states respectively, in proportion to the value of the land; that the requisitions thus made were a law to the states, as much as the acts of the latter for complying with them were a law to their individual members; that the Federal Constitution was as sacred and obligatory as the internal constitutions of the several states; and that nothing could justify the states in disobeying acts warranted by it, but some previous abuse and infraction on the part of Congress; that as a proof that the power of fixing the quantum, and making requisitions of money, was considered as a legislative power over the purse, he would appeal to the proposition, made by the British minister, of giving this power to the British Parliament, and leaving to the American assemblies the privilege of complying in their own mode, and to the reasonings of Congress and the several states on that proposition. He observed, further, that by the Articles of Confederation was delegated to Congress a right to borrow money indefinitely, and emit bills of credit, which was a species of borrowing, for repayment and redemption of which the faith of the states was pledged, and their legislatures constitutionally bound. He asked whether these powers were reconcilable with the idea that Congress was a body merely executive. He asked what would be thought in Great Britain, from whose constitution our political reasonings were so much drawn, of an attempt to prove that a power of making requisitions of money on the Parliament, and of borrowing money, for discharge of which the Parliament should be bound, might be annexed to the crown without changing its quality of an executive branch, and that the leaving to the Parliament the mode only of complying with the requisitions of the crown would be leaving to it its supreme and exclusive power of legislation.
As to the second point, he referred again to the British constitution, and the mode in which provision was made for the public debts; observing that, although the executive had no authority to contract a debt, yet, that when a debt had been authorized or admitted by the Parliament, a permanent and irrevocable revenue was granted by the legislature, to be collected and dispensed by the executive; and that this practice had never been deemed a subversion of the constitution, or a dangerous association of a power over the purse with the power of the sword.
If these observations were just, as he conceived them to be, the establishment of a permanent revenue—not by any assumed authority of Congress, but by the authority of the states at the recommendation of Congress, to be collected and applied by the latter to the discharge of the public debts—could not be deemed inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Constitution, or subversive of the principles of liberty; and that all objections drawn from such a supposition ought to be withdrawn. Whether other objections of sufficient weight might not lie against such an establishment, was another question. For his part, although for various reasons* he had wished for such a plan as most eligible, he had never been sanguine that it was practicable; and the discussions which had taken place had finally satisfied him, that it would be necessary to limit the call for a general revenue to duties on commerce, and to call for the deficiency in the most permanent way that could be reconciled with a revenue established within each state, separately, and appropriated to the common treasury. He said, the rule which he had laid down to himself, in this business, was to concur in every arrangement that should appear necessary for an honorable and just fulfilment of the public engagements, and in no measure tending to augment the power of Congress, which should appear to be unnecessary; and particularly disclaimed the idea of perpetuating a public debt.
Mr. LEE, in answer to Mr. Madison, said the doctrine maintained by him was pregnant with dangerous consequences to the liberties of the confederated states; that, notwithstanding the specious arguments that had been employed, it was an established truth that the purse ought not to be put into the same hands with the sword; that like arguments had been used in favor of ship-money in the reign of Charles the First, it being then represented as essential to the support of the government; that the executive should be assured of the means of fulfilling its engagements for the public service. He said, it had been urged by several in behalf of such an establishment for public credit, that without it Congress was nothing more than a rope of sand. On this head he would be explicit; he had rather see Congress a rope of sand than a rod of iron. He urged, finally, as a reason why some states would not, and ought not, to concur in granting to Congress a permanent revenue, that some states (as Virginia) would receive back a small part by payment from the United States to its citizens; whilst others (as Pennsylvania) would receive a vast surplus, and, consequently, be draining the former of its wealth.
Mr. MERCER said, if he conceived the federal compact to be such as it had been represented, he would immediately withdraw from Congress, and do every thing in his power to destroy its existence; that if Congress had a right to borrow money as they pleased, and to make requisitions on the states that would be binding on them, the liberties of the states were ideal; that requisitions ought to be consonant to the spirit of liberty; that they should go frequently, and accompanied with full information: that the states must be left to judge of the nature of them, of their abilities to comply with them, and to regulate their compliance accordingly; he laid great stress on the omission of Congress to transmit half-yearly to the states an account of the moneys borrowed by them, &c., and even insinuated that this omission had absolved the states, in some degree, from the engagements. He repeated his remarks on the injustice of the rule by which loan-office certificates had been settled, and his opinion that some defalcations would be necessary.
Mr. HOLTON was opposed to all permanent funds, and to every arrangement not within the limits of the Confederation.
Mr. HAMILTON enlarged on the general utility of permanent funds to the federal interests of this country, and pointed out the difference between the nature of the constitution of the British executive and that of the United States, in answer to Mr. Lee’s reasoning from the case of ship-money.
Mr. GORHAM adverted, with some warmth, to the doctrines advanced by Mr. Lee and Mr. Mercer, concerning the loan-office creditors. He said the union could never be maintained on any other ground than that of justice; that some states had suffered greatly from the deficiencies of others already; that, if justice was not to be obtained through the federal system, and this system was to fail, as would necessarily follow, it was time this should be known, that some of the states might be forming other confederacies adequate to the purposes of their safety.
This debate was succeeded by a discharge of the committee from the business of devising the means requisite for restoring public credit, &c. &c., and the business referred to a committee, consisting of Mr. Gorham, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, Mr. Fitzsimmons, and Mr. Rutledge.
No Congress till.
In favor of the motion of Mr. GILMAN, (see the Journal of this date,) to refer the officers of the army for their half-pay to their respective states, it was urged that this plan alone would secure to the officers any advantage from that engagement; since Congress had no independent fund out of which it could be fulfilled, and the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island, in particular, would not comply with any recommendation of Congress, nor even requisition, for that purpose. It was also said that it would be satisfactory to the officers; and that it would apportion on the states that part of the public burden with sufficient equality. Mr. DYER said, that the original promise of Congress on that subject was considered, by some of the states, as a fetch upon them, and not within the spirit of the authority delegated to Congress. Mr. WOLCOTT said, the states would give Congress nothing whatever, unless they were gratified in this particular. Mr. COLLINS said, Rhode Island had expressly instructed her delegates to oppose every measure tending to an execution of the promise out of moneys under the disposition of Congress.
On the other side, it was urged that the half-pay was a debt as solemnly contracted as anyother debt, and was, consequently, as binding, under the 12th article of the Confederation on the states, and that they could not refuse a requisition made for that purpose, that it would be improper to countenance a spirit of that sort by yielding to it; that such concessions on the part of Congress would produce compliances on the part of the states, in other instances, clogged with favorite conditions; that a reference of the officers to the particular states to whose lines they belong would not be satisfactory to the officers of those states who objected to half-pay, and would increase the present irritation of the army; that to do it without their unanimous consent would be a breach of the contract by which the United States, collectively, were bound to them; and, above all, that the proposed plan, which discharged any particular state which should settle with its officers on this subject, although other states might reject the plan, from its proportion of that part of the public burden, was a direct and palpable departure from the law of the Confederation. According to this instrument, the whole public burden of debt must be apportioned according to a valuation of land; nor could any thing but a unanimous concurrence of the states dispense with this law. According to the plan proposed, so much of the public burden as the half-pay should amount to was to be apportioned according to the number of officers belonging to each line; the plan to take effect, as to all those states which should adopt it, without waiting for the unanimous adoption of the states; and that, if Congress had authority to make the number of officers the rule of apportioning one part of the public debt on the states, they might extend the rule to any other arbitrary rule which they should think fit. The motion of Mr. GILMAN was negatived. See the ayes and noes on the Journal.
Mr. LEE observed to Congress, that it appeared, from the newspapers of the day, that sundry enormities had been committed by the refugees within the state of Delaware, as it was known that like enormities had been committed on the shores of the Chesapeake, notwithstanding the pacific professions of the enemy; that it was probable, however, that if complaint were to be made to the British commander at New York, the practice would be restrained. He accordingly moved that a committee might be appointed to take into consideration the means of restraining such practices. The motion was seconded by Mr. PETERS. By Mr. FITZSIMMONS the motion was viewed as tending to a request of favors from Sir Guy Carleton. It was apprehended by others that, as General Washington and the commanders of separate armies, had been explicitly informed of the sense of Congress on this point, any fresh measures thereon might appear to be a censure on them; and that Congress could not ground any measure on the case in question, having no official information relative to it. The motion of Mr. LEE was negatived; but it appearing, from the vote, to be the desire of many members that some step might be taken by Congress, the motion of Mr. MADISON and Mr. MERCER, as it stands on the Journal, was proposed and agreed to, as free from all objections.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON to give a brevet commission to Major Burnet, aid to General Greene, and messenger of the evacuation of Charleston, of lieutenant-colonel; there being six ayes only, the motion was lost; New Hampshire, no; Mr. Lee and Mr. Mercer, no.
The committee, consisting of Mr. Lee, &c., to whom had been referred the motion of Mr. HAMILTON, recommending to the states to authorize Congress to make abatements in the retrospective apportionment, by a valuation of land in favor of states whose ability, from year to year, had been most impaired by the war, reported that it was inexpedient to agree to such motion, because one state (Virginia) having disagreed to such a measure on a former recommendation to Congress, it was not probable that another recommendation would produce any effect; and because the difficulties of making such abatements were greater than the advantages expected from them.
Mr. LEE argued in favor of the report, and the reasons on which it was grounded. The eastern delegations were for leaving the matter open for future determination, when an apportionment should be in question.
Mr. MADISON said, he thought that the principle of the motion was conformable to justice, and within the spirit of the Confederation; according to which, apportionments ought to have been made from time to time, throughout the war, according to the existing wealth of each state; but that it would be improper to take up this case separately from other claims of equity, which would be put in by other states; that the most likely mode of obtaining the concurrence of the states in any plan. would be to comprehend in it the equitable interests of all of them; a comprehensive plan of that sort would be the only one that would cut off all sources of future controversy among the states; that as soon as the plan of revenue should be prepared for recommendation to the states, it would be proper for Congress to take into consideration, and combine with it, every object* which might facilitate its progress and for a complete provision for the tranquillity of the United States. The question on Mr. Hamilton’s motion was postponed.
The letter from Mr. Morris, requesting that the injunction of secrecy might be withdrawn from his preceding letter, signifying to Congress his purpose of resigning, was committed.
On the report of the committee on Mr. Morris’s letter, the injunction of secrecy was taken off without dissent or observation.
The attention of Congress was recalled to the subject of half-pay by Messrs. DYER and WOLCOTT, in order to introduce a reconsideration of the mode of referring it separately to the states to provide for their own lines.
Mr. MERCER favored the reconsideration, representing the commutation proposed as tending, in common with the funding of other debts, to establish and perpetuate a moneyed interest in the United States; that this moneyed interest would gain the ascendence of the landed interest; would resort to places of luxury and splendor, and, by their example and influence, become dangerous to our republican constitutions. He said, however, that the variances of opinion and indecision of Congress were alarming, and required that something should be done; that it would be better to new-model the Confederation, or attempt any thing, rather than to do nothing.
Mr. MADISON reminded Congress that the commutation proposed was introduced as a compromise with those to whom the idea of pensions was obnoxious, and observed, that those whose scruples had been relieved by it had rendered it no less obnoxious than before, by stigmatizing it with the name of a perpetuity. He said, the public situation was truly deplorable. If the payment of the capital of the public debts was suggested, it was said, and truly said, to be impossible; if funding them and paying the interest was proposed, it was exclaimed against as establishing a dangerous moneyed interest, as corrupting the public manners, as administering poison to our republican constitutions. He said, he wished the revenue to be established to be such as would extinguish the capital, as well as pay the interest, within the shortest possible period, and was as much opposed to perpetuating the public burdens as any one; but that the discharge of them in some form or other was essential, and that the consequences predicted therefrom could not be more heterogeneous to our republican character and constitutions than a violation of the maxims of good faith and common honesty. It was agreed that the report for commuting half-pay should lie on the table till to-morrow, in order to give an opportunity to the delegates of Connecticut to make any proposition relative thereto which they should judge proper.
The report of the committee, consisting of Mr. Gorham, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, Mr. Rutledge, and Mr. Fitzsimmons, was taken up. It was proposed that, in addition to the impost of five per cent., ad valorem, the states be requested to enable Congress to collect a duty of one eighth of a dollar per bushel on salt imported; of six ninetieths per gallon on all wines, do; and of three ninetieths per gallon on all rum and brandy, do.
On the first article it was observed, on the part of the Eastern States, that this would press peculiarly hard on them, on account of the salt consumed in the fisheries; and that it would, besides, be injurious to the national interest by adding to the cost of fish; and a drawback was suggested.
On the other side, it was observed that the warmer climate and more dispersed settlements of the Southern States required a greater consumption of salt for their provisions; that salt might and would be conveyed to the fisheries without previous importation; that the effect of the duty was too inconsiderable to be felt in the cost of fish; and that the rum in the North-Eastern States being, in a great degree, manufactured at home, they would have greater advantage, in this respect, than the other states could have in the article of salt; that a drawback could not be executed in our complicated government with ease or certainty.
Mr. MERCER, on this occasion, declared, that, although he thought those who opposed a general revenue right in their principles, yet, as they appeared to have formed no plan adequate to the public exigencies, and as he was convinced of the necessity of doing something, he should depart from his first resolution, and strike in with those who were pursuing the plan of a general revenue.
Mr. HOLTEN said, he had come lately into Congress with a predetermination against any measures, for discharging the public engagements, other than those pointed out in the Confederation, and that he had hitherto acted accordingly; but that he saw now so clearly the necessity of making provision for that object, and the inadequacy of the Confederation thereto, that he should concur in recommending to the states a plan of a general revenue.
A question being proposed on the duties on salt, there were nine ayes; New Hampshire alone being no; Rhode Island not present.
It was urged, by some, that the duty on wine should be augmented; but it appeared, on discussion, and some calculations, that the temptation to smuggling would be rendered too strong, and the revenue thereby diminished. Mr. BLAND proposed, that instead of a duty on the gallon, an ad valorem duty should be laid on wine; and this idea, after some loose discussion, was agreed to, few of the members interesting themselves therein, and some of them having previously retired from Congress.
A motion was made by Mr. WOLCOTT and Mr. DYER, to refer the half-pay to the states, little differing from the late motion of Mr. Gilman, except that it specified five years’ whole pay as the proper ground of composition with the officers of the respective lines. On this proposition the arguments used for and against Mr. Gilman’s motion were recapitulated. It was negatived, Connecticut alone answering in the affirmative, and no division being called for.
On the question to agree to the report for a commutation of five years’ whole pay, there being seven ayes only, it was considered whether this was an appropriation, or a new ascertainment of a sum of money necessary for the public service. Some were of opinion, at first, that it did not fall under that description, viz., of an appropriation. Finally, the contrary opinion was deemed, almost unanimously, safest, as well as the most accurate. Another question was, whether seven or nine votes were to decide doubts; whether seven or nine were requisite on any question. Some were of opinion that the secretary ought to make an entry according to his own judgment, and that that entry should stand unless altered by a positive instruction from Congress. To this it was objected, that it would make the secretary the sovereign in many cases, since a reversal of his entry would be impossible, whatever that entry might be; that, particularly, he might enter seven votes to be affirmative on a question where nine were necessary, and if supported in it by a few states it would be irrevocable. It was said, by others, that the safest rule would be to require nine votes to decide, in all cases of doubt, whether nine or seven were necessary. To this it was objected, that one or two states, and in any situation six states, might, by raising doubts, stop seven from acting in any case which they disapproved. Fortunately, on the case in question, there were nine states of opinion that nine were requisite; so the difficulty was got over for the present.
On a reconsideration of the question whether the duty on wine should be on the quantity or on the value, the mode reported by the committee was reinstated, and the whole report recommitted, to be included with the five per cent., ad valorem, in an act of recommendation to the states.
The committee on revenues reported, in addition to the former articles recommended by them, a duty of two thirds of a dollar per one hundred and twelve pounds on all brown sugars; one dollar on all powdered, lumped, and clayed sugars, other than loaf sugars; one and one third of a dollar per one hundred and twelve pounds on all loaf sugars; one thirtieth of a dollar per pound on all Bohea teas, and one fifteenth of a dollar on all finer India teas. This report, without debate or opposition, was recommitted, to be incorporated with the general plan.
Tuesday,March 4, and Wednesday,March 5.
The motion of Mr. HAMILTON, on the Journal, relative to abatement of the quotas of distressed states, was rejected, partly because the principle was disapproved by some, and partly because it was thought improper to be separated from other objects to be recommended to the states. The latter motive produced the motion for postponing, which was lost.
The committee to whom had been referred the letters of resignation of Mr. Morris, reported, as their opinion, that it was not necessary for Congress immediately to take any steps thereon. They considered the resignation as conditional, and that, if it should eventually take place at the time designated, there was no necessity for immediate provision to be made.
Mr. BLAND moved, “that a committee be appointed to devise the most proper means of arranging the department of finance.”
This motion produced, on these two days, lengthy and warm debates; Mr. LEE and Mr. BLAND, on one side, disparaging the administration of Mr. Morris, and throwing oblique censure on his character. They considered his letter as an insult to Congress; and Mr. LEE declared that the man who had published to all the world such a picture of our national character and finances was unfit to be a minister of the latter. On the other side, Mr. WILSON and Mr. HAMILTON went into a copious defence and panegyric of Mr. Morris; the ruin in which his resignation, if it should take place, would involve public credit and all the operations dependent on it; and the decency, though firmness, of his letters. The former observed, that the declaration of Mr. Morris, that he would not be the minister of injustice, could not be meant to reflect on Congress, because they had declared the funds desired by Mr. Morris to be necessary; and that the friends of the latter could not wish for a more honorable occasion for his retreat from public life, if they did not prefer the public interest to considerations of friendship. Other members were divided as to the propriety of the letters in question. In general, however, they were thought reprehensible; as in general, also, a conviction prevailed of the personal merit and public importance of Mr. Morris. All impartial members foresaw the most alarming consequences from his resignation. The prevailing objection to Mr. Bland’s motion was, that its avowed object and tendency was to reëstablish a board, in place of a single minister of finance. Those who apprehended that, ultimately, this might be unavoidable, thought it so objectionable that nothing but the last necessity would justify it. The motion of Mr. BLAND was lost, and a committee appointed, generally, on the letters of Mr. Morris.14
The committee on revenue made a report, which was ordered to be printed for each member, and to be taken up on Monday next.
Printed copies of the report above-mentioned were delivered to each member, as follows, viz.:
1. “Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, as indispensably necessary to the restoration of public credit, and the punctual and honorable discharge of the public debts, to vest in the United States, in Congress assembled, a power to levy, for the use of the United States, a duty of five per cent., ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, upon all goods, wares, and merchandises of foreign growth and manufactures, which may be imported into any of the said states from any foreign port, island, or plantation, except arms, ammunition, clothing, and other articles imported on account of the United States, or any of them; and except wool-cards, cotton-cards, and wire for making them; and also except salt during the war.
2. “Also, a like duty of five per cent., ad valorem, on all prizes and prize goods condemned in the Court of Admiralty of these United States as lawful prize.
3. “Also, to levy a duty of one eighth of a dollar per bushel on all salt, imported as aforesaid, after the war; one fifteenth of a dollar per gallon on all wines; one thirtieth of a dollar per gallon on all rum and brandy; two thirds of a dollar per one hundred and twelve pounds on all brown sugars; one dollar per one hundred and twelve pounds on all powdered, lump, and clayed sugars, other than loaf sugars; one and one third of a dollar per one hundred and twelve pounds on all loaf sugars; one thirtieth of a dollar per pound on all Bohea tea; and one fifteenth of a dollar per pound on all finer India teas, imported as aforesaid, after — —, in addition to the five per cent above mentioned.
4. “Provided, that none of the said duties shall be applied to any other purpose than the discharge of the interest, or principal, of the debts which shall have been contracted on the faith of the United States for supporting the present war, nor be continued for a longer term than twenty-five years; and provided, that the collectors of the said duties shall be appointed by the states within which their offices are to be respectively exercised; but when so appointed shall be amenable to, and removable by, the United States, in Congress assembled, alone; and, in case any state shall not make such appointment within — —, after notice given for that purpose, the appointment may then be made by the United States, in Congress assembled.
5. “That it be further recommended to the several states to establish for a like term, not exceeding twenty-five years, and to appropriate to the discharge of the interest and principal of the debts which shall have been contracted on the faith of the United States, for supporting the present war, substantial and effectual revenues, of such a nature as they may respectively judge most convenient, to the amount of — — —, and in the proportion following, viz.:
* * * * * * * * *
The said revenues to be collected by persons appointed as aforesaid, but to be carried to the separate credit of the states within which they shall be collected, and be liquidated and adjusted among the states according to the quotas which may from time to time be allotted to them.
6. “That an annual account of the proceeds and application of the afore mentioned revenues shall be made out and transmitted to the several states, distinguishing the proceeds of each of the specified articles, and the amount of the whole revenue received from each state.
