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TO EDMUND RANDOLPH. 1 - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 1 (1769-1783) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 1.
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TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.1
Philadelphia, October 29, 1782.
Some intelligence has been received from the frontiers of New York, which revives the apprehensions of further inroads from Canada, and co-operation on the part of the Vermonters. The tenor of Carleton’s letter to General Washington on this subject, and other circumstances, render this article at least extremely doubtful.
The British fleet at New York has been busy in preparing for sea, and will probably soon depart from that station. The West Indies most naturally occur as the object of its destination. It is said their preparations have been much expedited by the most direct and undisguised supplies from the people of New Jersey.
Congress have been occupied for several days past with the case of Lippencot, referred to them by General Washington. On one side it was urged, that the disavowal and promises by the British Commander, the abolition of the obnoxious board of refugees, and the general change of circumstances, rendered retaliation unnecessary and inexpedient. On the other side it was contended, that a departure from the resolution so solemnly adopted and repeated by General Washington, with equal solemnity ratified by Congress, would be an indelible blot on our character; that after the confessions on the part of the enemy of the deed complained of, a greater inflexibility on our part would be looked for; that after such confessions, too, the enemy would never suffer the innocent to perish, if we persisted in demanding the guilty; and finally, that if they should suffer it, the blood would be on their heads, not on ours. No definitive resolution has yet passed on the subject. All the intermediate steps have been very properly entered on the secret journals.
General Lincoln has just returned from the army. He has not yet made a report to Congress. He says, I understand, that his visit has had a very salutary operation, but that some pay must be found for the army. Where it is to be found, God knows. The state of the public finances has already compelled the Superintendant to give a discharge to the former contractors, and to accept of a new contract, by which thirty per cent. is added to the price of a ration in consideration of credit for three months. He has, on this occasion, written a pressing exhortation to the States, which, I suppose, is accessible to you.
Mr. Carroll moved, yesterday, a resolution for accepting the territorial cession of New York. It stands the order for to-day. I regret much, on this occasion, the absence of Mr. Jones.
DEBATES IN THE CONGRESS OF THE CONFEDERATION,
IN CONGRESS, NOVEMBER 4TH 1782, MONDAY.
Elias Boudinot was chosen President by the votes of N. Hampshire represented by John Taylor Gilman and Phillips White—Rhode Island by Jonathan Arnold and David Howell—Connecticut by Benjamin Huntington & Eliphalet Dyer—N. Jersey by Elias Boudinot & John Witherspoon—Pennsylvania by Thomas Smith George Clymer, and Henry Wynkoop—Delaware by Thomas McKean & Samuel Wharton—Maryland by John Hanson, Daniel Carroll & William Hemsley. The votes of Virga represented by James Madison & Theodorick Bland & of S. Carolina represented by John Rutledge Ralph Izard, David Ramsay, & John Lewis Gervais, were given to Mr. Bland—The vote of N. York represented by James Duane and Ezra L’Hommedieu to Abner Nash. The vote of N. C. by Abner Nash, Hugh Williamson & William Blount to John Rutledge. Massachusts having no Delegate but Samuel Osgood had no vote. Georgia had no Delegate.
A Letter dated Ocr 30—1782 from Gel Washington, was read, informing Congress of his putting the army into Winter Quarters, & of the sailing of 14 ships of the line from N. York, supposed to be for the W. Indies & without Troops.
do. 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 & 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 & Russian Ministers by directions from their Courts had renewed their offered mediation to His M. C. M. and that he suspected England was at the bottom of it.—Quere.
do. Nants Sepr 5. from Mr Laurens, notifying his intention to return to America; that being so advised by his friends he had applied to the Ct of London for a passport via Falmouth; that Cornwallis had interested himself therein & that the passport had been promised.1
TUESDAY NOVR. 5.
A Resolution passed authorizing Genl Washington to obtain the exchange of 2 foreign officers notwithstanding the Resoln of the 16 of Ocr. 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 N. H., R. I., Cont: Del: Maryland N. C. & S. C. On the motion of Mr. Osgood it was reconsidered in order to refer the case to the Secy. of War & Genl Washington to take order. By Mr. Madison opposition was made agst. any partial exchange in the face of the solemn declaration passed on the 16 Ocr.,1 as highly dishonorable to Congress, especially as that declaration was made in order to compel the enemy to a national convention with the U. S. All exchanges had been previously made on the part of the former by the Military authority of their Generals. After the letter of Genl. Carleton & 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 & the British Com̃ander either from a want of power or of will had declined treating of a cartel on national ground, it would be peculiarly preposterous & pusilanimous in Congress to return to the former mode. An adjournment suspended the vote on the question for referring the case to the Sey & General to take order.
WEDNESDAY, NOVR 6TH.
THURSDAY, NOVR. 7.
On the reconsideration of the Resol: for exchanging the two for: 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 1. that the proceedings of the Court were too important to be confided to a single Judge. 2. 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. 3. that a single judge would be more apt by erroneous decisions to embroil the U. S. in disputes with foreign powers. 4. that if there were more than one Judge, & 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 unavoidably be less uniform, & the provision of the confederation for a court of universal appellant Jurisdiction so far contravened. 5. as there was little reason to expect that the public finances wd. during the war be more equal to the public burdens than at present, and as the cases within the cognizance of this court would cease with the war, the qualification annexed to the expedient ought to have no effect. The motion was disagreed to & a committee which had been appointed to prepare a new ordinance for constituting the Court of Appeals, was filled up & 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 Com̃ittee on the case of Capt. Asgill the British officer allotted to suffer retaliation for the murder of Capt. Huddy. The report proposed.
“That considering the letter of the 29th of July last from the Count de Vergennes to Genl. Washington interceding for Capt. 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 Sr G. 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 & 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 1st was on what considerations the discharge of Cap. 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: alledging 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 Genl. 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 reasons & for leaving the justification of the measure to such reasons as would occur of themselves. This last opinion after considerable discussions prevailed, and the Resol. left as it stands on the Journals. The 2d question was whether this release of Cap: Asgill should be followed by a demand on Gel 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 & promise of justice by Gel Carleton, the least that could be done by Gel. Washington would be to claim a fulfilment; that the intercession of the Ct de Vergennes extended no farther than to prevent the execution of Capt: 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 & promises of the enemy on which the challenge was grounded; & would give weight to the charges both of barbarity and perfidy which had been so often brought agst. them.
In the vote on this question, 6 States were in favor of the demand & the others either divided or against it.
FRIDAY, NOVR. 8.
The preceding question having been taken again, on a further discussion of the subject. There were in favor of the demand, N. H., R. I., N. Y. Pa Del. Maryd. Virga. & of the other States some were divided.
A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge of S. C. “That the Comder in chief & of the S. Department be respectively directed whenever the Enemy shall commit any act of cruelty or violence contrary to the laws & 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 N. C & S. C., as necessary to prevent the delays & uncertainties incident to a resort by the Military Commanders to Congress, and to convince the enemy that notwithstanding the dismission of Capt: Asgill the general purpose of retaliation was firmly retained.1
Against the motion it was objected 1. that the time & place in which it stood would certainly convey an indirect reprehension of Genl Washington for bringing before Congress the case of Capt: Asgill & Huddy: 2. 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. 3. that political & national considerations might render the interference of the Supreme authority expedient, of wch the letter from the Ct de Vergennes in the late case furnished an instance; that the resort of the Military Commanders to the Sover̃ign 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 N. C. & S. C. alone or nearly so. In place of it the declaratory motion on the Journals was substituted. This again was objected to as implying that in the cases of retaliation taken up by the Mily commanders, they had proceeded on doubtful authority. To remove this objection, the amendment was proposed, limiting the preamble to the single act of discharging Capt: 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, & 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 recd from Gel Washington, inclosing one of the 25 of Ocr from Sr G. Carleton relative to the demand made on him for a liquidation of accts 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 U S.
SATURDAY & MONDAY.
TUESDAY 12 NOVR.
The reappointment of Mr. Jefferson as Minister Plenipo: for negotiating peace was agreed to unanimously and without a single adverse remark.1 The act took place in consequence of its being suggested that the death of Mrs J. had probably changed the sentiments of Mr J. with regard to public life, & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 indorsed by the Secy. but not signed by him. So that the transaction even where public in its nature, never came before the public eye, & the Dept was left with a precarious voucher for its justification. The motion was in the end withdrawn, the mover alledging that as he only aimed at rendering an uncertain point clear, & this had been brought about by a satisfactory explanation, he did not wish for any Resolution on the subject.
WEDNESDAY 13 NOVR.
THURSDAY 14 NOVR.
The proceedings were confined to the Report of the Committee on the case of Vermont entered on the Journals. 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 N. Y. which violated that recommendation was generally admitted to be unjust & unfair. Mr. Howel was the only member who openly supported it. The Delegates from N. Y. 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 & nays shew, was less favorable to Vermont than on any preceding one,—the effect probably of the territorial Cession of N. York to the U. S. In the course of the debate Mr. Howel cited the case of Kentucky as somewhat parallel to that of Vermont, said that the late creation of a separate Court by Virga for the former resembled the issuing of Commissions by N. Y. to the latter that the jurisdiction would probably be equally resisted & the same violences would follow as in Vermont. He was called to order by Mr. Madison. The President & the plurality of Congress supported and enforced the call.
WEDNESDAY NOVR. 20TH.
Congress went into consideration of the Report of A Committee consisting of Mr. Carrol, Mr. McKean & Mr. Howel on two Memorials from the Legislature of Pennsylvania. The Memorials imported a disposition to provide for the Creditors of the U. S. within the State of Pena. 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 5 Per Ct, which had not been acceded to by all the States; to the requisition of 1,200,000 Drs, for the payment of one year’s interest on the public debt, and to their acceptance of the territorial cession made by N. Y. After some general conversation in which the necessity of the Impost as the only fund on which loans could be expected & 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.1
A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge, 2ded 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 Superintendt of Finance was instructed to report the causes which impede that provision. The 2d part was withdrawn by the mover. A committee however was afterwards appointed, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Nash Mr. Duane Mr. Osgood & Mr. Madison, to report the best scheme for a valuation.
THURSDAY, NOVR 21.
A report was made by a Committee to whom had been referred several previous reports & propositions relative to the salaries of foreign Ministers, delivering it as the opinion of the Committee that the Salaries allowed to Ministers Plenipoty. to wit £2500 Sterlg. would not admit of reduction; but that the saly allowed to Secretaries of legations, to wit £1000. Sterlg, ought to be reduced to £500. This Committee consisted of Mr. Duane, Mr. Izard & Mr. Madison the last of whom disagreed to the opinion of his colleagues as to the reduction of the £2500 allowed to Mrs. Plenipoy
Agst a reduction it was argued that not only justice, but the dignity of the U. S. required a liberal allowance to foreign servants; that gentlemen who had experienced the expence 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. A. Lee, the expences claimed by him & allowed by Congress exceeded the fixed salary in question.
In favor of a reduction were urged the poverty of the U. S., 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 inposed 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 & Mr. Carrol.
A motion was made by Mr. Howel, 2ded. by Mr. Arnold, recommending to the several States to settle with & satisfy at the charge of the U. S. 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 & 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 Secy of F. Affairs be authorized to communicate to Forn Ministers who may reside near Congress, all such articles of Intelligence recd by Congress as he shall judge fit & that he have like authority with respect to acts & 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 Secy 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 Secy, that he had not com̃unicated 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 & Mr. Peters.
FRIDAY, NOVR 22.
A considerable time previous to this date a letter had been recd by Congress from Mr. H. Laurens, informing them of his discharge from captivity, and of his having authorized in the British Ministry an expectation that Earl Cornwallis sd in his turn be absolved from his parole. Shortly after a letter from Docr. Franklin informed Congress that at the pressing instance of Mr. L., and in consideration of the offer of Genl Burgoyne for Mr. L. 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 Mongomery & Mr Madison, who reported in favor of the ratification of the measure, against the opinion however of Mr. R. the first member of the Committee. The Report after some discussion had been recommitted & 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 sd 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. M., 2ded 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 alledged, 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 [seventeenth] day of [September] refused to accept the resignation of Mr. L. and had insisted on his executing the office of a Minister Plenipo: and that on the [twentieth] 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 Docr. 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 Govt having treated Mr. L. as a Traitor not as a Prisoner of war, having refused to exchange him for Genl Burgoyne, and having declared by the British Genl at N. York that he had been freely discharged, neither Mr. L. nor Congress would be bound either in honor or justice to render an equivalent; and that policy absolutely required that so barbarous an instrumt of war, and so odious an object to the people of the U. S. should be kept as long as possible in the chains of captivity; that as the latest advices rendered it probable that Mr. L. 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 Docr. 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 agst partial exchanges until a Cartel on national principles sd be established wd not admit even an exchange antecedt 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. L., and on the other, a dislike to his character, and a jealousy excited by his supposed predilection for G. B. by his intimacy with some of the new Ministry, by his frequent passing to & from G. B. by the eulogiums pronounced on him by Mr Burke in the House of Commons, and by his memorial whilst in the Tower, to the Parliamt. 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 2ded 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 B. Govt had treated Mr. L. with so unwarrantable a rigor & 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 & divided a house.
MONDAY, NOVR 25.
No Congress till
A letter from the Lt Govr of R. I. was read containing evidence that some of the leaders in Vermt, 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 N. Y. The letter was committed. See Nor 27.
The consideration of the motion for ratifying the discharge of Cornwallis was resumed. Mr. Williamson renewed his motion which failed. Mr. McKean 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, 2ded by Mr. Ramsay, that the discharge should be ratified in case Mr. L. 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. Col: Hamilton who warmly & urgently espoused the ratification, as an additional argument mentioned, that some intimations had been given by Colonel L. of the army with the privity of Genl W., to Cornwallis previous to his capitulation, that he might be exchanged for his father, then in the Tower.
The Rept of the Committee on Mr. Ms motion on the 21 inst: relative to the Secy of F. Affairs, passed without opposition.
TUESDAY, NOVR 26.
No Congress but a Grand Committee composed of a member from each State.
The States of N. H. & Massts 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 Superintendt of Finance reported that they ought to be credited at the rate of 1 Dollar specie for 40 of the sd Emission, according to the Act of March aforesaid.1 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 recd from the State of Mass: 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 sd sink a surplus, to be apportioned on the different States. The different expedients were
1. That Congress sd renew their call on the States to execute the Acts of the 18th of M., 1780 and leave it to the States to level the money by negotiations among themselves. This was Mr. Hamilton’s idea. The objections against it were that either nothing wd be done in the case or the deficient States wd be at the mercy of the hoarding States; altho the former were perhaps prevented from doing their part by invasions; & 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 sd appear that the whole of the bills emitted prior to the 18th of M., 1780 shall have been collected into the treasuries of the several States, Congress wd 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 arrangemt by Congress easy. The objections were that it gave no satisfaction immediately to the complaining States, & 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 U. S., for the purpose of settling accounts should be empowered to take up all the outstanding old money and issue certificates in place of it, in specie value according to a rule to be given them by Congress the amount of the 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 subcommittee composed of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Fitzsimmons & Mr Hamilton to be matured & laid before the G. Come. 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.1
WEDNESDAY, NOVR 27th.
The report of the Committee on the letter from the Lt Govr of R. Island (see Novr 25) was made & taken into consideration.
It was moved by Mr. McKean to insert in the first clause on the Journal, after directing the apprehension by Genl W., “in order that the sd. 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. Agst the motion it was urged, that it would lead to discussions extremely perplexing & dilatory & that it would be more proper after the apprehension sd have taken place—The motion was lost, 6 States only being for it.
With respect to the main question it was agreed on all sides that it was indispensable to the safety of the U. S. that a traitorous intercourse between the inhabitants of Vermont & the Enemy should be suppressed. There were however two modes proposed for the purpose, viz: the direct & immediate interposition of the military force according to the Report, and, 2dly 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 1st mode it was sd., that it would be the only effectual one & 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 & 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 2d. mode it was alledged, 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 wd 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 R. I., 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 Comander in Chief sd be directed to make a previous communication of his intentions & 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 sd. be authorized to make the communication if he should deem it conducive to the more certain apprehension of the suspected persons.
The Delegates from N. Y. 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 N. 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 7 & 20th. of Aug: as to be incompatible therewith & accordingly instructed their Delegates.
The communication directed to the States on this occasion thro’ 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 Genl W were sufficiently advanced, of which he was the proper Judge.
THURSDAY NOVR 28TH.
Mr. Livingston, Secy of F. Affairs called upon me & 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 N. 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 Phila, after a visit to N. Y. which was required by this increase. In the course of conversation he took notice that the expence of his appoint under Congress had exceeded his salary about 3000 Dollrs 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. J. wd not accept it himself & 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. J. on these points by the first opportunity.1
MONDAY, DECR 2D.
No Congress untill
The Secy of foreign Affairs resigned his office, assigning as a reason the increase of business in his office of Chancellor of N. Y., 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 expences exceeded his salary upwards of 3000 Dollrs. per annum. The letter of resignation was committed to Mr. McKean, Mr. Osgood, &c.2
TUESDAY, DECR 3.
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 Jany, to give time for the choice of a Successor, Mr. McKean 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 N. Y. 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 U. S., 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. Howel & Mr. Clark opposed it strenuously.
The Report of the Committee on the case of Vermont mentioned on Thursday the 14 of Novr. was called for by Mr. McKean, & postponed on his motion to make way for a set of Resolutions declaring that as Vermont in contempt of the authority of Congress & their Recommendations of — 1799,1 exercised jurisdiction over sundry persons professing allegiance to the State of N. Y., 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 2nd by Mr. Howel 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. Howel as the present proceeding being at the instance of Phelps & 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 wd 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 cd not call on Vermt to appear as a party after her repeated protestations agst appearing.
On this occasion, Mr. Carroll informed Congress that he had entirely changed his opinion with regard to the policy requisite with regard to Vermt being thoroughly persuaded that its leaders were perfidious men & that the interest of the U. S. required their pretensions to be discountenanced; that in this opinion he was not a little confirmed by a late conversation with Genl Whipple of N. Hampshire at Trenton in which this Gentleman assured him, that the Governing party in Vermont were perfidiously devoted to the British interests & that he had reason to believe that a British Com̃ission for a Govr of that district had come over & was ready to be produced at a convenient season. Some of the members having gone out of Congress & it being uncertain whether there would be more than six States for the clause, an adjournment was moved for & voted.
The proceedings on this subject evinced still more the conciliating effect of the territorial cession of N. York, on several States & the effect of the scheme of an ultra-montane State within Pennsa, 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 Vermt, and N. Jersey whose Delegates were under instructions on the subject.
WEDNESDAY DECR 4.
After the passing of the Resolution concerning Cap: P. Jones,1 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 Capt: 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 Capt: 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 Col:s to Brigads. according to districts was that such a division of the U. S. tends to foster local ideas, and might lead to a dismemberment.
The Delegates from Penna reminded Congress that no answer had been given to the memorials (see Novr 20) from that State that the Legislature were proceeding in the measure intimated in the said memorials and that they meant to finish it & adjourn this evening.1 The reasons mentioned by the Delegates as prevailing with the Legislature were 1st., the delay of Congress to give an answer which was deemed disrespectful 2d. the little chance of any funds being provided by Congress for their internal debts; 3dly, the assurance (given by one of their members Mr. Jos Mont—g—y, mentioned privately not on the floor) that no impediment to the support of the war cd arise from it, since Congress had provided means for that purpose in Europe.
A Committee consisting of Mr. Rutledge Mr. Madison & Mr. Hamilton was appointed to confer immediately with a Committee from the Legislature on the subject of the Memorials & were instructed to make such communications relative to our affairs abroad as would correct misinformations. The comittee which met them on the part of the Legislature, were Mr. Jos: Montgomery, Mr. Hill & 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 Comittee of the Legislature cd not be insensible, but principally from the difficulty of giving a satisfactory one until Rhode Island sd accede to the Impost of 5 Per Ct. 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 N. Y. and meant still to pursue the scheme of the impost; that as to their affairs in Europe the loan of 6 Millions of livres only last year had been procured from France by Dr. Franklyn, in place of 12 asked by him, the whole of which had been applied; that the loan of 5.000.000 Guilders opened by Mr. Adams had advanced to about 1½ Million only and there seemed little progress to have been made of late; that the application for 4 Million 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, & was dictated entirely by our necessities; so that if even no part of the requisitions from the States sd 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 Pa, it would be both followed by other States & extended to other instances; that in consequence, our system of administration, and even our bond of Union wd 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, & 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 U. S. 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 guaranteed to each & all of the Creditors [by] each & 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 Pa whether she would not be loser by such an arrangement.
On the side of the other Comittee it was answered that the measure cd not violate the confederation, because the requisition had not been founded on a valuation of land; that it would not be the first example, N. H. & N. Y. havg 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 wd prevent the payment of taxes; Mr. Hill finally asking whether it had been considered in Congress how far delinquent States cd 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 Pa, and therefore the appropriation could not be objected to; that altho other States might have set previous examples, these had never come before Congress, & it wd be more honorable for Pa to counteract than to abet them especially as the example from her weight in the Union & the residence of Congress wd be so powerful, that if other States did their duty the measure wd be superfluous; that the discontents of the Creditors might always be answered by the equal justice & more pressing necessity which pleaded in favor of the army, who had lent their blood & 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, cd not anticipate it by a consideration of the steps wch such refusal might require, & that ruin must ensue if the States suffered their policy to be swayed by such distrusts. The Comittee appeared to be considerably impressed with these remarks, & the Legislature suspended their plan.
THURSDAY, DECR 5TH. 1782.
Mr. Lowel & Mr. Reed were elected Judges of the Court of Appeals. Mr. P. Smith, of N. Jersey had the vote of that State; and Mr. Merchant,1 of Rhode Island the vote of that State.
The Resolutions respecting Vermont moved by Mr. McKean on the [twenty-seventh] 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, & 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 & protract the business. The objections were 1st that the proposed insertion was not warranted by the Act of N. Hampshire which submitted to the judgment of Congress merely the question of jurisdiction. 2dly That the Resolutions of Aug: 1781, concerning Vermont, havg been acceded to by Vermont, annulled all antecedent acts founded on the doubtfulness of its claim to independence. In answer To the 1st objn the Act of N. H. was read wch in the utmost latitude adopted the Resolus of Congress which extended expressly to the preservation of peace & order & prevention of acts of confiscation by one party agst another. To the 2d objn it was answered 1st that the sd. Resons of Aug: being conditional not absolute, the accession of Vermont cd not render them definitive; but 2dly that prior to this accession, Vermont havg in due form rejected the Resolns, and notified the rejection to Congress, the accession could be of no avail unless subsequently admitted by Congress, 3dly, that this doctrine had been maintained by Vermont itself wch had declared that inasmuch as the Resolns of Aug: did not correspond wth their overtures previously made to Congress these had ceased to be obligatory; wch act it was to be observed was merely declaratory, not creative, of the annulment.
The original motion of Mr. McKean & Mr. Hamilton [was agreed to] seven States voting for it; R. I. & N. J. in the negative.
FRIDAY 6 DECR.
An ordinance, extending the privilege of Franking letters to the Heads of all the Departments was reported & taken up. Various ideas were thrown out on the subject at large; some contending for the extension proposed some for a partial adoption of it, 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 U. S. 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 Constitutents, 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 neighbourhood of Congress; & that as the correspondence at present however voluminous did not exclude from the mail any private letters which wd be subject to postage, and if postage was extended to letters now franked the no & size of them would be essentially reduced, the revenue was not affected in the manner represented. The Ordinance was disagreed to & the subject recommitted, wth 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 Philada 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 U. S; with the view of disproving to the people of R. Island the necessity of the Impost of 5 P Ct.; 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. Howel. The mischievous tendency of such publications & 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 proposition on this subject.1
It was opposed by no one.
Mr. Clark supposing it to be levelled in part at him, rose & 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 N. 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. Clarke as well as from the respect due from every member to Congress & 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. H. was evidently perturbated but remained silent.
The conference with the Committee of the Legislature of Penna., with subsequent information had rendered it very evident that unless some effectual measures were taken against separate appropriations & 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 Superintendt 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 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 R. Island for the impost ought to accompany the motion; that such a combination of these plans would mutually give efficacy to them, since R. Island would be solicitous to prevent separate appropriations, & the other States would be soothed with the hope of the Impost. These observations gave rise to the Motion of Mr. Hamilton, which stands on the Journal.1 Agst. 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 & 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 wch came agst the scheme itself from the Delegates of R. 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 R. I. before they could with propriety repeat their exhortations. To which it was replied that altho’ this objection might have some weight, Yet the urgency of our situation, and the chances 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 & Mr. Nash taken from different parts of the U. S., & each from States that had fully adopted the Impost, and would be represented in Congress wthout them; except Mr. Osgood whose State, he being alone, was not represented without him.
SATURDAY, DECR. 7.
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’ motion, vz: that the outstanding bills should be taken up & certificates issued in place thereof at the rate of 1 real Dollar for — nominal ds., and that the surpluses redeemed by particular States shod. be credited to them at the same rate. Mr. Carrol alone dissented to the plan, alledging 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. 1st., 1 for 40 on which the votes were no except Mr. Howell. 2d, 1 for 75 no Mr. White & Mr. Howell, ay. 3d, 1 for 100 no Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Fitzsimmons ay. 4th, 1 for 150 no Mr. Fitzsimmons ay. The reasons urged in favor of 1 for 40 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 1 for 75, that the bills passed at that rate when they were called in, in the Eastern States; for 1 for 100—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 1 for 150 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, & 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, & 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 sd receive the value at which it was current, & 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 wd. give general dissatisfaction. The Committee adjourned without coming to any decision.
MONDAY 9TH. DECR.
TUESDAY, 10 DECR.
A motion was made by Mr. Ramsay directing the Secy at War who was abt. to visit his family in Massachusetts, to take Vermont in his way & deliver the Resolutions passed a few days since to Mr. Chittenden. For the motion it was urged that it would ensure the delivery would have a conciliating effect, and would be the means of obtaining true and certain knowledge of the disposition & views of that people. On the opposite side it was exclaimed agst. as a degradation of so high a Servt of the U. S., as exposing him to the temerity of leaders who were on good ground suspected of being hostile to the U. S., 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 & the disagreement as to the day among the friends of the motion prevented a decision & it was suffered to lie over.
For the letter of the Superintendt. of Finance to T[homas] B[arclay]1 Comr. for settling accounts in Europe, agreed to by Congr., see Secret Journal of this date.
WEDNESDAY, 11th DECR.
The Secy. at 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. Col Hamilton in particular made this explanation.
Mr. Wilson made a motion referring the transmission of the Resolutions concerning Vermont to the Secy. at War in such words as left him an option of being the Bearer, without the avowed sanction of Congress. The votes of Virga & N. York negatived it. The Presidt informed Congress that he should send the Resolutions to the Commander in Chief to be forwarded.
THURSDAY, DECR. 12.
The Report made by Mr. Williamson, Mr. Carrol, and Mr. Madison touching the publication in the Boston paper, supposed to be written by Mr. Howel, passed with the concurrence of R. Island; Mr. Howel hesitating & finally beckoning to Mr. Collins his collegue, who answered for the State in the affirmative. As the Report stood the Executive of Massachusetts, as well as of Rho. 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 Mass Delegates by such as would be ignorant of the circumstances, the Executive of Massts was expunged.
FRIDAY, DECR. 13TH.
Mr. Howel 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.
SATURDAY, DECR 14TH.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 16TH.
The answer to the objections of Rho: Island,1 as to the Impost, penned by Mr. Howel, passed without opposition, 8 States being present, of which Rho: Isd 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.
TUESDAY, DECR. 17TH.
Mr. Carrol in order to bring on the affair of Mr. Howel moved that the Secy of Foreign Affairs be instructed not to write to the Govt. of Rhode Island on the subject. The state in wch 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. Howel having in his place confessed himself to be the Author of the publication.” Mr. Ramsay thinking such a stigma on Mr. Howel unnecessary, & 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 havg recd the information desired on that subject. The yeas & 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 & took place on condition that the ne[ga]tived counter direction to the Secy of F. A. should be reconsidered & lie over also.
WEDNESDAY, DECR. 18TH.
This day was chiefly spent on the case of Mr. Howel, whose behaviour 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, & particularly to Mr. Hamilton, in suppressing the name of the Author of a piece wch. Congress had so emphatically reprobated, when the author was found to be a member of Congress, prevented a relaxation as to the yeas & nays. Mr. Howell, therefore as his name was necessarily to appear on the Journal, adhered to the motion which inserted his protest thereon.1 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 & (excepting his Colleagues or rather Mr. Arnold) universal indignation and astonishment in Congress; and he was repeatedly premonished of the certain ruin in wch. he wd. thereby involve his character & consequence; and of the necessity wch Congress wd be laid under of vindicating themselves by some act which would expose and condemn him to all the world.
THURSDAY, DECR. 19TH.
FRIDAY, DECR. 20TH.
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 alledged 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 sd be disclosed to prevent that effect, that the Enemy wd be encouraged to persevere in the war agst us. The motion meeting with little patronage it was withdrawn.
The report of the committee on the motion of Mr. Hamilton proposed that the Secy. 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 Rho: Island should abet or not resent the misconduct of their Representative, as wd 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 Presidt. 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 Rho: Island not to vindicate the honor of Congress. The matter was compromised by substituting the Secy of F. A. 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.
SATURDAY 21 DECR..
The Committee to confer wth. Mr. Livingston was appointed the preceding day in consequence of the unwillingness of several States to elect either Genl Schuyler, Mr. Clymer, or Mr. Read the Gentlemen previously put into nomination, and of a hint that Mr. L might be prevailed on to serve till the spring. The Committee found him in this disposition and their report was agreed to without opposition.1 See the Journal.
MONDAY, 23 DECR..
The motion to strike out the words “accruing to the use of the U. S.,” was grounded on a denial of the principle that a capture & possession by the enemy of moveable property extinguished or effected the title of the original owners. On the other side this principle was asserted as laid down by the most approved 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.1 See Journal.
Letters were this day recd. from Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jay & the Marquis de la Fayette. They were dated the 14th of Ocr. That from the first inclosed copy of the 2d Comission to Mr. Oswald with sundry prelimy articles, and distrusted the British Court. That from the 2d. expressed great jealousy of the French Govt, & referred to an intercepted letter from Mr. Marbois, opposing the claim of the U. S. to the Fisheries. This despatch produced much indignation agst the author of the intercepted letter, and visible emotions in some agst France. It was remarked here that our Ministers took no notice of the distinct comons. to Fitzherbert & Oswald; that altho’ on a supposed intimacy and joined in the same comon., they the Ministers, wrote separately & breathed opposite sentiments as to the views of France. Mr. Livingston told me that the letter of the Ct de Vergennes, as read to him by the Chevr Luzerne, very delicately mentioned & complained that American Ministers did not in the negotiations with the British Ministers, maintain the due com. with those of France. Mr. Livingston inferred on the whole that France was sincerely anxious for peace.
The Presidt acquainted Congress that Ct Rochambeau had communicated the intended embarkation of the French troops for the W. Indies, with an assurance from the King of France, that in case the war sd be renewed agst U. S. they should immediately be sent back.
TUESDAY, 24 DECR.
The letter from Mr. Jay, inclosing a copy of the intercepted letter from Marbois, was laid before Congress.1 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 & cordiality now felt towards France; as the closest friends on 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 thro’ Oswald’s hands. If G. B., therefore, yields the fisheries & the back territory, America will feel the obligation to her not to France, who appears to be illiberal as to the 1st & favorable to Spain as to the 2d 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 & 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 shews that her truest policy would have been to relieve America by the most direct & generous means, & to have mingled with them no artifice whatever. With respect to Spain also the situation of France has been as peculiarly delicate. The claims & views of Spain & America interfere. The former attempts of Britain to seduce Spain to a separate peace, & 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 expence of America. Of this G. B. is taking advantage. If France adheres to Spain G. B. espouses the views of America, & endeavours to draw her off from France. If France adheres to America in her claims B. might espouse those of Spain, & produce a breach between her & France; and in either case Britain wd 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 R. I. had set out on the 22d & proceeded ½ day’s journey. Mr. Nash casually mentioned a private letter from Mr. Pendleton to Mr. Madison1 informing that the Legislature of Virga. had in consequence of the final refusal of R. I. repealed her law for the impost. As this circumstance if true destroyed in the opinion of the deputies the chief argt to be used by them, viz: the unanimity of the other States, they determined to return & 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 & 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 R. I. sd. 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, & was communicated to Congress. The most intelligent members were deeply affected & prognosticated a failure of the Impost scheme, & the most pernicious effects to the character, the duration & 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 use of the United States.” As the latter had been retained by barely 7 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 agst the whole resolution & 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 40 for 1. The Chair decided on a question raised, that according to rule the blank sd not have been filled up by the Comittee; so the rate was expunged.
From Tuesday 24 of Decr, the journals suffice untill
MONDAY 30 DECR.
A motion made by Mr. Clarke, 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, & 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 Councils 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 & 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, & with it public credit itself to such a degree that no new currency could be substituted; & that there was then no prospect of introducing specie for the purpose, our trade being in the most ruinous condition, & 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 Britain was to submit to. Congress on a trial found it impossible from the diversity of opinions & interests to define any other claims than those of independence & 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 U. S., the confidence of others; a motion to associate with him two colleagues, to wit, Mr. Franklin & 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 U. S. of the navigation of the Mississippi, & turn the western trade through N. Y.; and neither of them being connected with the So. 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 Chevr 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, & that Mr. Jefferson wd. not go; & that the greater no. of Ministers, the greater the danger of discords & indiscretions. It was Added that as it was expected that nothing would be yielded by G. B. 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 & approved by France, it was thought good policy to make the declaration to France, & 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 & 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. Clarke, arguing with them that supposing the instruction to be wrong, it was less dishonorable, than the instability that wd. be denoted by rescinding it; that if G. B. was disposed to give us what we claimed France could not prevent it; that if G. B. struggled agst those claims our only chance of getting them was thro’ the aid of France; that to withdraw our confidence would lessen the chance & 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, & 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 sd. be more in danger of being seduced by G. B., 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, 2ded by Mr. Hamilton that the motion of Mr. Clarke should be postponed, which took place without a vote.
Mr. Madison moved that the letter of Docr. Franklin, of the 14 Octr, 1782 should be referred to a Committee, with a view of bringing into consideration the preliminary article proposing that British subjects & American Citizens sd reciprocally have in matters of commerce the privilege of natives of the other party; and giving to the American Ministers the instruction which ensued on that subject. This motion succeeded, and the committee appointed consisted of Mr. Madison Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Osgood.
The contract of Genl. Wayne1 was confirmed with great reluctance; being considered as being 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 G. B. was favorable to the U. S. a principle reprobated by Congress & 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.
TUESDAY, DECR. 31, 1782.
The report of the Committee made in consequence of Mr. Madison’s motion yesterday instructing the Ministers plenipo on the article of commerce, passed unanimously as follows: “Resolved, That the Ministers Plenipo for negotiating peace be instructed in any commercial stipulations with G. B. which may be comprehended in a Treaty of peace to endeavour to obtain for the Citizens and inhabitants of the U. S. a direct commerce to all parts of the British Dominions & Possessions, in like manner as all parts of the U. S. 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 & possessions in Europe & the West Indies; and the said Ministers are informed that this stipulation will be particularly expected by Congress, in case the Citizens & subjects of each party are to be admitted to an equality in matters of commerce with natives of the other party.
WEDNESDAY JANY. 1ST, 1783.
The decision of the controversy between Con. & Penna was reported.
The communications made from the Minister of France, concurred with other circumstances in effacing the impressions made by Mr. Jay’s letter & Marbois’s inclosed. The vote of thanks to Ct. Rochambeau passed with unanimity & cordiality & afforded a fresh proof that the resentment against France had greatly subsided.
THURSDAY JANY. 2d.
Nothing requiring notice.
FRIDAY 3d. JANY.
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 & of the latter’s communicating the same to Congress. The temper of Congress here again manifested the transient nature of their irritation agst. France.
The motion of Mr. Howel, 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 & 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 & 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 Cont. & Pa. 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 Cont. particularly Mr. Dyer were more captious on the occasion than was consistent with a perfect acquiescence in the decree.
MONDAY, JANY. 6TH.
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.1
Mr. Berkley having represented some inconveniences incident to the plan of a Consular Convention between France & U. S., particularly the restriction of Consuls from trading & his letter having been committed, a report was made purposing 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 & authority to the sd 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; & others lastly contended that the whole ought to be new modelled; the Consuls having too many privileges in some respects, & 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 been passed in Congress; the members originally present adhering to the views which then governed them. The subject was finally postponed; 8 States only being represented, & 9 being requisite for such a question. Even to have suspended the convention after it had been proposed to the Court of France, & possibly acceded to would have been indecent and dishonorable; and at a juncture when G. B. 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 & 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 Superintendt of Finance.
TUESDAY, JANY. 7TH, 1783.
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 if even an advance could be made it wd be unhappy that it sd. 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 & 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 Genl 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, & 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 McDougall, Col. Brooks & Col. Ogden, the Deputies on the subject of the Memorial, the Superintendt to be present.
WEDNESDAY JANY. 8, THURSDAY JANY. 9TH, & FRIDAY JANY. 10.
On the Report1 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, alledging the impediments arising from the possession of N. Y., &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 the 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 wd prevail and without their intervention, it could not be executed but at an expense, delay & uncertainty which were inadmissible; that it would perhaps be therefore preferable to represent these difficulties to the States & recommend an exchange of this rule of dividing the public burdens for one more simple easy & equal. The Delegates from S. Carolina generally & particularly Mr. Rutledge advocated the propriety of the constitutional rule & 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 sd 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 wd. 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 & fidelity. It was at length proposed & agreed to, that a special committee consisting of Mr. Rutledge Mr. Osgood & Mr. Madison, should confer with the Superintendt of Finance on the subject of his letter and make report to Congress. After the adjournment of Congress this Com̃ittee conferred with the Superintendt 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 shewed that contrary to his expectations and estimates there were 3½ 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’ 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 wd 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 Superintendt. & the Comittee that there was in fact little danger of bills drawn on France on the credit of the loan of 4 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 G. B. for it; and that if the war sd. 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 Superintendt. 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 the next day accordingly made & adopted unanimously. Mr. Dyer alone at first opposed it as an unwarrantable & dishonorable presumption on the ability & disposition of France; being answered however that without such a step or some other expedt 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 & our honor to the mercy of a foreign nation, it was a mortification wch. cd 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 wd. evince the more the necessity of the succour and induce France the more readily to yield 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 upon her. It was also adverted to in private conversation as a great unhappiness that during negotiations for peace, when an appearance of vigor & resource were so desirable, such a proof of our poverty & imbecility could not be avoided.
The conduct of Mr. Howel &c. had led several & particularly Mr. Peters into an opinion that some further rule & 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 & 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 wd. violate prudence or honor, as well as marking a general distrust of the prudence & honor of Congress, the report was generally disrelished; and after some debate in which it was faintly supported by Mr. Williamson, the Committee asked & 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 appt on tuesday last, the grand Committee met, as did the Superintendt of Finance. The chairman Mr. Wolcot informed the committee that Cols Ogden & Brooks two of the deputies from the army had given him notice that Genl McDougal the first of the deputation, was so indisposed with the rheumatism as to be unable to attend, and expressed a desire that the Comittee would adjourn to his lodging at the Indian queen tavern the deputies being very anxious to finish their business among other reasons, on acct of the scarcity of money with them. At first the Com̃ittee seemed disposed to comply; but it being suggested that such an adjournment by a Comittee 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.
MONDAY JANY. 13.
Report on the valuation of land was referred to a Grand Committee.
A motion was made by Mr. Peters, 2ded by Mr. Madison, “that a comite. be appointed to consider the expediency of making further applications for loans in Europe, & to confer with the Superint of Finance on the subject.” In support of this motion Mr. P. observed that notwithstanding the uncertainty of success the risk of appearing unreasonable in our demands on France, and the general objections agst indebting the U. S. 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 Ct of France wd be influenced by an apprehension that in case of her failure & of a pacification G. B. 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 cd not be made worse, that it would be prudent in France & therefore it might be expected of her, to afford the U. S. 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 & gratitude of this Country as well as its separation from G. B. 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, & would appear extravagant to France. Several others assented to it with reluctance, and several others expressed serious scruples as honest men agst 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, Mr. Izard.
In the evening according to appointment the Grand Committee gave an audience to the deputies of the army,1 viz: Genl McDougal & Cols Ogden & Brooks. The first introduced the subject by acknowledging the attention manifested to the representations of the army by the appt. of so large a Com̃ittee; his observations turned chiefly on the 3 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 & soldiers, painted their sufferings & services, their successive hopes & 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 yt. 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 & 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 1st what particular steps they supposed would be taken by the army in case no pay cd be immediately advanced; to which they answered that it was impossible to say precisely; that although the Sergeants & 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 agst it. They remarked on this occasion, that the situation of the officers was rendered extremely delicate & had been sorely felt, when called upon to punish in soldiers a breach of engagements to the public which had been preceded by uniform & flagrant breaches by the latter of its engagements to the former. General McDougal said that the army were verging to that state which we are told will make a wise man mad, and Col: 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 cooly on consequences & 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 & 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 with[out] 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 altho not furnished with their pay properly so called were in fact furnished with the same necessaries.
On the 2d 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 wch 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 & the army thereby exposed to unnecessary sufferings, it must natural[ly] be expected that the patience of the latter wd. have its limits. As the deputies were sensible that the general disposition of Congress strongly favored this object, they were less diffuse on it. Genl McDougal made a remark wch 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 & considerate part of the army were deeply affected at the debility and defects in the federal Govt, and the unwillingness of the States to cement & invigorate it; as in case of its dissolution, the benefits expected from the Revolution wd. be greatly impaired, and as in particular, the contests which might ensue amg the States would be sure to embroil the officers which respectively belong to them.
On the 3d 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 & 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 & professions for which military habits of 7 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, altho’ it was as reasonable that those who had lent their blood and services to the public sd 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 opprobrium of pensioners, with the additional mortification of not receiving a shilling of the emolums. They referred however to their Memorial to show that they were authorized & ready to commute their half-pay for any equivalent & less exceptionable provision.
After the departure of the Deputies, the Grand Committee appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, & Mr. Rutledge to report arrangements, in concert with the Superintendt of Finance for their consideration.
TUESDAY JANY 15th [14th] 1783.
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 & inequality if not impracticability of fulfilling the article of the Confederation relative to this point; Mr. Rutledge however excepted, who altho’ 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 ye federal articles, the Committee wd 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, & a few1 only were disposed to recommend to the States an alteration of it, it was necessary to proceed 1st to settle its meaning—2dly to settle the least objectionable mode of valuation. On the first point, it was doubted by several members wher the returns which the report under consideration required from the States would not be final and whether the Arts of Confn wd allow Congress to alter them after they had fixed on this mode; on this point no vote was taken. A 2d question afterwards raised in the course of the discussion was how far the Art 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.
2dly. As to the mode itself referred to the Gd Come., it was strongly objected to by the Delegate from Cont, Mr. Dyer—by Mr. Hamilton,—by Mr. Wilson by Mr. Carol, & by Mr. Madison, as leaving the States too much to the bias of interest, as well as too uncertain & tedious in the execution. In favr of the Rept was Mr. Rutledge the father of it, who thought the honor of the States & their mutual confidence a sufficient security agst frauds & the suspicion of them. Mr. Ghoram favd 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 U. S. made her anxious for a speedy settlement of the mode by which a final apportionment of the common burden cd 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 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 & descriptions. This mode would have been acceptable to the more compact & populous States, but was totally inadmissible to the Southern States.
Mr. Wilson proposed that returns of the quantity of land & of the number of inhabitants in the respective States sd. be obtained, and a rule deducted 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 S. 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 shd. 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 ye. proposed reference to the States.
The conversation ended in the appt of a sub-committee consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Carol & Mr. Wilson who were desired to consider the several modes proposed, to confer with the Superintendt of Finance, & make such report to the Gd. Come. as they shd judge fit.
WEDNESDAY, JANY. 15.
A letter dated the 19th of December from Genl Greene was recd. notifying the evacuation of Charleston. It was in the first place referred to the Secy of Congs. for publication; excepting the passage which recited the exchange of prisoners, which being contrary to the Resolution of the 16 of Ocr. agst. partial exchanges, was deemed improper for publication. It was in the next place referred to a come, in order that some complimentary report might be made in favor of Genl Greene & the Southn army. Docr. Ramsay havg 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 Genl Greene the high sense entertained by Congress of his merits & services. In support of his motion he went into lavish praises of Gl. Greene, and threw out the idea of making him a Lieutent. General. His motion being opposed as somewhat singular and unnecessary after the reference of Genl Greene’s letter, he withdrew it.
A letter was red. from Genl Washington inclosing a certificate from Mr. Chittenden of Vermont acknowledging the receipt of the communication which Gl Washington had sent him of the proceedings of Congress on the [fifth] of [December.]1
THURSDAY JANY. 16.
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 S. Carolina as to make it probable that an attempt might be made in the Legislature to repeal the confiscation laws of that State, & even if such attempt shd. fail, the misrepresentations cd. 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 S. Carolina might be furnished with an extract from the letter of the 14th. of Oct. from Docr. Franklin, so far as it informed Congress “that something had been mentioned to the American Plenipotentiaries relative to the Refugees & 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 cd enter into no stipulations.” The motion was 2ded by Mr. Jarvais, & supported by Mr. Ramsay. It was opposed by Mr. Ellsworth & Mr. Wolcott as improper, since a communication of this intelligence might encourage the States to extend confiscations to British debts, a circumstance which wd. be dishonorable to the U. S., & might embarrass a treaty of peace. Mr. Fitzsimmons expressed the same apprehensions, so did Mr. Ghoram. His Colleague Mr. Osgood was in favr 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 constents in such form & under such cautions as they shd. judge prudent.” The Motion so varied was adopted by Mr. Rutledge, & substituted in place of the original one. I 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, & 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 cd any measures which might impede that object in negotiations for peace, by inducing an opinion that the U. S. were not firm with respect to it; that in this view it was of consequence to prevent the repeal & 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 S. Carolina shd 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 recd by Congress. Mr. R. said he wd. think further on the subject, and desired that it might lie over.
FRIDAY JANY 17TH.
The Com̃ite on the motion of Mr. Peters of the [thirteenth] day of [January] relative to a further application for foreign loans, reported that they had conferred with the Superintendt. of Finance, & 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 argt in favr 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, & which wd. involve the same subject.
The report thanking Genl. 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 Majr. Burnet Aid to Gl G., who was the bearer of the letter announcing the evacuation of Charleston.
Mr. Webster & Mr. Judd agents for the deranged officers of the Massachusetts & Cont. lines were heard by the Gd Committee in favr. of their Constituents. The sum of their representations was that the sd officers were equally distressed for, entitled to, & in expectation of provision for fulfilling the rewards stipulated to them, as officers retained in service.
FROM FRIDAY 17 TO TUESDAY 21ST.
A letter from Mr. Adams, of the 8th. day of October 1782 containing prophetic observations relative to the expedition of Ld. Howe for the relief of Gibraltar & its consequences &c &c., excited &c &c
Another letter from do, relative to ye Treaty of Amity & Commerce & ye Convention with the States Genl. concerning vessels recaptured, copies of which accompanied the letters. These papers were committed to Mr. Madison Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Ellsworth.
Wednesday January 22 Congress adjourned to give the Come. on the Treaty & Convention time to prepare a report thereon.
THURSDAY JANUARY 23.
The Report of the Come last mentioned consisting of a state of the variations in the Treaty of Amity & Commerce with the States General from the plan proposed by Congress, of a form of ratification of the sd. Treaty & of the Convention, & of a proclamation comprehending both was accepted & passed; the variations excepted wch were not meant to be entered on the journals. Both the Committee & 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, & direct him to procure with the concurrence of the other party a more correct & perspicuous copy. The Report of the Come as agreed to havg left a blank in the act of ratification for the insertion of the Treaty & Convention, & these being contained both in the Dutch & American languages the former column signed by the Dutch Plenipos. only & the latter by Mr. Adams only, the Secy asked the direction of Congress whether both columns or the American only ought to be inserted. On this point several observations were made & different opinions expressed. In general the members seemed to disapprove of ye. mode used & wd. he. preferred ye. use of a neutral language. As to the request of the Secy., Mr. Wilson was of opinion that the American columns only sd. 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 & as forming one whole, & consequently that both ought to be inserted. The case being a new one to Congress, it was proposed & admitted that the insertion might be suspended till the next day, by which time some authorities might be consulted on the subject.
A come, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Mifflin & 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 Secy. should be instructed to procure the same. In favr. of the Rept it was urged as indispensable that Congress shd have at all times at com̃and such authors on the law of Nations, treaties, Negotiations &c as wd. 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 & tract which related to American antiquities & the affairs of the U. S., since many of the most valuable of these were every day becoming extinct, & they were necessary not only as materials for a Hist: of the U. S., but might be rendered still more so by future pretensions agst. their rights from Spain or other powers which had shared in the discoveries & possessions of the New World. Agst. the Report were urged 1st. the inconvenience of advancing even a few hundred pounds at this crisis; 2dly., the difference of expence between procuring the books during the war & after a peace. These objections prevailed, by a considerable majority. A motion was then made by Mr. Wilson, 2ded. by Mr. Madison, to confine the purchase for the present to the most essential part of the books. This also was negatived.