7. “That none of the preceding resolutions shall take effect until all of them shall be acceded to by every state; after which accession, however, they shall be considered as forming a mutual compact among all the states, and shall be irrevocable by any one or more of them without the concurrence of the whole, or a majority, of the United States in Congress assembled.
8. “That, as a further means, as well of hastening the extinguishment of the debts as of establishing the harmony of the United States, it be recommended to the states which have passed no acts towards complying with the resolutions of Congress of the sixth of September and the tenth of October, 1780, relative to territorial cessions, to make the liberal cessions therein recommended; and to the states which may have passed acts complying with the said resolutions in part only, to revise and complete such compliance.
9. “That, in order to remove all objections against a retrospective application of the constitutional rule of apportioning to the several states the charges and expenses which shall have been supplied for the common defence or general welfare, it be recommended to them to enable Congress to make such equitable exceptions and abatements as the particular circumstances of the states, from time to time, during the war, may be found to require.
10. “That, conformably to the liberal principles on which these recommendations are founded, and with a view to a more amicable and complete adjustment of all accounts between the United States and individual states, all reasonable expenses which shall have been incurred by the states without the sanction of Congress, in their defence against, or attacks upon British or savage enemies, either by sea or by land, and which shall be supported by satisfactory proofs, shall be considered as part of the common charges incident to the present war, and be allowed as such.
11. “That, as a more convenient and certain rule of ascertaining the proportions to be supplied by the states respectively, to the common treasury, the following alteration, in the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between these states, be, and the same is hereby, agreed to in Congress; and the several states are advised to authorize their respective delegates to subscribe and ratify the same, as part of the said instrument of union, in the words following, to wit:—
“ ‘So much of the eighth of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the thirteen states of America as is contained in the words following, to wit,—“All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land within each state granted to, or surveyed for, any person, as such land, and the buildings and improvements thereon, shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled shall, from time to time, direct and appoint,”—is hereby revoked and made void, and in place thereof it is declared and concluded, the same having been agreed to in a Congress of the United States, that all chrges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the number of inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition, except Indians not paying taxes in each state; which number shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the United States, in Congress assembled, in such mode as they shall direct and appoint; provided, always, that in such numeration no persons shall be included who are bound to servitude for life, according to the laws of the state to which they belong, other than such as may be between the ages of* —years.’ ”
The committee, consisting of Mr. Carroll, Mr. Dyer, and Mr. Mifflin, to whom was referred the report of the committee on two paragraphs of a report of the grand committee, brought in a report; and the report of the committee being taken into consideration, and amended, so as to read as follows,—
“That such officers as are now in service, and shall continue therein to the end of the war, shall be entitled to receive the sum of five years’ full pay, in money or securities, on interest at six per cent. per annum, at the option of Congress, instead of the half-pay promised for life by the resolution of the twenty-first of October, 1780; the said securities to be such as shall be given to the other creditors of the United States; provided that it be at the option of the lines of the respective states, and not of officers individually in those lines, to accept or refuse the same; that all officers who have retired from service upon the promise of half-pay for life shall be entitled to the benefits of the above resolution; provided that those of the line of each state collectively shall agree thereto; that the same commutation shall extend to the corps not belonging to the lines of particular states, the acceptance or refusal to be determined by corps; that all officers entitled to half-pay for life, not included in the above resolution, may, collectively, agree to accept or refuse the commutation,”—
much debate passed relative to the proposed commutation of half-pay; some wishing it to take place on condition only that a majority of the whole army should concur; others preferring the plan above expressed, and not agreed to.
The report entered on Friday, the 7th of March, was taken into consideration. It had been sent, by order of Congress, to the superintendent of finance for his remarks, which were also on the table. These remarks were, in substance, that it would be better to turn the five per cent., ad valorem, into a tariff, founded on an enumeration of the several classes of imports, to which ought to be added a few articles of exports; that, instead of an apportionment of the residue on the states, other general revenues—from a land-tax, reduced to one fourth of a dollar per hundred acres, with a house-tax, regulated by the numbers of windows, and an excise on all spirituous liquors, to be collected at the place of distillery—ought to be substituted, and, as well as the duties on trade, made coëxistent with the public debts; the whole to be collected by persons appointed by Congress alone. And that an alternative ought to be held out to the states, either to establish the permanent revenues for the interest, or to comply with a constitutional demand of the principal within a very short period.
In order to ascertain the sense of Congress on these ideas, it was proposed that the following short questions should be taken:—
1. Shall any taxes, to operate generally throughout the states, be recommended by Congress, other than duties on foreign commerce?
2. Shall the five per cent., ad valorem, be exchanged for a tariff?
3. Shall the alternative be adopted, as proposed by the superintendent of finance?
On the first question the states were—New Hampshire, no; Connecticut, no New Jersey, no; Maryland, no; Virginia, no; six noes and five ayes—lost.
On the second question there were seven ayes.
The third question was not put, its impropriety being generally proclaimed.
In consequence of the second vote in favor of a tariff, the three first paragraphs of the report were recommitted, together with the letter from the superintendent of finance.
On the fourth paragraph, on motion of Mr. Dyer, after the word “war,” in the fifth line, was inserted “agreeably to the resolution of the 16th of December last.”
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON and Mr. WILSON to strike out the limitation of twenty-five years, and to make the revenue coexistent with the debts. This question was lost, the states being—New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, no; Connecticut, divided; New York, ay; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Delaware, ay; Maryland, ay; Virginia, no; North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, no.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON and Mr. WILSON to strike out the clauses relative to the appointment of collectors, and to provide that the collectors should be inhabitants of the states within which they should collect; should be nominated by Congress, and appointed by the states; and in case such nomination should not be accepted or rejected within—days, it should stand good. On this question there were five ayes and six noes.
Wednesday, 12th, Thursday, 13th, Friday, 14th,
These days were employed in reading the despatches brought on Wednesday morning by Captain Barney, commanding the Washington packet. They were dated from December the 4th to the 24th, from the ministers plenipotentiary for peace, with journals of preceding transactions: and were accompanied by the preliminary articles signed on the 30th of November, between the said ministers and Mr. Oswald, the British minister.
The terms granted to America appeared to Congress, on the whole, extremely liberal. It was observed by several, however, that the stipulation obliging Congress to recommend to the states a restitution of confiscated property, although it could scarcely be understood that the states would comply, had the appearance of sacrificing the dignity of Congress to the pride of the British king.
The separate and secret manner in which our ministers had proceeded with respect to France, and the confidential manner with respect to the British ministers, affected different members of Congress differently. Many of the most judicious members thought they had all been, in some measure, ensnared by the dexterity of the British minister; and particularly disapproved of the conduct of Mr. Jay, in submitting to the enemy his jealousy of the French, without even the knowledge of Dr. Franklin, and of the unguarded manner in which he, Mr. Adams, and Dr. Franklin, had given, in writing, sentiments unfriendly to our ally, and serving as weapons for the insidious policy of the enemy. The separate article was most offensive, being considered as obtained by Great Britain, not for the sake of the territory ceded to her, but as a means of disuniting the United States and France, as inconsistent with the spirit of the alliance, and a dishonorable departure from the candor, rectitude, and plain dealing professed by Congress. The dilemma in which Congress were placed was sorely felt. If they should communicate to the French minister every thing, they exposed their own ministers, destroyed all confidence in them on the part of France, and might engage them in dangerous factions against Congress, which was the more to be apprehended, as the terms obtained by their management were popular in their nature. If Congress should conceal every thing, and the French court should, either from the enemy or otherwise, come to the knowledge of it, all confidence would be at an end between the allies; the enemy might be encouraged by it to make fresh experiments, and the public safety as well as the national honor be endangered. Upon the whole, it was thought and observed by many that our ministers, particularly Mr. Jay, instead of making allowances for, and affording facilities to France, in her delicate situation between Spain and the United States, had joined with the enemy in taking advantage of it to increase her perplexity; and that they had made the safety of their country depend on the sincerity of Lord Shelburne, which was suspected by all the world besides, and even by most of themselves. Se Mr. Laurens’s letter, December the 24th.
The displeasure of the French court at the neglect of our ministers to maintain a confidential intercourse, and particularly to communicate the preliminary articles before they were signed, was not only signified to the secretary of foreign affairs, but to sundry members, by the Chevalier de la Luzerne. To the former he showed a letter from Count de Vergennes, directing him to remonstrate to Congress against the conduct of the American ministers, which a subsequent letter countermanded, alleging that Dr. Franklin had given some explanations that had been admitted; and told Mr. Livingston that the American ministers had deceived him (De Vergennes) by telling him, a few days before the preliminary articles were signed, that the agreement on them was at a distance; that when he carried the articles signed into council, the king expressed great indignation, and asked, if the Americans served him thus before peace was made, and whilst they were begging for aids, what was to be expected after peace, &c. To several members he mentioned that the king had been surprised and displeased, and that he said he did not think he had such allies to deal with. To one of them, who asked whether the court of France meant to complain of them to Congress, M. Marbois answered that great powers never complained, but that they felt and remembered. It did not appear, from any circumstances, that the separate article was known to the court of France, or to the Chevalier de la Luzerne.
The publication of the preliminary articles, excepting the separate article in the newspaper, was not a deliberate act of Congress. A hasty question for enjoining secrecy on certain parts of the despatches, which included those articles, was lost; and copies having been taken by members, and some of them handed to the delegates of Pennsylvania, one of them reached the printer. When the publication appeared, Congress in general regretted it, not only as tending too much to lull the states, but as leading France into suspicions that Congress favored the premature signature of the articles, and were, at least, willing to remove, in the minds of the people, the blame of delaying peace from Great Britain to France.15
A letter was received from General Washington, enclosing two anonymous and inflammatory exhortations to the army to assemble, for the purpose of seeking, by other means, that justice which their country showed no disposition to afford them. The steps taken by the general to avert the gathering storm, and his professions of inflexible adherence to his duty to Congress and to his country, excited the most affectionate sentiments towards him. By private letters from the army, and other circumstances, there appeared good ground for suspecting that the civil creditors were intriguing, in order to inflame the army into such desperation as would produce a general provision for the public debts. These papers were committed to Mr. Gilman, Mr. Dyer, Mr. Clark, Mr. Rutledge, and Mr. Mercer. The appointment of these gentleman was brought about by a few members, who wished to saddle with this embarrassment the men who had opposed the measures necessary for satisfying the army, viz., the half-pay and permanent funds; against one or other of which the individuals in question had voted.
This alarming intelligence from the army, added to the critical situation to which our affairs in Europe were reduced by the variance of our ministers with our ally, and to the difficulty of establishing the means of fulfilling the engagements and securing the harmony of the United States, and to the confusions apprehended from the approaching resignation of the superintendent of finance, gave peculiar awe and solemnity to the present moment, and oppressed the minds of Congress with an anxiety and distress which had been scarcely felt in any period of the revolution.
On the report of the committee to whom the three paragraphs of the report on revenues (see March the 6th and 7th had been recommitted, the said paragraphs were expunged, so as to admit the following amendments, which took place without opposition, viz.:—
“Resolved That it be recommended to the several states, as indispensably necessary to the restoration of public credit and the punctual and honorable discharge of the public debts, to vest in the United States in Congress assembled a power to levy, for the use of the United States a duty
“And upon all goods, except arms, ammunition, and clothing, or other articles* imported for the use of the United States, a duty of five per cent., ad valorem:
“Provided, that there be allowed a bounty of one eighth of a dollar for every quintal of dried fish exported from the United States, and a like sum for every barrel of pickled fish, beef, or pork, to be paid or allowed to the exporter thereof, at the port from which they shall be so exported.”
The arguments urged by Mr. WILSON in behalf of his motion for adding “also a tax of one quarter of a dollar per hundred acres on all located and surveyed lands within each of the states,” other than those heretofore generally urged, were, that it was more moderate than had been paid before the revolution, and it could not be supposed the people would grudge to pay, as the price of their liberty, what they formerly paid to their oppressors; that if it was unequal, this inequality would be corrected by the states in other taxes; that, as the tax on trade would fall chiefly on the inhabitants of the lower country, who consumed the imports, the tax on land would affect those who were remote from the sea, and consumed little.
On the opposite side, it was alleged that such a tax was repugnant to the popular ideas of equality, and particularly, would never be acceded to by the Southern States, at least unless they were to be respectively credited for the amount; and, if such credit were to be given, it would be best to let the states choose such taxes as would best suit them.
A letter came in, and was read, from the secretary of foreign affairs, stating the perplexing alternative to which Congress were reduced, by the secret article relating to West Florida, either of dishonoring themselves by becoming a party to the concealment, or of wounding the feelings and destroying the influence of our ministers by disclosing the article to the French court; and proposing, as advisable, on the whole,—
1. That he be authorized to communicate the article in question to the French minister, in such manner as would best tend to remove the unfavorable impressions which might be made on the court of France as to the sincerity of Congress or their ministers.
2. That the said ministers be informed of this communication, and instructed to agree that the limit for West Florida, proposed in the separate article, be allowed to whatever power the said colony may be confirmed by a treaty of peace.
3. That it be declared to be the sense of Congress, that the preliminary articles between the United States and Great Britain are not to take effect until peace shall be actually signed between the kings of France and Great Britain.†
Ordered that to-morrow be assigned for the consideration of the said letter.
A letter was read from the superintendent of finance, enclosing letters from Dr. Franklin, accompanied with extracts from the Count de Vergennes relative to money affairs, the superintendent thereupon declaring roundly that our credit was at an end, and that no further pecuniary aids were to be expected from Europe. Mr. RUTLEDGE denied these assertions, and expressed some indignation at them. Mr. BLAND said, that as the superintendent was of this opinion, it would be absurd for him to be minister of finance, and moved that the committee on his motion for arranging the department might be instructed to report without loss of time. This motion was negatived as censuring the committee; but it was understood to be the sense of Congress that they should report.16
The order of the day, viz., the letter from the secretary of foreign affairs, was taken up.
Mr. WOLCOTT conceived it unnecessary to waste time on the subject, as he presumed Congress would never so far censure the ministers who had obtained such terms for this country as to disavow their conduct.
Mr. CLARK was decided against communicating the separate article, which would be sacrificing meritorious ministers, and would rather injure than relieve our national honor. He admitted that the separate article put an advantage into the hands of the enemy, but did not, on the whole, deem it of any great consequence. He thought Congress ought to go no further than to inform the ministers that they were sorry for the necessity which had led them into the part they had taken, and to leave them to get rid of the embarrassment as to the separate article, in such way as they should judge best. This expedient would save Congress, and spare our ministers, who might have been governed by reasons not known to Congress.
Mr. MERCER said, that, not meaning to give offence any where, he should speak his sentiments freely. He gave it as his clear and decided opinion, that the ministers had insulted Congress by sending them assertions, without proof, as reasons for violating their instructions, and throwing themselves into the confidence of Great Britain. He observed, that France, in order to make herself equal to the enemy, had been obliged to call for aid, and had drawn Spain, against her interest, into the war; that it was probable that she had entered into some specific engagements for that purpose; that hence might be deduced the perplexity of her situation, of which advantage had been taken by Great Britain—an advantage in which our ministers had concurred—for sowing jealousies between France and the United States, and of which further advantage would be taken to alienate the minds of the people of this country from their ally, by presenting him as the obstacle to peace. The British court, he said, having gained this point, may easily frustrate the negotiation, and renew the war against divided enemies. He approved of the conduct of the Count de Vergennes in promoting a treaty, under the first commission to Oswald, as preferring the substance to the shadow, and proceeding from a desire of peace. The conduct of our ministers throughout, particularly in giving in writing every thing called for by the British minister expressive of distrust of France, was a mixture of follies which had no example, was a tragedy to America, and a comedy to all the world beside. He felt inexpressible indignation at their meanly stooping, as it were, to lick the dust from the feet of a nation whose hands were still dyed with the blood of their fellow-citizens. He reprobated the chicane and low cunning which marked the journals transmitted to Congress, and contrasted them with the honesty and good faith which became all nations, and particularly an infant republic. They proved that America had at once all the follies of youth and all the vices of old age; thinks it would be necessary to recall our ministers; fears that France may be already acquainted with all the transactions of our ministers, even with the separate article, and may be only waiting the reception given to it by Congress, to see how far the hopes of cutting off the right arm of Great Britain, by supporting our revolution, may have been well founded; and, in case of our basely disappointing her, may league with our enemy for our destruction, and for a division of the spoils. He was aware of the risks to which such a league would expose France of finally losing her share, but supposed that the British Islands might be made hostages for her security. He said America was too prone to depreciate political merit, and to suspect where there was no danger; that the honor of the king of France was dear to him; that he never would betray or injure us, unless he should be provoked, and justified by treachery on our part. For the present he acquiesced in the proposition of the secretary of foreign affairs; but, when the question should come to be put, he should be for a much more decisive resolution.
Mr. RUTLEDGE said, he hoped the character of our ministers would not be affected, much less their recall produced, by declamations against them; and that facts would be ascertained and stated, before any decision should be passed; that the Count de Vergennes had expressly declared to our ministers his desire that they might treat apart; alluded to, and animadverted upon, the instruction which submitted them to French councils; was of opinion that the separate article did not concern France, and therefore there was no necessity for communicating it to her; and that, as to Spain, she deserved nothing at our hands; she had treated us in a manner that forfeited all claim to our good offices or our confidence. She had not, as had been supposed, entered into the present war as an ally to our ally, for our support; but, as she herself had declared, as a principal, and on her own account. He said, he was for adhering religiously to the spirit and letter of the treaty with France; that our ministers had done so, and, if recalled or censured for the part they had acted, he was sure no man of spirit would take their place. He concluded with moving that the letter from the secretary of foreign affairs might be referred to a special committee, who might inquire into all the facts relative to the subject of it. Mr. HOLTEN seconded the motion.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was opposed to harsh treatment of the ministers, who had shown great ability. He said, they had not infringed the treaty, and, as they had received the concurrence of the Count de Vergennes for treating apart, they had not, in that respect, violated their instructions. He proposed that Congress should express to the ministers their concern at the separate article, and leave them to get over the embarrassment as they should find best.
Mr. MERCER, in answer to Mr. RUTLEDGE, said, that his language with respect to the ministers was justified by their refusal to obey instructions; censured with great warmth the servile confidence of Mr. Jay, in particular, in the British ministers. He said, the separate article was a reproach to our character; and that, if Congress would not themselves disclose it, he would disclose it to his constituents, who would disdain to be united with those who patronize such dishonorable proceedings. He was called to order by the president, who said that the article in question was under an injunction of secrecy, and he could not permit the order of the House to be trampled upon.
Mr. LEE took notice that obligations in national affairs, as well as others, ought to be reciprocal, and he did not know that France had ever bound herself to like engagements, as to concert of negotiation, with those into which America had at different times been drawn. He thought it highly improper to censure ministers who had negotiated well; said that it was agreeable to practice, and necessary to the end proposed for ministers, in particular emergencies, to swerve from strict instructions. France, he said, wanted to sacrifice our interests to her own, or those of Spain; that the French answer to the British memorial contained a passage which deserved attention on this subject. She answered the reproaches of perfidy contained in that memorial by observing that, obligations being reciprocal, a breach on one side absolved the other. The Count de Vergennes, he was sure, was too much a master of negotiation not to approve the management of our ministers, instead of condemning it. No man lamented more than he did any diminution of the confidence between this country and France; but if the misfortune should ensue, it could not be denied that it had originated with France, who has endeavored to sacrifice our territorial rights—those very rights which by the treaty she had guarantied to us. He wished the preliminary articles had not been signed without the knowledge of France, but was persuaded that, in whatever light she might view it, she was too sensible of the necessity of our independence to her safety ever to abandon it. But let no censure fall on our ministers, who had, upon the whole, done what was best. He introduced the instruction of the fifteenth of June, 1781; proclaimed it to be the greatest opprobrium and stain to this country which it had ever exposed itself to; and that it was, in his judgment, the true cause of that distrust and coldness which prevailed between our ministers and the French court, inasmuch as it could not be viewed by the former without irritation and disgust. He was not surprised that those who considered France as the patron, rather than the ally, of this country, should be disposed to be obsequious to her; but he was not of that number.