FRIDAY JANY. 24TH.
Some days prior to this sundry papers had been laid before Congress by the War office, shewing that a Cargo of supplies which had arrived at Wilmington for the British & German Prisoners of War under a passport from the Comander 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 Pennsa, which required in such cases a license from the Executive authority, which exposed to confiscation all Articles not necessary for the prisoners, & referd. the question of necessity to the judgment of its own Magistrates. Congress unanimously considered the violation of the passport issued under yr. Authority as an encroachment on their constitutional & essential rights; but being disposed to get over the difficulty as gently as possible appointed a Come, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Wolcot & Mr. Madison, to confer with the Executive of Pa. on the subject. In the first conference the Executive represented to the Committee the concern they felt at the incident, their disposition to respect & support the dignity & rights of the federal Sovereignty; and the embarrassments in which they were involved by a recent & express law of the State to which they were bound to conform. The Come. 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, & being essential for conducting the war, it could not be expected that Congress wd. acquiesce in any infractions upon it; that as Pa had concurred in the alienation of this power to Congress, any law whatever contravening it was necessarily void, and cd impose no obligation on the Executive. The latter requested further time for a consideration of the case & laid it before the Legislature then sitting; in consequence of which a Come of their body was appd, jointly with the Executive to confer with the Committe of Congress. In this 2d. conference the first remarks made by the Come. of Congress were repeated. The Come. of the Legislature expressed an unwillingness to entrench 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 altho’ 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 wd. not frustrate the power, & 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 controuling power in each of the States, & that to admit such a construction wd. 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 Come. of the Legisre. represented as the great difficulty with them, that even a repeal of the law wd. not remedy the case without a retrospective law which their Constitution wd. not admit of, & 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 wd allow them to appt one of two persons who sd have authority to examine into the supplies & decide whether they comprehended any articles that were not warranted by the passport. The Come. of Congress answered that whatever obstacles might lie in the way of redress by the Legislature if no redress proceeded from them, equal difficulties wd lie on the other side, since Congress in case of a confiscation of the supplies under the law which the omission of some formalities reqd by it wd probably produce, would be obliged by honor & good faith to indemnify the Enemy for their loss out of the common treasury; that the other States wd probably demand a reimbursement to the U. S. from Pa., & that it was impossible to say to what extremity the affair might be carried. They observed to the Come of the Legre and the Executive, that altho’ Congress was disposed to make all allowances, and particularly in the case of a law passed for a purpose recom̃ended by themselves, yet they cd not condescend to any expedient which in any manner departed from the respect wch they owed to themselves & to the Articles of Union. The Come of Congress however suggested that as the only expedient wch wd. get rid of the clashing of the Power of Congress & the law of the State, wd be the dissuading the Seizors from their appeal to the latter, it was probable that if the Seizors wd apply to Congress for Redress such steps wd be taken as wd be satisfactory. The hint was embraced & both the Executive & the Come of the Legre. promised to use their influence with the persons of most influence among the Seizors for that purpose. In consequence thereof a memorial from1 [see Journal] was sent in to Congress, com̃ited to the same Come. of Congress, & their report of this day agreed to in wch. the Presidt of Pa. is requested to appt. one of ye referees. It is proper to observe that this business was conducted with great temper & harmony, & that Presidt. Dickinson, in particulr, manifested throughout the course of it as great a desire to save the rights & dignity of Congress as those of the State over which he presided. As a few of the Seizors only were parties to ye Memorial to Congress, it is still uncertain wher others may not adhere to their claims under the law in wch case all the embarrassments will be revived.
In a late report which had been drawn up by Mr. Hamilton, and made to Congress, in answr to a Memorial from the Legislature of Pa., among other things shewing the impossibility Congress had been under of payg their Creditors it was observed that the aid afforded by the Ct 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, & as dishonorable to Congress. The fact also was controverted. Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Fitzsimmons justified the expediency of retaing. it, in order to justify Congress the more completely in failing in their engagements to the public Creditors. Mr. Wilson & Mr. Madison proposed to strike out the words appropriated by France, & substitute the words applied by Congress to the immediate & necessary support of the army. This proposition wd have been readily approved had it not appeared on examination that in one or two small instances, & particularly in the paymt. of the balance due to A. Lee, Esqr., other applications had been made of the aid in question. The Report was finally recommitted.
A letter from the Supert of Finance was received & read, acquainting Congress that as the danger from the Enemy which led him into the Dept, was disappearing & that he saw little prospect of provision being made without which injustice wd take place of which he wod. never be the Minister, he proposed not to serve longer than may next, unless proper provision sd. be made. This letter made a deep & solemn impression on Congress. It was considered as the effect of despondence in Mr. Morris of seeing justice done to the public Credrs., or the public finances placed on an honorable establisht; as a source of fresh hopes to the enemy when known; as ruinous both to Domestic & foreign Credit; & as producing a vacancy which none knew how to fill, & which no fit man wd venture to accept. Mr. Ghoram, after observing that the Administration of Mr. Morris had inspired great confidence and expectation in his State, & expressing his extreme regret at the event, moved that the letter sd be com̃it̃ed. This was opposed as unnecessary & nugatory by Mr. Wilson, since the known firmness of Mr. Morris, after deliberately taking a step wd. 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 Come. The motion to commit was disagd to. Mr. Wilson then moved that a day might be assigned for the consideration of the letter. Agst. the propriety of this was observed, by Mr. Madison, that the same reasons which opposed a comitmt opposed ye. assignment of any day. Since Congress cd. 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; & since it wd be equally improper for Congress however cogent a motive it might add in ye 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 wd. anticipate the ills likely to attend his actual resignation, ordered his letter to be kept secret.
Nothing being said to day as to the mode of insertion of the Treaty & Convention with the States General the Secy proceeded in retaining both Columns.1
In consequence of the report to the Grand Come on the memorial from the army, by the sub-come, the following report was made by the former to Congs., and came under consideration to-day.
* The Grand Come. having considered the contents of the Meml. presented by the army, find that they comprehend five different articles.
1. present pay.
2. A settlement of accts of the arrearages of pay and security for what is due.
3. A commutation of the half pay allowed by differt. resolutions of Congress for an equivalent in gross.
4. A settlemt of the accts of deficiencies of rations and compensation.
5. A settlement of accounts of deficiencies of cloathing & compensation.
The Come. are of opinion with respt to the 1st., that the Superintendt. 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 payt & in such manner as he shall think proper till the further order of Congress.
With respect to the 2d. Art., so far as relates to the settlement of accts, that the several States be called upon to compleate the settlemt, without delay, with their respective lines of the army up to the — day of Aug; 1780; that the Supt. be also directed to take such measures as shall appear to him most proper & effectual for accomplishing the object in the most equitable & satisfactory manner, havg. regard to former resolutions of Congs, & to the settlets. made in consequence thereof.—And so far as relates to the providing of security for what shall be found due on such settlemt: Resolved that the troops of the United States in common with all the Creditrs. 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 & substantial funds adequate to the object of funding the whole debt of the U. S.; and that Congs. ought to enter upon an immediate & full consideration of the nature of such funds & the most likely mode of obtaining them.
With respect to the 3d Article, the Comme are of opinion that it will be expedient for Congs. 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 Congs 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 6 Pr. Ct., provided that the allowance to widows & 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 4 & 5 Arts, the Come beg leave to delay their report untill they have obtained more precise information than they now possess on the subject.
The 1st. Clause of this report relative to immediate pay passed without opposition. The Supt had agreed to make out 1 Month’s pay. Indeed, long before the arrival of the deputies from the army he had made contingent & secret provision for that purpose; and to ensure 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 shew that the payment to the army did not originate in the Memol, but in an antecedent attention to the wants of the army.
In the discussion of the 2d clause, the epoch of Aug: 1780 was objected to by the Eastern delegates. Their States havg 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 Decr 1780. This was agreed to without opposition altho’ 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 & the 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 ye federal articles, but to leave those funds for a consideration subsequent to providing constitutional ones. Mr. Arnold however eagerly 2ded 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 & to get rid of Mr. Bland’s motion they adjourned, & ordering all the members not present & in town to be summoned.
SATURDAY, JANY. 25.
The Secy. of Congress havg. suggested to a member that the Contract with the Ct. of France specifying sums Due from the U. S., altho’ extremely generous on the part of the former had been ratified without any such acknowledgmts by the latter, that this was the first instance in which such acknowledgmts. had been omitted, & that the omission wd. be singularly improper at a time when we were Soliciting further aids; the[se] observations being made to Congress, the ratification [was] reconsidered, and the words “impressed with,” &c., inserted.
The rept on the memorial was resumed. By Mr. Hamilton Mr. Fitzsimmons & one or two others who had conversed with Mr. Morris on the change of the last day of Decr for the — day of Augst., 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 a reason sufficient. The Eastern Delegates, altho’ they wished for unanimity & system in future proceedings relative to our funds & finances were very stiff in retaining the vote wch. coincided with the steps taken by their Constituents, of this much complaint was made. Mr. Rutledge on this occasion, alledging that Congress ought not to be led by general suggestions derived from the office of finance, joined by Mr. Gervais, voted agst the reconsideration. The consequence was, yt S. Carola. was divided, & six votes only in favr. of the Reconsideration. Mr. Hamilton havg. expressed his regret at the negative & explained more exactly the interference of the change of the Epoch with the measures & plans of the Office of Finance, wch had limited all State advances & settlemts to Aug: 1780, Mr. Rutledge acknowledged the sufficiency of the reasons & at his instance the latter date was reinstated. On this 2d. question Cont. also voted for Augst.1
Congress proceeded to the 3rd 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 & prevent a refusal of the offer. For this motion there were 6 ayes 5 noes; the Southern States & New York being in the affirmative the Eastern & N. J. in the negative. Col. Bland proposed 6½ erroneously supposing the negative of 6 to have proceeded from its being too low. It was on the contrary rather doubtful whether the East States wd. concur in any arrangemt. on this head; so averse were they to what they call pensions. Several having calculated that the annual amount of half-pay was between 4 & 500,000 Drs and the interest of the gross sum funded at the rate of 6 years, nearly ⅔ of that sum, Congress were struck with the necessity of proceeding with more caution & for that purpose committed the report to a Committee of 5—Mr. Osgood, Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Gervais, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Wilson.1
MONDAY, 27 JANY. 1783.
A letter from Genl Washington was recd. notifying the death of Lord Stirling & inclosing a report of the Officer sent to apprehend Knowlton and Wells.
The following is an extract from the report: “He (one Israel Smith) further sd. that Knowlton & Wells had recd a letter from Jonathan Arnold, Esqr at Congress part of which was made public, which informed them that affairs in Congress were unfavorable to them & wd have them to look out for themselves. What other information this letter contained he cd not say. I found in my March thro’ 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 ye. extract above. In this he was indulged without opposition. But it was generally considered notwithstanding his denial of the correspondence, that he had at least at second hand, conveyed ye. intelligence to Vermont.
A long petition was read, signed as alledged by near two thousand inhabitants (but all in the same handwriting) of the territory lately in controversy between Pa. & Va, complaining of the grievances to which their distance from public authority exposed them & particularly of a late law of Pena interdicting even consultations about a new State within its limits; and praying that Congress wd. give a sanction to their independence & 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 & substantial funds.
The subject was introduced by Mr. Wilson with some judicious remarks on its importance & the necessity of a thorough & serious discussion of it. He observed that the U. States had in the course of the revolution displayed both an unexampled activity in resisting the enemy, and an unexampled patience under the losses & calamities occasioned by the war. In one point only he said they had appeared to be deficient & that was a cheerful payment of taxes. In other free Govts it had been seen that taxation had been carried further & more patiently borne than in States where the people were excluded from the Govts. The people considering themselves as the sovereign as well as the subject; & as receiving with one hand what they paid with the other. The peculiar repugnance of the people of the U. S. to taxes he supposed proceeded first from the odious light in which they have been under the old Govt., in the habit of regarding them; 2dly, from the direct manner in wch. 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 U. S. was equal to the public burden might be demonstrated. According to calculations of the best writers the inhabitants of G. B. paid before the present war at the annual rate of at least 25s Sterlg per head. According to like calculations the inhabitants of the U. S. before the revolution paid indirectly & insensibly at the rate of at least 10s Sterlg. per head. According to the computed depreciation of the paper emissions, the burden insensibly borne by the inhabitants of the U. S. 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 ½ a Million of dollars, that is to ⅙ 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 fulfill 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 & 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 constitutents; and at least to come to an éclaircissement on the subject,1 he remarked that the establisht. of certain funds for payg. wd 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 Resold.
“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 wd. before the discussion proceeded farther receive a communication of sundry papers transmitted to the Virga Delegates by the Executive of that State; two of which had relation to the question before Congress. These were 1st., a Resolution of the Genl Assembly declaring its inability to pay more than £50.000 Va. currency towards complying with the demands of Congress. 2dly the Act repealing the Act granting the impost of 5 Per Ct. These papers were received and read.
Mr. Wolcot expressed some astonishment at the inconsistency of these two acts of Va; supposed that they had an unfavorable aspect on the business before Congress; & proposed that the latter sd be postponed for the present. He was not seconded.
Mr. Ghoram favored the general idea of the motion, animadverting on the refusal of Virga to contribute the necessary sums & 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 through [out] the States. He observed that the non-payment of the 1.200.000 Drs 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 [&] that polls & commerce were the most proper objects. At his instance the latter part of the motion was so amended as to run “establishment of permanent & adequate funds to operate generally throughout the U. 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 1st Such as would extend generally & uniformly throughout the U. S., & wd be collected under the authority of Congs 2dly, such as might be established separately within each State, & might consist of any objects which were chosen by the States, and might be collected either under the authority of the States or of Congs. Funds of the 1st kind he contended were preferable; as being 1st, more simple, the difficulties attending the mode of fixing the quotas laid down in the Confederation rendering it extremely complicated & in a manner insuperable; 2dly., as being more certain: since the States according to the secd. plan wd probably retain the collection of the revenue, and a vicious system of collection prevailed generally throughout the U. S. a system by which the collectors were chosen by the people & made their offices more subservient to their popularity than to the public revenue; 3d, 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. Ghoram 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 some things 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 & 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 & 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 & services to the U. S. to look to them for payment; that if general & certain revenues were not provided, the consequence wd be that the army & public Creditors would have soon to look to their respective States only for satisfaction; that the burden in this case wd. fall unequally on the States; that rivalships relative to trade wd. impede a regular impost & would produce confusion amg the States; that some of the States would never make of themselves provision for half pay and that the army wd be so far defrauded of the rewards stipulated to them by Congress; that altho it might be uncertain whether the States wd accede to plans founded on ye. proposition before the house, yet as Congress was convinced of its truth & 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 Congs. 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 inability1 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 wd then stand on firm ground & try a practicable mode.
TUESDAY, JANY. 28TH, 1783.
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,” wch 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 wd. depend entirely on the punctuality energy & 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 Penna had, at their last meeting been dissuaded from appropriating their revenue to the payment of their own Citizens Creditors of the U. S., instead of remitting it to ye Continental treasury; merely by the urgent representations of a Committee of Congress & by the hope that some general system in favr. of all the public creditors would be adopted; that the Legislature were now again assembled; and altho sensible of the tendency of such an example, thought it their duty & 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 newmodelled, as follows:
“That it is the opinion of Congress that the establishment of permanent & adequate funds to operate generally throughout the U. States is indispensably necessary for doing complete justice to the Creditors of the U. S., 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 quañty as had been proposed by the office of finance. He thought the prejudices of the people opposed the idea of a general tax; & 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 2ded the opposition to the term “general,” he contended that the States wd. never consent to a uniform tax because it wd. 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 Virga, himself alone opposing it & 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 sd. assume & exercise a power immediately & without the sanction of the States, of levying money on them in consequence.
Mr. Wilson rose & 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 ye States & that ye funding of a common debt in the manner proposed would produce a salutary invigoration and cement to the Union.
Mr. Elseworth acknowledged himself to be undecided in his opinion; that on 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 Govt can or ought to exert coercion against delinquent members of the confederacy; & 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 Congs, and appropriated to the discharge of the common debt.
Mr. Hamilton, in reply to Mr. Elseworth, 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 Govt. was evidently short of the degree necessary for pervading & uniting the States it was expedient to introduce the influence of officers deriving their emoluments from & consequently interested in supporting the power of, Congress.1
Mr. Williamson was of opinion that continental funds altho’ desirable, were unattainable at least to the full amount of the public exigencies. He thought if they could be obtained for the fereign 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 payg. 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 2 last objects depended essentially on the first; since the doing justice to the Creditors alone wd restore public credit, & the restoration of this alone could provide for ye. 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 1st is admitted to be impossible on any plan. The only plans opposed to the continl. one for the latter purpose are 1. periodical requisitions according to the federal articles; 2dly. permanent funds established by each State within itself & the proceeds consigned to the discharge of public debts.
Will ye. 1st. 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 & unfailing compliance by 13 separate & independent Govts with periodical demands of money from Congress, can never be reckoned upon with the certainty requisite to Satisfy our present creditors, or to tempt others to become our creditors in future.
2dly. Will funds separately established within each State & 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 1st that it must be preceded by a final and satisfactory adjustment of all accts. between the U. S. 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 pre-requisites in ye case of annual demands on them, with wch they very little comply & that only in the way of an open acct, yet these conditions wd certainly be exacted in case of a permanent cession of revenue; and the difficulties & delays to say the least incident to these conditions can escape no one. 2dly the produce of the funds being always in the first instance in the hands & under the control of the States separately, might at any time & on various pretences, be diverted to State objects. 3dly, that jealousy which is as natural to the States as to individuals & of which so many proofs have appeared, that others will not fulfil their respective portions of the common obligations, will be continually & 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 ye. U. S. under the superience 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 these incomes will pass directly into the treasury of the U. S.
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 & 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 claims particular attention. The tenor of the memorial from Penna, 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 sd. 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 & troops, creditors of the U. S. 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 wd become of the confederation? What wd. be the authority of Congress? wt the tie by which the States cd be held together? what the source by which the army could be subsisted & clothed? What the mode of dividing & discharging our foreign debts? What the rule of settling the internal accts.? What the tribunal by which controversies amg. 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 & 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, & instead of fulfilling the stipulations of the U. S. 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 agst. a general revenue that it contravenes the articles of confederation. These Articles as has been observed have presupposed the necessity of alterations in the federal system, & have left a door open for them. They moreover authorize Congress to borrow money. Now in order to borrow money permanent & certain provision is necessary, & if this provision cannot be made in any other way as has been shewn, a general revenue is within the spirit of the Confederation.
It has been objected that such a revenue is subversive of the sovereignty & 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 & equal efficacy. They have 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 sd. be made as will render it efficient? Without such efficiency the end of this Constitution, which is to preserve order & justice among the members of the Union, must fail; as without a like efficiency would the end of State Constitutions wch. is to preserve like order & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 wch. it peculiarly concerned him to advert to. The State of Virga, as appears by an Act yesterday laid before Congress has withdrawn its assent once given to the scheme. This circumstance cd. not but produce some embarrassment in a representative of that State advocating the Scheme, one too whose principles were extremely unfavorable to a disregd 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 altho’ the delegates who compose Congress, more immediately represented & 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. 2dly., 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 Va. would not have repealed the law in favor of the impost & would even now rescind the repeal.
The result of these observations was that it was the duty of Congress under whose autho the public debts had been contracted to aim at a general revenue as the only means of discharging them; & that this dictate of justice & gratitude was enforced by a regard to the preservation of the confederacy, to our reputation abroad & to our internal tranquillity.
Mr. Rutledge complained that those who so strenuously urged the necessity & competency of a general revenue1 operating throughout all the 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 untill the general principle cd be irrevocably fixed when Congs would be bound at all events to go on with the project; whereupon Mr. Fitzsimmons expressed some concern at the turn wch the discussion seemed to be taking. He said, that unless mutual confidence prevailed no progress could be made towards the attainment of those ends wch. 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 Congs. 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 Pa, holding out the idea of separate appropriations of her revenue unless provision were made for the public creditors, by the deplorable & dishonorable situation of public affairs which had compelled Congress to draw bills on the unpromised & contingent bounty of their Ally, and which was likely to banish the Superintt. of Finance whose place cd. not be Supplied, from his department. He observed that he had not introduced detail [s] into the debate because he thought them premature, until a general principle should be fixed; and that as soon as the principle sd be fixed he would altho 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 sd. declare that it ought to be adopted.
Mr. Izard 2ded. 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 practicabily had a right to expect proof of it from details before they cd 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. 1st an impost on trade 2dly. a poll tax under certain qualifications 3dly. a land-tax under do.1
Mr. Hamilton suggested a house & window-tax he was in favor of the mode of conducting the business urged by Mr. Madison.
On the motion for the commt., 6 States were in favor of it, & 5 agst 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 & settling principles on this subject. He asked whether these wd ever bring any money into the public treasury. His opinion was that Congress ought in order to guard agst the inconvenience of meetings of the different Legislatures at different & even distant periods, to call upon the Executives to convoke them all at one period, & 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, & 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.
WEDNESDAY, JANY. 29TH. 1783.
Mr. Fitzsimmons reminded Congress of the numerous inaccuracies & 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 this 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.1 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 & errors consisting of mis-spelling, foreign idioms, & foreign words, obscurity of the sense &c were attended to by the Committee & 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 wd be improper to reconsider the act as had been suggested, for the purpose of suspending it on that or any other acct, 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 & 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, & the proposition taken up.2
Mr. Bland proposed to alter the words of the proposition so as to make it read establisht 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 thro’ 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” & “to operate” might be inserted the words “and in just proportion.”
Mr. Wilson said he had no objection to this amendmt, but that it might be referred to the taxes individually, & unnecessarily fetter Congress; since if the taxes collectively should operate in just proportion, it wd. be sufficient. He instanced a land-tax & an impost on trade, the former of which might press hardest on the Southn, & the latter on the Eastn, 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 amendt to the amendment of Mr. Madison was 2ded by Mr. Boudinot & agreed to without opposition as was afterwards the whole amendmt..
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 2ded by Mr. Boudinot, & 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 & adequate funds on taxes or duties which shall operate generally & on the whole in just proportion throughout the U. S., are indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice to the public Creditors, for restoring public Credit, & for providing for the future exigencies of the War.”
Mr. Bland proposed as the only expedient that cd. produce immediate relief to the public Creditors, that, Congress sd by a fixed resolution appropriate to the payment of interest all the monies which should arise from the requisitions on the States. He thought this would not only give immediate relief to the public Creditors, but by throwing into circulation the stagnant securities, enliven the whole business of taxation. This proposition was not 2ded.
Mr. Wilson proceeded to detail to Congress his ideas on the subject of a continental revenue. He stated the internal debt liquidated & unliquidated at 21 Million of Dollrs. the foreign debt at 8 Million, the actual deficiency of 1782 at 4 Million, the probable deficiency of ’83 at 4 Million. Making, in the whole 37 Million; which in round numbers & probably without exceeding the reality may be called 40 Million. The interest of this debt at 6 Per Ct., is 2,400,000 Drs., to which it will be prudent to add 600,000, which if the war continues will be needed, and in case of peace may be applied to a navy. An annual revenue of 3 Million of Drs. then is the sum to be aimed at, and which ought to be under the management of Congs. One of the objects already mentioned from wch. 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 wd continue so high, but the necessary fall of price at the conclusion of it wd 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 U. S. annually at 3 Million of Bushels, & proposed a duty of ⅓ of a Dollar per bushel which wd yield 100,000 Drs This duty he observed wd press hardest on the Eastern States, on acct of the extraordinary consumption in the fisheries.
The next tax which he suggested was on land. 1 Dollar on every 100 Acres according to the computation of the Superintendt. of finance would produce 500,000 Dollrs. This computation he was persuaded might be doubled. Since there could not be less than 100 Millions of Acres comprehended within the titles of individuals which at 1 Dr. per 100 Acres yields 1,000,000 of Dollars. This tax could not be deemed too high, & would bear heaviest not on the industrious farmer, but on the great land-holder. 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 altho’ it might be proper to vary it somewhat in order to remove particular objections, ought to be again & 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 Drs. 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 & justly obnoxious, but in certain forms had been found consistent with the policy of ye. 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 Penna, 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 & equal revenue. Wine & 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 & remarks he acknowledged to be extremely imperfect & 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 U. S. on an honorable and prosperous footing.
Mr. Ghoram observed that the proposition of Mr. Bland, however salutary its tendency might be in the respects 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 Eastn. States, but as giving a dangerous advantage to Rivals in the fisheries. Salt he sd. 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, & 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 Congs., literally. Georgia had [not] yet complied. Rhode Island had absolutely refused to comply at all. Virga, which at first complied but partially has since rescinded even that partial compliance. After enumerating the several objections urged by the States agst the scheme, he proposed in order to remove them the following resolution; viz:
“that it be earnestly recommended to the several States to impose & levy a duty of 5 Per Ct. ad valorem, at the time & place of importation, on all goods, wares & merchandizes of foreign growth & manufacture wch. may be imported into the said States respectively, except goods of the U. S. or any of them, and a like duty on all prizes & 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 & applied to the payment of the interest and to sink the principal of the money which the U. S. have borrowed in Europe & of what they may borrow, for discharging the arrears due to the army & for the future support of the war & to no other use or purpose whatsoever; that the said duties be continued for 25 years unless the debts above md be discharged in the mean time, in which case they shall cease & determine; that the money arising from the said duties & paid by any State, be passed to the credit of such State on account of its quota of the debt of the U. States.” The motion was seconded by Mr. Lee.
Mr. Woolcot opposed the motion as unjust towards those States which having few or no ports receive their merchandize through the ports of others; repeating the observation that it is the consumer & not the importer who pays the duty. He again animadverted on the conduct of Virga in first giving & afterwards withdrawing her assent to the Impost recommended by Congress.
Mr. Elseworth 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 an excise were combined with it, the whole scheme would fail. He thought however that some modification of the plan recommended by Congs would be necessary. He supposed when the benefits of this continl. revenue should be experienced it would incline the States to concur in making additions to it. He abetted the opposition of Mr. Woolcot 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 , perhaps not , part of the merchandize consumed within it, and pronounced that such a plan wd 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, & 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 into wch a failure may embroil the U. S. The prejudices agst making a provision for foreign debts which sd not include the domestic ones was he thought unjust & 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 & the appointment of the Collectors. But the crediting the States severally for the amount of their collections was so palpably unjust & 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 & provide supplies for themselves. N. Carolina he said would probably be supplied pretty much thro Virga., if the latter forbore to levy a tax on the former, but in case she did not forbear, the ports of N. C., which are nearly as deep as those of Holland, might & probably wd be substituted. The profits drawn by the more commercial States from the business they carry on for the others, were of themselves sufficient & 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. N. Carolina, Maryland, N. Jersey & Connecticut would suffer by such a regulation and would never agree to it.
Mr. Bland was equally agst. the regulation. He thought it replete with injustice & 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, & 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 Countrol of the grantors. As long as it was in the power of the States to repeal their grants in this respect, suspicions would prevail, & wd. prevent loans. Money ought to be apprted by the States as it is by the Parliament of G. B. 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 Virga. repealing her assent to the impost; that it was trifling with Congs to enable them to contract debts, & 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 Virga., R. Island & the other States probably wd. 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 wd. 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 wd impede the measure.
Mr. Hamilton disliked every plan that made but partial provision for the public debts; as an inconsistent & dishonorable departure from the declaration made by Congs 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 Congs for a general revenue.
THURSDAY, 30 JANY.
The answer to the Memorials from the Legislature of Penna. was agreed to as it stands on the Journal, N. Jersey alone dissenting.1
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 yt. 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 & danger, than a satire on their faults; since the latter would only irritate them; whereas the former wd 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 Penna. the expedt into which Congress had been driven of drawing bills on Spain & Holland without previous warrant; the disappt attending it, and the deductions ultimately ensuing from the aids destined to the U. S. by the Ct 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, & that in the present case it cd 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 embarrassmts. it would impress the Legislature with the danger of making those separate appropriations which wd 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 & some other members having expressed less solicitude about satisfying or soothing the Creditors within Pa 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. Pena, 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 6,000,0001 of the Continl debt about her neck to go to the bottom alone.
FRIDAY, JANY. 31.
The instruction to the Va. delegates from that State relative to tobo exported to N. Y., under passport from the Secy of Congress was referred to a Committee. Mr. Fitzsimmons moved that the information received from sd State of its inability to contribute more than — towards the requisitions of Congress, sd. be also committed. Mr. Bland saw no reason for such commitment. Mr. Ghoram was in favr of it. He thought such a resolution from Va 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. Massts., he was sure had a better title to it than Va. He said the former had expended immense sums in recruiting her line, which composed almost the whole Northn. Army; that 1,200,000 £ (dollar at 6s) had been laid out; & that without this sum the army would have been disbanded.
Mr. Fitzsimmons abetting the animadversions on Virga, took notice that of — Dollars reqd. by Congress from her for the year 1782, she had paid the paltry sum only of 35,000 Drs and was notwithstanding endeavouring to play off from further contributions.—The com̃itment took place without opposition.
The sub-committee, consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Carroll & Mr. Wilson had this morning a conference with the Superintendt. of Finance on the best mode of estimating the value of land through the U. S. The Superintendt 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 sd be practicable, & 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 Congs. should expressly reserve to themselves a right of revising & rejecting it, such a right could not be exercised without giving extreme offence to the suspected party. To guard agst these difficulties it was finally agreed, & the Sub committee accordingly reported to the G Comittee,
“That it is expedient to require of the Several States a return of all surveyed & granted land within each of them; and that in such return the land be distinguished into occupied & unoccupied.
“That it also was expedient to appoint one Commissr. for each State who should be empowered to proceed without loss of time into the several States; & to estimate the value of the lands therein according to the returns above mentioned, & to such instructions as should from time to time be given him for that purpose.”
This report was hurried in to the Grand Com̃itee for two reasons; 1st., it was found that Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Bland, & several others relied so much on a valuation on 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 2d. reason was that the Sub-Committee were afraid that suspicions might arise of intentional delay, in order to confine the attention of Congs 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-come, or the report referred to them sd be preferred. In favor of the 1st. were Mr. Wilson, Mr. Carrol, Mr. Madison, Mr. Elmore, Mr. Hamilton. In favor of the 2d. were Mr. Arnold, Mr. Dyer, Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Ghoram, Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Gilman. So the latter was immediately handed in to Congress, & referred to a committee of the whole into which they immediately resolved themselves.
A motion was made by Mr. Bland, 2ded. by Mr. Madison, that this report sd be taken up in preference to the subject of General funds. Mr. Wilson opposed it as irregular & 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 Genl. 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, & 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 sd. be found on mature deliberation to be as efficacious a remedy as was by some supposed, it wd 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 wd. join the more cordially in the object of a general revenue.
Mr. Hamilton concurred in these ideas & wished the valuation to be taken up in order that its impracticability & futility might become manifest. The motion passed in the Affirmative, & the report was taken up.
The phraseology was made more correct in several instances.
A motion was made by Mr. Boudinot 2ded. by Mr. Elseworth to strike out the clause requiring a return of “the names of the owners,” as well as the quantity of land. Mr. Elseworth also contended for a less specific return of the parcels of land. The objection agst. the clause were that it would be extremely troublesome & equally useless. Mr. Bland thought these specific returns wd. be a check on frauds & the suspicion of them. Mr. Williamson was of the same opinion, as were also Mr. Lee, Mr. Ghoram, & Mr. Ramsay.1 The motion was withdrawn by Mr. Boudinot.
saturday & monday. No Congress.
TUESDAY, FEB. 4.
An indecent & tart remonstrance was red from Vermont agst. the interposition of Congs. in favor of the persons who had been banished & whose effects had been confiscated. A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton 2ded by Mr. Dyer to commit it. Mr. Wolcot who had always patronized the case of Vermont wished to know the views of a committment. Mr. Hamilton said his view was to fulfill the resolution of Congress wch. bound them to enforce the measure. Mr. Dyer sd his was that so dishonorable a menace might be as quickly as possible renounced. He said Genl Washington was in favour of Vermont, that the principal people of N. 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 Pena. having found the Ordinance of Congs erecting a Court for piracies so obscure in some points that they were at a loss to adapt yr laws to it, had appointed a Come to confer with a Come. of Congress. He accordingly moved in behalf of the Pa delegation that a Come might be appd for that purpose. After some objections by Mr. Madison agst the impropriety of holding a communication with Pa through committees when the purpose might be as well answered by a Memorial or an instruction to its Delegates, a Come. was appd, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Madison & Mr. Wilson.
The Report proposing a commutation for the half-pay due to the army, was taken up. On a motion to allow 5½ years whole pay in gross to be funded & bear interest, this being the rate taken from Dr. Price’s calculation of annuities, N. H. was no, R. I. no, Cont no, N. J., no, Virginia ay (Mr. Lee no) other States ay. So the question was lost.—5 years was then proposed, on which N. H. was no, R. I. no, Ct. no, N. J. no. So there were but 6 ays, & the proposition was lost. Mr. Williamson proposed 5¼ & called for the yeas & nays. Messrs. Wolcot & Dyer observed, yt. 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 Congs 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 sd. that he wished if the yeas & 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 wd. not express the true ideas of the yeas, and might even subject them to contrary interpretations. He sd that the act was valid because it was decided according to the rule then in force, & that as the officers had served under the faith of it, justice fully corroborated it; & that he was astonished to hear these principles controverted. He was also astonished to hear objections agst. a commutation come from States in compliance with whose objections agst the half pay itself this expedt. had been substituted. Mr. Wilson expressed his surprise also that instructions sd be given which militated agst the most peremptory & lawful engagements of Congs, 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 R. I. was in session & he hoped to receive their further advice. Mr. Bland enforced the ideas of Mr. Madison & Mr. Wilson.—Mr. Gilman thought it wd be best to refer the subject of ½ pay to the several States to be settled between them & 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 Decr. 22, 1782, introducing Mr. — from Canada, as a person capable of giving intelligence relative to affairs in Canada & the practicability of uniting that Province with the confederated States. The letter was committed.
In Come. of the whole on the Report concerning a valuation of the lands of the U. States—
A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge wch took the sense of Congs. on this question whether the rule of apportionment to be grounded on the proposed valuation sd. continue in force until revoked by Congs., or a period be now fixed beyond which it sd. not continue in force. The importance of the distinction lay in the necessity of having seven votes on every act of Congs. 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 6 ays only, which produced a dispute whether in a Committee of the whole a majority wd. decide, or whether 7 votes were necessary.
In favor of the first rule it was contended by Mr. Ghoram & others, that in Committees of Congress the rule always is that a majority decides.
In favr of the latter it was contended that if the rule of other committees applies to a come of the whole, the vote sd. be individual per capita, as well as by a majority, that in other deliberative assemblies, the rules of voting were not varied in Commes of the whole, & that it wd. be inconvenient in practice to report to Congs. as the sense of the body, a measure approved by 4 or 5 States, since there could be no reason to hope that in the same body in a different form 7 States wd. approve it, and consequently a waste of time would be the result.
Come rose & Cons. Adjourned.
WEDNESDAY FEBRY. 5 & THURSDAY, FEBY. 6.
In order to decide the rule of voting in a Come. of the whole, before Congrs should go into the said Come, Mr. Bland moved that the rule sd. be to vote by States, & the majority of States in Come to decide. Mr. Wilson moved to postpone Mr. Bs motion in order to resolve that the rule be to vote by States and according to the same rules which govern Congress; as this genl 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 & 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 Congrs. should resolve itself into a Come of the whole. Mr. Carroll as chairman observed that as the same difficulty would occur, he wished Congs would previously direct him how to proceed. Mr. Hamilton proposed that the latter clause of Mr. Bland’s motion shd. be reconsidered and agreed to wrong as it was, rather than have no rule at all. In opposition to which it was sd. that there was no more reason why one & that not the minor side sd wholly yield to the inflexibility of the other yn. vice versa; and that if they sd. be willing to yield on the present occasion, it wd be better to do it tacitly, than to saddle themselves with an express & 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 amendmts proposed were 1st. the period beyond wch. the rule of the first valuation sd not be in force, on this point Mr. Collins proposed 5 years, Mr. Bland 10 years, Mr. Boudinot 7 years, N. Jersey havg. instructed her Delegates thereon. The Cont delegates proposed 3 years. On the question for 3 years, N. H. no, Mas. no, R. I. ay, Cont ay, all the other States no. On the question for 5 years, all the States ay except Cont
The 2d. point was whether & how far the rule sd be retrospective. On this point the same views operated as on the preceding. Some were agst any retrospection, others for extending it to the whole debt, and others for extendg 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, & more accurately brought before Congress. So the rept. was agreed to in the Come. & 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 & indirect to ascertain the real sense of Congs, that other points involved in the subject had not recd. any decision; and proposed the sense of Congs shod be distinctly & successively taken on all of them & the result referred to a special Come to be digested &c. The question was however put & negatived the votes being as they appear on the Journal. The reasons on which Mr. Hamilton’s motion was grounded appear from its preamble.
FRIDAY, FEBY. 7.
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 Congs on the several points as yesterday proposed by Mr. Madison, was generally admitted as proper.
The first question propd. in Come. of the whole by Mr. Madison, was: Q: Shall a valuation of land within the U. S. as directed by the Articles of confederation be immediately attempted?—8 ays N. Y. only no. The States present were N. H., Mas. Cont N. Y. N. J. Pa. Va. N. C. S. C. R. I. 1 member, Mard. 1 do.
By Mr. Wilson,
Q. Shall each State be called on to return to the U. S. in Congs assd. the no of acres granted to or surveyed for any person, and also the no of buildings within it? 8 ayes—N. C. 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 & whites being therein distinguished? ay, N. C. no for the same reason as above. Cont divided.
By Mr. Madison,
Q. Shall the States be called on to return to Congs an estimate of the value of its lands with the buildings & improvements within each respectively? After some discussion on this point in whch. the inequalities which wd result from such estimates were set forth at large; and effects of such an experiment in Virga had been described by Mr. Mercer, and a comparison of an Average valuation in Pa. & Va which amounted in the latter to 50 PCt more than in the former, altho’ 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: N. H. Mas N. J. Pa. Va. no Mr. Bland ay Mr. Lee silent Cont: N. C. S. C. ay, N. Y. divd.: so it passed in the negative.
By Mr. Madison,
Q. Shall a period be now fixed beyond which the rule to be eventually estabd. by Congs shall not be in force? ay, unanimously.
By Mr. Madison,
Q. What shall that period be? Cont. was again for 3 years, which being rejd 5 yrs passed unanimously.
By Mr. Madison,
Q. Shall the rule so to be estabd have retrospective operation so far as may be necessary for liquidating & closing the accts. between the U. S. & each particular State? Ay—Cont no. Mr. Dyer & Mr. Mercer understood this as making the amt of the several requisitions of Congs, and not of the paymts. by ye. States, the standard by which the accts were to be liquidated and thought the latter the just quantum for retrospective appointment. Their reasoning however was not fully comprehended.
SATURDAY, FEBY. 8.
Come of the Whole.
Mr. Mercer revived the subject of retrospective operation; and after it had been much discussed & the difference elucidated wch might happen between apportiong, according to the first valuation which sd. be made, merely the sums paid on the requisitions of Congs, & apportiong the whole Requisitions, consisting of the sums paid & the deficiencies, which might not be pd. until some distant day, when a different rule formed under different circumstances of the States sd be in force, the assent to the last question put yesterday was reversed, & there was added to the preceding question, after “5 years,”—“and shall operate as a rule for apportioning the sums necessary to be raised for supporting the public credit & other contingent expenses & for adjusting all accounts between the U. States & each particular State for monies paid or articles furnished by them & for no other purpose whatsoever.” On this question there were 6 ays—so it became a vote of the Come of the whole.
MONDAY, FEBY. 10.
For The Report of the Committee on the Resolutions of Va, concerning the contract Under which Tobo. was to be exported to N. Y.1 and the admission of circumstantial proof of accts. agst. the U. S., 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 Va.; that she had assented to the export of the first quantity, merely out of respect to Congs.; 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 Congs extended to the act. He wished therefore that Congress wd proceed to decide the question.
Mr. Fitzsimmons in behalf of the Committee, observed that they went no further than to examine whether the proceedings of the officers of Congs. were conformable to the Resoln. of Congs & not whether the latter were within the power of Congs.
Mr. Lee sd. the Rept. did not touch the point that, the additional quantity had been exported without application to the State, altho’ the first quantity was licensed by the State with great reluctance, in consequence of the request of Congs, and of assurances agst a repetition, and that the Superintendt & Secy. of Congs ought at any rate to have made application to the Executive before they proceeded to further exportations.
Mr. Rutledge sd. the Rept went to the very point, that V. suspected the Resols of Congs. had been abused by the officers of Congs, and the Rept shewed that no such abuse had taken place; that if this information was not satisfactory, and the State sd. contest the right of Congs in the case, it wd then be proper to answer it on that point, but not before. He sd., if the gentleman (Mr. Lee) meant that the Come authorized by Congs. on the—day of—to make explanations on the subject to the Legislature of Va. had given the assurances he mentioned, he must be mistaken; for none such had been given. He had he sd. formed notes of his remarks to the Lege but accordg. to his practice had destroyed them after the occasion was over, and therefore cd. only assert this from Memory; that nevertheless his memory enabled him to do it with certainty.
Mr. Lee, in explanation sd he did not mean the Come.; that the abuse complained of was not that the Resoluns of Congs 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 wd be given to Va.
The Report was agd to as far as the Tobo. 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 agd. to.
Come of the Whole.
The Rept for the valuation of land was amended by the insertion of “distinguishing dwelling houses from others.”
The Come. adjourned & the report was made to Congs.
Mr. Lee & Mr. Jervais 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 sd. not be satisfactory to all parties, persons sd be appd. by Congs. & others by the States respectively to adjust the case finally.”—On this question N. H. was divd.; Mas, no, R. I., ay: Cont, no, N. Y. divd., N. J., no, Pa, no, Va., no, Mr. Madison & Mr. Jones, no;—Mr. Lee & Mr. Bland, ay, N. C. ay, S. C. ay, so the motion failed.
TUESDAY, FEBY. 11.
The Rept made by the Come. of the whole havg. decided that ye mode to be grounded on the return of facts called for from ye. States ought now to be ascertained.
Mr. Rutledge proposed 2d by Mr. Gilman, that ye States sd be required to name Comrs, each of them one, who or any nine of them sd be appd. & empowerd. by Congs. to settle the valuation. Mr. Ghoram was agst it as parting with a power which might be turned by the States agst. Congs., Mr. Wolcot agst it; declares his opinion that the Confederation ought to be amended by substituting numbers of inhabitants as the rule; admits the difference between freemen & blacks; and suggests a compromise by including in the numeration such blacks only as were within 16 & 60 years of age. Mr. Wilson was agst. relinquishing such a power to the States, proposes that the commissioners be appd by Congs, and their proceedings subject to the ratification of Congs. Mr. Mercer was for submitting them to the revision of Congs, & this amendment was recd.. Mr. Peters agst. the whole scheme of valuation, as holding out false lights & hopes to the public. Mr. Rutledge thinks Comrs. appd by the States may be trusted as well as Comrs appd. by Congs., or as Congs. themselves. Mr. Wilson observes, that if appd by the States they will bring with them the spirit of agents for their respective States—if appd. by Congs. they will consider themselves as servants of the U. S. at large & be more impartial.
Mr. Ghoram, 2ded by Mr. Wilson, proposes to postpone in order to require the States to appt. Comrs, to give Congs information for a basis for a valuation.—On the question N. H. no, Mas: ay, R. I. ay, Cont ay, N. Y. ay, N. J. ay, Pa. ay, Va no, N. C. no, S. C. 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 Comrs to the revision of Congs had so varied his plan that he sd be agst it.—On the main question N. H. ay, Mas: ay, R. I. ay, Cont ay, N. Y. no, N. J. no, Pa. ay, Va. ay (Mr. Madison no), N. C. ay, S. C. ay, so it was agreed to & the resolution declaring that a mode sd. now be fixed struck out as executed. The whole report was then committed to a special Come. consisting of Mr. Rutledge Mr. Ghoram & Mr. Gilman to be formed into a proper act.1
WEDNESDAY FEBY. 12.
The declaration of Congs as to Genl Funds, Passed of Jany. the 29, as appears on the Journals;1 & Congress resolved itself into a Come 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 5 Per Ct was taken into consideration. As it seemed to be the general opinion that some variations from the form in which it had been first recomended wd be necessary for reconciling the objecting States to it, it was proposed that the sense of the Come should be taken on that head. The following questions were accordingly propounded:
Que 1. Is it expedient to alter the impost as recommended on the — day of —, 1781?
Mr. Lee said the States particularly Virga. wd never concur in the measure unless the term of years were limited, the collection left to the States, & the appropriation annually laid before ym.
Mr. Wolcot 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 Congs., considering the responsible mode of its appt and that to alter the plan wd. be a mere condescension to the prejudices of the States.
Mr. Ghoram 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 Massts., and the repeal of Virga. would be very likely to give that opposition the ascendance. 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 wd. in any manner consist with the object.
On the Question the affirmative was unanimous excepting the voice of Mr. Wolcot.
Que 2d. Shall the term of duration be limited to 25 years?
Mr. Mercer professed a decided opposition to the principle of general revenue, observed that the liberties of Engd had been preserved by a separation of the purse from the sword; that untill the debts sd. be liquidated & apportioned he wd. never assent in Congs or elsewhere to the scheme of the Impost.
Mr. Bland proposed an alternative of 25 years, or until the requisitions of Congs, according to the Articles of Confedn, shall be found adequate. On this proposition the votes were of N. H. divd, R. I. no, Cont. no, N. Y. no N. J. no, Pa. no, Virga ay, N. C. divd.; S. C. ay, so the proposition was not agreed to.
On the main question for 25 years it was voted in the affirmative.
Q. 3. Shall the appointmt of Collectors be left to the States, they to be amenable to & under the controul of, Congs.?—ay; several States as N. Y. & Pa. dissenting.1
THURSDAY, FEBY. 13TH.
The Come. report to Congs the alterations yesterday agreed on with respect to the 5 Per Ct Impost.
The Deputy Secy at War reported to Congress the result of the inquiry directed by them on the [24th] day of [January,] into the seizure of goods destined for the British Prisoners of war under passport from Genl Washington. From this report it appeared that some of the Seizors had pursued their claim under the law of the State & that in consequence the goods had been condemned & ordered for sale. The papers were referred to a Come consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Ghoram & Mr. Lee, who after havg retired for a few moments reported, that the Secy of War should be authorized & directed to cause the goods to be taken from the places where they had been deposited, to employ such force as wd be sufficient, and that the Duke de Lauzun whose Legion was in the neighbourhood, should be requested to give the Secy such aid as he might apply for.
This report was generally regarded by Congs. 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 wth their Allies the expedient would have been well conceived.1 He added that the exertion of force would not under these circumstances meet the sense of the people at large. Mr. Ghoram sd he denied this with respect to the people of Massachusetts.
Mr. Lee on the part of the Come said that the D. de Lauzun had been recurred to as being in the neighbourhood & having Cavalry under his Command which would best answer the occasion; and that the Report was founded on wise & proper considerations.
Mr. Mercer, Mr. Williamson Mr. Ramsay Mr. Wilson & 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 Pa. sd. on a summons refuse to restore the articles seized.
Mr. Rutledge with equal warmth contended for the expediency of the measures reported.
Mr. Mercer & Mr. Madison at length proposed that Congress sd assert the right on this subject & summon the State of Pena. to redress the wrong immediately. The Report was recommitted with this proposition & Mr. Wilson & Mr. Mercer added to ye. Come.
The speech of the K. of G. B. on the 5th. of Decr, 1782, arrived & produced great joy in general, except among the merchts who had great quantities of merchandize in store the price of which immediately & materially fell. The most judicious members of Congs. however suffered a great diminution of their joy from the impossibility of discharging the arrears & claims of the army & their apprehensions of new difficulties from that quarter.1
FRIDAY FEBY. 14.
Mr. Jones Mr. Rutledge & 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 sd 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 untill something definite should take place; and that if Congress judged fit that Mr. Jefferson sd 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 Congs seemed to be that under present circumstances he sd suspend his voyage untill the further order of Congs; and on motion of Mr. Ghoram, seconded by Mr. Wolcot the Secy of Foreign Affairs was accordingly without opposition directed to make this known to Mr. Jefferson.
The Report of the Come for obtaining a valuation of land was made & considered. See the Journal of this date.
MONDAY FEBY 17.
The report respecting a valuation of land being lost as appears from the Journal, it was revived by the motion of Mr. Dyer seconded by Mr. Mercer as it stands,1 the appointment of Commissrs. by Congs 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 thereafter reconsidered & re-inserted.
The whole report was agreed to with great reluctance by almost all, by many from a spirit of accommodation only, & 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 2ded by Mr. Fitzsimmons to renew the recommendation of the — Feby, 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.
TUESDAY, FEBY. 18.
Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Mercer proposed that the Impost of 5 Per Ct. as altered & to be recommended to the States, should be appropriated exclusively, first to the interest of ye. debt to the army & 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. Ghoram 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 & 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 & most approved; that the States were jealous of one another, & wd. not comply unless they were fully acquainted with & 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 alledged, 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.1
On the question the States were all no except S. Carolina, which was ay.1
A motion was made by Mr. Rutledge, 2ded. 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 sd be collected only on such articles as would not admit of it.