Mr. HAMILTON urged the propriety of proceeding with coolness and circumspection. He thought it proper, in order to form a right judgment of the conduct of our ministers, that the views of the French and British courts should be examined. He admitted it as not improbable, that it had been the policy of France to procrastinate the definite acknowledgment of our independence on the part of Great Britain, in order to keep us more knit to herself, and until her own interests could be negotiated. The arguments, however, urged by our ministers on this subject, although strong, were not conclusive; as it was not certain that this policy, and not a desire of excluding obstacles to peace, had produced the opposition of the French court to our demands. Caution and vigilance, he thought, were justified by the appearance, and that alone. But compare this policy with that of Great Britain; survey the past cruelty and present duplicity of her councils; behold her watching every occasion, and trying every project, for dissolving the honorable ties which bind the United States to their ally; and then say on which side our resentments and jealousies ought to lie. With respect to the instructions submitting our ministers to the advice of France, he had disapproved it uniformly since it had come to his knowledge, but he had always judged it improper to repeal it. He disapproved highly of the conduct of our ministers in not showing the preliminary articles to our ally before they signed them, and still more so of their agreeing to the separate article. This conduct gave an advantage to the enemy, which they would not fail to improve for the purpose of inspiring France with indignation and distrust of the United States. He did not apprehend (with Mr. Mercer) any danger of a coalition between France and Great Britain against America, but foresaw the destruction of mutual confidence between France and the United States, which would be likely to ensue, and the danger which would result from it, in case the war should be continued. He observed, that Spain was an unwise nation; her policy narrow and jealous; her king old; her court divided, and the heir-apparent notoriously attached to Great Britain. From these circumstances he inferred an apprehension, that when Spain should come to know the part taken by America with respect to her, a separate treaty of peace might be resorted to. He thought a middle course best with respect to our ministers; that they ought to be commended in general; but that the communication of the separate article ought to take place. He observed, that our ministers were divided as to the policy of the court of France, but that they all were agreed in the necessity of being on the watch against Great Britain. He apprehended that if the ministers were to be recalled or reprehended, they would be disgusted, and head and foment parties in this country. He observed, particularly with respect to Mr. Jay, that, although he was a man of profound sagacity and pure integrity, yet he was of a suspicious temper, and that this trait might explain the extraordinary jealousies which he professed. He finally proposed that the ministers should be commended, and the separate article communicated. This motion was seconded by Mr. OSGOOD, as compared, however, with the proposition of the secretary for foreign affairs, and so far only as to be referred to a committee.
Mr. PETERS favored a moderate course, as most advisable. He thought it necessary that the separate article should be communicated, but that it would be less painful to the feelings of the ministers if the doing it were left to themselves; and was also in favor of giving the territory, annexed by the separate article to West Florida, to such power as might be vested with that colony in the treaty of peace.
Mr. BLAND said he was glad that every one seemed, at length, to be struck with the impropriety of the instruction submitting our ministers to the advice of the French court. He represented it as the cause of all our difficulties, and moved that it might be referred to the committee, with the several propositions which had been made. Mr. LEE seconded the motion.
Mr. WILSON objected to Mr. BLAND’S motion, as not being in order. When moved in order, perhaps he might not oppose the substance of it. He said, he had never seen nor heard of the instruction it referred to until this morning, and that it had really astonished him; that this country ought to maintain an upright posture between all nations. But, however objectionable this step might have been in Congress, the magnanimity of our ally in declining to obtrude his advice on our ministers ought to have been a fresh motive to their confidence and respect. Although they deserved commendation in general for their services, in this respect they do not. He was of opinion, that the spirit of the treaty with France forbade the signing of the preliminary articles without her consent, and that the separate article ought to be disclosed; but as the merits of our ministers entitled them to the mildest and most delicate mode in which it could be done, he wished the communication to be left to themselves, as they would be the best judges of the explanation which ought to be made for the concealment; and their feelings would be less wounded than if it were made without their intervention. He observed, that the separate article was not important in itself, and became so only by the mysterious silence in which it was wrapped up. A candid and open declaration from our ministers of the circumstances under which they acted, and the necessity produced by them of pursuing the course marked out by the interest of their country, would have been satisfactory to our ally—would have saved their own honor—and would not have endangered the objects for which they were negotiating.
Mr. HIGGINSON contended, that the facts stated by our ministers justified the part they had taken.
Mr. MADISON expressed his surprise at the attempts made to fix the blame of all our embarrassments on the instruction of June the fifteenth, 1781, when it appeared that no use had been made of the power given by it to the court of France that our Ministers had construed it in such a way as to leave them at full liberty and that no one in Congress pretended to blame them on that account. For himself, he was persuaded that their construction was just; the advice of France having been made a guide to them only in cases where the question respected the concessions of the United States to Great Britain necessary and proper for obtaining peace and an acknowledgment of independence; not where it respected concessions to other powers, and for other purposes. He reminded Congress of the change which had taken place in our affairs since that instruction was passed; and remarked the probability that many who were now, perhaps, the loudest in disclaiming, would, under the circumstances of that period, have been the foremost to adopt it.* He admitted, that the change of circumstances had rendered it inapplicable, but thought an express repeal of it might, at this crisis at least, have a bad effect. The instructions, he observed, for disregarding which our ministers had been blamed, and which, if obeyed, would have prevented the dilemma now felt, were those which required them to act in concert and in confidence with our ally; and these instructions, he said, had been repeatedly confirmed, in every stage of the revolution, by unanimous votes of Congress; several of the gentlemen present,† who now justified our ministers, having concurred in them, and one of them‡ having penned two of the acts, in one of which Congress went farther than they had done in any preceding act, by declaring that they would not make peace until the interests of our allies and friends, as well as of the United States, should be provided for.
As to the propriety of communicating to our ally the separate article, he thought it resulted clearly from considerations both of national honor and national security. He said, that Congress, having repeatedly assured their ally that they would take no step in a negotiation but in concert and in confidence with him, and having even published to the world solemn declarations to the same effect, would, if they abetted this concealment of their ministers, be considered by all nations as devoid of all constancy and good faith; unless a breach of these assurances and declarations could be justified by an absolute necessity, or some perfidy on the part of France; that it was manifest no such necessity could be pleaded; and as to perfidy on the part of France, nothing but suspicions and equivocal circumstances had been quoted in evidence of it,—and even in these it appeared that our ministers were divided; that the embarrassment in which France was placed by the interfering claims of Spain with the United States must have been foreseen by our ministers, and that the impartial public would expect that, instead of coöperating with Great Britain in taking advantage of this embarrassment, they ought to have made every allowance and given every facility to it, consistent with a regard to the rights of their constituents; that, admitting every fact alleged by our ministers to be true, it could by no means be inferred that the opposition made by France to our claims was the effect of any hostile or ambitious designs against them, or of any other design than that of reconciling them with those of Spain; that the hostile aspect which the separate article, as well as the concealment of it, bore to Spain, would be regarded by the impartial world as a dishonorable alliance with our enemies against the interests of our friends; but notwithstanding the disappointments and even indignities which the United States had received from Spain, it could neither be denied nor concealed that the former had derived many substantial advantages from her taking part in the war, and had even obtained some pecuniary aids; that the United States had made professions corresponding with those obligations; that they had testified the important light in which they considered the support resulting to their cause from the arms of Spain by the importunity with which they had courted her alliance, by the concessions with which they had offered to purchase it, and by the anxiety which they expressed at every appearance of her separate negotiations for a peace with the common enemy.
That our national safety would be endangered by Congress making themselves a party to the concealment of the separate article, he thought could be questioned by no one. No definitive treaty of peace, he observed, had as yet taken place; the important articles between some of the belligerent parties had not even been adjusted; our insidious enemy was evidently laboring to sow dissensions among them; the incaution of our ministers had but too much facilitated them between the United States and France; a renewal of the war, therefore, in some form or other, was still to be apprehended; and what would be our situation if France and Spain had no confidence in us,—and what confidence could they have, if we did not disclaim the policy which had been followed by our ministers?
He took notice of the intimation given by the British minister to Mr. Adams, of an intended expedition from New York against West Florida, as a proof of the illicit confidence into which our ministers had been drawn, and urged the indispensable duty of Congress to communicate it to those concerned in it. He hoped if a committee should be appointed—for which, however, he saw no necessity—that this would be included in their report, and that their report would be made with as little delay as possible.
In the event, the letter from the secretary of foreign affairs, with all the despatches, and the several propositions which had been made, were committed to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Clark, and Mr. Hamilton.
An instruction from the legislature of Virginia to their delegates, against admitting into the treaty of peace any stipulation for restoring confiscated property, was laid before Congress.
Also, resolutions of the executive council of Pennsylvania, requesting the delegates of that state to endeavor to obtain at least a reasonable term for making the payment of British debts stipulated in the preliminary articles lately received.
These papers were committed to Mr. Osgood, Mr. Mercer, and Mr. Fitzsimmons.
Mr. DYER, whose vote on the tenth day of March frustrated the commutation of the half-pay, made a proposition substantially the same, which was committed. This seemed to be extorted from him by the critical state of our affairs, himself personally, and his state, being opposed to it.
The motion of Mr. HAMILTON, on the Journals, was meant as a testimony on his part of the insufficiency of the report of the committee as to the establishment of revenues, and as a final trial of the sense of Congress with respect to the practicability and necessity of a general revenue equal to the public wants. The debates on it were chiefly a repetition of those used on former questions relative to that subject.
Mr. FITZSIMMONS, on this occasion, declared that, on mature reflection, he was convinced that a complete general revenue was unattainable from the states, was impracticable in the hands of Congress, and that the modified provision reported by the committee, if established by the states, would restore public credit among ourselves. He apprehended, however, that no limited funds would procure loans abroad, which would require finds commensurate to their duration.
Mr. HIGGINSON described all attempts of Congress to provide for the public debts out of the mode prescribed by the Confederation as nugatory; that the states would disregard them; that the impost of five per cent. had passed in Massachusetts by two voices only in the lower, and one in the upper, house; and that the governor had never formally assented to the law; that it was probable this law would be repealed, and almost certain that the extensive plans of Congress would be reprobated.
The report on revenue was taken into consideration, and the fifth and sixth paragraphs, after discussion, being judged not sufficiently explicit, were recommitted to be made more so.
A motion was made by Mr. CLARK, seconded by Mr. BLAND, to complete so much of the report as related to an impost on trade, and send it to the states immediately, apart from the residue.
In support of this motion, it was urged that the impost was distinct in its nature, was more likely to be adopted, and ought not, therefore, to be delayed or hazarded by a connection with the other parts of the report. On the other side, it was contended that it was the duty of Congress to provide a system adequate to the public exigencies; and that such a system would be more likely to be adopted by the states than any partial or detached provision, as it would comprise objects agreeable, as well as disagreeable, to each of the states, and as all of them would feel a greater readiness to make mutual concessions, and to disregard local considerations, in proportion to the magnitude of the object held out to them.
The motion was disagreed to, New Jersey being in favor of it, and several other states divided.
A letter was received from General Washington, enclosing his address to the convention of officers, with the result of their consultations. The dissipation of the cloud which seemed to have been gathering afforded great pleasure, on the whole, to Congress; but it was observable that the part which the general had found it necessary, and thought it his duty, to take, would give birth to events much more serious, if they should not be obviated by the establishment of such funds as the general, as well as the army, had declared to be necessary.17
The report of the committee on Mr. Dyer’s motion, in favor of a commutation for the half-pay, was agreed to. The preamble was objected to, but admitted at the entreaty of Mr. DYER, who supposed the considerations recited in it would tend to reconcile the state of Connecticut to the measure.
An order passed for granting thirty-five licenses for vessels belonging to Nantucket, to secure the whaling vessels against the penalty for double papers. This order was in consequence of a deputation to Congress representing the exposed situation of that island, the importance of the whale fishery to the United States, the danger of its being usurped by other nations, and the concurrence of the enemy in neutralizing such a number of vessels as would carry on the fisheries to an extent necessary for the support of the inhabitants.
The committee, to whom was referred the letter from the secretary of foreign affairs, with the foreign despatches, &c., reported,—
1. That our ministers be thanked for their zeal and services in negotiating the preliminary articles.
2. That they be instructed to make a communication of the separate article to the court of France, in such way as would best get over the concealment.
3. That the secretary of foreign affairs inform them that it is the wish of Congress that the preliminary articles had been communicated to the court of France before they had been executed.
Mr. DYER said he was opposed to the whole report; that he fully approved of every step taken by our ministers, as well towards Great Britain as towards France; that the separate article did not concern the interests of France, and therefore could not involve the good faith of the United States.
Mr. LEE agreed fully with Mr. Dyer; said that the special report of facts ought to have been made necessary for enabling Congress to form a just opinion of the conduct of the ministers; and moved, that the report might be recommitted. Mr. WOLCOTT seconded the motion, which was evidently made for the sole purpose of delay. It was opposed by Mr. CLARK, Mr. WILSON, and Mr. GORHAM, the first and last of whom had, however, no objection to postponing; by Mr. MERCER, who repeated his abhorrence of the confidence shown by our ministers to those of Great Britain; said, that it was about to realize the case of those who kicked down the ladder by which they had been elevated, and of the viper which was ready to destroy the family of the man in whose bosom it had been restored to life. He observed that it was unwise to prefer Great Britain to Spain as our neighbors in West Florida.
Mr. HIGGINSON supported the sentiments of Mr. Lee; said that the Count de Vergennes had released our ministers; and that he agreed with those who thought the instruction of June the 15th could relate only to questions directly between Great Britain and the United States.
Mr. HOLTEN thought there was no sufficient evidence for praise or blame; and that both ought to be suspended until the true reasons should be stated by the ministers. He supposed that the separate article had been made an ultimatum of the preliminaries of Great Britain; and that there might also be secret articles between Great Britain and France. If the latter were displeased, he conceived that she would officially notify it. Mr. RUTLEDGE was against recommitting, but for postponing. The motion for recommitting was disagreed to; but several states being for postponing, the vote was no index as to the main question.
It had been talked of, among sundry members, as very singular that the British minister should have confided to Mr. Adams an intended expedition from New York against West Florida; as very reprehensible in the latter to become the depositary of secrets hostile to the friends of his country, and that every motive of honor and prudence made it the duty of Congress to impart the matter to the Spaniards. To this effect, a motion was made by Mr. MERCER, seconded by Mr. MADISON. But it being near the usual hour of adjournment, the house being agitated by the debates on the separate article, and a large proportion of members predetermined against every measure which seemed in any manner to blame the ministers, and the eastern delegates, in general, extremely jealous of the honor of Mr. Adams, an adjournment was pressed and carried without any vote on the motion.
On the day preceding this, intelligence arrived, which was this day laid before Congress, that the preliminaries for a general peace had been signed on the 20th of January. This intelligence was brought by a French cutter from Cadiz, despatched by Count d’Estaing to notify the event to all vessels at sea, and engaged, by the zeal of the Marquis de la Fayette, to convey it to Congress. This confirmation of peace produced the greater joy, as the preceding delay, the cautions of Mr. Laurens’s letter of the 24th of December, and the general suspicions of Lord Shelburne’s sincerity, had rendered an immediate and general peace extremely problematical in the minds of many.18
A letter was received from General Carleton through General Washington, enclosing a copy of the preliminary articles between Great Britain and the United States, with the separate article annexed.
Mr. CARROLL, after taking notice of the embarrassment under which Congress was placed by the injunction of secrecy as to the separate article, after it had probably been disclosed in Europe, and, it now appeared, was known at New York, called the attention of Congress again to that subject.
Mr. WOLCOTT still contended that it would be premature to take any step relative to it, until further communications should be received from our ministers.
Mr. GILMAN, being of the same opinion, moved that the business be postponed. Mr. LEE seconded the motion.
Mr. WILSON conceived it indispensably necessary that something should be done; that Congress deceived themselves if they supposed that the separate article was any secret at New York after it had been announced to them from Sir Guy Carleton. He professed a high respect for the character of the ministers, which had received fresh honor from the remarkable steadiness and great abilities displayed in the negotiations; but that their conduct with respect to the separate article could not be justified. He did not consider it as any violation of the instruction of June 15, 1781, the Count de Vergennes having happily released them from the obligation of it. But he considered it, with the signing of the preliminaries secretly, as a violation of the spirit of the treaty of alliance, as well as of the unanimous professions to the court of France, unanimous instructions to our ministers, and unanimous declarations to the world, that nothing should be discussed towards peace but in confidence, and in concert with our ally. He made great allowance for the ministers; saw how they were affected, and the reasons of it; but could not subscribe to the opinion that Congress ought to pass over the separate article in the manner that had been urged; Congress ought, he said, to disapprove of it, in the softest terms that could be devised, and, at all events, not to take part in its concealment.
Mr. BLAND treated the separate article with levity and ridicule, as in no respect concerning France, but Spain, with whom we had nothing to do.
Mr. CARROLL thought that, unless something expressive of our disapprobation of the article, and of its concealment, was done, it would be an indelible stain on our character.
Mr. CLARK contended that it was still improper to take any step, either for communicating officially, or for taking off the injunction of secrecy; that the article concerned Spain, and not France; but that if it should be communicated to the latter, she would hold herself bound to communicate it to the former; that hence an embarrassment might ensue; that it was, probably, this consideration which led the ministers to the concealment, and he thought they had acted right. He described the awkwardness attending a communication of it under present circumstances; remarking, finally, that nothing had been done contrary to the treaty, and that we were in possession of sufficient materials* to justify the suspicions which had been manifested.
Mr. RUTLEDGE was strenuous for postponing the subject; said that Congress had no occasion to meddle with it; that the ministers had done right; that they had maintained the honor of the United States after Congress had given it up; that the manœuvre practised by them was common in all courts, and was justifiable against Spain, who alone was affected by it; that instructions ought to be disregarded whenever the public good required it; and that he himself would never be bound by them when he thought them improper.
Mr. MERCER combated the dangerous tendency of the doctrine maintained by Mr. Rutledge with regard to instructions; and observed that, the delegates of Virginia having been unanimously instructed not to conclude or discuss any treaty of peace but in confidence and in concert with his Most Christian Majesty, he conceived himself as much bound, as he was of himself inclined, to disapprove every other mode of proceeding; and that he should call for the yeas and nays on the question for his justification to his constituents.
Mr. BLAND tartly said that he, of course, was instructed as well as his colleague, and should himself require the yeas and nays to justify an opposite conduct; that the instructions from his constituents went no farther than to prohibit any treaty without the concurrence of our ally;† which prohibition had not been violated in the case before Congress.
Mr. LEE was for postponing and burying in oblivion the whole transaction. He said that delicacy to France required this; since, if any thing should be done implying censure on our ministers, it must and ought to be done in such a way as to fall ultimately on France, whose unfaithful conduct had produced and justified that of our ministers. In all national intercourse, he said, a reciprocity was to be understood; and, as France had not communicated her views and proceedings to the American plenipotentiaries, the latter were not bound to communicate theirs. All instructions he conceived to be conditional in favor of the public good; and he cited the case mentioned by Sir William Temple, in which the Dutch ministers concluded, of themselves, an act which required the previous sanction of all the members of the republic.
Mr. HAMILTON said that, whilst he despised the man who would enslave himself to the policy even of our friends, he could not but lament the overweening readiness which appeared in many to suspect every thing on that side, and to throw themselves into the bosom of our enemies. He urged the necessity of vindicating our public honor by renouncing that concealment to which it was the wish of so many to make us parties.
Mr. WILSON, in answer to Mr. Lee, observed that the case mentioned by Sir William Temple was utterly inapplicable to the case in question; adding that the conduct of France had not, on the principle of reciprocity, justified our ministers in signing the provisional preliminaries without her knowledge, no such step having been taken on her part. But whilst he found it to be his duty thus to note the faults of these gentlemen, he, with much greater pleasure, gave them praise for their firmness in refusing to treat with the British negotiator until he had produced a proper commission, in contending for the fisheries, and in adhering to our western claims.
Congress adjourned without any question.
Communication was made, through the secretary of foreign affairs, by the minister of France, as to the late negotiation, from letters received by him from the Count de Vergennes, dated in December last, and brought by the packet Washington. This communication showed, though delicately, that France was displeased with our ministers for signing the preliminary articles separately; that she had labored, by recommending mutual concessions, to compromise disputes between Spain and the United States, and that she was apprehensive that Great Britain would hereafter, as they already had endeavored to, sow discords between them. It signified that the “intimacy between our ministers and those of Great Britain” furnished a handle for this purpose.
Besides the public communication to Congress, other parts of letters from the Count de Vergennes were privately communicated to the president of Congress and to sundry members, expressing more particularly the dissatisfaction of the court of France at the conduct of our ministers, and urging the necessity of establishing permanent revenues for paying our debts and supporting a national character. The substance of these private communications, as taken on the 23d instant, by the president, is as follows:—
“That the Count de Vergennes was alarmed at the extravagant demands of Dr. Franklin in behalf of the United States; that he was surprised, at the same time, that the inhabitants paid so little attention to doing something for themselves. If they could not be brought to give adequate funds for their defence during a dangerous war, it was not likely that so desirable an end could be accomplished when their fears were allayed by a general peace; that this reasoning affected the credit of the United States, and no one could be found who would risk their money under such circumstances; that the king would be glad to know what funds were provided for the security and payment of the ten millions borrowed by him in Holland; that the Count de Vergennes hardly dared to report in favor of the United States to the king and council, as money was so scarce that it would be with the greatest difficulty that even a small part of the requisition could be complied with. The causes of this scarcity were a five years’ war, which had increased the expenses of government to an enormous amount—the exportation of large sums of specie to America for the support and pay of both French and English armies—the loans to America—the stoppage of bullion in South America, which prevented its flowing in the usual channels.”*
A letter of a later date added,—
“That he had received the chevalier’s letter of October, and rejoiced to find that Congress had provided funds for their debts, which gave him great encouragement, and he had prevailed on the comptroller-general to join him in a report to his majesty and council for six millions of livres for the United States to support the war; but assures the Chevalier de Luzerne that he must never again consent to a further application.”
“He complains of being treated with great indelicacy by the American commissioners, they having signed the treaty without any confidential communication; that had France treated America with the same indelicacy, she might have signed the treaty first, as every thing between France and England was settled, but the king chose to keep faith with his allies, and, therefore, always refused to do any thing definitively till all his allies were ready; that this conduct had delayed the definitive treaty, England having considered herself as greatly strengthened by America; that Dr. Franklin waited on the Count de Vergennes, and acknowledged the indelicacy of their behavior, and had prevailed on him to bury it in oblivion; that the English were endeavoring all in their power to sow seeds of discord between our commissioners and the court of Spain, representing our claims to the westward as extravagant and inadmissible; that it became Congress to be attentive to this business, and to prevent the ill effects that it might be attended with; that the king had informed the court of Spain, that he heartily wished that the United States might enjoy a cordial coalition with his Catholic Majesty, yet he should leave the whole affair entirely to the two states, and not interfere otherwise than as by his counsel and advice, when asked; that, although the United States had not been so well treated by Spain as might have been expected, yet that his majesty wished that America might reap the advantage of a beneficial treaty with Spain; that as the peace was not yet certain, it became all the powers at war to be ready for a vigorous campaign, and hoped Congress would exert themselves to aid the common cause by some offensive operations against the enemy; but if the British should evacuate the United States, the king earnestly hoped Congress would take the most decided moasures to prevent any intercourse with the British, and particularly in the way of merchandise or supplying them with provisions, which would prove of the most dangerous tendency to the campaign in the West Indies; that the British now had hopes of opening an extensive trade with America, though the war should continue, which, if they should be disappointed it might hasten the definitive treaty, as it would raise a clamor among the people of England.”19
The chevalier added,—
“That as he had misinformed his court with regard to Congress having funded their debts, on which presumption the six millions had been granted, he hoped Congress would enable him in his next despatches to give some satisfactory account to his court on this head.”
Revenues taken up as reported March 7.
The fifth paragraph in the report on revenue having been judged not sufficiently explicit, and recommitted to be made more so, the following paragraph was received in its place, viz.: “That it be further recommended to the several states, to establish, for a term limited to twenty-five years, and to appropriate,” &c., (to the word 2,000,000 of dollars annually,) which proportions shall be fixed and equalized, from time to time, according to such rule as is, or may be, prescribed by the Articles of Confederation; and in case the revenues so established and appropriated by any state shall at any time yield a sum exceeding its proportion, the excess shall be refunded to it; and in case the same shall be found to be defective, the immediate deficiency shall be made good as soon as possible, and a future deficiency guarded against by an enlargement of the revenues established; provided that, until the rule of the confederation can be applied, the proportions of the 2,000,000 of dollars aforesaid shall be as follows, viz.:
This amendment was accepted; a motion of Mr. Clark to restrain this apportionment, in the first instance, to the term of two years, being first negatived. He contended that a valuation of land would probably never take place, and that it was uncertain whether the rule of numbers would be substituted, and, therefore, that the first apportionment might be continued throughout the twenty-five years, although it must be founded on the present relative wealth of the states, which would vary every year in favor of those which are the least populous.
This reasoning was not denied; but it was thought that such a limitation might leave an interval in which no apportionment would exist, whence confusion would proceed, and that an apprehension of it would destroy public credit.
A motion was made by Mr. BLAND, seconded by Mr. LEE, to go back to the first part of the report, and instead of the word “levy” an impost of five per cent., to substitute the word “collect” an impost, &c. It was urged, in favor of this motion, that the first word imported a legislative idea, and the latter an executive only, and consequently the latter might be less obnoxious to the states. On the other side, it was said that the states would be governed more by things than by terms; that if the meaning of both was the same, an alteration was unnecessary; that if not, as seemed to be the case, an alteration would be improper. It was particularly apprehended that if the term “collect” were to be used, the states might themselves fix the mode of collection; whereas it was indispensable that Congress should have that power, as well that it might be varied from time to time, as circumstances or experience should dictate, as that a uniformity might be observed throughout the states. On the motion of Mr. Clark, the negative was voted by a large majority, there being four ayes only.
On the eighth paragraph, there was no argument or opposition.
The ninth paragraph being considered by several as inaccurate in point of phraseology, a motion was made by Mr. MADISON to postpone it, to take into consideration the following, to wit:—
“That, in order to remove all objections against a retrospective application of the constitutional rule to the final apportionment on the several states of the moneys and supplies actually contributed in pursuance of requisitions of Congress, it be recommended to the states to enable the United States in Congress assembled to make such equitable abatements and alterations as the particular circumstances of the states, from time to time during the war, may require, and as will divide the burden among them in proportion to their respective abilities at the periods at which they were made.”
On a question of striking out, the original paragraph was agreed to without opposition. On the question to insert the amendment of Mr. Madison, the votes of the states were, five ayes, six noes, viz.: New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, no; the rest, ay.20
On the tenth paragraph, relative to expenses incurred by the states without the sanction of Congress, Mr. CLARK exclaimed against the unreasonableness of burdening the Union with all the extravagant expenditures of particular states, and moved that it might be struck out of the report. Mr. HELMSLEY seconded the motion.
Mr. MADISON said, that the effects of rejecting this paragraph would be so extensive, that a full consideration of it ought at least to precede such a step; that the expenses referred to in the paragraph were, in part, such as would have been previously sanctioned by Congress, if application had been made, since similar ones had been so with respect to states within the vicinity of Congress, and, therefore, complaints of injustice would follow a refusal; that another part of the expenses had been incurred in support of claims to the territory of which cessions were asked by Congress, and, therefore, these could not be expected, if the expenses incident to them should be rejected; that it was probable, if no previous assurance were given on this point, it would be made a condition by the states ceding, as the cessions of territory would be made a condition by the states most anxious to obtain them; that by these means the whole plan would be either defeated, or the part thereof in question be ultimately forced on Congress, whilst they might with a good grace yield it in the first instance; not to mention that these unliquidated and unallowed claims would produce, hereafter, such contests and heats among the states as would probably destroy the plan, even if it should be acceded to by the states without this paragraph.
Mr. DYER was in favor of the paragraph.
Mr. RUTLEDGE opposed it as letting in a flood of claims which were founded on extravagant projects of the states.
Mr. HIGGINSON and Mr. GORHAM were earnest in favor of it, remarking that the distance of Massachusetts from Congress had denied a previous sanction to the militia operations against General Burgoyne, &c. The Penobscot expedition, also, had great weight with them.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was in favor of it.
Mr. WILSON said, he had always considered this country, with respect to the war, as forming one community; and that the states which, by their remoteness from Congress, had been obliged to incur expenses for their defence without previous sanction, ought to be placed on the same footing with those which had obtained this security; but he could not agree to put them on a better, which would be the case if their expenses should be sanctioned in the lump: he proposed, therefore, that these expenses should be limited to such as had been incurred in a necessary defence, and of which the object in each case should be approved by Congress.
Mr. MADISON agreed that the expressions in the paragraph were very loose, and that it would be proper to make them as definite as the case would admit: he supposed, however, that all operations against the enemy, within the limits assigned to the United States, might be considered as defensive, and in that view, the expedition against Penobscot might be so called. He observed that the term necessary left a discretion in the judge, as well as the term reasonable; and that it would be best, perhaps, for Congress to determine and declare that they would constitute a tribunal of impartial persons to decide, on oath, as to the propriety of claims of states not authorized heretofore by Congress. He said, this would be a better security to the states, and would be more satisfactory, than the decisions of Congress, the members of which did not act on oath, and brought with them the spirit of advocates for their respective states, rather than of impartial judges between them. He moved that the clause, with Mr. Wilson’s proposition, be recommitted, which was agreed to without opposition.
(Eleventh and twelfth paragraphs.) Mr. BLAND, in opposition, said, that the value of land was the best rule, and that, at any rate, no change should be attempted until its practicability should be tried.
Mr. MADISON thought the value of land could never be justly or satisfactorily obtained; that it would ever be a source of contentions among the states; and that, as a repetition of the valuation would be within the course of the twenty-five years it would, unless exchanged for a more simple rule, mar the whole plan.
Mr. GORHAM was in favor of the paragraphs. He represented, in strong terms, the inequality and clamors produced by valuations of land in the state of Massachusetts, and the probability of the evils being increased among the states themselves, which were less tied together, and more likely to be jealous of each other.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was in favor of the paragraphs.
Mr. WILSON was strenuous in their favor; said he was in Congress when the Articles of Confederation directing a valuation of land were agreed to; that it was the effect of the impossibility of compromising the different ideas of the Eastern and Southern States, as to the value of slaves compared with the whites, the alternative in question.
Mr. CLARK was in favor of them. He said, that he was also in Congress when this article was decided; that the Southern States would have agreed to numbers in preference to the value of land, if half their slaves only should be included; but that the Eastern States would not concur in that proposition.
It was agreed, on all sides, that, instead of fixing the proportion by ages, as the report proposed, it would be best to fix the proportion in absolute numbers. With this view, and that the blank might be filled up, the clause was recommitted.
The committee last mentioned reported that two blacks be rated as one freeman.
Mr. WOLCOTT was for rating them as four to three.
Mr. CARROLL as four to one.
Mr. WILLIAMSON said, he was principled against slavery; and that he thought slaves an encumbrance to society, instead of increasing its ability to pay taxes.
Mr. HIGGINSON as four to three.
Mr. RUTLEDGE said, for the sake of the object, he would agree to rate slaves as two to one, but he sincerely thought three to one would be a juster proportion.
Mr. HOLTEN as four to three.
Mr. OSGOOD said, he did not go beyond four to three.
On a question for rating them as three to two, the votes were, New Hampshire, ay; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, divided; Connecticut, ay; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Delaware, ay; Maryland, no; Virginia, no; North Carolina, no; South Carolina, no.
The paragraph was then postponed, by general consent, some wishing for further time to deliberate on it, but it appearing to be the general opinion that no compromise would be agreed to.
After some further discussions on the report, in which the necessity of some simple and practicable rule of apportionment came fully into view, Mr. MADISON said that, in order to give a proof of the sincerity of his professions of liberality, he would propose that slaves should be rated as five to three. Mr. RUTLEDGE seconded the motion. Mr. WILSON said, he would sacrifice his opinion on this compromise.
Mr. LEE was against changing the rule, but gave it as his opinion that two slaves were not equal to one freeman.
On the question for five to three, it passed in the affirmative; New Hampshire, ay; Massachusetts, divided; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Maryland, ay; Virginia, ay; North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, ay.
A motion was then made by Mr. BLAND, seconded by Mr. LEE, to strike out the clause so amended, and, on the question, “Shall it stand?” it passed in the negative; New Hampshire, ay; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Delaware, no; Maryland, ay; Virginia, ay; North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, no: so the clause was struck out.
The arguments used by those who were for rating slaves high were, that the expense of feeding and clothing them was as far below that incident to freemen as their industry and ingenuity were below those of freemen; and that the warm climate within which the states having slaves lay, compared with the rigorous climate and inferior fertility of the others, ought to have great weight in the case; and that the exports of the former states were greater than of the latter. On the other side, it was said that slaves were not put to labor as young as the children of laboring families; that, having no interest in their labor, they did as little as possible, and omitted every exertion of thought requisite to facilitate and expedite it; that if the exports of the states having slaves exceeded those of the others, their imports were in proportion, slaves being employed wholly in agriculture, not in manufactures, and that, in fact, the balance of trade formerly was much more against the Southern States than the others.
On the main question, New Hampshire, ay; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New York, (Mr. Floyd, ay;) New Jersey, ay; Delaware, no; Maryland, ay; Virginia, ay; North Carolina, ay; South Carolina, no.
The objections urged against the motion of Mr. LEE, on the Journal, calling for a specific report of the superintendent of finance as to moneys passing through his hands, were, that the information demanded from the office of finance had, during a great part of the period, been laid before Congress, and was then actually on the table; that the term application of money was too indefinite, no two friends of the motion agreeing in the meaning of it; and that if it meant no more than immediate payments, under the warrants of the superintendent, to those who were to expend the money, it was unnecessary, the superintendent being already impressed with his duty on that subject; that if it meant the ultimate payment for articles or services for the public, it imposed a task that would be impracticable to the superintendent, and useless to Congress, who could no otherwise examine them than through the department of accounts, and the committees appointed half-yearly for inquiring into the whole proceedings; and that, if the motion were free from those objections, it ought to be so varied as to oblige the office of finance to report the information periodically; since it would otherwise depend on the memory or vigilance of members, and would, moreover, have the aspect of suspicion towards the officer called upon.
N. B. As the motion was made at first, the word “immediately” was used; which was changed for the words “as soon as may be,” at the instance of Mr. HOLTEN.
The object of the motion of Mr. MADISON was to define and comprehend every information practicable and necessary for Congress to know, and to enable them to judge of the fidelity of their minister, and to make it a permanent part of his duty to afford it. The clause respecting copies of receipts was found, on discussion, not to accord with the mode of conducting business, and to be too voluminous a task; but the question was taken without a convenient opportunity of correcting it. The motion was negatived.21
A letter was received from the governor of Rhode Island, with resolutions of the legislature of that state, justifying the conduct of Mr. Howell.22
On the arrival of the French cutter with the account of the signing of the general preliminaries, it was thought fit by Congress to hasten the effect of them by calling in the American cruisers. It was also thought by all not amiss to notify simply the intelligence to the British commanders at New York. In addition to this, it was proposed by the secretary of foreign affairs, and urged by the delegates of Pennsylvania, by Mr. LEE, Mr. RUTLEDGE, and others, that Congress should signify their desire and expectation that hostilities should be suspended at sea on the part of the enemy. The arguments urged were, that the effusion of blood might be immediately stopped, and the trade of the country rescued from depredation. It was observed, on the other side, that such a proposition derogated from the dignity of Congress; showed an undue precipitancy; that the intelligence was not authentic enough to justify the British commanders in complying with such an overture; and, therefore, that Congress would be exposed to the mortification of a refusal. The former consideration prevailed, and a verbal sanction was given to Mr. Livingston’s expressing to the said commanders the expectation of Congress. This day their answers were received. addressed to Robert R. Livingston, Esq., &c. &c. &c., declining to accede to the stopping of hostilities at sea, and urging the necessity of authentic orders from Great Britain for that purpose. With their letters, Mr. Livingston communicated resolutions proposed from his office, “that, in consequence of these letters, the orders to the American cruisers should be revoked; and that the executives should be requested to embargo all vessels.” Congress were generally sensible, after the receipt of these papers, that they had committed themselves in proposing to the British commanders, at New York, a stop to naval hostilities, and were exceedingly at a loss to extricate themselves. On one side, they were unwilling to publish to the world the affront they had received, especially as no written order had been given for the correspondence; and, on the other, it was necessary that the continuance of hostilities at sea should be made known to American citizens. Some were in favor of the revocation of hostilities; others proposed, as Colonel BLAND and General MIFFLIN, that the secretary of foreign affairs should be directed, verbally, to publish the letters from Carleton and Digby. This was negatived. The superscription was animadverted upon, particularly by Mr. MERCER, who said, that the letters ought to have been sent back unopened. Finally, it was agreed that any member might take copies and send them to the press, and that the subject should lie over for further consideration.23
Mr. GORHAM called for the order of the day—to wit, the report on revenue, &c., and observed, as a cogent reason for hastening that business, that the Eastern States, at the invitation of the legislature of Massachusetts, were, with New York, about to form a convention for regulating matters of common concern, and that if any plan should be sent out by Congress during their session, they would probably cooperate with Congress in giving effect to it.
Mr. MERCER expressed great disquietude at this information; considered it as a dangerous precedent; and that it behoved the gentleman to explain fully the objects of the convention, as it would be necessary for the Southern States to be, otherwise, very circumspect in agreeing to any plans, on a supposition that the general confederacy was to continue.
Mr. OSGOOD said, that the sole object was to guard against an interference of taxes among states whose local situation required such precautions; and that if nothing was definitively concluded without the previous communication to, and sanction of, Congress, the Confederation could not be said to be in any manner departed from; but that, in fact, nothing was intended that could be drawn within the purview of the Federal Articles.
Mr. BLAND said, he had always considered those conventions as improper, and contravening the spirit of the federal government. He said, they had the appearance of young Congresses.
Mr. GORHAM explains as Mr. Osgood.
Mr. MADISON and Mr. HAMILTON disapproved of these partial conventions, not as absolute violations of the Confederacy, but as ultimately leading to them, and, in the mean time, exciting pernicious jealousies; the latter observing that he wished, instead of them, to see a general convention take place, and that he should soon, in pursuance of instructions from his constituents, propose to Congress a plan for that purpose; the object would be to strengthen the Federal Constitution.
Mr. WHITE informed Congress that New Hampshire had declined to accede to the plan of a convention on foot.
Mr. HIGGINSON said, that no gentleman need be alarmed at any rate, for it was pretty certain that the convention would not take place. He wished, with Mr. Hamilton, to see a general convention for the purpose of revising and amending the federal government.24
These observations having put an end to the subject, Congress resumed the report on revenue, &c. Mr. HAMILTON, who had been absent when the last question was taken for substituting numbers in place of the value of land, moved to reconsider that vote. He was seconded by Mr. OSGOOD. (See the Journal.) Those who voted differently from their former votes were influenced by the conviction of the necessity of the change, and despair on both sides of a more favorable rate of the slaves. The rate of three fifths was agreed to without opposition. On a preliminary question, the apportionment of the sum, and revision of the same, was referred to the grand committee.
The report as to the resignation of foreign ministers was taken up, and in the case of Mr. Jefferson, his mission was dispensed with; Mr. Dana’s intimated return to America was approved of, unless engaged in a negotiation with the court of St. Petersburg. (See the Journal.) The eastern delegates were averse to doing any thing as to Mr. Adams until further advices should be received. Mr. Laurens was indulged, not without some opposition. The acceptance of his resignation was particularly enforced by Mr. IZARD.
Wednesday,April 2, Thursday,April 3, Friday,April 4,
26 The grand committee appointed to consider the proportions for the blanks in the report on revenue, &c., reported the following, grounded on the number of inhabitants in each state; observing that New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maryland, had produced authentic documents of their numbers; and that, in fixing the numbers of other states, they had been governed by such information as they could obtain. They also reduced the interest of the aggregate debt to two millions and a half.
A committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Ellsworth, was appointed to report the proper arrangements to be taken in consequence of peace. The object was to provide a system for foreign affairs, for Indian affairs, for military and naval establishments; and also to carry into execution the regulation of weights and measures, and other articles of the Confederation not attended to during the war. To the same committee was referred a resolution of the executive council of Pennsylvania, requesting the delegates of that state to urge Congress to establish a general peace with the Indians.25
The sense of Congress having been taken on the truth of the numbers reported by the grand committee, the number allotted to South Carolina was reduced to 150,000, on the representation of the delegates of that state. The delegates of New Jersey contended also for a reduction, but were unsuccessful;—those of Virginia also, on the principle that Congress ought not to depart from the relative numbers given in 1775, without being required by actual returns, which had not been obtained, either from that state or others, whose relation would be varied. To this reasoning were opposed the verbal and credible information received from different persons, and particularly Mr. Mercer, which made the number of inhabitants in Virginia, after deducting two fifths of the slaves, exceed the number allotted to that state. Congress were almost unanimous against the reduction. A motion was made by Mr. GERVAIS, seconded by Mr. MADISON, to reduce the number of Georgia to 15,000, on the probability that their real number did not exceed it, and the cruelty of overloading a state which had been so much torn and exhausted by the war. The motion met with little support, and was almost unanimously negatived.
A letter was read from General Washington, expressing the joy of the army at the signing of the general preliminaries notified to him, and their satisfaction at the commutation of half-pay agreed to by Congress.
Estimate of the debt of the United States, reported by the grand committee.
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON, who had been absent on the question on the ninth paragraph of the report on revenue assessing quotas, to reconsider the same. Mr. FLOYD, who, being the only delegate from New York then present on that question, could not vote, seconded the motion. For the arguments repeated, see the former remarks, on the 7th of April.
On the question the votes were—Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New York, ay; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, ay; Maryland, no; Virginia, ay; South Carolina, no.27
A memorial was received from General Hazen in behalf of the Canadians who had engaged in the cause of the United States, praying that a tract of vacant land on Lake Erie might be allotted to them.