In support of such an alteration it was urged that it would lessen the opportunity of collusion between Collector & importer & would be more equal among the States. On the other side it was alledged that the States had not objected to that part of the plan, and a change might produce objections—that the nature & variety of imports would require necessarily the collection to be ad-valorem on the greater part of them, that the forming of a book of rates wd be attended with great difficulties & 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 5 per ct. and that this consideration would excite objections on the part of the States—The motion was negatived—
A motion was made by Mr Hamilton 2ded. by Mr Wilson; that whereas Congres was desirous that the motives & views of their measures sd. be known to their constituents in all cases where the public safety wd admit, that when the subject of finances was under debate the doors of Congs sd be open. Congs. adjourned it being the usual hour & the motion being generally disrelished—The Pa. delegates said privately that they had brought themselves into a critical situation by dissuading their Constituents from separate provision for creditors of U. S. within Pena hoping that Congs wd. adopt a general provision, & they wished their constituents to see the prospect themselves & to witness the conduct of their Delegates. Perhaps the true reason was that, it was expected the presence of public creditors numerous & weighty in Philada wd. have no influence & that it wd. be well for the public to come more fully to the knowledge of the public finances.
Letter recd from Wm Lee at Ghent notifying the desire of the Emperor [of Austria] to form a commercial treaty with the U. S., and to have a residt from them. Comd to Mr. Izard, Ghoram & Wilson.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19.
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, Penna alone being ay.
A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton seconded by Mr. Bland to postpone the clause of the report made by the Come of the whole, for altering the Impost, viz. the clause limiting its duration to 25 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, 2dly. because it was improper in the present stage of the business, and all the limitation of which it wd 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 publickly assigned by them against the Impost, that these were the ostensible & not the true objections; that the true objection on the part of R. I. was the interference of the impost with the opportunity afforded by their situation of levying contributions on Cont, &c, which recd. foreign supplies through the ports of R. I. that the true objection on the part of Va. was her having little share in the debts due from the U. S. 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 Congs that their first recommendation went beyond the absolute exigencies of the public; that Congs. 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 Congs was looked to for payment by the public creditors, it was justifiable & requisite in them to pursue such means as would be adequate to the discharge of the debt; & that the means would not be adequate if limited in duration to a period within which no calculations had shewn that the debt wd be discharged.
On the motion the States were N. Hampshire divided, Masts no, R. Island ay; Cont divd.; N. York, ay, N. Jersey ay, Pena. ay, Virga. no (Mr. Bland ay) N. Carolina ay S. Carolina, ay. Mr. Rutledge said he voted for postponing not in order to agree to Mr. Hamilton’s motion but to move & he accordingly renewed the motion made in Come 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 & to the public at large he could 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 establishg. a fund wch. was not extended to every branch; that it was impolitic to divide the interests of the civil & 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 & 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, & that this was the only attainable provision; But he reprobated the doctrine of permanent debt supported by a general & permanent revenue & said that it would be good policy to separate instead of cementing the interests of the Army & the other public creditors, insinuating that the claims of the latter were not supported by justice & said 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 sd be superadded, there would be more simplicity & equal propriety in an aggregate fund for the aggregate debt funded; and that if no other funds should be superadded it wd. be unjust & impolitic; that the States whose Citizens were the chief creditors of the U. S. wd never concur in such a measure; that the mercantile interest which comprehended the chief Creditors of Pena. had by their influence obtained the prompt & 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 wd. not disband unless provision sd. 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 wd recommend it to all the States; that distinct & specific appropriations 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 wd be best to wait till all the funds were agreed upon & then appropriate them respectively to those debts to which they sd 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 wd be a revenue little felt it would be prudent to assign it to those for whom the States wd. care least, leaving more obnoxious revenues for those Creditors who wd excite the Sympathy of their Countrymen and cd stimulate them to do justice.
Mr. Williamson was agst. the motion; said he did not wish the army to disband until proper provision should be made for them; that if force sd 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 & 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, N. H. no, Mass. no, Cont no, N. J. no, Virga. no, (Mr. Lee and Mr. Mercer ay) N. C. no, S. Carolina, ay.
On the clause reported by the Come of the whole in favor of limiting the impost to 25 years, the States were N. H. ay Mas. ay Cont divd; (Mr. Dyer ay, Mr. Wolcot no) N. Y. no, N. J. no, Pa. ay (Mr. Wilson & Mr. Fitzsimmons no) Va ay (Mr. Bland no) N. Carolina ay, S. 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 controul, & be amenable to Congs, there were 7 ays N. Y. & Pena being no & N. J. divided.
THURSDAY, FEBY. 20, 1783.
The motion for limiting the impost to 25 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. Wolcot & Mr. Hamilton repeat the inadequacy of a definite term. Mr. Ramsay & Mr. Williamson repeat the improbability of an indefinite term being acceded to by the States, & 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; & the policy of dividing them from the military Creditors, reprobated every measure which contravened the principles of justice & public faith; and asked whether it were likely that Mas: & Pa, to whose Citizens half the loan office debt was owing would concur with Virga, 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 U. S. He was against a limitation to 25 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. Fitzsimmons 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. Ghoram 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 sd. be explained, that if the former scale for the loan office certificates was to be revised and reduced as one member from Virga (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 arrangemts. 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 & that it ought to be revised & reduced.
On the question for the period of 25 years it was decided in the affirmative seven States being in favor of it; N. Jersey & N. York only being no.
Mr. Mercer called the attention of Congress to the case of the goods seized under a law of Pena, on which the Come had not yet reported, and wished that Congs. would come to some resolution declaratory of their rights & which would lead to an effectual interposition on the part of the Legislature of Pena. After much conversation on the subject in which the members were somewhat divided as to the degree of peremptoriness with which the State of Pa should be called on, the Resolution on the Journal, was finally adopted; having been drawn up by the Secy, & put into the hands of a member.
[The evening of this day was spent at Mr. Fitzsimmons’ by Mr. Ghoram, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Peters, Mr. Carrol, & 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 wd operate equally throughout the States, or be adopted by them. On the second subject Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Peters who had the best knowledge of the temper, transactions & 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 & 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 Com̃ander was already become extremely unpopular among almost all ranks from his known dislike to every unlawful proceeding, that this unpopularity was daily increasing & industriously promoted by many leading characters; that his choice of unfit & 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 & confidence of the army in order to substitute Genl [erased & illegible] as the conductor of their efforts to obtain justice. Mr. Hamilton said that he knew Genl. 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 & his 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 & directed to proper objects, & exclude some other leader who might foment and misguide their councils; that with this view he had taken the liberty to write to the Genl. on this subject and to recommend such a policy to him.]
FRIDAY, FEBY. 21.
Mr. Mercer made some remarks tending to a re-consideration of ye 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 & that this difference of construction had materially affected their reasonings & opinions on the several propositions which had been made; that in particular it had been represented by sundry members that Congress was merely an Executive body; and therefore that it was inconsistent with the principles of liberty & the spirit of the Constitution, to submit to them a permanent revenue which wd be placing the purse & 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 on 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 & dispensed by them in the discharge of the debts to wch. it sd. 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, Congs had clearly & expressly the right to fix the quantum of revenue necessary for the public exigencies, & to require the same from the States respectively in proportion to the value of their 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 Congs.; that as a proof that the power of fixing the quantum & 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 B. Parliamt., & leaving to the American Assemblies the privilege of complying in their own modes, & to the reasonings of Congress & the several States on that proposition. He observed further that by the articles of Confederation was delegated to Congs. a right to borrow money indefinitely, and emit bills of Credit which was a species of borrowing, for repayment & redemption of which the faith of the States was pledged & their legislatures constitutionally bound. He asked whether these powers were reconcileable with the idea that Congress was a body merely Executive? He asked what would be thought in G. B., from whose Constitution our Political reasonings were so much drawn, of an attempt to prove that a power of making requisitions of money on ye Parliament & of borrowing money for discharge of which the Parlt sd be bound, might be annexed to the Crown without changing its quality of an Executive branch, and that the leaving to the Parliamt the mode only of complying with the requisitions of the Crown would be leaving to it its supreme & exclusive power of Legislation?
As to the second point he referred again to the British Constitution & 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 & irrevocable revenue was granted by the Legislature, to be collected & 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 Congs, to be collected & 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 agst. such an establisht, was another question. For his part although for various reasons1 he had wished for such a plan as most eligible, he had never been sanguine that it was practicable & 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 & to call for the deficiency in the most permanent way that could be reconciled with a revenue established within each State separately & appropriated to the Common Treasury. He said the rule which he had laid down to himself in this business was to concur in every arrangemt. that sd appear necessary for an honorable & just fulfilment of the public engagements; & in no measure tending to augment the power of Congress which sd 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 I it being then represented as essential to the support of the Govt, 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 & ought not to concur in granting to Congress a permanent revenue, that some States as Virga, would receive back a small part by paymt from the U. S. to its Citizens, whilst others as Pena, wd. receive a vast surplus; & consequently by 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 & do every thing in his power to destroy its existence; that if Congs had a right to borrow money as they pleased and to make requisitions on the States that wd 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 & accompanied with full information, that the States must be left to judge of the nature of them, of their abilities to comply with them & to regulate their compliance accordingly; he laid great stress on the omission of Congs to transmit half yearly to the States an acct of the monies 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 & his opinion that some defalcations would be necessary.
Mr. Holten 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, & pointed out the difference between the nature of the Constitution of the British Executive & that of the U. S. in answer to Mr. Lee’s reasoning from the case of Ship money.
Mr. Ghoram adverted with some warmth to the doctrines advanced by Mr. Lee & 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 & 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 Come., consisting of Mr. Ghoram, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, Mr. Fitzsimmons & Mr. Rutledge.1
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25.
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;1 since Congress had no independent fund out of which it could be fulfilled, and the States of Cont. & R. I., in particular would not comply with any recommendation of Cong 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. Wolcot said the States wd. give Congs nothing whatever unless they were gratified in this particular. Mr. Collins said R. I. had expressly instructed her delegates to oppose every measure tending to an execution of the promise out of monies under the disposition of Congress.
On the other side it was urged that the half pay was a debt as solemnly contracted as any other debt; and was, consequently, as binding under the 12th article of the Confederation on the States, & 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 Congs wd 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 U. S. 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, altho’ 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 cd 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 ½ pay sd. 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 part or to the whole, or might substitute any other arbitrary rule which they should think fit. The motion of Mr. Gilman was negatived. See the ays & noes on the Journal.1
WEDNESDAY, FEBY. 26.
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 Chesapeak, notwithstanding the pacific professions of the Enemy; that it was probable howẽr that if complaint were to be made to the British Commander at N. 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 2ded by Mr. Peters. By Mr. Fitzsimmons the motion was viewed as tending to a request of favors from Sr Guy Carleton. It was apprehended by others that, as Genl Washington & 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 cd 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 & Mr. Mercer as it stands on the Journal was proposed and agreed to as free from all objections.1
A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton to give a brevet comm̃ion. to Majr Burnet, aid to Genl Greene & messenger of the evacuation of Charleston, of L Colonel; there being six ayes only the motion was lost. N. H., no, Mr. Lee & 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 (Virga) having disagreed to such a measure, on a former recom̃endation 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 & 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 & within the spirit of the Confederation; according to which apportionmts 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 wd. 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 sd be prepared for recom̃endation to the States it would be proper for Congs to take into consideration & combine with it every object1 which might facilitate its progress, & for a complete provision for the tranquillity of the U. 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 to.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27TH.
On the report of the Come 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 & Wolcot, 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 & perpetuate a monied interest in the U. S.; that this monied interest would gain the ascendance of the landed interest, would resort to places of luxury & splendor, and, by their example & influence, become dangerous to our republican constitutions. He said however that the variances of opinion & indecision of Congress were alarming & required that something should be done; that it wd be better to new-model the Confederation, or attempt any thing, rather than to do nothing.
Mr. Madison reminded Congs, that the commutation proposed was introduced as a compromise with those to whom the idea of pensions was obnoxious & observed that those whose scruples had been relieved by it had rendered it no less obnoxious than pensions 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 & truly said to be impossible; if funding them & paying the interest was proposed, it was exclaimed agst as establishing a dangerous moneied 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 & constitutions, than a violation of the maxims of good faith and common honesty. It was agreed that the report for commuting ½ 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 Comme, consisting of Mr. Ghoram Mr. Hamilton Mr. Madison Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Fitzsimmons, was taken up. It was proposed that in addition to the impost of 5 Per Ct. ad valorem the States be requested to enable Congs to collect a duty of ⅛ of a dollar per bushel on salt imported; of per Gallon on all wines do. and of per Gallon on all rum & brandy do.
On the first article it was observed on the part of the East: States, that this would press peculiarly hard on them on acct 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 & more dispersed settlements of the Southern States, required a greater consumption of salt for their provisions, that salt might & 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 & that the rum in the N. E. 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 governt with ease or certainty.
Mr. Mercer on this occasion declared that altho’ 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, & 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 9 ays, N. H. alone being no, R. I. not present.
It was urged by some that the duty on wine should be augmented; but it appeared on discussion & some calculations, that the temptation to smuggling wd be rendered too strong, & 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.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28.
A motion was made by Mr. Wolcot and Mr. Dyer to refer the half pay to the States, little differing from the late motion of Mr. Gilman, except that it specified 5 years’ whole pay as the proper ground of composition with the Officers of the respective lines. On this proposition the arguments used for and agst. Mr. Gilman’s motion were recapitulated. It was negatived, Cont. alone answering in the affirmative, and no division being called for.
On the question to agree to the report for a commutation of 5 years’ whole pay, there being 7 ays 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 7 or 9 votes were to decide doubts whether 7 or 9 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 sd. stand unless altered by a positive instruction from Congs. To this it was objected that it wd. make the Secy. the Sovereign in many cases, since a reversal of his entry wd be impossible, whatever that entry might be; that particularly he might enter 7 votes to be affirmative on a question where 9 were necessary, and if supported in it by a few States it wd. be irrevocable. It was said, by others, that the safest rule wd be to require 9 votes to decide in all cases of doubt whether 9 or 7 were necessary. To this it was objected that one or two States, and in any situation 6 States might by raising doubts, stop seven from acting in any case which they disapproved. Fortunately on the case in question there were 9 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 Come was reinstated, and the whole report recom̃itted to be included with the 5 Per Ct ad valorem, in an Act of recom̃endation to the States.
MONDAY MARCH 3D.
The Comme on revenues, reported in addition to the former articles recommended by them, a duty of ⅔ of a dollar per 112 lbs on all brown sugar, 1 dollar on all powdered, lumped & clayed sugars, other than loaf sugar, 1⅓ dollar per 112 lbs. on all loaf sugars, of a dollar per lb on all Bohea Teas, and of a dollar on all finer Indian Teas. This report without debate or opposition was recommitted to be incorporated with the general plan.
TUESDAY MARCH 4. & WEDNESDAY MARCH 5.
The motion of Mr. Hamilton on the Journal, relative to the abatement of the quotas of distressed States1 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 Congs immediately to take any steps thereon. They considered the resignation as conditional, and that if it sd eventually take place at the time designated, there was no necessity for immediate provision to be made.
Mr. Bland moved that1 &c (see Journal of Mar. 5).
This motion produced on these two days lengthy & warm debates, Mr. Lee & 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 Congs, & Mr. Lee declared that the man who had published to all the world such a picture of our national character & finances was unfit to be a Minister of the latter. On the other side Mr. Wilson & Mr. Hamilton went into a copious defence & Panegyric of Mr. Morris, the ruin in which his resignation if it sd take effect wd. involve public credit and all the operations dependent on it; and the decency altho’ firmness, of his letters. The former observed that the declaration of Mr. Morris, that he wd. not be the minister of Injustice cd not be meant to reflect on Congs, 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 & 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 & tendency was to re-establish 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 Comme appointed generally on the letters of Mr. Morris.1
THURSDAY MARCH 6.
The come on Revenue made a report which was ordered to be printed for each member, and to be taken up on monday next.
FRIDAY MARCH 7.
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 & honorable discharge of the public debts, to vest in the U. S. in Congs assemd. a power to levy for the use of the U. S. a duty of 5 Per Ct ad valorem, at the time and place of importation, upon all goods, wares & merchandizes of foreign growth & 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 U. States or any of them; and except wool cards, cotton cards, & wire for making them; and also except Salt during the war:
(2.) Also a like duty of 5 Per Ct ad valorem, on all prizes & prize goods condemned in the Court of Admiralty of any of these United States as lawful prize:
(3.) Also to levy a duty of ⅛ of a dollar per bushel on all salt imported as aforesaid after the war; of a dollar per gallon on all wines, of a dollar per gallon on all rum and brandy; ⅔ of a dollar per 112 lbs on all brown sugars, 1 dollar per 112 lbs on all powdered, lump and clayed sugars other than loaf sugars, 1⅓d° per 112 lbs on all loaf sugars; of a dollar per pound on all Bohea Tea, and of a dollar per lb on all finer India teas, imported as aforesaid, after —— ——, in addition to the five per Ct 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 U. S. for supporting the present war, nor be continued for a longer term than 25 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 & removable by the U. S. Congs. assd. 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 U. S. in Congs assd.
(5.) That it be further recommended to the several States to establish for a like term not exceeding 25 years, and to appropriate to the discharge of the interest & principal of the debts which shall have been contracted on the faith of the U. S., 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 aforementioned revenues shall be made out & 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 untill 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 Congs. assembled:
(8.) That, as a further means, as well of hastening the extinguishment of the debts, as of establishing the harmony of the U. States, it be recommended to the States which have passed no acts towards complying with the resolutions of Congress of the 6th of Sepr and the 10th of Octr, 1870, relative to territorial cessions, to make the liberal cessions therein recommended, & to the States which may have passed acts complying with the said resolutions in part only, to revise & 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 & 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 U. S. and individual States, all reasonable expenses which shall have been incurred by the States without the sanction of Congs., in their defence agst. 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, & 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.
(12) “So much of the 8th of the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union between the thirteen States of America as is contained in the words following to wit ‘All charges of war &c (to the end of the paragraph)—[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 charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare and allowed by the U. S. 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 & condition, except Indians not paying taxes in each State; which number shall be triennially taken & transmitted to the U. S. in Congs 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 of1 —years.”
MONDAY, MARCH 10.
See the Journal. 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 expressed on the journal, and not agreed to.1
TUESDAY, MARCH 11.
The Report entered on Friday, the 7 of March was taken into consideration. It had been sent by order of Congs. to the Supt of Finance for his remarks which were also on the table. These remarks were in substance: that it wd be better to turn the 5 per ct 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 ¼ 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 co-existent with the public debts; the whole to be collected by persons appd. by Congs. alone. And that an alternative ought to be held out to ye States, either to establish these 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 Cons on these ideas it was proposed that the following short questions sd be taken:
1. Shall any taxes to operate generally throughout the States, be recommended by Congs other than duties on foreign commerce?
2. Shall the 5 Per C ad valorem be exchanged for a tariff?
3. Shall the alternative be adopted, as proposed by the Superintendt of Finance?
On the 1st. question the States were, N. H. no, Mas: no, Cont no, N. J. no, Maryd no, Virga. no, 6 noes & 5 ays.
On the 2d question there were 7 ays.
The 3d. question was not put, its impropriety being generally proclaimed.
In consequence of the 2d. vote in favor of a tariff, the 3 first paragraphs of the Rept. were recommitted together with the letter from the Superintedt. of Finance.
On the fourth Par. on motion of Mr. Dyer, after the word “war,” in line 5, was inserted “agreeably to the resolution of the 16 of Decr. last.”
A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Wilson to strike out the limitation of 25 years and to make the revenue co-existent with the debts. This question was lost, the States being N. H., no, Mas., no, Contt divd, N. Y., ay, N. J., ay, Pa, ay, Del., ay, Maryd., ay, Va., no, N. C., ay, S. C., no.
A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Wilson to strike out the clauses relative to the appointment of Collectors, and to provide that the Collectors sd be inhabitants of the States within which they sd collect should be nominated by Congs, 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 5 ayes and 6 noes.1
WEDNESDAY 12, TH. 13, F. 14, S. 15 OF MARCH.
These days were employed in reading the despatches brought on Wednesday morning by Capt. Barney commanding the Washington Packet. They were dated from Decr. 4 to 24, from the Ministers Plenipo: for peace, with journals of preceding transactions, and were accompanied by the Preliminary articles signed on the 30th of Novr., between the said Ministers & Mr. Oswald the British Minister.
The terms granted to America appeared to Congs. on the whole extremely liberal.1 It was observed by several however that the stipulation obliging Congs. to recommend to the States a restitution of confiscated property, altho’ it could scarcely be understood that the States would comply, had the appearance of sacrificing the dignity of Congs., to the pride of the British King.
The separate & secret manner in which our Ministers had proceeded with respect to France & the confidential manner with respect to the British Ministers affected different members of Congs. very 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. A. & Dr. F., 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 G. B. not for the sake of the territory ceded to her, but as a means of disuniting the U. S. & France, as inconsistent with the spirit of the Alliance, and a dishonorable departure from the candor rectitude & plain dealing professed by Congs.. The dilemma in wch. Congs. were placed was sorely felt. If they sd communicate to the F. Minister every thing they exposed their own Ministers, destroyed all confidence in them on the part of France & might engage them in dangerous factions agst Congs, which was the more to be apprehended, as the terms obtained by their management were popular in their nature. If Congs sd conceal every thing, & the F. Court sd. either from the Enemy or otherwise come to the knowledge of it all confidence wd. be at an end between the allies; the enemy might be encouraged by it to make fresh experiments, & the public safety as well as the national honor be endangered. Upon the whole it was thought & observed by many that our Ministers particularly Mr. Jay, instead of making allowances for & affording facilities to France in her delicate situation between Spain & the U. S., had joined with the enemy in taking advantage of it to increase her perplexity; & that they had made the safety of their Country depend on the Sincerity of Ld Shelburne, which was suspected by all the world besides, and even by most of themselves. See Mr. L’s, letter Decr 24th.
The displeasure of the French Court at the neglect of our Ministers to maintain a confidential intercourse & particularly to communicate the preliminary articles before they were signed, was not only signified to the Secy of F. A., but to sundry members by the Chevr de la Luzerne. To the former he shewed a letter from Ct. de Vergennes directing him to remonstrate to Congs agst the conduct of the American Ministers; which a subsequent letter countermanded alledged that Docr F. had given some explanations that had been admitted; & 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, & asked if the Americans served him thus before peace was made, & 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 & displeased & that he said he did not think he had such allies to deal with. To one of them who asked whether the Ct. of F. meant to complain of them to Congs., M. Marbois answered that Great Powers never complained but that they felt & remembered. It did not appear from any circumstances that the separate article was known to the Court of F., or to the Chevr de la Luzerne.
The publication of the preliminary articles excepting the separate article in the Newspaper was not a deliberate act of Congs. A hasty question for enjoining secrecy on certain parts of the despatches which included those articles, was lost; and copies havg been taken by members & some of them handed to the Delegates of Pena, one of them reached the printer. When the publication appeared Congs 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 G. B. to France.
MONDAY, MARCH 17.
A letter was recd from Genl Washington inclosing two anonymous & inflammatory exhortations to the army to assemble for the purpose of seeking by other means, that justice which their Country shewed no disposition to afford them. The steps taken by the Genl to avert the gathering storm & his professions of inflexible adherence to his duty to Congress & to his Country, excited the most affectionate sentiments towards him. By private letters from the army & other circumstances there appeared good ground for suspecting that the Civil creditors were intriguing in order to inflame the army into such desperation as wd produce a general provision for the public debts. These papers were committed to Mr. Gilman Mr. Dyer, Mr. Clark Mr. Rutledge & Mr. Mercer. The appt. of These Gentlemen 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 & permanent funds; agst one or other of which the individuals in question had voted.
This alarming intelligence from the army added to the critical situation to wch. 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 Engagemts & securing the harmony of the U. S. & to the confusions apprehended from the approaching resignation of the Superintt of Finance, gave peculiar awe & solemnity to the present moment, & oppressed the minds of Congs. with an anxiety & distress which had been scarcely felt in any period of the revolution.1
TUESDAY MARCH 18.
On the report of the Committee to whom the 3 paragraphs of the Report on revenues (see March the 6 & 7) 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 &c &c (see 1vl 1 P).1
And upon all goods, except arms, ammunition & clothing or other articles,1 imported for the use of the U. S., a duty of 5 Per Ct ad valorem:
Provided that there be allowed a bounty of ⅛ of a dollar for every Quintal of dried fish exported from the U. S., 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 (see Journal) for a land tax [of ¼ of a dollar for 100 acres] other than those heretofore generally urged were that it was more moderate than had been paid before the revolution & it cd not be supposed the people wd grudge to pay as the price of their liberty what they formerly paid to their oppressors; that if it was unequal, this inequality wd 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 & consumed little.