Mr. WILSON, thereupon, moved that a committee be appointed to consider and report to Congress the measures proper to be taken with respect to the western country. In support of his motion, he observed on the importance of that country; the danger, from immediate emigrations, of its being lost to the public; and the necessity, on the part of Congress, of taking care of the federal interests in the formation of new states.
Mr. MADISON observed, that the appointment of such a committee could not be necessary at this juncture, and might be injurious; that Congress were about to take, in the report on revenue, &c., the only step that could now be properly taken, viz., to call again on the states claiming the western territory to cede the same; that, until the result should be known, every thing would be premature, and would excite in the states irritations and jealousies that might frustrate the cessions; that it was indispensable to obtain these cessions, in order to compromise the disputes, and to derive advantage from the territory to the United States; that, if the motion meant merely to prevent irregular settlements, the recommendation to that effect ought to be made to the states; that, if ascertaining and disposing of garrisons proper to be kept up in that country was the object, it was already in the hands of the committee on peace arrangements, but might be expressly referred to them.
Mr. MERCER supported the same idea.
Mr. CLARK considered the motion as nowise connected with the peace arrangements; his object was to define the western limits of the states, which Congress alone could do, and which it was necessary they should do, in order to know what territory properly belonged to the United States, and what steps ought to be taken relative to it. He disapproved of repeatedly courting the states to make cessions which Congress stood in no need of.
Mr. WILSON seemed to consider, as the property of the United States, all territory over which particular states had not exercised jurisdiction, particularly north-west of the Ohio; and said, that within the country confirmed to the United States by the provisional articles, there must be a large country over which no particular claims extended.
He was answered, that the exercise of jurisdiction was not the criterion of territorial rights of the states; that Pennsylvania had maintained always a contrary doctrine; that, if it were a criterion, Virginia had exercised jurisdiction over the Illinois and other places conquered north-west of the Ohio; that it was uncertain whether the limits of the United States, as fixed by the provisional articles, did comprehend any territory out of the claims of the individual states; that, should it be the case, a decision or examination of the point had best be put off till it should be seen whether cessions of the states would not render it unnecessary; that it could not be immediately necessary for the purpose of preventing settlements on such extra lands, since they must lie too remote to be in danger of it. Congress refused to refer the motion to the committee on peace arrangements, and by a large majority referred it to a special committee, viz., Messrs. Osgood, Wilson, Madison, Carroll, and Williamson; to whom was also referred the memorial of General Hazen.
On the preceding question, Connecticut was strenuous in favor of Mr. Wilson’s motion.
A motion was made by Mr. DYER to strike out the drawback on salt fish, &c. Mr. GORHAM protested in the most solemn manner that Massachusetts would never accede to the plan without the drawback. The motion was very little supported.
Letters were received from General Carleton and Admiral Digby, enclosing the British proclamation of the cessation of arms, and also letters from Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, notifying the conclusion of preliminaries between Great Britain, and France, and Spain, with a declaration entered into with Mr. Fitzherbert, applying the epochs of cessation to the case of Great Britain and the United States. These papers were referred to the secretary of foreign affairs, to report a proclamation for Congress at six o’clock; at which time Congress met, and received the report nearly as it stands on the Journal of Friday, April 11. After some consideration of the report, as to the accuracy and propriety of which a diversity of sentiments prevailed, they postponed it till next day. The secretary also reported a resolution directing the secretary at war and agent of marine to discharge all prisoners of war.
This day was spent in discussing the proclamation, which passed. Mr. WILSON proposed an abbreviation of it, which was disagreed to. The difficulties attending it were—first, the agreement of our ministers with Fitzherbert, that the epochs with Spain as well as France should be applied to the United States, to be computed from the ratifications, which happened at different times—the former on the 3d, the latter on the 9th of February; second, the circumstance of the epochs having passed at which the cessation of hostilities was to be enjoined. The impatience of Congress did not admit of proper attention to these and some other points of the proclamation, particularly the authoritative style of enjoining an observance on the United States, the governors, &c. It was against these absurdities and improprieties that the solitary no of Mr. Mercer was pointed. See the Journal.28
A letter of the 16th of December, O. S., was received from Mr. Dana, in which he intimates that, in consequence of the news of peace taking place, and independence being acknowledged by Great Britain, he expected soon to take his proper station at the court of St. Petersburg, and to be engaged in forming a commercial treaty with her imperial majesty.
Mr. MADISON observed, that, as no powers or instructions had been given to Mr. Dana relative to a treaty of commerce, he apprehended there must be some mistake on the part of Mr. Dana; that it would be proper to inquire into the matter, and let him know the intentions of Congress on this subject. The letter was committed to Mr. Madison, Mr. Gorham, and Mr. Fitzsimmons.
Mr. RUTLEDGE observed, that, as the instructions to foreign ministers now stood, it was conceived they had no powers for commercial stipulations, other than such as might be comprehended in a definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain. He said, he did not pretend to commercial knowledge, but that it would be well for the United States to enter into commercial treaties with all nations, and particularly with Great Britain. He moved, therefore, that the committee should be instructed to prepare a general report for that purpose.
Mr. MADISON and Mr. FITZSIMMONS thought it would be proper to be very circumspect in fettering our trade with stipulations to foreigners; that as our stipulations would extend to all the possessions of the United States necessarily, but those of foreign nations having colonies to part of their possessions only, and as the most favored nations enjoyed greater privileges in the United States than elsewhere, the United States gave an advantage in treaties on this subject; and, finally, that negotiations ought to be carried on here, or our ministers directed to conclude nothing without previously reporting every thing for the sanction of Congress. It was at length agreed, that the committee should report the general state of instructions existing on the subject of commercial treaties.
Congress took into consideration the report of the secretary of foreign affairs for immediately setting at liberty all the prisoners of war, and ratifying the provisional articles. Several members were extremely urgent on this point, from motives of economy. Others doubted whether Congress were bound thereto, and, if not bound, whether it would be proper. The first question depended on the import of the provisional articles, which were very differently interpreted by different members. After much discussion, from which a general opinion arose of extreme inaccuracy and ambiguity as to the force of these articles, the business was committed to Mr. Madison, Mr. Peters, and Mr. Hamilton, who were also to report on the expediency of ratifying the said articles immediately.29
The committee, on the report of the secretary of foreign affairs, reported as follows—Mr. Hamilton dissenting.*
First. That it does not appear that Congress are any wise bound to go into the ratification proposed. “The treaty” of which a ratification is to take place, as mentioned in the sixth of the provisional articles, is described in the title of those articles to be “a treaty of peace, proposed to be concluded between the crown of Great Britain and the said United States, but which is not to be concluded until terms of peace shall be agreed upon between Great Britain and France.” The act to be ratified, therefore, is not the provisional articles themselves, but an act distinct, future, and even contingent. Again, although the declaratory act entered into on the 20th of January last, between the American and British plenipotentiaries, relative to a cessation of hostilities, seems to consider the contingency on which the provisional articles were suspended as having taken place, and that act cannot itself be considered as the “treaty of peace meant to be concluded;” nor does it stipulate that either the provisional articles, or the act itself, should be ratified in America; it only engages that the United States shall cause hostilities to cease on their part—an engagement which was duly fulfilled by the proclamation issued on the eleventh instant; lastly, it does not appear, from the correspondence of the American ministers, or from any other information, either that such ratification was expected from the United States, or intended on the part of Great Britain; still less that any exchange of mutual ratifications has been in contemplation.
Second. If Congress are not bound to ratify the articles in question, the committee are of opinion, that it is inexpedient for them to go immediately into such an act; inasmuch as it might be thought to argue that Congress meant to give to those articles the quality and effect of a definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, though neither their allies nor friends have as yet proceeded further than to sign preliminary articles; and inasmuch as it may oblige Congress to fulfil immediately all the stipulations contained in the provisional articles, though they have no evidence that a correspondent obligation will be assumed by the other party.
Third. If the ratification in question be neither obligatory nor expedient, the committee are of opinion, that an immediate discharge of all prisoners of war, on the part of the United States, is premature and unadvisable; especially as such a step may possibly lessen the force of demands for a reimbursement of the sums expended in the subsistence of the prisoners.
Upon these considerations, the committee recommend that a decision of Congress on the papers referred to them be postponed.
On this subject, a variety of sentiments prevailed.
Mr. DYER, on a principle of frugality, was strenuous for a liberation of the prisoners.
Mr. WILLIAMSON thought Congress not obliged to discharge the prisoners previous to a definitive treaty, but was willing to go into the measure as soon as the public honor would permit. He wished us to move pari passu with the British commander at New York. He suspected that that place would be held till the interests of the tories should be provided for.
Mr. HAMILTON contended, that Congress were bound, by the tenor of the provisional treaty, immediately to ratify it, and to execute the several stipulations inserted in it particularly that relating to a discharge of prisoners.
Mr. BLAND thought Congress not bound.
Mr. ELLSWORTH was strenuous for the obligation and policy of going into an immediate execution of the treaty. He supposed, that a ready and generous execution on our part would accelerate the like on the other part.
Mr. WILSON was not surprised that the obscurity of the treaty should produce a variety of ideas. He thought, upon the whole, that the treaty was to be regarded as “contingently definitive.”
The report of the committee being not consonant to the prevailing sense of Congress, it was laid aside.
The ratification of the treaty and discharge of prisoners were again agitated. For the result in a unanimous ratification, see the secret Journal of this day; the urgency of the majority producing an acquiescence of most of the opponents to the measure.30
Mr. HAMILTON acknowledged that he began to view the obligation of the provisional treaty in a different light, and, in consequence, wished to vary the direction of the commander-in-chief from a positive to a preparatory one, as his motion on the Journal states.31
Mr. MADISON, with the permission of the committee on revenue, reported the following clause, to be added to the tenth paragraph in the first report, viz.:
“And to the end that convenient provision may be made for determining, in all such cases, how far the expenses may have been reasonable, as well with respect to the object thereof as the means for accomplishing it, thirteen commissioners—namely, one out of each state—shall be appointed by Congress, any seven of whom, (having first taken an oath for the faithful and impartial execution of their trust,) who shall concur in the same opinion, shall be empowered to determine finally on the reasonableness of the claims for expenses incurred by particular states as aforesaid; and, in order that such determinations may be expedited as much as possible, the commissioners now in appointment for adjusting accounts between the United States and individual states shall be instructed to examine all such claims, and report to Congress such of them as shall be supported by satisfactory proofs—distinguishing, in their reports, the objects and measures in which the expenses shall have been incurred; provided, that no balances, which may be found due under this regulation, or the resolutions of the—day of—, shall be deducted out of the preceding revenues, but shall be discharged by separate requisitions to be made on the states for that purpose.”
In support of this proposition it was argued, that, in a general provision for public debts and public tranquillity, satisfactory measures ought to be taken or a point which many of the states had so much at heart, and which they would not separate from the other matters proposed by Congress; that the nature of the business was unfit for the decision of Congress, who brought with them the spirit of advocates rather than of judges; and, besides, it required more time than could be spared for it.
On the opposite side, some contended, that the accounts between the United States and particular states should not be made in any manner to encumber those between the former and private persons. Others thought, that Congress could not delegate to commissioners a power of allowing claims for which the Confederation required nine states. Others were unwilling to open so wide a door for claims on the common treasury.
On the question, Massachusetts, divided; Connecticut, ay; Rhode Island, no; New York, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, no; Maryland, no; Virginia, ay; North Carolina, no; South Carolina, no.
Application was made from the council of Pennsylvania for the determination of Congress as to the effect of the acts terminating hostilities on acts to be enforced during the war. Congress declined giving any opinion.
The motion of Mr. BLAND for striking out the recommendation, to the states which had agreed to cede territory, to revise and complete their cessions, raised a long debate. In favor of the motion it was urged, by Mr. RUTLEDGE, that the proposed cession of Virginia ought to be previously considered and disallowed; that otherwise a renewal of the recommendation would be offensive; that it was possible the cession might be accepted, in which case the renewal would be improper. Virginia, he observed, alone could be alluded to as having complied in part only.
Mr. WILSON went largely into the subject. He said, if the investigation of right was to be considered, the United States ought rather to make cessions to individual states than receive cessions from them, the extent of the territory ceded by the treaty being larger than all the states put together; that when the claims of the states came to be limited on principles of right, the Alleghany Mountains would appear to be the true boundary; this could be established, without difficulty, before any court, or the tribunal of the world. He thought, however, policy required that such a boundary should be established as would give to the Atlantic States access to the western waters. If accommodation was the object, the clause ought by no means to be struck out. The cession of Virginia would never be accepted, because it guarantied to her the country as far as the Ohio, which never belonged to Virginia. (Here he was called to order by Mr. JONES.) The question, he said, must be decided. The indecision of Congress had been hurtful to the interests of the United States. If the compliance of Virginia was to be sought, she ought to be urged to comply fully.
For the vote in the affirmative, with the exception of Virginia and South Carolina, see Journal.
The plan of revenue was then passed as it had been amended, all the states present concurring except Rhode Island, which was in the negative, and New York, which was divided—Mr. FLOYD, ay, and Mr. HAMILTON, no.32
A motion was made by Mr. HAMILTON, seconded by Mr. MADISON, to annex to the plan of the eighteenth instant the part omitted, relating to expenses incurred by individual states. On the question, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia alone were in the affirmative; Connecticut and Georgia not present.
The resolution permitting the soldiers to retain their arms was passed at the recommendation of General Washington. (See his letter on the files.)
The resolution for granting furloughs or discharges was a compromise between those who wished to get rid of the expense of keeping the men in the field and those who thought it impolitic to disband the army whilst the British remained in the United States.33
Thursday,April 24, and Friday,April 25.
Address to the states passed nem. con. It was drawn up by Mr. Madison. The address to Rhode Island, referred to as No. 2, had been drawn up by Mr. Hamilton. See Vol. I. p. 96, Elliot’s Debates.
The writer of these notes absent till
Mr. BLAND and Mr. MERCER moved to erase from the Journal the resolution of Friday, the 2d instant, applying for an addition of three millions to the grant of six millions, by his Most Christian Majesty, as in part of the loan of four millions, requested by the resolution of September 14, 1782. As the resolution of the 2d had been passed by fewer than nine states, they contended that it was unconstitutional. The reply was, that as the three millions were to be part of a loan heretofore authorized, the sanction of nine states was not necessary. The motion was negatived, the two movers alone voting in the affirmative.34
A motion was made by Mr. LEE to recommend to the several states to pass laws indemnifying officers of the army for damages sustained by individuals from acts of such officers rendered necessary in the execution of their military functions. It was referred to Mr. Lee, Mr. Williamson, and Mr. Clark.
He proposed, also, that an equestrian statue should be erected to General Washington.35
A report, from the secretary of foreign affairs, of a treaty of commerce to be entered into with Great Britain, was referred to Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Higginson, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Helmsley, and Mr. Madison.
The resolution moved yesterday, by Mr. Lee, for indemnifying military officers, being reported by the committee, was agreed to.
The committee, on a motion of Mr. DYER, reported that the states which had settled with their respective lines of the army for their pay since August 1, 1780, should receive the securities which would otherwise be due to such lines.
The report was opposed, on the ground that the settlements had not been discharged in the value due. The notes issued in payment, by Connecticut, were complained of, as being of little value.
The report was disagreed to.
Mr. BLAND suggested, that the prisoners of war should be detained until an answer be given as to the delivery of slaves, represented, in a letter to Mr. Thomas Walke, to be refused on the part of Sir Guy Carleton.
On his motion, seconded by Mr. WILLIAMSON, it was ordered that the letter be sent to General Washington for his information, in carrying into effect the resolution of April 15, touching arrangements with the British commander for delivery of the post, negroes, &c.
A portrait of Don Galvez was presented to Congress by Oliver Pollock.37
A question on a report relating to the occupying the posts, when evacuated by the British, was postponed by Virginia, in right of a state.
Mr. DYER moved a recommendation to the states to restore confiscated property, conformably to the provisional articles. The motion produced a debate, which went off without any positive result.38
Mr. HAMILTON and Mr. ELLSWORTH moved a call on the states to fulfil the recommendation relative to the tories. After some remarks on the subject, the House adjourned.39
The report relating to the department of foreign affairs was taken up, and, after some discussion of the expediency of raising the salary of the secretary, Congress adjourned.
Spent in debating the report recommending provision for tories, according to the provisional articles of peace.
On the proposal to discharge the troops who had been enlisted for the war, (amounting to ten thousand men,) from the want of means to support them,—
Mr. CARROLL urged the expediency of caution; the possibility that advantage might be taken by Great Britain of a discharge both of prisoners and of the army; and suggested the middle course, of furloughing the troops.
Mr. DYER was strenuous for getting rid of expense; considered the war at an end; that Great Britain might as well renew the war after the definitive treaty as now; that not a moment ought to be lost in disburdening the public of needless expense.
Mr. RUTLEDGE viewed the conduct of Great Britain in so serious a light, that he almost regretted having voted for a discharge of prisoners. He urged the expediency of caution, and of consulting the commander-in-chief. He accordingly moved that the report be referred to him for his opinion and advice. The motion was seconded by Mr. IZARD.
Mr. CLARK asked whether any military operation was on foot, that the commander-in-chief was to be consulted. This was a national question, which the national council ought to decide. He was against furloughing the men, because they would carry their arms with them. He said we were at peace, and complained that some could not separate the idea of a Briton from that of cutting throats.
Mr. ELLSWORTH enlarged on the impropriety of submitting to the commander-in-chief a point on which he could not possess competent materials for deciding. We ought either to discharge the men engaged for the war, or to furlough them. He preferred the former.
Mr. MERCER descanted on the insidiousness of Great Britain, and warmly opposed the idea of laying ourselves at her mercy that we might save fifty thousand dollars, although Congress knew they were violating the treaty as to negroes.
Mr. WILLIAMSON proposed that the soldiers be furloughed. Mr. CARROLL seconded him, that the two modes of furlough and discharge might both lie on the table.
By general consent this took place.
The report as to confiscated property, on the instructions from Virginia and Pennsylvania, was taken up, and agreed to be recommitted, together with a motion of Mr. MADISON, to provide for the case of Canadian refugees, and for settlement of accounts with the British; and a motion of Mr. HAMILTON to insert, in a definitive treaty, a mutual stipulation not to keep a naval force on the lakes.40
Wednesday,May 21, and Thursday,May 22.
See the Secret Journal for these two days.
The passage relating to the armed neutrality was generally concurred in for the reasons which it expresses.
The disagreements on the questions relating to a treaty of commerce with Russia were occasioned chiefly by sympathies, particularly in the Massachusetts delegation, with Mr. Dana; and by an eye, in the navigating and ship-building states, to the Russian articles of iron and hemp. They were supported by South Carolina, who calculated on a Russian market for her rice.41
The report from Messrs. Hamilton, Gorham, and Peters, in favor of discharging the soldiers enlisted for the war, was supported on the ground that it was called for by economy, and justified by the degree of certainty that the war would not be renewed. Those who voted for furloughing the soldiers, wished to avoid expense, and at the same time to be not wholly unprepared for the contingent failure of a definitive treaty of peace. The views of the subject, taken by those who were opposed both to discharging and furloughing, were explained in a motion by Mr. MERCER, seconded by Mr. IZARD, to assign as reasons, first, that Sir Guy Carleton had not given satisfactory reasons for continuing at New York; second, that he had broken the articles of the provisional treaty relative to the negroes, by sending them off.
This motion appeared exceptionable to several, particularly to Mr. Hamilton; and rather than it should be entered on the Journal by yeas and nays, it was agreed that the whole subject should lie over.
The report relative to the department of foreign affairs being taken up, Mr. CARROLL, seconded by Mr. WILLIAMSON, moved that no public minister should be employed by the United States, except on extraordinary occasions.
In support of the proposition, it was observed, that it would not only be economical, but would withhold our distinguished citizens from the corrupting scenes at foreign courts, and, what was of more consequence, would prevent the residence of foreign ministers in the United States, whose intrigues and examples might be injurious both to the government and the people.
The considerations suggested on the other side were, that diplomatic relations made part of the established policy of modern civilized nations; that they tended to prevent hostile collisions by mutual and friendly explanations; and that a young republic ought not to incur the odium of so singular, and it might be thought disrespectful, an innovation. The discussion was closed by an adjournment till Monday.
The resolutions on the Journal instructing the ministers in Europe to remonstrate against the carrying off the negroes—also those for furloughing the troops—passed unanimously.42
Tuesday,May 27, and Wednesday,May 28.
The report of the committee concerning interest on British debts was committed, after some discussion.
The debates on the report recommending to the states a compliance with the fourth, fifth, and sixth of the provisional articles were renewed; the report being finally committed, nem. con. See Secret Journal.
The report, including the objections to interest on British debts, was also agreed to, nem. con.; not very cordially by some who were indifferent to the object, and by others who doubted the mode of seeking it by a new stipulation.43
Monday,June 2, and Tuesday,June 3.
The report of the committee for giving to the army certificates for land was taken up. After some discussion of the subject,—some members being for, some against, making the certificates transferable,—it was agreed that the report should lie on the table.
For what passed in relation to the cession of vacant territory by Virginia, see the Journal.
Whilst Mr. Hamilton’s motion relating to Mr. Livingston, secretary of foreign affairs, was before the House, Mr. PETERS moved, in order to detain Mr. Livingston in office, that it be declared, by the seven states present, that the salary ought to be augmented. To this it was objected—first, that it would be an assumption of power in seven states to say what nine states ought to do; second, that it might insnare Mr. Livingston; third, that it would commit the present, who ought to be open to discussion when nine states should be on the floor. The motion of Mr. Peters being withdrawn, that of Mr. Hamilton was agreed to.44
The report as to the territorial cession of Virginia, after some uninteresting debate, was adjourned.
Not states enough assembled to form a Congress. Mr. CLARK signified to those present, that the delegates of New Jersey being instructed on the subject of the back lands, he should communicate the report thereon to his constituents.45
The report on the cession of Virginia was taken up. Mr. ELLSWORTH urged the expediency of deciding immediately on the cession. Mr. HAMILTON joined him, asserting at the same time the right of the United States. He moved an amendment in favor of private claims. Mr. CLARK was strenuous for the right of the United States, and against waiting longer; (this had reference to the absence of Maryland, which had always taken a deep interest in the question.) Mr. GORHAM supported the policy of acceding to the report. Mr. FITZSIMMONS recommended a postponement of the question, observing, that he had sent a copy of the report to the Maryland delegates. The president was for a postponement till the sense of New Jersey be known. The Delaware delegates, expecting instructions, were for postponing till Monday next. It was agreed, at length, that a final vote should not be taken till that day—Mr. MADISON yielding to the sense of the House, but warning that the opportunity might be lost by the rising of the legislature of Virginia.
Mr. HAMILTON and Mr. PETERS, with permission, moved for a recommitment of the report, in order to provide for crown titles within the territory reserved to the state. Mr. MADISON objected to the motion, since an amendment might be prepared during the week, and proposed on Monday next. This was acquiesced in. It was agreed that the president might informally notify private companies and others, as well as the Maryland delegates, of the time at which the report would be taken into consideration.
The order of the day for appointing a secretary of foreign affairs was called for, and none having been put in nomination, the order was postponed. Mr. BLAND then nominated Mr. Arthur Lee. Mr. GORHAM nominated Mr. Jefferson, but being told he would not accept, then named Mr. Tilghman. Mr. HIGGINSON nominated Mr. Jonathan Trumbull. Mr. MONTGOMERY nominated Mr. George Clymer. It was understood that General Schuyler remained in nomination.
See Journals, secret and public.
The instruction in the Secret Journal, touching the principles, &c., of the neutral confederacy, passed unanimously.
The resolution, as reported by the committee, being in a positive style, and eight states only being present, the question occurred whether nine states were not necessary. To avoid the difficulty, a negative form was given to the resolution, by which the preamble became somewhat unsuitable. It was suffered to pass, however, rather than risk the experiment of further alteration.46
The mutinous memorial from the sergeants was received and read. It excited much indignation, and was sent to the secretary at war.47
The day was employed chiefly in considering the report on the Journal relative to the department of finance. Some thought it ought to lie on the files; some, that it ought to receive a vote of approbation, and that the superintendent should, for the period examined, be acquitted of further responsibility. Mr. GORHAM, particularly, was of that opinion. Finally, the report was entered on the Journal, without any act of Congress thereon, by a unanimous concurrence.48
A motion was made by Mr. WILLIAMSON, seconded by Mr. BLAND, to recommend to the states to make it a part of the Confederation, that, whenever a fourteenth state should be added to the Union, ten votes be required in cases now requiring nine. It was committed to Mr. Williamson, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Madison. The motion had reference to the foreseen creation of the western part of North Carolina into a separate state.
Information was received by Congress, from the executive council of Pennsylvania, that eighty soldiers, who would probably be followed by the discharged soldiers of Armand’s Legion, were on the way from Lancaster to Philadelphia, in spite of the expostulations of their officers, declaring that they would proceed to the seat of Congress and demand justice, and intimating designs against the bank. This information was committed to Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Peters, and Mr. Ellsworth, for the purpose of conferring with the executive of Pennsylvania, and taking such measures as they should find necessary. The committee, after so conferring, informed Congress that it was the opinion of the executive that the militia of Philadelphia would probably not be willing to take arms before their resentments should be provoked by some actual outrage; that it would hazard the authority of government to make the attempt; and that it would be necessary to let the soldiers come into the city, if the officers who had gone out to meet them could not stop them.
At this information Mr. IZARD, Mr. MERCER, and others, being much displeased, signified that, if the city would not support Congress, it was high time to remove to some other place. Mr. WILSON remarked, that no part of the United States was better disposed towards Congress than Pennsylvania, where the prevailing sentiment was, that Congress had done every thing that depended on them. After some conversation, and directing General St. Clair (who had gone out of town) to be sent for, and, it appearing that nothing further could be done at present, Congress adjourned. The secretary at war had set out for Virginia yesterday. It was proposed to send for him, but declined, as he had probably gone too great a distance, and General St. Clair, it was supposed, would answer.
The soldiers from Lancaster came into the city under the guidance of sergeants. They professed to have no other object than to obtain a settlement of accounts, which they supposed they had a better chance for at Philadelphia than at Lancaster. See the report of the committee on that subject.
The report of the committee (see the Journal) on the territorial cession of Virginia being taken up, and the amendment on the Journal, proposed by Mr. M’HENRY and Mr. CLARK, being lost, Mr. BEDFORD proposed, that the second condition of the cession be so altered as to read, “that, in order to comply with the said condition, so far as the same is comprised within the resolution of October 10, 1780, on that subject, commissioners, as proposed by the committee, be appointed, &c.,” and that instead of “for the purposes mentioned in the said condition,” be substituted “agreeably to that resolution.” In support of this alteration, it was urged by Mr. M’HENRY, Mr. BEDFORD, and Mr. CLARK, that the terms used by Virginia were too comprehensive and indefinite. In favor of the report of the committee, it was contended, by Mr. ELLSWORTH, that the alteration was unreasonable, inasmuch as civil expenses were on the same footing of equity as military, and that a compromise was the object of the committee. Sundry members were of opinion, that civil expenses were comprised in the resolution of October 10, 1780. Mr. BLAND and Mr. MERCER acceded to the alteration proposed; Mr. MADISON alone dissented, and therefore did not insist on a call for the votes of the states. Mr. M’HENRY moved, but without being seconded, “that the commissioners, instead of deciding finally, should be authorized to report to Congress only.”
In the course of the debate, Mr. CLARK laid before Congress the remonstrance of New Jersey, as entered on the Journal.
As the report had been postponed at the instance of the president and other delegates of New Jersey, in order to obtain this answer from their constituents, and as the remonstrance was dated on the 14th of June, and was confessed privately by Mr.—to have been in possession of the delegates on Monday last, an unfairness was complained of. They supposed that, if it had been laid before Congress sooner, the copy which would have been sent by the Virginia delegates might hasten the opening of the land-office of that state. Mr. CLARK said, there were still good prospects, and he did not doubt that the time would yet come when Congress would draw a line, limiting the states to the westward, and say, “Thus far shall ye go, and no farther.”
Mr. BEDFORD moved, that, with respect to the fourth and fifth conditions of the cessions, “it be declared, that Clark and his men, and the Virginia line, be allowed the same bounty beyond the Ohio as was allowed by the United States to the same ranks.” This motion was seconded by Mr.—. Congress adjourned without debating it; there being seven states only present, and the spirit of compromise decreasing.
From several circumstances, there was reason to believe that Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, if not Maryland also, retained latent views of confining Virginia to the Alleghany Mountains.
Notice was taken by Mr. MADISON of the error in the remonstrance, which recites “that Congress had declared the cession of Virginia to be a partial one.”49
The mutinous soldiers presented themselves, drawn up in the street before the state-house, where Congress had assembled. The executive council of the state, sitting under the same roof, was called on for the proper interposition. President DICKINSON came in, and explained the difficulty, under actual circumstances, of bringing out the militia of the place for the suppression of the mutiny. He thought that, without some outrages on persons or property, the militia could not be relied on. General St. Clair, then in Philadelphia, was sent for, and desired to use his interposition, in order to prevail on the troops to return to the barracks. His report gave no encouragement.
In this posture of things, it was proposed by Mr. IZARD, that Congress should adjourn. It was proposed by Mr. HAMILTON, that General St. Clair. in concert with the executive council of the state, should take order for terminating the mutiny. Mr. REED moved, that the general should endeavor to withdraw the troops by assuring them of the disposition of Congress to do them justice. It was finally agreed, that Congress should remain till the usual hour of adjournment, but without taking any step in relation to the alleged grievances of the soldiers, or any other business whatever. In the mean time, the soldiers remained in their position, without offering any violence, individuals only, occasionally, uttering offensive words, and wantonly pointing their muskets to the windows of the hall of Congress. No danger from premeditated violence was apprehended, but it was observed that spirituous drink, from the tippling-houses adjoining, began to be liberally served out to the soldiers, and might lead to hasty excesses. None were committed, however, and, about three o’clock, the usual hour, Congress adjourned; the soldiers, though in some instances offering a mock obstruction, permitting the members to pass through their ranks. They soon afterwards retired themselves to the barracks.
In the evening Congress re-assembled, and passed the resolutions on the Journal, authorizing a committee to confer anew with the executive of the state, and, in case no satisfactory grounds should appear for expecting prompt and adequate exertions for suppressing the mutiny, and supporting the public authority, authorizing the president, with the advice of the committee, to summon the members to meet at Trenton or Princeton, in New Jersey.
The conference with the executive produced nothing but a repetition of doubts concerning the disposition of the militia to act unless some actual outrage were offered to persons or property. It was even doubted whether a repetition of the insult to Congress would be a sufficient provocation.
During the deliberations of the executive, and the suspense of the committee, reports from the barracks were in constant vibration. At one moment, the mutineers were penitent and preparing submissions; the next, they were meditating more violent measures. Sometimes, the bank was their object; then the seizure of the members of Congress, with whom they imagined an indemnity for their offence might be stipulated. On Tuesday, about two o’clock, the efforts of the state authority being despaired of, and the reports from the barracks being unfavorable, the committee advised the president to summon Congress to meet at Trenton, which he did verbally as to the members present, leaving behind him a general proclamation for the press.
After the departure of Congress, the mutineers submitted, and most of them accepted furloughs under the resolution of Congress on that subject. At the time of submission, they betrayed their leaders, the chief of whom proved to be a Mr. Carbery, a deranged officer, and a Mr. Sullivan, a lieutenant of horse; both of whom made their escape. Some of the most active of the sergeants also ran off.50
Monday,February 19, 1787.*
Mr. PINCKNEY, in support of his motion entered on the Journal for stopping the enlistment of troops, argued that he had reason to suppose the insurrection in Massachusetts, the real though not ostensible object of this measure, to be already crushed; that the requisition of five hundred thousand dollars for supporting the troops had been complied with by one state only, viz. Virginia, and that but in part; that it would be absurd to proceed in the raising of men who could neither be paid, clothed, nor fed, and that such a folly was the more to be shunned, as the consequences could not be foreseen, of imbodying and arming men under circumstances which would be more likely to render them the terror than the support of the government. We had, he observed, been so lucky in one instance—meaning the disbanding of the army on the peace—as to get rid of an armed force without satisfying their just claims; but that it would not be prudent to hazard the repetition of the experiment.
Mr. KING made a moving appeal to the feelings of Congress, reminding them that the real object in voting the troops was, to countenance the exertions of the government of Massachusetts; that the silent coöperation of these military preparations under the orders of Congress had had a great and double effect in animating the government and awing the insurgents; that he hoped the late success of the former had given a deadly blow to the disturbances, yet that it would be premature, whilst a doubt could exist as to the critical fact, to withdraw the coöperating influence of the federal measures. He particularly and pathetically entreated Congress to consider that it was in agitation, and probably would be determined, by the legislature of Massachusetts, not only to bring to due punishment the more active and leading offenders, but to disarm and disfranchise, for a limited time, the great body of them; that for the policy of this measure he would not undertake to vouch, being sensible that there were great and illustrious examples against it; that his confidence, however, in the prudence of that government, would not permit him to call their determinations into question; that what the effect of these rigors might be it was impossible to foresee. He dwelt much on the sympathy which they probably would excite in behalf of the stigmatized party; scarce a man was without a father, a brother, a friend, in the mass of the people; adding that, as a precaution against contingencies, it was the purpose of the state to raise and station a small military force in the most suspected districts, and that forty thousand pounds, to be drawn from their impost on trade, had been appropriated accordingly; that under these circumstances a new crisis more solemn than the late one might be brought on, and therefore to stop the federal enlistments, and thereby withdraw the aid which had been held out, would give the greatest alarm imaginable to the government and its friends, as it would look like a disapprobation and desertion of them; and, if viewed in that light by the disaffected, might rekindle the insurrection. He took notice of the possibility to which every state in the Union was exposed of being visited with similar calamities; in which event they would all be suing for support in the same strain now used by the delegates from Massachusetts; that the indulgence now requested in behalf of that state might be granted without the least inconvenience to the United States, as their enlistments, without any countermanding orders, would not go on whilst those of the state were in competition; it being natural for men to prefer the latter service, in which they would stay at home, and be sure of their pay, to the former, in which they might, with little prospect of it, be sent to the Ohio to fight the Indians. He concluded with the most earnest entreaties, and the fullest confidence, that Congress would not, at so critical a moment, and without any necessity whatever, agree to the motion, assuring them that, in three or four weeks, possibly in less time, he might himself be a friend to it, and would promote it.
Mr. PINCKNEY, in reply, contended, that if the measures pursuing by Massachusetts were such as had been stated, he did not think the United States bound to give them countenance. He thought them impolitic, and not to be reconciled with the genius of free governments; and if fresh commotions should spring from them that the state of Massachusetts alone should be at the charge, and abide by the consequences of their own misconduct.
Mr. MADISON would not examine whether the original views of Congress, in the enlargement of their military force, were proper or not; nor whether it were so, to mask their views with an ostensible preparation against the Indians. He admitted, indeed, that it appeared rather difficult to reconcile an interference of Congress in the internal controversies of a state with the tenor of the Confederation, which does not authorize it expressly, and leaves to the states all powers not expressly delegated, or with the principles of republican governments, which, as they rest on the sense of the majority, necessarily suppose power and right always to be on the same side. He observed, however, that, in one point of view, military precautions on the part of Congress might have a different aspect. Whenever danger was apprehended from any foreign quarter, which of necessity extended itself to the federal concerns, Congress were bound to guard against it; and although there might be no particular evidence in this case of such a meditated interference, yet there was sufficient ground for a general suspicion of readiness in Great Britain to take advantage of events in this country, to warrant precautions against her. But, waiving the question as to the original propriety of the measure adopted, and attending merely to the question whether at this moment the measure ought, from a change of circumstances, to be rescinded, he was inclined to think it would be more advisable to suspend than to go instantly into the rescision. The considerations which led to this opinion were—
First. That, though it appeared pretty certain that the main body of the insurgents had been dispersed, it was by no means certain that the spirit of insurrection was subdued. The leaders, too, of the insurgents had not been apprehended, and parties of them were still in arms in disaffected places.
Secondly. That great respect is due on such occasions to the wishes and representations of the suffering member of the federal body, both of which must be judged of by what comes from her representatives on the floor. These tell us that the measures taken by Congress have given great satisfaction and spirits to their constituents, and have coöperated much in baffing the views of their internal enemies; that they are pursuing very critical precautions at this moment for their future safety and tranquillity; and that the construction which will be put on the proposed resolution, if agreed to by Congress, cannot fail to make very unhappy impressions, and may have very serious consequences. The propriety of these precautions depends on so many circumstances better known to the government of Massachusetts than to Congress, that it would be premature in Congress to be governed by a disapprobation.
Thirdly. That every state ought to bear in mind the consequences of popular commotions, if not thoroughly subdued, on the tranquillity of the Union, and the possibility of being itself the scene of them. Every state ought, therefore, to submit with cheerfulness to such indulgences to others as itself may, in a little time, be in need of. He had been a witness of the temper of his own state (Virginia) on this occasion. It was understood by the legislature that the real object of the military preparations on foot was the disturbances in Massachusetts, and that very consideration inspired the ardor which voted, towards their quota, a tax on tobacco, which would not have been granted for scarce any other purpose whatever, being a tax operating very partially, in the opinion of the people of that state who cultivate that article; yet this class of the legislature were almost unanimous in making the sacrifice, because the fund was considered as the most certain that could be provided.
Fourthly. That it was probable the enlistments, for the reasons given, would be suspended without an order from Congress; in which case, the inconvenience suggested would be saved to the United States, and the wishes of Massachusetts satisfied, at the same time.
Fifthly. That as no bounty was given for the troops, and they could be dismissed at any time, the objections drawn from the consideration of expense would have but little force.
Sixthly. That it was contended for a continuance of the apparent aid of Congress for only three or four weeks, the members from Massachusetts themselves considering that as a sufficient time.
After the rejection of the motion, as stated on the Journal, a dispute arose whether the vote should be entered among the secret or public proceedings. Mr. PINCKNEY insisted that, in the former case, his view, which was to justify himself to his constituents, would be frustrated. Most of those who voted with him were opposed to an immediate publication. The expedient of a temporary concealment was proposed as answering all purposes.51
Nothing of consequence was done.
The report of the convention at Annapolis, in September, 1786, had been long under the consideration of a committee of Congress for the last year, and was referred over to a grand committee of the present year. The latter committee, after considerable difficulty and discussion, agreed on a report, by a majority of one only, (see the Journal,)52 which was made a few days ago to Congress, and set down as the order for this day. The report coincided with the opinion, held at Annapolis, that the Confederation needed amendments, and that the proposed convention was the most eligible means of effecting them. The objections which seemed to prevail against the recommendation of the convention by Congress were, with some, that it tended to weaken the federal authority by lending its sanction to an extra-constitutional mode of proceeding; with others, that the interposition of Congress would be considered by the jealous as betraying an ambitious wish to get power into their hands by any plan whatever that might present itself. Subsequent to the report, the delegates from New York received instructions from its legislature to move in Congress for a recommendation of a convention; and those from Massachusetts had, it appeared, received information which led them to suppose it was becoming the disposition of the legislature of that state to send deputies to the proposed convention, in case Congress should give their sanction to it. There was reason to believe, however, from the language of the instruction from New York, that her object was to obtain a new convention, under the sanction of Congress, rather than to accede to the one on foot; or, perhaps, by dividing the plans of the states in their appointments, to frustrate all of them. The latter suspicion is in some degree countenanced by their refusal of the impost a few days before the instruction passed, and by their other marks of an unfederal disposition. The delegates from New York, in consequence of their instructions, made the motion on the Journal to postpone the report of the committee, in order to substitute their own proposition. Those who voted against it considered it as liable to the objection above mentioned. Some who voted for it, particularly Mr. MADISON, considered it susceptible of amendment when brought before Congress; and that if Congress interposed in the matter at all, it would be well for them to do it at the instance of a state, rather than spontaneously. This motion being lost, Mr. DANE, from Massachusetts, who was at bottom unfriendly to the plan of a convention, and had dissuaded his state from coming into it, brought forward a proposition, in a different form, but liable to the same objection with that from New York. After some little discussion, it was agreed on all sides, except by Connecticut, who opposed the measure in every form, that the resolution should pass as it stands on the Journal, sanctioning the proceedings and appointments already made by the states, as well as recommending further appointments from other states, but in such terms as do not point directly to the former appointments.
It appeared from the debates, and still more from the conversation among the members, that many of them considered this resolution as a deadly blow to the existing Confederation. Dr. JOHNSON, who voted against it, particularly declared himself to that effect. Others viewed it in the same light, but were pleased with it as the harbinger of a better Confederation.
The reserve of many of the members made it difficult to decide their real wishes and expectations from the present crisis of our affairs. All agreed and owned that the federal government, in its existing shape, was inefficient, and could not last long. The members from the Southern and Middle States seemed generally anxious for some republican organization of the system which would preserve the Union, and give due energy to the government of it. Mr. BINGHAM alone avowed his wishes that the Confederacy might be divided into several distinct confederacies, its great extent and various interests being incompatible with a single government. The eastern members were suspected by some of leaning towards some anti-republican establishment, (the effect of their late confusions,) or of being less desirous or hopeful of preserving the unity of the empire. For the first time, the idea of separate confederacies had got into the newspapers. It appeared to-day under the Boston head. Whatever the views of the leading men in the Eastern States may be, it would seem that the great body of the people, particularly in Connecticut, are equally indisposed either to dissolve or divide the Confederacy, or to submit to any anti-republican innovations.53
Nothing noted till
Colonel GRAYSON and Mr. CLARK having lately moved to have the military stores at Springfield, in Massachusetts, removed to some place of greater security, the motion was referred to the secretary at war, who this day reported against the same, as his report will show. No opposition was made to the report, and it seemed to be the general sense of Congress that his reasons were satisfactory. The movers of the proposition, however, might suppose the thinness of Congress (eight states only being present) to bar any hope of successful opposition.