On the opposite side it was alledged that such a tax was repugnant to the popular ideas of equality & particularly wd never be acceded to by the S. States at least unless they were to be respectively credited for the amount; and if such credit were to be given, it wd be best to let the States chuse such taxes as would best suit them.
A letter came in & was read from the Secy. of F. A. stating the perplexing alternative to which Congs. 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 & 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 Ct. of F. as to the sincerity of Congress or their Ministers.
2. That the sd. Ministers be informed of this communication, and instructed to agree that the limit for W. F., 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 U. S. & G. B. are not to take effect untill peace shall be actually signed between the Kings of F. & G. B.1
Ordered that to-morrow be assigned for the consideration of the said letter.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 19.
A letter was read from the Superintendt. of Finance, inclosing letters from Docr. Franklin, accompand with extracts from the Ct de Vergennes relative to money affairs, the Supt thereupon declaring roundly that our credit was at an end & that no further pecuniary aids were to be expected from Europe. Mr. Rutledge denied these assertions, & expressed some indignation at them. Mr. Bland said that as the Supt. was of this opinion it would be absurd for him to be Minister of Finance and moved that the Come on his motion for arranging the department might be instructed to report without loss of time. This motion was negatived as censuring the Come, but it was understood to be the sense of Congs that they sd. report.
The order of the day viz the letter from the Secretary of F. A. was taken up.
Mr. Wolcot conceived it unnecessary to waste time on the subject as he presumed Congs would never so far censure the Ministers who had obtained such terms for this country as to disavow their conduct.
Mr. Clarke was decided agst. communicating the separate article, which wd be sacrificing meritorious Ministers, & wd. 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 farther than to inform the Ministers that they were sorry for the necessity which had led them into the part they had taken, & to leave them to get rid of the embarrassmt as to the separate article in such a way as they sd. judge best. This expedient would save Congress & 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 & decided opinion that the Ministers had insulted Congress by sending them assertions without proof as reasons for violating their instructions, & throwing themselves into the confidence of G. B. He observed that France in order to make herself equal to the Enemy had been obliged to call for aid & had drawn Spain agst her interest into the war; that it was not improbable 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 G. B. an advantage in which our Ministers had concurred for sowing jealousies between F. & U. S. & of which further advantage wd 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 havg. gained this point may easily frustrate the negotiation & renew the war agst divided enemies. He approved of the conduct of the Count de Vergennes in promoting a treaty under the 1st. Comissn. to Oswald as preferring the substance to the shadow & 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 & a comedy to all the world beside. He felt inexpressible indignation at their meanly stopping, 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 & low cunning wch. marked the journals transmitted to Congress, and contrasted them with the honesty & good faith which became all nations & 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 wd 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, & may be only waiting the reception given to it by Congs. to see how far the hopes of cutting off the right arm of G. B. 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 wd. 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, & to suspect where there was no danger; that the honor of the King of F. was dear to him, that he never wd. betray or injure us unless he sd be provoked & justified by treachery on our part. For the present he acquiesced in the proposition of the Secy of Fn. As. But when the question should come to be put, he sd 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 agst them; and that facts would be ascertained & stated before any decision sd be passed; that the Ct. de Vergennes had expressly declared to our Ministers his desire that they might treat apart alluded to & animadverted upon the instruction which submitted them to French councils; was of opinion that the separate article did not concern France & therefore there was no necessity for communicating it to her; & 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 has 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 & on her own account. He sd he was for adhering religiously to the Spirit & letter of the treaty with France, that our Ministers had done so, & 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 Secy of F. A. might be referred to a special Comme, who might inquire into all the facts relative to the subject of it. Mr. Holten 2ded 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 Ct de Vergennes for treating apart they had not in that respect violated their instructions. He proposed that Congress sd express to the Ministers their concern at the separate article & leave them to get over the embarrassment as they shd. 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 wth 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 wd not themselves disclose it he would disclose to his Constituents who would disdain to be united with those who patronize such dishonorable proceedings. He was called to order by the Presidt, who said that the article in question was under an injunction of secrecy & 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 & 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 & 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 Ct 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 & France, but if the misfortune should ensue it could not be denied that it had originated with France, who had endeavoured 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 June 15 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 & coldness which prevailed between our Ministers & the French Court, inasmuch as it could not be viewed by the former without irritation & 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 & British Courts should be examined. He admitted it as not improbable that it had been the policy of France to procrastinate the definite acknowledgmt of our Independence on the part of G. B., in order to keep us more knit to herself & untill her own interests could be negotiated. The arguments how̃er, urged by our Ministers on this subject, although strong, were not conclusive; as it was not certain, that this policy & not a desire of excluding obstacles to peace, had produced ye opposition of the French Court to our demands. Caution & vigilance he thought were justified by the appearance & that alone. But compare this policy with that of G. B., survey the past cruelty & present duplicity of her councils, behold her watching every occasion & trying every project for dissolving the honorable ties which bind the U. S. to their Ally, & then say on which side our resentments & 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 shewing 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 & distrust of the U. S. He did not apprehend (with Mr. Mercer) any danger of a coalition between F. & G. B. against America, but foresaw the destruction of mutual Confidence between F. & the U. S., which wd. be likely to ensue, & 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 & jealous, her King old her Court divided & the heir apparent notoriously attached to G. B. From these circumstances he inferred an apprehension that when Spain shd 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 Ct of France, but that they all were agreed in the necessity of being on the watch against G. B. He apprehended that if the Ministers were to be recalled or reprehended, that they would be disgusted & head & foment parties in this Country. He observed particularly with respect to Mr. Jay that, altho’ he was a man of profound sagacity & pure integrity, yet he was of a suspicious temper, & that this trait might explain the extraordinary jealousies which he professed. He finally proposed that the Ministers sd. be commended and the separate article communicated. This motion was 2ded. by Mr. Osgood, as compared however with the proposition of the Secry. for F. A., 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 wd. be less painful to the feelings of the Ministers if the doing it was left to themselves; and was also in favor of giving the territory annexed by the Separate art. to W. 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 & moved that it might be referred to the Come, with the several propositions which had been made. Mr. Lee 2ded 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 Congs, 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. Altho’ 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 & most delicate mode in which it cd be done, he wished the communication to be left to themselves as they wd. be the best judges of the explanation which ought to be made for the concealment; & their feelings wd be less wounded than if it were made without their intervention. He observed that the separate article was not important in itself & became so only by the mysterious silence in which it was wrapt up. A candid and open declaration from our Ministers of the circumstances under which they acted & the necessity produced by them of pursuing the course marked out by the interest of their Country, wd. have been satisfactory to our Ally, wd. 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 15, 1781, when it appeared that no use had been made of the power given by it to the Ct. of France, that our Ministers had construed it in such a way as to leave them at full liberty; and that no one in Congs pretended to blame them on that acct. 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 U. S. to G. B. necessary & proper for obtaining peace & an acknowledgt. of Indepe. not where it respected concessions to other powers & for other purposes. He reminded Congress of the change which had taken place in our affairs since that instruction was passed,1 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 & in confidence with our Ally; & these instructions he said had been repeatedly confirmed in every stage of the Revolution by unanimous votes of Congress; Several of the Gentlemen present2 who now justified our Ministers having concurred in them, and one of them3 having penned two of the Acts, in one of which Congs 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 U. S. sd. 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 & 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 havg. 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 & good faith; unless a breach of these assurances and declarations cd be justified by an absolute necessity or some perfidy on the part of France; that it was manifest no such necessity could be pleaded, & as to perfidy on the part of France, nothing but suspicions & equivocal circumstances had been quoted in evidence of it, and even in these it appeared that our Ministers were divided; that the embarrassmt in which France was placed by the interfering claims of Spain & the U. S. must have been foreseen by our Ministers, and that the impartial public would expect that instead of co-operating with G. B. in taking advantage of this embarrassment, they ought to have made every allowance & given every facility to it consistent with a regard to the rights of their Constituents; that admitting every fact alledged 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 agst. them, or of any other design than that of reconciling them with those of Spain; that the hostile aspect wch. the separate art: 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 & even indignities which the U. S. had recd. from Spain it could neither be denied nor concealed that the former had derived many substantial advantages, from her taking part in the war & had even obtained some pecuniary aids; that the U. S. had made professions corresponding with these 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 U. S. and France; a renewal of the war therefore in some form or other was still to be apprehended & what would be our situation if France & 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 N. York agst W. Florida, as a proof of the illicit confidence into which our Ministers had been drawn, & urged the indispensable duty of Congs to communicate it to those concerned in it. He hoped that if a Come sd be appd for wch however he saw no necessity that this wd be included in their report & that their report wd. be made with as little delay as possible.
In the event the lettr. from the Secy. of F. A., with all the despatches & the several propositions which had been made, were committed to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Ghoram, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Clarke & Mr. Hamilton.
THURSDAY MARCH 20.
An instruction from the Legislature of Virga. to their Delegates agst. admitting into the Treaty of Peace any stipulation for restoring confiscated property was laid before Congress.
Also resolutions of the Executive Council of Penna. requesting the Delegates of that State to endeavour to obtain at least a reasonable term for making the payment of British debts stipulated in the preliminary articles lately recd..
These papers were committed to Mr. Osgood, Mr. Mercer & 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 wch was committed. This seemed to be extorted from him by the critical state of our affairs, himself personally & his State being opposed to it.
The Motion of Mr. Hamilton on the Journals,1 was meant as a testimony on his part of the insufficiency of the report of the Come. as to the establishmt of revenues, and as a final trial of the sense of Congs with respect to the practicability & 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 Come. if established by the States wd restore public credit among ourselves. He apprehended however that no limited funds wd procure loans abroad, which wd require funds commensurate to their duration.
Mr. Higginson described all attempts of Congs to provide for the public debts out of the mode prescribed by the Confederation, as nugatory; sd. that the States wd disregard them that the impost of 5 Pe Ct had passed in Massts by 2 voices only in the lower, & one in the upper house; and that the Govr. had never formally assented to the law; that it was probable this law wd be repealed, & almost certain that the extensive plans of Congress would be reprobated.
FRIDAY MARCH 21.
The Report on Revenue was taken into consideration; and the 5 and 6 paragraphs after discussion being judged not sufficiently explicit were recommitted to be made more so.
A motion was made by Mr. Clarke, 2ded by Mr. Bland to complete so much of the Report as related to an impost on Trade & 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 & 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 Congs to provide a system adequate to the public exigencies; & that such a system wd 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 wd feel a greater readiness to make mutual concessions & to disregard local considerations in proportion to the magnitude of the object held out to them.
The motion was disagreed to, N. J. being in favor of it & several other States divided.
SATURDAY 22. MARCH.
A letter was recd from Genl Washington inclosing 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 Genl had found it necessary & thought it his duty, to take, would give birth to events much more serious if they sd. not be obviated by the establishment of such funds as the Genl, as well as the army had declared to be necessary.1
The report of the come 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 wd tend to reconcile the State of Cont to the measure.
An order passed for granting 35 licenses for vessels belonging to Nantucket, to secure the Whaling vessels agst the penalty for double papers. This order was in consequence of a deputation to Congs representing the exposed situation of that island, the importance of the Whale fishery to the U. S., the danger of its being usurped by other nations & the concurrence of the Enemy in neutralizing such a number of Vessels as wd carry on the fisheries to an extent necessary for the support of the inhabitants.
The Come, to whom was referred the letter from the Secy of F. A., with the foreign despatches &c reported.
1. That our Ministers be thanked for their zeal & 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 Secy of F. A. inform them that it is the wish of Congress that 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 G. B. as towards France; that the separate article did not concern the interests of France & therefore could not involve the good faith of the U. S.
Mr. Lee agreed fully with Mr. Dyer, said that the special report of facts ought to have been made necessary for enabling Congs to form a just opinion of the Conduct of the Ministers, and moved that the report might be recommitted. Mr. Wolcott 2ded the motion which was evidently made for the sole purpose of delay. It was opposed by Mr. Clarke, Mr. Wilson & Mr. Ghoram the 1st. & last of whom had however no objection to postponing; by Mr. Mercer who repeated his abhorrence of the confidence shewn by our Ministers to those of G. B. said that it was about to realize the case of those who kicked down the ladder by wch they had been elevated, & of the viper which was ready to destroy the family of the man in whose bosom it had been restored to life, observed that it was unwise to prefer G. B. to Spain as our neighbours in W. Florida.
Mr. Higginson supported the sentiments of Mr. Lee, sd. that the Ct de V. had released our Ministers & that he agreed with those who thought the instruction of June 15. cd. relate only to questions directly between G. B. & U. S.
Mr. Holten thought there was no sufficient evidence for praise or blame; and that both ought to be suspended untill the true reasons sd. be stated by the Ministers. He supposed that the separate article had been made an ultimatum of the preliminaries by G. B. & that there might also be secret arts. between G. B. & F. If the latter were displeased he conceived that she wd. officially notify it. Mr. Rutledge was agst recommitting but for postponing. The motion for recommg 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 N. Y. agst W. Florida; as very reprehensible in the latter to become the depository of secrets hostile to the Friends of his Country, and that every motive of honor & prudence made it the duty of Congs to impart the matter to the Spaniards. To this effect a motion was made by Mr. Mercer 2ded 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 agst. every measure wch. seemed in any manner to blame ye. Ministers & the Eastern delegates in general extremely jealous of the honor of Mr. Adams, an adjournment was pressed & carried without any vote on the motion.
MONDAY MARCH 24TH.
On the day preceding this, intelligence arrived which was this day laid before Congs, that the Preliminaries for a general peace had been signed on the 20th. of Jany.. This intelligence was brought, by a French Cutter from Cadiz despatched by Ct. 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.1 This confirmation of peace produced the greater joy, as the preceding delay, the cautions of Mr. Lauren’s Letter of the 24 of Decr. and the general suspicions of Ld. Shelburne’s sincerity had rendered an immediate & general peace extremely problematical in the minds of many.
A letter was recd from Genl Carleton thro Genl. Washington inclosing a copy of the Preliminary articles between G. B. & the U. S., with the separate article annexed.
Mr. Carroll after taking notice of the embarrassment under which Congs. was placed by the injunction of secrecy as to the separate article after it had probably been disclosed in Europe & it now appeared was known at N. York, called the attention of Congs again to that subject.
Mr. Wolcot still contended that it would be premature to take any step relative to it, until further communications should be recd from our Ministers.
Mr. Gilman being of the same opinion, moved that the business be postponed. Mr. Lee 2ded it.
Mr. Wilson conceived it indispensably necessary that something should be done; that Congs deceived themselves if they supposed that the separate art: was any secret at N. York after it had been announced to them from Sr 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 instructions of June 15th. 1781, the Ct 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, & 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 Congs ought to pass over the separate article in the manner that had been urged; Congs ought he said to disapprove of it in the softest terms that could be devised & 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 & of its concealment, was done, that it would be an indelible stain on our character.
Mr. Clarke 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 sd 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 materials1 to justify the suspicions wch. had been manifested.
Mr. Rutledge was strenuous for postponing the subject, said that Congs had no occasion to meddle with it that the Ministers had done right, that they had maintained the honor of the U. S. after Congress had given it up; that the manœuvre practiced by them was common in all courts & was justifiable agst. 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 combatted the dangerous tendency of the Doctrine maintained by Mr. Rutledge with regard to instructions; and observed that the Delegates of Virga. havg been unanimously instructed not to conclude or discuss any Treaty of Peace but in confidence & in concert with his M. C. M. 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 & 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 & sd 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;1 which prohibition had not been violated in the case before Congress.
Mr. Lee was for postponing & burying in oblivion the whole transaction; he sd that delicacy to France required this; since if any thing should be done implying censure on our Ministers, it must & ought to be done in such a way as to fall ultimately on France whose unfaithful conduct had produced & 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 & 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 Sr Wm. 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 wd. enslave himself to the policy even of our Friends he could not but lament the overweening readiness which appeared in many to suspect everything on that side & 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 Sr. Wm. T. 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 steps 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.
TUESDAY NO CONGRESS.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 26.
Communication was made, thro’ the Secry. of F. A., by the Minister of France, as to the late negotiation, from letters recd by him from the Ct de Vergennes, dated in Decr last & brought by the Washington Packet. This communication shewed, though delicately that France was displeased with our Ministers for signing the prely. arts. separately; that she had labored by recommending mutual concessions to compromise disputes between Spain & the U. S., and that she was apprehensive that G. B. would hereafter as they already had endeavored to sow discords between them. It signified that the “intimacy between our Ministers & those of G. B.” furnished a handle for this purpose.
Besides the public communication to Congress other parts of letters from the Ct de Vergennes were privately communicated to the Presidt of Congs. & to sundry members, expressing more particularly the dissatisfaction of the Ct. of F. at the conduct of our Ministers; and urging the necessity of establishing permanent revenues for paying our debts & supporting a national character. The substance of these private communications, as taken on the 23. instant by the President, is as follows;
“That the Ct. de Vergennes was alarmed at the extravagant demands of Docr. Franklin in behalf of the U. S.; 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 U. S., and no one could be found who would risque their money under such circumstances; that the King would be glad to know what funds were provided for the security and payment of the 10 Millions borrowed by him in Holland, that the Count de Vergennes hardly dared to report in favor of the U. S. to the King & 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 S. America, which prevented its flowing in the usual channels.”1 A letter of a later date added.
“That he had received the Chevrs letter of Ocr and rejoiced to find that Congress had provided funds for their debts, which gave him great encouragemt, and he had prevailed on the Comptroller General to join him in a report to his Majesty & Council for 6 Millions of livres for the U. S. to support the war, but assures the Chevalier de la Luzerne, that he must never again consent to a further application.”
“He complains of being treated with great indelicacy by the American Commissrs., they having signed the Treaty without any confidential communication, that had France treated America with the same indelicacy she might have signed her Treaty first as every thing between France & 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 Docr. Franklin waited on the Ct de Vergennes & acknowledged the indelicacy of their behavior & had prevailed on him to bury it in oblivion; that the English were endeavouring all in their power to sow seeds of discords between our Commissrs. & the Court of Spain, representing our claims to the Westward as extravagant and inadmissible, that it became Congress to be attentive to this business, & to prevent the ill effects that it might be attended with, that the King had informed the Court of Spain, that tho’ he heartily wished that the U. S. might enjoy a cordial coalition with his Cath Majesty, yet he should leave the whole affair entirely to the two States and not interfere otherwise than as by his counsel & advice when asked, that altho’ the U. S. 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 Congs would exert themselves to aid the common cause by some offensive operations against the Enemy, but if the British should evacuate the U. S., the King earnestly hoped Congs would take the most decided measures to prevent any intercourse with the British, and particularly in the way of merchandize or supplying them with provisions, wch would prove of the most dangerous tendency to the campaign in the W. Indies, that the British now had hopes of opening an extensive trade with America, tho’ the war should continue, which, if they should be disappointed in, might hasten the definitive Treaty, as it would raise a clamor among the people of England.
The Chevr. added that as he had misinformed his Court with regard to Congs having funded their debts, on which presumption the 6 Milon. had been granted, he hoped Congs. would enable him in his next despatches to give some satisfactory account to his Court on this head.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 27. THIS DAY NOT NOTED IN THE JOURNAL AS IN SOME OTHER INSTANCES.
Revenues taken up as reported Mar. 7.1
The 5 paragraph in the Report on Revenue havg. been judged not sufficiently explicit, and recommitted to be made more so, the following paragraph was recd. in its place viz “That it be further recommended to the several States, to establish for a term limited to 25 years, and to appropriate” &c (to the word 2 Million 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 untill 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. Clarke to restrain this apportionmt, in the first instance, to the term of 2 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 wd be substituted and therefore that the first apportionment might be continued throughout the 25 years, altho 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 wd. exist, whence confusion would proceed, & that an apprehension of it would destroy public Credit.
A motion was made by Mr. Bland, 2ded. by Mr. Lee to go back to the first part of the report & instead of the word “levy” an impost of 5 Per C., to substitute the word “collect” an impost &c. It was urged in favor of this motion that the first word imported a legislative idea, & 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 Congs sd have that power as well as that it might be varied from time to time as circumstances or experience sd. dictate, as that a uniformity might be observed throughout the States. On the motion of Mr. Clarke, the negative was voted by a large Majority, there being 4 ays only.
On the (8) parag. there was no argt or opposition.
The (9) 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 monies & supplies actually contributed in pursuance of requisitions of Congress, it be recommended to the States to enable the U. S., in Congs. assembld to make such equitable abatements & alterations as the particular circumstances of the States from time to time during the war may require, and as will divide the burden of such actual contributions 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. M., the votes of the States were, 5 ays, 6 noes, viz N. H. no—Cont no—N. J. no.—Delre no.—Maryld no.—S. C. no. the rest ay.
On the (10) paragraph relative to expences incurred by the States without the sanction of Congs., Mr. Clarke exclaimed agst. 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. Helmsly 2ded. the motion.
Mr. Madison said that the effects of rejecting this paragraph wd be so extensive that a full consideration of it ought at least to precede such a step that the expences referred to in the paragraph were, in part such as would have been previously sanctioned by Congs., if application cd. have been made; since similar ones had been so with respect to States within the vicinity of Congs and therefore complaints of injustice would follow a refusal; that another part of the expences had been incurred in support of claims to the territory of which cessions were asked by Congs, and therefore these cd. not be expected, if the expences 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 Congs, whilst they might with a good grace yield it in the first instance; not to mention that these unliquidated & unallowed claims would produce hereafter such contests & heats among the States as wd probably destroy the plan even if it sd. 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. Ghorham were earnest in favor of it, remarking that the distance of Massachusetts from Congs had denied a previous sanction to the Militia operations agst. 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 Congs, had been obliged to incur expences 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 wd. be the case if their expenses should be sanctioned in the lump; he proposed therefore that these expences sd. 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 paragh were very loose, & that it wd be proper to make them as definite as the case wd admit; he supposed however that all operations agst the enemy within the limits assigned to the U. S. might be considered as defensive, & in that view the expedition agst 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 wd be best perhaps for Congress to determine & declare that they wd constitute a tribunal of impartial persons to decide on oath as to the propriety of claims of States not authorized heretofore by Congs. He sd this wd be a better security to the States & wd be more satisfactory than the decisions of Congs, the members of wch did not act on oath, & 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.
(11 & 12 Paraghs) Mr. Bland opposed it: sd that the value of land was the best rule, and that at any rate no change sd be attempted untill its practicability sd be tried.
Mr. Madison thought the value of land, could never be justly or satisfactorily obtained; that it wd ever be a source of contentions among the States, and that as a repetition of the valuation would be within the course of the 25 years, it wd unless exchanged for a more simple rule mar the whole plan.
Mr. Ghorham was in favr of the paraghs. He represented in strong terms the inequality & clamors produced by valuations of land in the State of Massts & the probability of the evils being increased among the States themselves which were less tied together & more likely to be jealous of each other.
Mr. Williamson was in favr of the paraghs.
Mr. Wilson was strenuous in favor of it, sd he was in Congs 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 & Southern States as to the value of Slaves compared with the Whites, the alternative in question.
Mr. Clarke was in favor of them. He said that he was also in Congs when this article was decided that the Southern States wd have agreed to numbers, in preference to the value of land if ½ their Slaves only sd 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 & that the blank might be filled up, the clause was recommitted.
FRIDAY MARCH 28.
The Come. last mentd., reported that two blacks be rated as one freeman.
Mr. Wolcott was for rating them as 4 to 3.
Mr. Carrol as 4 to 1.
Mr. Williamson sd he was principled agst slavery; & that he thought slaves an incumbrance to Society instead of increasing its ability to pay taxes.
Mr. Higginson as 4 to 3.
Mr. Rutledge sd, for the sake of the object he wd agree to rate Slaves as 2 to 1, but he sincerely thought 3 to 1 would be a juster proportion.
Mr. Holten as 4 to 3.
Mr. Osgood sd he cd. not go beyond 4 to 3.
On a question for rating them as 3 to 2 the votes were N. H., ay. Mas., no. R. I., divd. Cont, ay. N. J., ay. Pa, ay. Delr, ay. Maryd, no. Virga, no. N. C., no. S. C., 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 wd be agreed to.
After some further discussions on the report in which the necessity of some simple & 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 wd propose that Slaves should be rated as 5 to 3. Mr. Rutledge 2ded the motion. Mr. Wilson sd he would sacrifice his opinion on this compromise.
Mr. Lee was agst changing the rule, but gave it as his opinion that 2 slaves were not equal to 1 freeman.
On the question for 5 to 3 it passed in the affirmative N. H. ay. Mass. divd R. I., no. Cont no. N. J. ay. Pa, ay Maryd, ay Va, ay N. C. ay. S. C. ay.
A motion was then made by Mr. Bland, 2ded by Mr. Lee to strike out the clause so amended and on the question “shall it stand” it passed in the negative; N. H. ay. Mas: no. R. I. no. Conn. no. N. J., ay. Pa, ay. Del. no. Mar. ay. Virga, ay. N. C., ay. S. C., no; so the clause was struck out.
The arguments used by those who were for rating slaves high were, that the expence of feeding & clothing them was as far below that incident to freemen as their industry & ingenuity were below those of freemen; and that the warm climate within wch the States having slaves lay, compared wth the rigorous climate & inferior fertility of the others, ought to have great weight in the case & 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, & omitted every exertion of thought requisite to facilitate & 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; & that in fact the balance of trade formerly was much more agst the So. States than the others.
On the main question see Journals.1
SATURDAY MARCH 29TH.
The objections urged agst the motion of Mr. Lee on the Journal calling for a specific Report of the Supt. of Finance as to monies passing thro’ his hands were that the information demanded from the Office of Finance had during a great part of the period, been laid before Congress & 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 Superintendt to those who were to expend the money, it was unnecessary, the Superintendt being already impressed with his duty on that subject; that if it meant the ultimate payment for articles or service for the public, it imposed a task that wd be impracticable to the Superint, and useless to Congress, who could no otherwise examine them than through the department of Accounts & the Committees appd half yearly for enquiring into the whole proceedings; & 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 wd. 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 & comprehend every information practicable & necessary for Congs. to know, & 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, & to be too voluminous a task; but the question was taken without a convenient opportunity of correcting it. The motion was negatived. See the Journal.2
MONDAY MARCH 31.
A letter was recd from the Govr of R. Island with resolutions of the Legislature of that State justifying the conduct of Mr. Howell.
On the arrival of the French Cutter with the acct 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 N. Y. In addition to this it was proposed by the Secy of F. A. and urged by the Delegates of Pa, by Mr. Lee, Mr. Rutledge & others, that Congress should signify their desire & expectation that hostilities shd be suspended at sea on the part of the Enemy. The arguments urged were that the effusion of blood might be immediately stopped & the trade of the Country rescued from depredation. It was observed on the other side that such a proposition derogated from the dignity of Congs; shewed an undue precipitancy; that the intelligence was not authentic enough to justify the British com̃anders in complying with such an overture, and therefore that Congs would be exposed to the mortification of a refusal. The former consideration prevailed & a verbal sanction was given to Mr. Livingston’s expressing to the sd com̃anders the expectation of Congs.. This day their answers were recd addressed to Robt R. Livingston, Esqr &c &c &c declining to accede to the stopping of hostilities at sea & urging the necessity of authentic orders from G. B. 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 sd be revoked: and that the Executives sd be requested to embargo all vessels. Congs were generally sensible after the ret. of these papers that they had committed themselves in proposing to the British Commanders at N. Y., a stop to naval hostilities, & were exceedingly at a loss to extricate themselves. On one side they were unwilling to publish to the world the affront they had recd, especially as no written order had been given for the correspondence and on the other it was necessary yt. 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 Col: Bland, & Genl Mifflin, that the Secy of F. A. should be directed verbally to publish the letters from Carleton & 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 & send them to the press & that the subject should lie over for further consideration.
TUESDAY APRIL 1.
Mr. Ghorham 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 Massts., were with N. Y. about to form a convention for regulating matters of common concern, & that if any plan should be sent out by Congs. during their session, they would probably co-operate with Congs. in giving effect to it.
Mr. Mercer expressed great disquietude at this information, considered it as a dangerous precedent, & that it behoved the Gentleman to explain fully the objects of the Convention, as it would be necessary for the S. 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 agst. an interference of taxes among States, whose local situation required such precautions; and that if nothing was definitively concluded without the previous communication to & sanction of Congs, 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 & contravening the spirit of the federal Governmt. He said they had the appearance of young Congresses.
Mr. Ghorham explains as Mr. Osgood.
Mr. Madison & Mr. Hamilton disapproved of these partial conventions, not as absolute violations of the Confederacy, but as ultimately leading to them & in the mean time exciting pernicious jealousies; the latter observing that he wished instead of them to see a General Convention take place & that he sd. soon in pursuance of instructions from his Constituents propose to Congs. a plan for that purpose, the object wd. be to strengthen the federal Constitution.
Mr. White informed Congs. that N. Hampshire had declined to accede to a 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.
These observations having put an end to the subject, Congs 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 2ded. 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 & despair on both sides of a more favorable rate of the slaves. The rate of ⅗ was agreed to without opposition. On a preliminary question, the apportionmt. of the sum & revision of the same refd to Grand Come.1
The Report as to the Resignation of Foreign Ministers was taken up & in the case of Mr. Jefferson see Journal.1 The Eastern delegates were averse to doing anything as to Mr. Adams untill further advices sd be received. Mr. Laurens was indulged not without some opposition. The acceptance of his resignation was particularly enforced by Mr. Izard.
WEDNESDAY APL 3.—THURSDAY APL 4.—FRIDAY APL. 5.—SATURDAY APL. 6.2 See Journals.
The Grand Come. appointed to consider the proportions for the blanks in the Rept on Revenue &c, reported the following, grounded on the number of Inhabitants in each State; observing that N. H., R. I., Cont., & Mard. had produced authentic documents of their numbers; & 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 aggregate debt to 2, 500,000 Drs
A Come, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison & — 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 & naval establishments; and also to carry into execution the regulation of weights & measures & other articles of the Confederation not attended to during the war. To the same Come. was referred a resolution of the Executive Council of Pa., requesting the delegates of that State to urge Congs to establish a general peace with the Indians.
MONDAY APRIL 7.
The sense of Congs having been taken on the truth of the numbers reported by the Grand Committee, the no. allotted to S. C. was reduced to 150,000, on the representation of the Delegates of that State. The Delegates of N. J. contended also for a reduction, but were unsuccessful. Those of Virga also, on the principle that Congs. 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 wd be varied. To this reasoning were opposed the verbal & credible information recd. from different persons & particularly Mr. Mercer, which made the no. of Inhabitants in Va, after deducting ⅖ of the Slaves, exceed the number allotted to that State. Congs. were almost unanimous agst. the reduction. A motion was made by Mr. Gervais, 2d. by Mr. Madison to reduce the no. of Georgia to 15,000., on the probability that their real no. did not exceed it, & the cruelty of overloading a State which had been so much torn & exhausted by the war. The motion met with little support & was almost unanimously negatived.
A letter was recd from Genl Washington expressing the joy of the army at the signing of the general preliminaries notified to him & their satisfaction at the commutation of half pay agreed to by Congs.1
TUESDAY APRIL 8TH.
Estimate of the debt of the U. S., reported by the Grand Committee.
A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton who had been absent on the question on the 9th paragraph of the Report on Revenue assessing quotas, to reconsider the same. Mr. Floyd who, being the only delegate from N. Y. then present on that question cd. not vote, 2ded the motion. For the argts repeated see the former remarks on the 7th. of Apl.
On the question the votes were Mas: no. R. I. no. Cont. no. N. Y. ay. N. J. no. Pa ay. Maryd., no. Virga. ay. S. C. no.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 9.
A memorial was recd from Genl. Hazen in behalf of the Canadians who had engaged in the cause of the U. S., praying that a tract of vacant land on L. Erie might be allotted to them.
Mr. Wilson thereupon moved that a Come 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; & the necessity on the part of Congress of taking care of the federal interests in the formation of new States which could not take place by the authority of any particular States.
Mr. Madison observed that the appointment of such a Come. could not be necessary at this juncture & might be injurious that Congs 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 W. Territory to cede the same; that until the result sd be known every thing wd be premature & wd excite in the States irritations & jealousies that might frustate the Cessions; that it was indispensable to obtain these Cessions, in order to compromise the disputes, & to derive advantage from the territory to the U. S.; 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 & disposing of garrisons proper to be kept up in that Country was the object it was already in the hands of the Come. on peace arrangements, but might be expressly referred to them.
Mr. Mercer supported the same ideas.
Mr. Clarke considered the motion as nowise connected with the peace arrangements; his object was to define the western limits of the States which Congs. alone cd. do, and which it was necessary they sd do in order to know what territory properly belonged to the U. S., and what steps ought to be taken relative to it. He disapproved of repeatedly courting the States to make Cessions wch. Congs stood in no need of.
Mr. Wilson seemed to consider as the property of the U. S. all territory over which particular States had not exercised jurisdiction particularly N. W. of Ohio, & said that within the Country confirmed to the U. S. 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 Pena had maintained always a Contrary Doctrine; that if it were a criterion Va. had exercised jurisdiction over the Illinois & other places conquered N. W. of the Ohio; that it was uncertain whether the limits of the U. S., as fixed by the Provl. Arts, did comprehend any territory out of the claims of the individual States; that sd. it be the case a decision or examination of the point had best be put off till it sd be seen whether Cessions of the States wd not render it unnecessary; that it cd not be immediately necessary for the purpose of preventing settlemts. on such extra lands, since they must lie too remote to be in danger of it. Congress refused to refer the motion to the Come. on peace arrang̃ents, and by a large majority referred it to a Special Come., viz Mrs. Osgood, Wilson Madison, Carrol & Williamson; to whom was also referred the Meml of Genl Hazen.
On the preceding question, Cont was strenuous in favr. of Mr. Wilson’s motion.
A motion was made by Mr. Dyer to strike out the drawback on salt fish &c. Mr. Ghorham protested in the most solemn manner that Massts wd. never accede to the plan without the drawback. The motion was very little supported.
THURSDAY APL. 10.
Letters recd from Genl Carleton & Admiral Digby inclosing British proclamation1 of cessation of arms & also letters from Docr Franklin & Mr. Adams notifying the conclusion of Preliminaries between G. B. & F. & Spain, with a declaration entered into with Mr. Fitzherbert applying the epochs of cessation to the case of G. B. & the U. S. These papers were referred to the Secy of F. A. to report a proclamation for Congs at 6 O’Clock, at which time Congs met & recd report nearly as it stands on the Journal of Friday Apl 11.2 After some consideration of the Report as to the accuracy & propriety of which a diversity of sentiments prevailed, they postponed it till next day. The Secy also reported a Resolution directing the Secy at War and Agent of Marine to discharge all prisoners of war.
FRIDAY APL 11.
This day was spent in discussing the Proclamation which passed. Mr. Wilson proposed an abbreviation of it which was disagreed to. The difficultys attending it were that 1st the Agreement of our Ministers with Fitzherbert that the Epochs with Spain as well as France sd be applied to the U. S. to be computed from the ratifications which happened at different times, the former on the 3d., the latter on the 9th, of Feby; 2d. the circumstance of the Epochs having passed at wch the Cessation of hostilities was to be enjoined. The impatience of Congs did not admit of proper attention to these & some other points of the Proclamation; particularly the authoritative style of enjoining an observance on the U. S., the Govrs &c. It was agst these absurdities & improprieties that the solitary no of Mr. Mercer was pointed. See the Journal.
SATURDAY APL 12.
A letter of the 16th. of Dec[Editor: illegible figure] O. S. was recd. from Mr. Dana, in which he intimates that in consequence of the news of peace taking place & independence being acknowledged by G. B. he expected soon to take his proper station at the Ct of St. Petersburg & 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 Com̃erce, he apprehended there must be some mistake on the part of Mr. Dana; that it wd be proper to inquire into the matter & let him know the intentions of Congs on this subject. The letter was committed to Mr. Madison Mr. Ghorham & Mr. Fitzsimmons.
Mr. Rutledge observed that as ye. 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 G. B. He said he did not pretend to commercial knowledge but thought it wd be well for the U. S. to enter into commercial Treaties with all nations & particularly with G. B. He moved therefore that the Come sd be instructed to prepare a General Report for that purpose.
Mr. Madison & Mr. Fitzsimmons thought it wd be proper to be very circumspect in fettering our trade with stipulations to foreigners, that as our stipulations wd extend to all the possessions of the U. S. necessarily—& those of foreign Nations havg colonies to part of their possessions only; and as the most favd nations enjoyed greater privileges in the U. S. than elsewhere. The U. S. gave an advantage in Treaties on this subject, & 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 Congs. It was at length agreed that the Come sd report the general state of instructions existing on the subject of Commercial Treaties.
Congress took into consideration the report of the Secy for F. A. for immediately setting at liberty all the Prisoners of war & ratifying the provisional articles. Several members were extremely urgent on this point from motives of Oeconomy. Others doubted whether Congs were bound thereto, & 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 & ambiguity as to the force of these articles, the business was committed to Mr. Madison, Mr. Peters, & Mr. Hamilton who were also to report on the expediency of ratifying the said articles immediately.
MONDAY APRIL 14.
The Committee on the report of the Secretary of foreign Affrs reported as follows. Mr. Hamilton dissenting.
1. 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 6th 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 G. B. and the said U. S., but which is not to be concluded until terms of Peace shall be agreed upon between G. B. & France.” The Act to be ratified therefore is not the Provl articles themselves, but an Act distinct,—future,—and even contingent. Again altho’ the Declaratory Act entered into on the 20th. of Jany last, between the American & British Plenipotentiaries relative to a cessation of hostilities, seems to consider the contingency on which the Provl. articles were suspended as having taken place, yet that act cannot itself be considered as the Treaty of Peace meant to be concluded; nor does it stipulate that either the Provl. articles, or the act itself should be ratified in America; it only engages that the U. S. shall cause hostilities to cease on their part, an engagement which was duly fulfilled by the Proclamation issued on the 11th. 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 U. S. or intended on the part of G. B.; still less that any exchange of mutual ratifications has been in contemplation.
2. If Congress are not bound to ratify the articles in question, the Come 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 & effect of a definitive Treaty of Peace with G. B., tho’ neither their allies nor friends have as yet proceeded farther than to sign preliminary articles; and inasmuch as it may oblige Congs to fulfil immediately all the stipulations contained in the provl articles, tho’ they have no evidence that a correspondent obligation will be assumed by the other party.
3. If the ratification in question be neither obligatory nor expedient, the Come are of opinion, that an immediate discharge of all prisoners of war,1 on the part of the U. S., 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 Come recommend that a decision of Congs 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 Congs not obliged to discharge the Prisoners previous to a definitive treaty, but was willing to go into the measure as soon as that public honor would permit. He wished us to move pari passu, with the British Com̃ander at New York. He suspected that the 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 Provl. 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 Congs not bound.
Mr. Elseworth was strenuous for the obligation and policy of going into an immediate execution of the treaty. He supposed that a ready & generous execution on our part wd accelerate the like on the other part.
Mr. Wilson was not surprised that the obscurity of the Treaty sd. produce a variety of ideas. He thought upon the whole that the Treaty was to be regarded as “contingently definitive.”
The Report of the Come being not consonant to the prevailing sense of Congs, it was laid aside.
TUESDAY APRIL 15.
The ratification of the Treaty & 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.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 16.
Mr. Hamilton acknowledged that he began to view the obligation of the prol. Treaty in a different light and in consequence wished to vary the direction of the Com̃ander in chief from a positive to a preparatory one as his motion on the Journal states.1
THURSDAY APRIL 17.
Mr. Madison with the permission of the Come on Revenue reported the following clause to be added to the 10th. 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 expences may have been reasonable as well with respect to the object thereof as the means for accomplishing it, thirteen com̃isrs. namely one out of each State shall be appointed by Congress, any seven of whom (having first taken an oath for the faithful & 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 expences incurred by particular States as aforesaid; And in order that such determinations may be expedited as much as possible, the Com̃isrs now in appointment for adjusting accts between the U. S. and individual States, shall be instructed to examine all such claims & report to Congs. such of them as shall be supported by satisfactory proofs, distinguishing in their reports the objects and measures in which the expences 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 on a point wch. many of the States had so much at heart, & which they wd. not separate from ye. other matters proposed by Congress; that the nature of the business was unfit for the decision of Congs, who brought with them ye. spirit of advocates rather than of Judges, and besides required more time than could be spared for it.
On the opposite side some contended that the Accts. between the U. S. & particular States sd not be made in any manner to encumber those between the former and private persons. Others thought that Congs could not delegate to Comrs a power of allowing claims for which the Confedon reqd nine States. Others were unwilling to open so wide a door for claims on the Common Treasury.
On the question, Masts divided. Cont. ay. R. Id no. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa no. Maryd no. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no.
FRIDAY APRIL 18.
Application was made from the Council of Pa. for the determination of Congs as to the effect of ye acts terminating hostilities, on Acts to be inforced during the war. Congs 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 & compleat their Cessions, raised a long debate. In favor of the motion it was urged by Mr. Rutledge that the proposed Cession of Va ought to be previously considered & disallowed; that otherwise a renewal of the recommendation wd be offensive; that it was possible the Cession might be accepted in which case the renewal wd. be improper. Virga, 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 U. S. ought rather to make cessions to individual States than receive Cessions from them, the extent of ye 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 reqd. that such a boundary sd. be established as wd. 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 Virga. would never be accepted because it guarantied to her the Country as far as the Ohio, which never belonged to Virga. (Here he was called to order by Mr. Jones.) The question he sd. must be decided. The indecision of Congs. had been hurtful to the interests of the U. S. If the compliance of Va. was to be sought she ought to be urged to comply fully.
For the vote in the affirmative, with the exception of Virga. & S. Carol. see Journal.
The plan of Revenue was then passed as it had been amended, all the States present concurring except R. I., wch. was in the negative & N. Y., wch. was divided Mr. Floyd ay & Mr. Hamilton no.1
MONDAY APRIL 21.
A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton, 2ded by Mr. Madison, to annex, to the plan of the 18th instant, the part omitted relating to expences incurred by individual States. On the question, N. York, Pena. & Virga alone were in the affirmative, Cont. & Georgia not present.
Tuesday Apl 22. See Journal.1
WEDNESDAY APRIL 23.
The resolution permitting the soldiers to retain their arms was passed at the recommendation of Genl 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 expence 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.
Apl 24, Friday, 25 Apl. See Journal.2
SATURDAY APRIL 26.
Address to the States passed nem. con. It was drawn up by Mr. Madison.3 The address to Rh. Id referred to as No. 2, had been drawn up by Mr. Hamilton.
The writer of these notes absent till Monday May 5th.1
MONDAY, MAY 5TH.
Mr. Bland & Mr. Mercer moved to erase from the Journal the resolution of Friday, the 2d inst. applying for an addition of three Millions to the grant of six millions, by H. M. Xn. Majesty, as in part of the loan of four Millions requested by the Resolution of September the 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.
TUESDAY MAY 6.1
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 & Mr. Clarke.
He proposed also that an Equestrian statue should be erected to General Washington.
A report from the Secy of For: Affairs of a Treaty of Commerce to be entered into with G. Britain, was referred to Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Higginson, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Helmsley & Mr. Madison.
WEDNESDAY MAY 7.
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 Aug 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. See Journal.
THURSDAY MAY 8.
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 Sr. Guy Carleton.
On his motion seconded by Mr. Williamson it was ordered that the letter be sent to Gen. Washington for his information, in carrying into effect the Resolution of Apl 15. touching arrangements with the British Commander for delivery of the Posts, Negroes &c.
A Portrait of Don Galvez was presented to Congress by Oliver Pollock.
FRIDAY MAY 9.
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.
Adjourned to Monday.
MONDAY MAY 12.
TUESDAY MAY 13.
WEDNESDAY MAY 14.
Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Elseworth moved a call on the States, to fulfil the recommendation relative to the Tories. After some remarks on the subject, the House adjourned.
Thursday, May 15. See Journal.1 The Report relating to the Dept. of For. Affairs taken up, and, after some discussion of the expediency of raising the salary of the Secy Congress adjourned.
FRIDAY MAY 16.
SATURDAY MAY 17.
MONDAY MAY 19.
Spent in debating the Report recommending provision for the Tories according to the Provisional Artic. of peace.
TUESDAY MAY 20.
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 G. B. 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 expence; considered the war at an end; that G. B. 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 expence.
Mr. Rutledge viewed the conduct of G. B. 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 chief. He accordingly moved that the Report be referred to him for his opinion & advice. The motion was seconded by Mr. Izard.
Mr. Clarke 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 agst furloughing the men because they would carry their arms with them. He said we were at peace, & 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 G. B., and warmly opposed the idea of laying ourselves at her mercy that we might save fifty thousand dollars; altho’ 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 & discharge might both lye on the table.
By general consent this took place.
The Report as to confiscated property, on the Instructions from Virga and Penna, was taken up, & agreed to be recommitted, together with a motion of Mr. Madison to provide for the case of Canadian Refugees & for settlement of accts 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.
WEDNESDAY MAY 21. 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.1
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 & Ship building States to the Russian Articles of Iron & Hemp. They were supported by S. Carolina, who calculated on a Russian market for her Rice.
FRIDAY MAY 23.
The Report from Mr Hamilton, Ghorham 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 expence, and at the same time to be not wholly unprepared for the contingent failure of a definitive treaty of peace. The view 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 Sr. Guy Carleton had not given satisfactory reasons for continuing at N. 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 & rather than it should be entered on the Journal by yeas and nays, it was agreed that the whole subject should lye over.
The Report relative to the Department of For. Affairs being taken up; Mr. Carroll seconded by Mr. Williamson moved that no public Minister should be employed by the U. S. 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 U. S., whose intrigues & examples might be injurious both to the Govt & 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 & friendly explanations & that a young Republic ought not to incur the odium of so singular & as it might be thought disrespectful an innovation. The discussion was closed by an Adjournment till Monday.
MONDAY MAY 26.
The Resolutions on the Journal instructing the Ministers in Europe to remonstrate agst. the carrying off the Negroes; also those for furloughing the troops passed unanimously.
TUESDAY 27 MAY × No Congress. WEDNESDAY 28 MAY ×
THURSDAY MAY 29.
The report of the Committee concerning Interest on British debts was committed, after some discussion.
FRIDAY MAY 30.
The debates on the Report recommending to the States a compliance with the 4th 5 & 6th 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 objects; and by others who doubted the mode of seeking it by a new stipulation.
MONDAY & TUESDAY JUNE 2 & 3.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 4.
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 agst. 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 Virga. see the Journal.1
Whilst Mr. Hamilton’s motion relating to Mr. Livingston, Secretary of For. affrs 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 1. that it would be an assumption of power in 7 States to say, what 9 States ought to do. 2. that it might ensnare Mr. Livingston. 3. that it would commit the present, who ought to be open to discussion when 9 States should be on the floor. The motion of Mr. Peters being withdrawn, that of Mr. Hamilton was agreed to.
THURSDAY JUNE 5.
FRIDAY JUNE 6.
The Report as to the territorial Cession of Virga after some uninteresting debate was adjourned.2
MONDAY JUNE 9TH.
Not States enough assembled to form a Congress. Mr. Clarke signified to those present, that the Delegates of N. Jersey being instructed on the subject of the Back lands he should communicate the Report thereon to his Constituents.
TUESDAY JUNE 10.
The Report on the Cession of Virga was taken up. Mr. Elseworth urged the expediency of deciding immediately on the Cession. Mr. Hamilton joined him, asserting at the same time the right of the U. States. He moved an amendment in favor of private claims. Mr. Clarke was strenuous for the Right of the U. S., and agst waiting longer, (this had reference to the absence of Maryland which had always taken a deep interest in the question.) Mr. Ghorham 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 N. 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. M. yielding to the sense of the House, but warning that the opportunity might be lost by the rising of the Legislature of Virga..
Mr. Hamilton & 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 & proposed on Monday next. This was acquiesced in. It was agreed that the President might informally notify private companies & 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, & none having been put in nomination, the order was postponed. Mr. Bland then nominated Mr. Arthur Lee. Mr. Ghorham nominated Mr. Jefferson, but being told he would not accept, then named Mr. Tilghman. Mr. Higginson then nominated Mr. Jonathan Trumbull. Mr. Montgomery nominated Mr. George Clymer. It was understood that Genl Schuyler remained in nomination.1
WEDNESDAY JUNE 11.1
See Journals, secret and public.
THURSDAY JUNE 12.
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.
FRIDAY JUNE 13.
The mutinous memorial from the Sergeants was recd & read. It excited much indignation & was sent to the Secretary at War.
MONDAY JUNE 16.
TUESDAY JUNE 17.
The day was employed chiefly in considering the Report on the Journal relative to the Department of Finance.1 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.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 18.
THURSDAY JUNE 19.
A motion1 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 & Mr. Madison. The motion had reference to the foreseen creation of the western part of N. Carolina into a separate State.
Information was recd by Congress, from the Executive Council of Pennsylvania, that 80 Soldiers, who would probably be followed by the discharged soldiers of Armand’s Legion were on the way from Lancaster to Philadelpha in spite of the expostulations of their officers, declaring that they would proceed to the seat of Congress and demand justice, and intimating designs agst 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 Philadelpa 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 Govt to make the attempt, & 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 & 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 U. States was better disposed towards Congrs than Pennsylvania, where the prevailing sentiment was, that Congress had done every thing that depended on them. After some conversation, and directing Genl 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 Secy 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 Genl St. Clair, it was supposed, would answer.