Memorandum.—Called with Mr. Bingham to-day on Mr. Guardoqui, and had a long conversation touching the western country, the navigation of the Mississippi, and commerce, as these objects relate to Spain and the United States. Mr. Bingham opened the conversation with intimating, that there was reason to believe the western people were exceedingly alarmed at the idea of the projected treaty which was to shut up the Mississippi, and were forming committees of correspondence, &c., for uniting their councils and interests. Mr. Guardoqui, with some perturbation, replied, that, as a friend to the United States, he was sorry for it, for they mistook their interest; but that, as the minister of Spain, he had no reason to be so. The result of what fell in the course of the conversation from Mr. Madison and Mr. Bingham was, that it was the interest of the two nations to live in harmony; that if Congress were disposed to treat with Spain on the ground of a cession of the Mississippi, it would be out of their power to enforce the treaty; that an attempt would be the means of populating the western country with additional rapidity; that the British had their eye upon that field, would countenance the separation of the western from the eastern part of North America, promote the settlement of it, and hereafter be able to turn the force springing up in that quarter against Spanish America, in coöperation with their naval armaments; that Spain offered nothing in fact to the United States in the commercial scale which she did not grant to all the other nations from motives of interest.
Mr. Guardoqui would not listen to the idea of a right to the navigation of the Mississippi by the United States, contending, that the possession of the two banks at the mouth shut the door against any such pretension. Spain never would give up this point. He lamented that he had been here so long without effecting any thing, and foresaw that the consequences would be very disagreeable.
What would those consequences be? He evaded an answer by repeating general expressions. Spain could make her own terms, he said, with Great Britain. He considered the commercial connection proposed as entirely in favor of the United States, and that in a little time the ports of Spain would be shut against fish. He was asked, whether against all fish, or only against fish from the United States. From all places not in treaty, he said, with Spain. Spain would act according to her own ideas. She would not be governed by other people’s ideas of her interest.
He was very sorry for the instructions passed by Virginia; he foresaw bad consequences from them. He had written to soften the matter as well as he could, but that troops and stores would certainly reinforce New Orleans in consequence of the resolutions.
He had not conferred at all with the minister of foreign affairs since October, and did not expect to confer again. He did not expect to remain much longer in America. He wished he might not be a true prophet; but it would be found that we mistook our interest, and that Spain would make us feel the vulnerable side of our commerce by abridging it in her ports.
With an air of ostensible jocoseness, he hinted that the people of Kentucky would make good Spanish subjects, and that they would become such for the sake of the privilege annexed to that character.
He seemed to be disposed to make us believe that Spain and Britain understood one another; that he knew the views of Great Britain in holding the western posts; and that Spain had it in her power to make Great Britain bend to her views. He affected a mysterious air on this point, which only proved that he was at a loss what to say to the probability and tendency of a connection between Great Britain and the western settlements, in case the Mississippi should be given up by Congress.
He intimated that Spain could not grant any inlet of the American trade by treaty; but that in case of a treaty, trade through the Mississippi, as well as other channels, would be winked at.
In speaking of the Mississippi and the right of Spain, he alluded to the case of the Tagus, which Spain had never pretended to a right of navigating through Portugal. It was observed to him, that, in estimating the rights of nations in such cases, regard must be had to their respective proportions of territory on the river. Suppose Spain held only five acres on each side at the mouth of the Mississippi; would she pretend to an exclusive right in such case? He said, that was not the case: Spain had a great proportion. How much? After some confusion and hesitation, he said, she claimed at least—as far as the Ohio. We smiled, and asked how far eastwardly from the Mississippi? He became still more at a loss for an answer, and turned it off by insinuating that he had conversed on that matter with the secretary of foreign affairs.
He was reminded of the doctrine maintained by Spain, in 1608, as to the Scheldt. He seemed not to have known the fact, and resolved it into some political consideration of the times.
He was asked, whether the partition of the British empire could deprive this part of it of the rights appertaining to the king of Great Britain as king of this country; and even whether the rupture of Great Britain and Spain could deprive, in justice, the United States of rights which they held under the treaty of 1763, whilst they remained a part of the British empire; whether, in case no such rupture had happened, the treaty between Spain and that part of the empire would have been dissolved by the revolution; &c. &c. He did not seem well to understand the principles into which such questions resolved themselves, and gave them the go-by, referring the claim of Spain principally to her conquests of the British possessions in North America.
He betrayed strongly the anxiety of Spain to retard the population of the western country; observing, that whenever sufficient force should arise therein, it would be impossible for it to be controlled; that any conciliating measures that might be taken now would have little effect on their temper and views fifty or a hundred years hence, when they should be in force.
When we rose to take leave, he begged us to remember what he had said as to the inflexibility of Spain on the point of the Mississippi, and the consequences to America of her adherence to her present pretensions.54
Nothing noted till
Mr. Jay’s report on the treaty of peace taken up.
Mr. YATES objected to the first resolution, which declares the treaty to be a law of the land. He said the states, or at least his state, did not admit it to be such until clothed with legal sanction. At his request he was furnished with a copy of the resolution, for the purpose of consulting such as he might choose.
The subject of yesterday resumed.
Mr. YATES was now satisfied with the resolutions as they stood. The words “constitutionally made,” as applied to the treaty, seemed to him, on consideration, to qualify sufficiently the doctrine on which the resolution was founded.
The second and third resolutions, urging on the states a repeal of all laws contravening the treaty, (first, that they might not continue to operate as violations of it, secondly, that questions might be avoided touching their validity,) underwent some criticisms and discussions.
Mr. VARNUM and Mr. MITCHELL thought they did not consist with the first, which declared such laws to be void, in which case they could not operate as violations.
Mr. MADISON observed, that a repeal of those contravening laws was expedient, and even necessary, to free the courts from the bias of their oaths, which bound the judges more strongly to the state than to the federal authority. A distinction too, he said, might be started possibly between laws prior and laws subsequent to the treaty; a repealing effect of the treaty on the former not necessarily implying the nullity of the latter. Supposing the treaty to have the validity of a law only, it would repeal all antecedent laws. To render succeeding laws void, it must have more than the mere authority of a law. In case these succeeding laws, contrary to the treaty, should come into discussion before the courts, it would be necessary to examine the foundation of the federal authority, and to determine whether it had the validity of a constitution paramount to the legislative authority in each state. This was a delicate question, and studiously to be avoided, as it was notorious that, although in some of the states the Confederation was incorporated with, and had the sanction of, their respective constitutions, yet in others it received a legislative ratification only, and rested on no other basis. He admitted, however, that the word “operate” might be changed for the better, and proposed, in its place, the words “be regarded,” as violations of the treaty,—which was agreed to without opposition.
Mr. KING, in the course of the business, observed, that a question had been raised in New York whether stipulations, as they might affect citizens only, and not foreigners, could restrain the states from legislating with respect to the former; and supposed that such stipulations could not.
The resolutions passed unanimously.55
The report for reducing salaries agreed to, as amended, unanimously. The proposition for reducing the salary of the secretary of foreign affairs to $3000 was opposed by Mr. KING and Mr. MADISON, who entered into the peculiar duties and qualifications required in that office, and its peculiar importance. Mr. MITCHELL and Mr. VARNUM contended, that it stood on a level with the secretaryship to Congress. The yeas and nays were called on the question, and it was lost. A motion was then made to reduce the salary of $4000 to $3500. Mr. CLARK, who had been an opponent to any reduction, acceded to this compromise. Mr. King suffered his colleague to vote in the affirmative. There being six states for reducing to $3500, and Mr. CARRINGTON being on the same side, in opposition to Mr. GRAYSON, Mr. MADISON gave up his opinion to so great a majority, and the resolution for $3500 passed. The preceding yeas and nays on the motions for reducing to $3000 were then withdrawn, and no entry made of them. It seemed to be the general opinion that the salary of the secretary at war was disproportionately low, and ought to be raised. The committee would have reported an augmentation, but conceived themselves restrained by their commission, which was to reduce, not to revise, the civil list.
Nothing of consequence till
Mr. KING reminded Congress of the motion on the 19th of February for discontinuing the enlistments, and intimated that the state of things in Massachusetts was at present such that no opposition would now be made by the delegation of that state. A committee was appointed, in general, to consider the military establishment, and particularly to report a proper resolution for stopping the enlistments.
The Virginia delegates laid before Congress sundry papers from the executive of that state relating to the seizure of Spanish property by General Clark, and the incendiary efforts on foot in the western country against the Spaniards, &c. No comment was made on them, nor any vote taken.
The committee appointed to confer with the treasury board on the great business of a fiscal settlement of the accounts of the United States reported that they be discharged, and the board instructed to report an ordinance. Mr. KING, in explanation said, that it was the sense of the committee and of the treasury board both, that commissioners should be appointed with full and final powers to decide on the claims of the states against the Union, &c. The report was agreed to nem. con.
Sundry papers from the Illinois, complaining of the grievances of that country, which had arrived by a special express, were laid before Congress by the president, and committed.
Mr. MITCHELL, from Connecticut, observed, that the papers from Virginia communicated yesterday were of a very serious nature, and showed that we were in danger of being precipitated into disputes with Spain, which ought to be avoided if possible; and moved that these papers might be referred to the committee on the Illinois papers, which was done without opposition; Mr. KING only observing, that they contained mere information, and did not in his view need any step to be taken on them.
The Virginia delegates communicated to Mr. Guardoqui the proceedings of the executive relative to Clark’s seizure of Spanish property, at which he expressed much regret as a friend to the United States, though, as a Spanish minister, he had little reason to dread the tendency of such outrages. The communication was followed by a free conversation on the western territory and the Mississippi. The observations of the delegates tended to impress him—first, with the unfriendly temper which would be produced in the western people, both against Spain and the United States, by a concerted occlusion of that river; secondly, with the probability of throwing them into the arms of Great Britain; thirdly, of accelerating the population of that country, after the example of Vermont; fourthly, the danger of such numbers under British influence, as well to Spanish America as to the Atlantic States; fifthly, the universal opinion of right in the United States to the free use of the river; sixthly, the disappointment of the people of America at an attempt in Spain to make their condition worse, as citizens of an independent state, in amity and lately engaged in a common cause, than as subjects of a formidable and unfriendly power; seventhly, the inefficiency of an attempt in Congress to fulfil a treaty for shutting the Mississippi, and the folly of their entering into such a stipulation; eighthly, that it would be wise in Spain to foresee and provide for events that could not be controlled, rather than to make fruitless efforts to prevent or procrastinate them.
Mr. Guardoqui reiterated his assertion that Spain would never accede to the claim of the United States to navigate the river; secondly, urged that the result of what was said was, that Congress could enter into no treaty at all; thirdly, that the trade of Spain was of great importance, and would certainly be shut against the United States,—affecting to disregard the remark that, if Spain continued to use fish, flour, &c., her interest would restrain her from shutting her ports against the American competition; fourthly, he signified that he had observed the weakness of the Union, and foreseen its probable breach; that he lamented the danger of it, as he wished to see it preserved and strengthened, which was more than France* or any other nation in Europe did. No reply was made to this remark. The sincerity of his declaration as to his own wishes was not free from suspicion. Fifthly, he laid much stress on the service Spain had rendered the United States during the struggle for their independence, considering it as laying them under great obligations. The reality of the service was not denied; but he was reminded of the interest Spain had in dividing a power which had given the law to the house of Bourbon, and compelled Spain to relinquish, as he said, the exclusive use of the Mississippi. Sixthly, in answer to the remark that Spain was for putting the United States on a worse footing than they stood on as British subjects, he not only mentioned the necessity which had dictated the treaty of 1763, but contended that the recovery of West Florida made a distinction in the case. It was observed to him that, as the navigable channel of the Mississippi ran between the island and the western shore, Spain had the same pretext for holding both shores when Florida was a British colony as since. He would neither accede to the inference nor deny the fact. Seventhly, he intimated, with a jocular air, the possibility of the western people becoming Spanish subjects; and, with a serious one, that such an idea had been brought forward to the king of Spain by some person connected with the western country, but that his majesty’s dignity and character could never countenance it. It was replied, that that consideration was no doubt a sufficient obstacle, but it was presumed, that such subjects would not be very convenient to Spain. It would be much more for the interest of Spain that they should be friendly neighbors than refractory subjects. It did not appear that he viewed the matter in a different light. Eighthly, he disclaimed his having ever assented to, or approved of, any limited occlusion of the Mississippi, though in a manner that did not speak a real inflexibility on that point. Ninthly, it appeared clearly that the check to the western settlements was a favorite object, and that the occlusion of the Mississippi was considered as having that tendency. Tenthly, the futility of many of his arguments and answers satisfied the delegates that they could not appear convincing to himself, and that he was of course pursuing rather the ideas of his court than his own.56
Mr. Jay’s report in favor of the admission of Phineas Bond as British consul for the Middle States, was called for by Mr. CADWALADER. Mr. MADISON said, he was far from being satisfied of the propriety of the measure; he was a friend in general to a liberal policy, and admitted that the United States were more in the wrong, in the violation of the treaty of peace, than Great Britain; but still the latter was not blameless. He thought, however, the question turned on different considerations: first, the facility of the United States in granting privileges to Great Britain without a treaty of commerce, instead of begetting a disposition to conclude such a treaty, had been found, on trial, to be made a reason against it; secondly, the indignity of Great Britain in neglecting to send a public minister to the United States, notwithstanding the lapse of time since Mr. Adams’s arrival there, gave them no title to favors in that line; and self-respect seemed to require that the United States should at least proceed with distrust and reserve.
Mr. GRAYSON thought, as the secretary had done, that it would be good policy to admit Mr. Bond, and that it could not be decently, and without offence, refused after the admission of Mr. Temple.
Mr. CLARK said, he was at first puzzled how to vote, as he did not like the admission proposed, on one hand, and, on the other, thought it not decent to refuse it after the admission of Mr. Temple. On reflecting, however, that Mr. Temple was admitted at a time when hopes were entertained of a commercial treaty, which had since vanished, and that the question might be postponed generally without being negatived, he should accede to the idea of doing nothing on the subject.
Mr. VARNUM animadverted on the obnoxious character of Mr. Bond, and conceived that alone a sufficient reason for not admitting him. The postponement was agreed to without any overt dissent except that of Mr. Grayson.
The delegates from North Carolina communicated to Congress sundry papers conspiring with the other proofs of discontent in the western country at the supposed surrender of the Mississippi, and of hostile machinations against the Spaniards.
It was ordered that they should be referred to the secretary of foreign affairs for his information. It was then moved that the papers relative to the same subjects from Virginia, yesterday referred to a committee, should, after discharging the committee, be referred to the office of foreign affairs. Mr. CLARK proposed to add “to report.” This was objected to by Mr. KING, and brought on some general observations on the proceedings of Congress in the affair of the Mississippi. It was at length agreed that the reference be made without an instruction to report. Mr. PIERCE then observed, that it had been hinted by Mr. Madison, as proper, to instruct the secretary of foreign affairs to lay before Congress the state of his negotiation with Mr. Guardoqui, and made a motion to that effect, which was seconded by several at once.
Mr. KING hoped Congress would not be hurried into a decision on that point, observing that it was a very delicate one. But he did not altogether like it; and yet it was of such a nature that it might appear strange to negative it. He desired that it might at least lie over till Monday.
Mr. MADISON concurred in wishing the same, being persuaded that the propriety of the motion was so clear, that nothing could produce dissent, unless it were forcing members into an unwilling decision.
The motion was withdrawn, with notice that it would be renewed on Monday next.57
Mr. PIERCE renewed his motion instructing the secretary of foreign affairs to lay before Congress the state of his negotiation with Mr. Guardoqui, which was agreed to without observation or dissent.
See Journals till
Mr. KEARNEY moved that Congress adjourn, on the last Friday in April, to meet on the—day of May, in Philadelphia. Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, were for it. The merits of the proposition were not discussed. The friends to it seemed sensible that objections lay against the particular moment at which it was proposed; but, considering the greater centrality of Philadelphia, as rendering a removal proper in itself, and the uncertainty of finding seven states present and in the humor again, they waived the objections. The opinion of Mr. MADISON was, that the meeting of the ensuing Congress in Philadelphia ought to be fixed, leaving the existing Congress to remain throughout the federal year in New York. This arrangement would have been less irritating, and would have had less the aspect of precipitancy or passion, and would have repelled insinuations of personal considerations with the members. The question was agreed to lie over till to-morrow.
Mr. VARNUM moved that the motion for removing to Philadelphia should be postponed generally. As the assent of Rhode Island was necessary to make seven states, no one chose to press a decision; the postponement was therefore agreed to nem. con., and the proceedings of yesterday involved the yeas and nays on some immaterial points struck from the Journal.
See the Journal till
It having appeared, by the report of Mr. Jay on the instruction agreed to on Monday, the 2d instant, and on information referred to him concerning the discontents of the western people, that he had considered the act of seven states as authorizing him to suspend the use of the Mississippi, and that he had accordingly adjusted with Mr. Guardoqui an article to that effect; that he was also much embarrassed by the ferment excited in the western country by the rumored intention to cede the Mississippi, by which such cession was rendered inexpedient on one side, and, on the other side, by the disinclination in another part of the Union to support the use of the river by arms, if necessary; it was proposed by Mr. MADISON, as an expedient which, if it should answer no other purpose, would at least gain time, that it should be resolved,
“That the present state of the negotiations with Spain, [meaning the step taken under the spurious authority of seven states,] and of the affairs of the United States, [meaning the temper and proceedings in the western country:] renders it expedient that the minister plenipotentiary at the court of France should proceed under a special commission to the court of Madrid, there to make such representations, and to urge such negotiations, as will be most likely to satisfy the said court of the friendly disposition of the United States, and to induce it to make such concessions relative to the southern limit of the said states and their right to navigate the River Mississippi, and to enter into such commercial stipulations with them, as may most effectually guard against a rupture of the subsisting harmony, and promote the mutual interest of the two nations; and that the secretary of foreign affairs prepare and report the instructions proper to be given to the said minister, with a proper commission and letters of credence; and that he also report the communications and explanations which it may be advisable to make to Mr. Guardoqui relative to this change in the mode of conducting the negotiation with his court.”
Mr. KING said, that he did not know that he should be opposed to the proposition, as it seemed to be a plausible expedient, and as something seemed necessary to be done; but that he thought it proper that Congress should, before they agreed to it, give the secretary for foreign affairs an opportunity of stating his opinions on it, and accordingly moved that it should be referred to him.
Mr. CLARK and Mr. VARNUM opposed the reference, it being improper for Congress to submit a principle, for deciding which no further information was wanted, to the opinion of their minister. The reference being, however, at length acceded to by the other friends of the proposition, on the principle of accommodation, it had a vote of seven states.58
The instructions of Virginia against relinquishing the Mississippi were laid before Congress by the delegates of that state, with a motion that they should be referred to the department of foreign affairs, by way of information.
The reference was opposed by Mr. KING and Mr. BENSON, as unnecessary for that purpose, the instructions having been printed in the newspapers.
In answer to this, it was observed, that the memorial accompanying the instructions had never been printed; that if it had, no just objection could be thence drawn against an official communication; that if Congress would submit a measure, as they had done yesterday, to the opinion of their minister, they ought at least to supply him with every fact, in the most authentic manner, which could assist his judgment; and that they had actually referred to the same minister communications, relative to the western views, less interesting and authentic, and which he had made the basis of a report to Congress.
The motion was lost, Massachusetts and New York being against it, and Connecticut divided. Mr. MITCHELL, from the latter state, was displeased at the negatives, as indicating a want of candor and moderation on the subject.59
Mr. Jay’s report, stating objections against the motion of Mr. Madison for sending Mr. Jefferson to Madrid, was taken into consideration.
Mr. MADISON observed, that Mr. Jay had not taken up the proposition in the point of view in which it had been penned; and explained what that was, to wit, that it was expedient to retract the step taken for ceding the Mississippi, and to do it in a manner as respectful and conciliating as possible to Spain, and which, at the same time, would procrastinate the dilemma stated by Mr. Jay. He said he was not attached to the expedient he had brought forward, and was open to any other that might be less exceptionable.
Mr. GORHAM avowed his opinion that the shutting the Mississippi would be advantageous to the Atlantic States, and wished to see it shut.
Mr. MADISON animadverted on the illiberality of his doctrine, and contrasted it with the principles of the revolution, and the language of American patriots.
Nothing was done in the case.
Mr. MADISON, observing to Congress that he found a settled disinclination in some of the delegations to concur in any conciliatory expedient for defending the Mississippi against the operation of the vote of seven states, and that it was hence become necessary to attack directly the validity of that measure, to the end that the adversaries to it, and particularly the instructed delegations, might at least discharge their duty in the case, made the following motion:—
Whereas it appears by the report of the secretary for the department of foreign affairs, made on the 11th instant, that, in consequence of a vote entered into by seven states on the 29th day of August last, he has proceeded to adjust with Mr. Guardoqui an article for suspending the right of the United States to the common use of the river Mississippi below their southern boundary: And whereas it is considered that the said vote of seven states, having passed in a case in which the assent of nine states is required by the Articles of Confederation, is not valid for the purpose intended by it; and that any further negotiations in pursuance of the same may eventually expose the United States to great embarrassments with Spain, as well as excite great discontents and difficulties among themselves: resolved, therefore, that the secretary for the said department be informed that it is the opinion of Congress that the said vote of seven states ought not to be regarded as authorizing any suspension of the use of the River Mississippi by the United States, and that any expectations thereof, which may have been conceived on the part of Spain, ought to be repressed.
Mr. KING reminded Congress that this motion was barred by the rule, that no question should be revived which had been set aside by the previous question, unless the same or an equal number, be present, as were present at the time of such previous question. This rule had been entered into in consequence of a similar motion made shortly after the vote of seven states had passed. Mr. KING contended, that this rule was a prudent one, and recommended by the practice of all deliberative assemblies, who never suffered questions once agitated and decided, to be repeated at the pleasure of the unsuccessful party.
Mr. MADISON admitted that the rule, if insisted on, was a bar to his motion; but that he had not expected that it would be called up, being so evidently improper in itself, and the offspring of the intemperance which characterized the epoch of its birth. As it was called up, however, it was become necessary that a preliminary motion for its repeal should be made, and which be accordingly made. His objections against the rule were—
First, that it was an attempt in one Congress to bind their successors, which was not only impracticable in itself, but highly unreasonable in the very instance which gave birth to the rule. Twelve states were on the floor at the time; seven were for the previous question, five against it. The casting number, therefore, was but two. Was it not unreasonable that eleven states, unanimously of a contrary opinion, should be controlled by this small majority when twelve were present; and yet such would be the operation of the rule, if eleven states only should at any time happen to be present, although they should be unanimous in the case.
Secondly, the operation of the vote in another respect was still more reprehensible. In the former case the eleven states, or even seven, could extricate themselves by a repeal of the rule. In case a number less than seven should wish to justify themselves by any particular motion, they might be precluded by such a rule. Six states, instructed by their constituents to make a particular proposition, or to enter a particular protest, might be thus fettered by a stratagem of seven states. In the case actually depending, three states were instructed, and two, if not three, more ready to vote with them.
Thirdly, the practice of other assemblies did not reach this case, and if it did the reason of it would be inapplicable. The restriction in other assemblies related to the same assembly, and even to the same session. Here the restriction is perpetual. In legislative assemblies, no great inconvenience would happen from a suspension of a law for a limited time. In executive councils, which are involved in the constitution of Congress, and particularly in military operations and negotiations, the vicissitude of events would often govern, and a measure improper on one day might become necessary the next.
Mr. CLARK and Mr. VARNUM contended that the rules of the Congress for the last year were not in force during the present, and supposed that a repeal was unnecessary.
In the course of this discussion, the question as to the validity of the vote of seven states, and the merits of the proposition of Mr. MADISON, barred by the rule, incidentally came into view. The advocates of the latter did not maintain the validity, or rather studiously avoided giving an opinion on it. They urged only the impropriety of any exposition by Congress of their own powers, and of the validity of their own acts. They were answered, that the exposition must be somewhere, and more properly with Congress than with one of their ministerial officers; that it was absurd to say that Congress, with information on their table that a treaty with a foreign nation was going on without a constitutional sanction, should forbear, out of such scruple, to assert it, and prevent the dilemma which would ensue, of either recognizing an unconstitutional proceeding, or of quarrelling with the King of Spain; that Congress had frequently asserted and expounded their own powers, and must frequently be obliged to do so. What was the late address to the states, on the subject of the treaty of peace, but an exposition and vindication of their constitutional powers? That, in the vote itself, the entry, “so it was resolved in the affirmative,” asserted it to be valid and constitutional; the vote of seven states. when nine were required, being otherwise to be entered, like a vote of six states, in the negative.
It appearing to be the inflexible predetermination of the advocates for the Spanish treaty to hold fast every advantage they had got, the debate was shortened, and an adjournment took place without any question.
Note.—Mr. King, in conversation repeatedly, though not in public debate, maintained that the entry, “so it was resolved in the affirmative,” decided nothing as to the validity of the vote of seven states for yielding the Mississippi: and that it amounted to no more than a simple affirmation, or summary repetition, of the fact that the said seven states voted in the manner stated!!!
The question on the motion to repeal the rule was called for after some little conversation. Mr. CLARK moved that it might be postponed, which was agreed to.
Nothing further was done in this business till Wednesday, May 2d, when Mr. Madison left New York for the convention to be held in Philadelphia.
It was considered, on the whole, that the project for shutting the Mississippi was at an end—a point deemed of great importance in reference to the approaching convention for introducing a change in the federal government, and to the objection to an increase of its powers, foreseen from the jealousy which had been excited by that project.60
[* ]The proceedings of grand committees, though often rendered particularly important by the freedom and fulness of discussion, make no part of the Journal, except in the reported result.
[* ]This proposed to require the states to value the land, and return the valuations to Congress.
[* ]Mr. Hamilton was most strenuous on this point. Mr. Wilson also favored the idea; Mr. Madison also, but restrained, in some measure, by the declared sense of Virginia: Mr. Gorham, and several others, also, but wishing previous experience.
[* ]Drawn by Colonel Hamilton.
[* ]The papers just read, from Virginia, complained of her inability, without mentioning an inequality. This was deemed a strange assertion.
[* ]This remark was imprudent, and injurious to the cause which it was meant to serve. This influence was the very source of jealousy which rendered the states averse to a revenue under collection, as well as appropriation of Congress. All the members of Congress who concurred in any degree, with the states in this jealousy, smiled at the disclosure. Mr. Bland, and still more Mr. Lee, who were of this number, took notice, in private conversation, that Mr. Hamilton had let out the secret.
[* ]He was apprehensive that a tax on land according to its quantity, not value, as had been recommended by Mr. Morris, was in contemplation.
[* ]A poll-tax to be qualified by rating blacks somewhat lower than whites; a land-tax, by considering the value of land in each state to be in an inverse proportion of its quantity to the number of people; and apportioning on the aggregate quantity in each state accordingly, leaving the state at liberty to make a distributive apportionment on its several districts on a like or any other equalizing principle.
[† ]Mr. Hamilton told Mr. Madison, privately, that M. de Marbois, speaking of the treaty, asked him emphatically whether there were not some articles which required animadversion. Mr. H. did not, at the time, know what was alluded to. He now supposed the allusion to be to some article supposed to be inconsistent with the treaty with France; particularly the article referring to the select articles of the latter, instead of the whole; which article, Mr. Adams informed Congress, had been satisfactory to the Duke de la Vauguyon.
[* ]He supposed that sum due, by the United States, to citizens of Pennsylvania, for loans.
[* ]Mr. DYER ludicrously proposed, as a proviso to the scheme of referring the valuation to the states, “that each of the states should cheat equally.”
[* ]This was an oblique allusion to Mr. Lee, whose enmity to the French was suspected by him &c.
[* ]Virginia—Mr. Jones, Mr. Madison, Mr. Bland, no; Mr. Lee, Mr. Mercer, ay.
[* ]The result proved that mildness was the soundest policy—the legislature, in consequence, having declared the law under which the goods were seized to be void, as contradictory to the Federal Constitution. Some of the members, in conversation, said that, if Congress had declared the law to be void, the displeasure of the legislature might possibly have produced a different issue.
[* ]Among other reasons, privately weighing with him, he had observed that many of the most respectable people of America supposed the preservation of the Confederacy essential to secure the blessings of the revolution, and permanent funds for discharging debts essential to the preservation of union. A disappointment to this class would certainly abate their ardor, and, in a critical emergency, might incline them to prefer some political connection with Great Britain, as a necessary cure for our internal instability. Again, without permanent and general funds, he did not conceive that the danger of convulsions from the army could be effectually obviated. Lastly, he did not think that any thing would be so likely to prevent disputes among the states, with the calamities consequent on them. The states were jealous of each other, each supposing itself to be, on the whole, a creditor to the others. The Eastern States, in particular, thought themselves so with regard to the Southern States. (See Mr. Gorham, in the debates of this day.) If general funds were not introduced, it was not likely the balances would ever be discharged, even if they should be liquidated. The consequence would be a rupture of the confederacy. The Eastern States would, at sea, be powerful and rapacious; the Southern, opulent and weak. This would be a temptation; the demands on the Southern States would be an occasion; reprisals would be instituted; foreign and would be called in by, first, the weaker, then the stronger side; and, finally, both be made subservient to the wars and politics of Europe.
[* ]He had in view the following objects: First, the abatements proposed by Mr. HAMILTON Second, a transfer, into the common mass of expenses, of all the separate expenses incuried by the states in their particular defence. Third, an acquisition to the United States of the vacant territory. The plan, thus extended, would affect the interest of the states as follows, viz.: New Hampshire would approve the establishment of a general revenue, as tending to support the Confederacy, to remove causes of future contention, and to secure her trade against separate taxation from the states through which it is carried on. She would also approve of a share in the vacant territory. Having never been much invaded by the enemy, her interest would be opposed to the abatements and throwing all the separate expenditures into the common mass. The discharge of the public debts from the common treasury would not be required by her interest, the loans of her citizens being under her proportion. See the statement of them.
This, it is to be observed, is only the list of loan-office debts. The unliquidated debts, and liquidated debts of other denominations due to individuals, will vary inexpressibly the relative quantum of credits of the several states. It is to be further observed, that this only shows the original credits, transfers having been constant; heretofore they have flowed into Pennsylvania Other states may hereafter have an influx.
[* ]In the draft, as laid before the committee by— —, in the tenth paragraph, the word “reasonable” before the word “expenses” was not inserted: but to the paragraph was added, “provided that this allowance shall not be extended to any expenses which shall be declared, by nine votes in Congress, to be manifestly unreasonable.” In other respects the original draft was unaltered, except that a former resolution of Congress, in the words of the ninth paragraph was incorporated by the secretary before it went to the press.
[* ]The other exception, as to the cards, and the wire for making them, &c., was struck out unanimously, on the motion of Mr. Clark; being considered as no longer necessary, and contrary to the general policy of encouraging necessary manufactures among ourselves.
[† ]This was meant to guard against a construction that they were to take effect when peace should be agreed on by those powers, and the latter be ready to sign, although the former should be restrained until the other parties should be ready for signing.
[* ]The committee who reported the instruction were Mr. Carroll, Mr. Jones, Mr. Witherspoon, Mr. Sullivan, and Mr. Matthews. Mr. Witherspoon was particularly prominent throughout.
[† ]Messrs. Bland, Lee, and Rutledge.
[‡ ]Mr. Rutledge, who framed, in the committee, the first draft of the declaration made in September last, and the instruction about the same time. This was considerably altered, but not in that respect.
[* ]Alluding, probably, to the intercepted letter from M. de Marbois.
[† ]This construction of the instructions was palpably wrong.
[* ]Another cause mentined was the large balance of specie in favor of the northern powers during the war.
[* ]This day not noted in the Journal, as in some other instances
[* ]His dissent was founded on his construction of the treaty, as stated in a paper handed to Mr. Madison at the time. The following is a copy:—
[* ]From 1783, till this period. Mr. Madison was not a member.
[* ]From this it may be inferred that he does not regard France as favorable to the claims of Spain touching the Mississippi.
[Note 1, page 4.]Washington’s Writings, vol. 8, p. 541.
[Note 3, page 8.]See Debates below, p. 14.
[Gentlemen,]—Application having been made to the legislature for instructions on the important subject of dispute subsisting between the states of New York, New Hampshire, and the people on the New Hampshire Grants, styling themselves the state of Vermont, which is under the consideration of Congress, they are of opinion, (as far as they have documents to direct their inquiry,) that as the competency of Congress was deemed full and complete at the passing of the resolutions of the 7th and 20th of August, 1781, (each of those states having made an absolute reference of the dispute to their final arbitrament,) those acts may be supposed to be founded on strict justice and propriety, nine states having agreed to the measure, and that great regard ought to be had to every determination of Congress, where no new light is thrown upon the subject, or weighty matters occur to justify a reversion of such their decision; and more especially, as it appears that the people on the New Hampshire Grants have, by an act of their legislature, on the 22d of February last, in every instance complied with the preliminaries stated as conditional to such guaranty.
[Note 5, page 10.]Public Journals of Congress, 3d December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 110.
[Note 6, page 11.]Public Journals of Congress, 4th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 111.
[Note 7, page 16.]Public Journals of Congress, 6th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 114; 12th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 118; 18th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 120; 20th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 123; 31st December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 127; 2d January, 1783, vol. 4, p. 128; 14th January, 1783, vol. 4, p. 142.
[Note 8, page 19.]Diplomatic Correspondence, (First Series,) 12th October, 1782, vol. 4, p. 25; 18th September, 1782, vol. 8, p. 125; 13th October, 1782, vol. 8, p. 128; vol. 8, pp. 163, 208; 4th January, 1783, vol. 8, p. 215; 10th July, 1783, vol. 7, p. 67; 22d July, 1783, vol. 4, p. 138.
[Note 9, page 26.]Secret Journals of Congress, (Domestic Affairs,) 17th January, 1783, vol. 1, p. 253.
[Note 10, page 27.]The first of these letters is dated “23d September, 1782;” Diplomatic Correspondence, (First Series,) 23d September, 1782, vol. 6, p. 416; 8th October, 1782, vol. 6, p. 432.
[Note 11, page 29.]Public Journals of Congress, 24th January, 1783, vol. 4, p. 151; 20th February, 1783, vol. 4, p. 165.
[Note 12, page 31.]Public Journals of Congress, 25th January, 1783, vol. 4, p. 152.
[Note 13, page 49.]Public Journals of Congress, 6th February, 1783, vol. 4, p. 157; 12th to 17th February, 1783, vol. 4, p. 160 to 164; 25th February, 1783, vol. 4, p. 166; 10th March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 173. See Debates below, pp. 50, 51.
[Note 14, page 62.]See Debates below, p. 80.
[Note 15, page 66.]Diplomatic Correspondence, (First Series,) 4th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 46; vol. 6, p. 464; 12th December, 1782, vol. 8, p. 214; 14th December, 1782, vol. 10, p. 117; 24th December, 1782, vol. 2, p. 484; 30th December, 1782, vol. 11, p. 146.
[Note 16, page 67.]See Diplomatic Correspondence, (First Series,) 17th March, 1783, vol. 12, p. 339.
[Note 17, page 73.]Public Journals of Congress, 25th January, 1783, vol. 4, p. 152; 25th February, 1783, vol. 4, p. 166; 22d March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 178; 29th April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 206.
[Note 18, page 74.]Diplomatic Correspondence, (First Series,) 5th February, 1783, vol. 10, p. 28.
[Note 19, page 77.]See Debates above, p. 19.
[Note 20, page 78.]Compare Public Journals of Congress, 20th March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 175, and 18th April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 190.
[Note 21, page 80.]Public Journals of Congress, 29th March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 181.
[Note 22, page 80.]See Debates above, p. 16.
[Note 23, page 81.]Public Journals of Congress, 24th March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 179.
[Note 24, page 81.]See below, p. 117.
[Note 25, page 82.]See Debates below, p. 83.
[Note 26, page 82.]Washington’s Writings, 30th March, 1783, vol. 8, p. 409.
[Note 27, page 83.]See Debates above, pp. 78, 82.
[Note 28, page 84.]Public Journals of Congress, 11th April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 186.
[Note 29, page 85.]Diplomatic Correspondence, (First Series,) 27th December, 1782, vol. 8, p. 402; 21st April, 1783, vol. 11, p. 335; 1st May, 1783, vol. 8, p. 436.
[Note 30, page 86.]Secret Journals of Congress, (Foreign Affairs,) 15th April, 1783, vol. 3, p. 327.
[Note 31, page 86.]Public Journals of Congress, 16th April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 188.
[Note 32, page 87.]The following references will exhibit the principal proceedings of the Congress of the Confederation on the subjects of a general revenue and cessions of public land: Public Journals of Congress, 6th September, 1780, vol. 3, p. 516; 1st February, 1781, vol. 3, p. 571; 3d February, 1781, vol. 3, p. 572; 7th February, 1781, vol. 3, p. 574; 1st March, 1781, vol. 3, p. 582; 15th March, 1781, vol. 3, p. 594; 22d March, 1781, vol. 3, p. 600; 16th July, 1781, vol. 3, p. 646; 4th October, 1781, vol. 3, p. 674; 20th February, 1782, vol. 3, p. 721; 1st July, 1782, vol. 4, p. 43; 16th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 119; 24th December, 1782, vol. 4, p. 126; 30th January, 1783, vol. 4, p. 154; 6th February, 1783, vol. 4, p. 157; 20th and 21st March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 174; 28th March, 1783, vol. 4, p. 180; 1st April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 182; 17th and 18th April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 190; 24th April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 194; 27th and 30th April, 1784, vol. 4, pp. 389, 392; 20th June, 1783, vol. 4, p. 230; 11th September, 1783, vol. 4, pp. 262, 265; 1st March, 1784, vol. 4, p. 342; 18th and 19th April, 1785, vol. 4, p. 501; 23d May, 1785, vol. 4, p. 525; 3d, 7th, and 15th February, 1786, vol. 4, pp. 614, 618; 3d March, 1786, vol. 4, p. 621; 7th July, 1786, vol. 4, p. 661; 27th July, 1786, vol. 4, p. 669; 29th September, 1786, vol. 4, p. 702; 23d October, 1786, vol. 4, p. 715; 15th July, 1788, vol. 4, p. 834.
[Note 33, page 87.]Public Journals of Congress, 23d April, 1783, vol. 4, p. 193.
[Note 34, page 88.]Secret Journals of Congress, (Foreign Affairs,) 5th May, 1783, vol. 3, p. 342.
[Note 35, page 88.]This resolution does not appear on the Public Journals of Congress till 7th August, 1783, vol. 4, p. 251.
[Note 36, page 88.]See Public Journals of Congress, 7th May, 1783, vol. 4, p. 220.
[Note 37, page 88.]See Debates below, p. 90.
[Note 38, page 88.]See Debates below, 30th May, 1783, p. 90.
[Note 39, page 88.]See Debates below, p. 90.
[Note 40, page 89.]See Debates below, 30th May, p. 90.
[Note 41, page 89.]Secret Journals of Congress, (Foreign Affairs,) 21st and 22d May, 1783, vol. 3, p. 344 to 354.
[Note 42, page 90.]Public Journals of Congress, 23th May, 1783, vol. 4, p. 224.
[Note 43, page 90.]Secret Journals of Congress, (Foreign Affairs,) 30th May, 1783, vol. 3, pp. 355, 361.
[Note 44, page 90.]Public Journals of Congress, 4th June, 1783, vol. 4, p. 226; 4th July, 1783, vol. 4, p. 235.
[Note 45, page 91.]These instructions are printed in the Public Journals of Congress, 20th June, 1783, vol. 4, p. 231.
[Note 46, page 91.]Secret Journals of Congress, (Foreign Affairs,) 12th June, 1783, vol. 3, p. 366.
[Note 47, page 91.]See Debates below, pp. 92, 93.
[Note 48, page 91.]Public Journals of Congress, 17th June, 1783, vol. 4, p. 228.
[Note 49, page 93.]Public Journals of Congress, 20th June, 1785, vol. 4, p. 230.
[Note 50, page 94.]See Debates above, p. 92.
[Note 51, page 96.]Public Journals of Congress, 9th March, 1787, vol. 4, p. 725.
[Note 52, page 96.]Public Journals of Congress, 21st February, 1787, vol. 4, p. 723.
[Note 53, page 97.]See Correspondence below, p. 106.
[Note 54, page 98.]See Debates below, pp. 100, 102, and Correspondence, p. 107.
[Note 55, page 99.]Public Journals of Congress, 21st March, 1787, vol. 4, p. 730; 13th April, 1787, vol. 4, p. 735.
[Note 56, page 101.]Diplomatic Correspondence, (Second Series,) vol. 6, pp. 207 to 228.
[Note 57, page 102.]Public Journals of Congress, 3d May, 1787, vol. 4, p. 741.
[Note 58, page 103.]See Correspondence below, p. 103.
[Note 60, page 105.]Public Journals of Congress, 31st August, 1786, vol. 4, p. 689.
[* ]His dissent was founded on his construction of the treaty, as stated in a paper handed to Mr. Madison at the time. The following is a copy:—
[†]See his change of opinion expressed in the debates of April 16.