FRIDAY JUNE 20.
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 this subject.)
The Report of the Committee (see the Journal) on the territorial Cession of Virga being taken up, & the amendment on the Journal proposed by Mr. McHenry & Mr. Clarke, being lost,1 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 Oct the 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. McHenry, Mr. Bedford, & Mr. Clarke that the terms used by Virginia were too comprehensive & 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 expences were comprised in the Resolution of October the 10. 1780. Mr. Bland & 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. McHenry 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. Clarke laid before Congress the Remonstrance of New Jersey as entered on the Journal.2
As the Report had been postponed at the instance of the President & other Delegates of N. 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 Virga Delegates might hasten the opening of the Land Office of that State. Mr. Clarke 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 & say thus far shall ye go & no further.
Mr. Bedford moved that with respect to the 4th & 5th Conditions of the Cessions, “it be declared, that Clark & his men, & the Virginia Line, be allowed the same bounty beyond the Ohio as was allowed by the U. S. to the same Ranks.” This motion was seconded by ——; 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 R. Island, N. Jersey, Pennsylvania & 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.”
SATURDAY JUNE 21 1783.
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. Genl St. Clair then in Philada. 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 Congs shd adjourn. It was proposed by Mr. Hamilton, that Genl St. Clair in concert with the Executive Council of the State should take order for terminating the mutiny. Mr. Reed moved that the Genl shd endeavour to withdraw the troops by assuring them of the disposition of Congs. to do them justice. It was finally agreed that Congs shd. remain till the usual hour of adjournment, but without taking any step in relation to the alledged grievances of the Soldiers, or any other business whatever. In the meantime the Soldiers remained in their position, without offering any violence, individuals only occasionally uttering offensive words and wantonly pointed their Muskets to the Widows 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 3 O’C., the usual hour Cong. adjourned; the Soldiers, tho in some instances offering a mock obstruction, permitting the members to pass thro 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 shd appear for expecting prompt and adequate exertions for suppressing the mutiny & 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 & preparing submissions; the next they were meditating more violent measures.1 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 2 O’Clock, the efforts of the State authority being despaired of, & the Reports from the Barracks being unfavorable, the Committee advised the President to summon Congress to meet at Princeton which he did verbally as to the members present, leaving behind him a general Proclamation for the Press.
After the departure of Congs, 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. Carberry 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.
END OF VOL. I.
[1 ]From the Madison Papers (1840).
[1 ]November 5, 1782, Madison wrote to Edmund Randolph (italics stand for cypher).
[1 ]“Resolved, That Congress will not go into any partial exchange of prisoners of war in future, but will take the most effectual measures in their power, for the safe keeping of all prisoners of war, until a general cartel on liberal and national principles be agreed to and established.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 90.
[1 ]“We have recd no intelligence from Europe since my last. I have inclosed to the Govr a copy of a late letter from Carlton, which breathes a much less conciliatory spirit than his preceding correspondence. No steps have been taken by Congress as to the cessions since the acceptance of that of N. York. Asgill is directed to be set at liberty, without any special reason being assigned for it, and Gl Washington instructed to call upon Gl Carlton to fulfil his promise to pursue the guilty. If the interval between this & the post produces any thing, you shall then have it.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, Nov. 10, 1782. Mad. MSS.
[1 ]Madison sent the resolution to Edmund Randolph November 12th:
November 14th, he wrote again:
“By a line dropped from the post, tho’ perhaps too late to get into the mail, and by another by Dr Tucker who soon followed, I informed you of the reappointment of Mr. Jefferson, that the act passed unanimously & without even an unfavorable remark. Col. Bland by whom this goes, conveys an official notification from Mr Livingston under cover to Col. Monroe. As you will probably in consequence of it, if not before have an interview with Mr. [J.], no observations on the subject are necessary. I confide in his acceptance and flatter myself with the pleasure of soon seeing him in Philada.
“I inclose you the late papers which are very barren, but contain everything which falls under the head of news.”
[1 ]Madison set forth the delinquency of Virginia in complying with the requisitions of Congress in the following letter to Edmund Randolph, dated November 26th (cypher represented by italics):
[1 ]This act recited the depreciation of the bills of credit to at least below their nominal value and the necessity of decreasing the quantity of paper in circulation. It was resolved that the States should pay their quotas at the rate of one Spanish milled dollar for forty dollars of the bills, that the bills as paid in be destroyed, that as fast as funds should be provided other bills should be issued not to exceed one-twentieth part of the nominal sum of bills destroyed, that the new bills bear interest at five per cent. per annum and be redeemed within six years in specie, that the new bills be issued to the States in proportion according to their monthly quotas.—Journals of Congress, iii., 443.
[1 ]“Its reasonableness and its fate both will depend much on the scale by which as well the redeemed as the outstanding bills is to be valued. In all questions relative to this subject, the defect of information under which we lie makes it difficult for us to deduce the general interest from a just & fair comparison of particular interests. To supply in some degree this defect with regard to Virginia I shall enclose to Mr Ambler for his answers, a number of queries, of which I herein add a copy for you. Some of the queries indeed have a greater reference to other subjects. If you can assist Mr. A. or can enlarge the plan by other queries I beg you to do it. If the sense of the leading members of the Assembly can be conveniently gathered it might also be of use. A public consultation would violate the secrecy which is judged necessary to prevent a revival of speculation and which led me to the use of the cypher on this occasion.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, Dec. 3, 1782. (Italics for cypher.)
[1 ]Dec. 3, Madison wrote to Randolph (italics for cypher): “I leave it to yourself to decide how far it may be worth while to feel the pulse of our friend McClurg with respect to the vacancy in question.”—Mad. MSS.
[2 ]Livingston consented to remain until the following May and did in fact serve until June 4. The office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs was practically vacant from Livingston’s departure until Jay entered upon the duties of the office September 21, 1784. Livingston, however, expressed a willingness to return and temporarily resume the office in order to affix his signature to a final treaty of peace. He wrote to Madison from Clermont, his seat on the Hudson River, July 19, 1783: “I believe I mentioned to you before I left Philadelphia that if Congress should make no appointment of a secretary before the arrival of the treaty it would give me great pleasure to be permitted to sign it in that character & thus conclude my political career. . . . As the grand treaty which sets the seal to our independance should not want the usual forms, & as several little matters may be necessary in consequence thereof, perhaps they may be induced to recite that their removal & their want of a full representation having prevented their supplying the place of the late Secretary for foreign affairs that it would be agreeable to them that he resume the direction of the department till the ratification of the definitive treaty.”—Mad. MSS.
[1 ]May 22, 1799, it was resolved that no state should be divested of any land over which it held jurisdiction before the separation from Great Britain, and that no part of the states should be permitted to separate and become independent without the consent of the states concerned, and that the inhabitants of the pretended state of Vermont be recommended to return peaceably to their former jurisdiction, those who had separated from New York to New York and those who had separated from New Hampshire to New Hampshire.—Journals of Congress, iii., 285, 286.
[1 ]“Resolved, That the agent of marine be informed, that Congress having a high sense of the merit and services of Capt. J. P. Jones, and being disposed to favour the zeal manifested by him to acquire improvement in the line of his profession, do grant the permission which he requests: and that the said agent be instructed to recommend him accordingly to the countenance of his excellency the Marquis de Vaudreuil.” The committee making the report was composed of Osgood, Madison and Hamilton.—Journals of Congress iv., 111.
[1 ]Madison wrote to Edmund Randolph, Dec. 10, 1782. (Italics for cypher.)
[1 ]Henry Marchant.
[1 ]Carroll seconded the motion: “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:
[1 ]It directed the superintendent of finance to represent to the several State legislatures the necessity of complying with the requisitions of Congress for $1,200,000 for a year’s interest on the domestic debt, and $2,000,000 estimated as the expenses for the ensuing year, and the injuries to the public service likely to arise from the States individually making appropriations of any part of the $2,000,000 or other monies required by Congress; also that a deputation be sent to Rhode Island to represent the condition of affairs and induce that State to comply with the national demands.—Journals of Congress, iv., 115.
[1 ]The letter gave Barclay careful instructions for settling the accounts of de Beaumarchais and other debts in Europe.—Secret Journals of Congress, For. Affs. 255, et. seq.
[1 ]The committee were Madison, Hamilton, and Fitzsimmons. It is probable that Madison was the author since he included the letter in his address to the States of April 25. The letter combated the statement of Rhode Island that the proposed duty would bear hardest on the commercial states. It was, it said, an established general principle, “ ‘That every duty on imports is incorporated with the price of the commodity, and ultimately paid by the consumer, with a profit on the duty itself, as a compensation to the merchant for the advance of his money.’ ” As a consumer the merchant paid his share of the duty. It thus bore upon all classes in just proportion, and promoted frugality by taxing extravagance. That the collection of the impost would introduce into the states officers unaccountable to them was an idle objection, since it would apply equally to postmasters, and if acceded to would militate against the appointment of any federal internal officers. No government could exist under these circumstances. The proposed measure was one of necessity. The revenue was insufficient and could no longer be supplied by loans. The measure was within the spirit of the confederation. Congress was vested with the power to borrow money, and by implication with power to concert the nucleus necessary to accomplish that end. The measure proposed they had decided upon after the most solemn deliberation.—Cont. Cong.
[1 ]Howell’s protest was:—That Congress had no power to call any member to account for information conveyed to his constituents, “the secrets only of Congress excepted,” and especially not to call to account a member of the late Congress; that the appointment of a committee to examine into the matter of a publication in the public press was undignified and “a precedent dangerous to the freedom of the press”; that the report of the committee demanding the delivery up by the Executive of Rhode Island of the writer of the publication was an infraction of the fifth article of the confederation, which allowed freedom of speech and debate in Congress, and as a consequence free communication of such speeches and debates to the constituents; that the facts stated concerning the foreign loans were substantially true [that they had been successful and there was danger of incurring too large a debt], that he was not alone in his opinions; that it was unfair to report on a single paragraph of his letter and had a tendency to establish a despotism over the minority by deterring the members of it from writing freely to their constituents; that he was well known as an opponent of the five per cent. impost, and his constituents expected him to oppose it, the lower assembly of his state having unanimously rejected it; that he was accountable to his constituents and was their servant, and not the servant of Congress.—Journals of Congress iv., 121.
[1 ]See note, p. 74.
[1 ]The following letter is from Madison to Edmund Randolph, December 17, (cypher being represented by italics)
“Philada December 24th. 1782.
“My Dear Sir,—
Since my last the Danae a French frigate has arrived from France with money for the French army and public despatches. A snow storm drove her on shore in this Bay where she was in danger of following the fate of one of the last Frigates from France. The accident as it turned out only cost her all her masts. The despatches for Congress are from Mr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, & the Marquis de la Fayette, and come down to the 14th of Octr. They advise that the 1st Commission issued to Mr. Oswald empowered him to treat with certain colonies &c., which being objected, another issued explicitly empowering him to Treat with commisrs from the thirteen United States. The latter, of which a copy was inclosed, and which will be transmitted to the Executives, is grounded on the Act of Parliament, but is to continue in force no longer than July 1783. It is no doubt on the whole a source of very soothing expectations, but if we view on one side the instability & insidiousness of the British Cabinet, and, on the other the complication of interest and pretensions among the Allies, prudence calls upon us to temper our expectations with much distrust.
“Mr. Adams concluded his Treaty of Amity & Commerce on the 7th of Octr, and had in hand 1⅓ million of florins out of the 5 million for which subscriptions had been opened. As this however was the sum subscribed in June last, it is no certain evidence of any other progress than that of the payments.
“There are accounts but neither official nor certain that Madras had been taken by the combined arms of France & Hyder Ally. ⅗ of Constantinople had been, reduced to ashes by incendiaries, inspired with the desperate purpose by the public distresses and a blind revenge agst the Vizier who was regarded as the cause of them. The havoc suffered by the French & Spaniards in the attempt to storm Gibraltar before its relief appears to have been dreadful indeed. The loss on the English side which amounted to about 500 is a proof that the effort was a bloody one.
“Mr. Livingston has been prevailed on to hold his office for this winter. The election of a successor was within a moment of being made when the practicability of retaining his services was discovered. The gentlemen in nomination were Genl. Schuyler & Mr. Clymer. Mr. Read had been nominated but withdrawn.
“The deputation for Rhode Island is still here. A report that Maryland is receding with respect to the object of their mission, and information conveyed in a letter from Mr. Pendleton to me, that Virga on hearing of the unanimous refusal of R. I., had repealed her accession, by disarming them of their most pointed argument had produced great hesitation. They wait at present only for intelligence with respect to Md & Va. which was expected by yesterday’s post. But the post is not even yet come. The inferences which R. I. will probably draw from Oswald’s Commission are another source of apprehension. If justice & honor however preside in her Councils she will feel as much the obligation of providing for the discharge of past engagements as for contracting those which may be necessary in future. Our debts at this moment liquidated & unliquidated, cannot I conceive be less than forty millions Dollars. The interest therefore alone is a very serious object, and I am persuaded that unless it be raised by some plan which will operate at the same time & in due proportion throughout the Union, neither its amount nor punctuality can be confided in. Besides the other obvious causes, a jealousy is already perceived among some States that others will eventually elude their share of the burden. The interest on the sum borrowed by Mr. A. is now running, and soon will if a part hath not already become due. Nor is there any fund in contemplation for its payment but that of the Impost.
“Official Cypher—The French army are embarking for the W. Indies. Count Rochambeau says that in case the war should be renewed against us they will instantly return. Great efforts will I fancy be made on that theatre unless arrested by peace. I need not give other intimations of secrecy on these points than the nature of them, & the use of the Cypher.” (Italics for cypher). Madison to Edmund Randolph.—Mad. MSS.
“Philada Decr 30th, 1782.
“My Dear Sir
“Your favor of the 13th instant arrived a few minutes after I sealed my last. That of the 20th came duly to hand yesterday. The sensations excited in Mr. Jones and myself by the Repeal of the law in favor of the Impost were such as you anticipated. Previously to the receipt of your information a letter from Mr. Pendleton to me had suspended the progress of the Deputies to Rhode Island. Yours put an entire stop to the mission, until the plan or some other can be extended to the case of Virga. The letter from the Govr, of the same date with your last, gives a hope that our representations may regain her support to the impost without further steps from Congress. Your doubt as to her power of revoking her accession would, I think have been better founded, if she had not been virtually absolved by the definite rejection of Rho: Island; altho’ that rejection ought perhaps have been previously authenticated to her. I beg you to be circumstantial on this subject especially as to the parties and motives which led to the repeal, and may oppose a reconsideration.
“Mr. Jefferson arrived here on friday last, and is industriously arming himself for the field of negotiation. The commission issued to Mr. Oswald impresses him with a hope that he may have nothing to do on his arrival but join in the celebrations of victory & peace. Congress, however, anxiously espouse the expediency of his hastening to his destination.
“General McDougall, Col. Ogden & Colonel Brooks arrived yesterday on a mission from the army to Congress. The representations with which they are charged have not yet been handed in but I am told they breathe a proper spirit and are full of good sense. I presume they will furnish new topics in favor of the Impost which alone promises a chance of establishing that credit, by which the inadequacy of taxation can be supplied.
The French fleet and army sailed a few days ago from Boston for the West Indies. A storm happened soon after their departure from which it is feared they may have suffered.
“The ship South Carolina procured in Europe for the State after wch she was called, was taken by three British ships & carried into N. Y. a few days ago. Besides the loss sustained by those interested immediately in her, her fitness for annoying our trade renders the capture a general misfortune.” * * * Madison to Edmund Randolph.—Mad. MSS.
[1 ]Fitzsimmons, Madison and Rutledge were the committee making the report. The agreement made the previous August, with the consent of the governor and executive of Georgia, was with certain Savannah merchants, “subjects of the crown of Great Britain,” permitting them to remain unmolested and to dispose of their effects to citizens of the United States, and “to export produce of the state of Georgia to the amount of the goods so disposed of to the next British post.” Congress ordered “that all commanders of armed vessels, in the service of the United States, or belonging to any of the inhabitants thereof, do pay due regard to the passports which have or shall be given by the governor of the state of Georgia for the purpose aforesaid.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 127.
[1 ]“The deputation from the army, which arrived here a few days ago, have laid their grievances before Congress. They consist of sundry articles, the capital of which are, a defect of an immediate payment, and of satisfactory provision for completing the work hereafter. How either of these objects can be accomplished, and what will be the consequence of failure, I must leave to your own surmises. I wish the disquietude excited by the prospect, was the exclusive portion of those who impede the measures calculated for redressing complaints against the justice and gratitude of the public.
[1 ]This proposed to require the States to value the land and return the valuations to Congress. The above to be a marginal note. [Note in Madison’s hand.]
“Philada Jany 14, 1783.
. . . . . . . . .
“The deputies from the army are still here. The explanations which they have given to a Committee on the topics of the memorial are of the most serious nature. I wish they could with propriety be promulged throughout the U. S. They would I am sure at least put to shame all those who have laboured to throw a fallacious gloss over our public affairs, and counteracted the measures necessary to ye. real prosperity of them.
“The deliberations of Congress have been turned pretty much of late on the valuation of lands prescribed by the articles of confederation. The difficulties which attend that rule of apportionment seem on near inspection to be in a manner insuperable. The work is too vast to be executed without the intervention of the several states, and if their intervention be employed, all confidence in an impartial execution is at end.
. . . . . . . .
“Mr. Jefferson has not yet taken his departure. We hope the causes which have prevented it will not continue many days longer.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, Mad. MSS.
[1 ]Mr. Hamilton was most strenuous on this point. Mr. Wilson also favd. the idea. Mr. M[adison] also but restrained in some measure, by the declared sense of Vira Mr. Ghoram, & several others also, but wishing previous experience. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]On that day Congress resolved, that, whereas the people inhabiting the west side of the Connecticut River commonly known as the New Hampshire Grants had undertaken to exercise jurisdiction over certain persons who professed to be citizens of New York, such proceedings were highly derogatory to the authority of the United States and dangerous to the confederacy. It was ordered that restitution be made and that a copy of the resolutions be sent to Thomas Chittenden, Esq., of Bennington, to be communicated to the people.—Journals of Congress,iv., 112.
[1 ]John Hannum, Persifor Frazer, and Joseph Gardner.—Journals of Congress, iv., 151.
[1 ]See Madison’s letter of Jan. 28, to Edmund Randolph, p. 33 n.
[* ]Drawn by Col. Hamilton. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]The — day of August being reinstated before a question on the whole paragraph was taken, Mr. Ghoram objected to the word “general” before funds as ambiguous, and it was struck out; not however as improper if referring to all the States, & not to all objects of taxation. Without this word the clause passed unanimously, even Rhode Island concurring in it. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]On the motion of Mr. Wilson Monday next was assigned for the consideration of the Resolu [tion] on the 2d clause of the Report on the Memorial from the army. He observed that this was necessary to prevent the resol[ution] from being like many others,—vox et preterea nihil. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]The precarious condition of affairs prompted Madison at this time to make the suggestion of starting a newspaper in Virginia to influence public opinion. The project was not a new one, however, for Jaqueline Ambler wrote to him from Richmond, December 29, 1781.
[1 ]The paper just read from Virga. complained of her inability without mentioning an inequality. This was deemed a strange assertion. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]This remark was imprudent & injurious to the cause wch 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. B[land] & still more Mr. L[ee], who were of this number took notice in private conversation, that Mr. Hamilton had let out the secret. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]He was apprehensive that a tax on land according to its quantity not value as had been recomd. by Mr. Morris, was in contemplation. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]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 no. 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. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]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 ammadversion. 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 art. Mr. Adams informed Congress had been satisfactory to the D. de Vauguyon. [Note in MS.]
[2 ]“The subject which my last left under the consideration of Congress has employed the chief part of the week. The generality of the members are convinced of the necessity of a continental revenue for an honorable discharge of the continental engagements and for making future provision for the war. The extent of the plan however compared with the prepossessions of their constituents produces despondence & timidity. It appears that the annual revenue which prudence calls for for the objects above mentioned, amounts to the enormous sum of three millions of dollars. You will ask perhaps from what sources this revenue could be drawn if the States were willing to establish it? Congress have done nothing as yet from which the answer they wd dictate can be informed. By individuals on the floor, the imposts, a land [or] poll tax, a tax on salt a &c have been suggested, and some computation of their productiveness has made them competent to the object. The valuation of the land accordg. to the Articles of confederation is also before Congress & by some considered as a great step towards obtaining the necessary revenue. If you ask by what operation? I shall be more incapable of answering it than the preceeding question.
[1 ]The answer entered at length into the existing condition of the continental finances, stating that no State had taken separate measures for satisfying its own citizens, as Pennsylvania threatened to do, and that, as the various certificates had passed from one person to another a provision by a State for their redemption must exclude the demands of many of its own citizens or admit the demands of all; that it would be impossible to pay past debts and run the government, wherefore provision should be made for the interest only. It called attention to the fact that the five per cent. impost was recommended February 3, 1781, but after a delay of two years Congress had the mortification to find that one State [Rhode Island] entirely refused to agree to it, and that another [Virginia] had withdrawn its assent, and a third [Georgia] had taken no action, that Congress had been unable to fulfill its engagements with the public creditors, because of the defective compliances by the States at every stage of the war. For the year 1782, it said, Congress had asked $8,000,000 and had been supplied by the States with only $430,031. The King of France had lent the United States 6,000,000 livres and John Adams had opened a loan in Holland and obtained only 3,000,000 livres, making in all 9,000,000 livres, which after deducting anticipations left but 5,000,000 livres, which at the existing rate of exchange amounted to $833,333. At the beginning of the year 1782 there was $292,453 in the Treasury, so that the whole amount for carrying on the government during 1782 amounted to $1,545,812. The cost of the army alone amounted to $5,713,610, for feeding, clothing, and pay, excluding horses, tents, forage, etc. Therefore, in spite of discouraging obstacles, Congress conceived it to be its duty to persevere in the endeavor to procure revenues equal to the purpose of funding all the debts, and the subject was then under solemn deliberation. Finally they called attention to their recommendation of September 6, 1780, for a cession of part of the Western territory claimed by particular states.—Journals of Congress, iv., 153, et seq.
[1 ]He supposed that sum due by the U. S. to Citizens of Penna, for loans. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]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.” [Note in MS.]
[1 ]It found that the Superintendent of Finance in arranging for the tobacco and the Secretary of Congress in granting it a passport had both acted in conformity with the authority of Congress.—Journals of Congress, iv., 159, 160.
[1 ]“The valuation of the lands of the U. S. as directed by the articles of Union has employed & puzzled Congress for the past week; and after all the projects & discussions which have taken place, we seem only to have gone round in a circle to the point at which we set out. The only point on which Congress are generally agreed is that something ought to be attempted; but what that something ought to be, is a theorem not solved alike by scarcely any two members; and yet a solution of it seems to be made an indispensable preliminary to other essays for the public relief. The Deputation from the army is waiting the upshot of all these delays & dilemmas.
[1 ]Resolved, That Congress be resolved into a committee of the whole, to consider of the most effectual means of restoring and supporting public credit; and that the motion before the house be referred to that committee.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 153.
[1 ]In the meantime tidings of peace were momentarily expected. Madison wrote to his father Feby. 12:
[1 ]This was an oblique allusion to Mr. Lee, whose enmity to the French was suspected by him &c. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]“I heartily congratulate you on the dawn of peace, presented in the enclosed paper. Apprehending that the commercial sagacity of this and intervening places may seize the crisis to speculate on the staple of Virginia, we have judged it prudent to despatch a messenger, with the intelligence to the Government. Private letters will also scatter it along the road.
[1 ]Voting Aye were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina; voting No were New York and New Jersey; evenly divided were Rhode Island and Connecticut. Maryland had but one delegate present, Charles Carroll, who voted No. In the Virginia delegation, Jones, Bland, and Mercer voted Aye, Madison and Lee voting No.—Journals of Congress, iv., 163.
[1 ]“I am glad to find by your favor of the 7th. [ins] tant that the necessity of a readoption of the impost presses so strongly on your mind. To give it a fair experiment with the ensuing Assembly it will be indispensable that you should be its advocate on the floor. Those who effected its repeal will never inactively suffer it to be reinstated in our code. Mercer from what motive God knows says that he will crawl to Richmond on his bare knees to prevent it. Having already changed his opinion on the subject he fears perhaps the charge of unsteadiness. Perhaps too his zeal against a general revenue may be cooled by the accomplishment in Congress of a plan for a valuation of land on the ruins of which he among others suspected the former was to be established. This plan passed Congress yesterday. It proposes that the States shall return to Congs before Jany next their respective quantities of land the number of houses thereon distinguishing dwelling houses from others, and the no of Inhabitants distinguishing Whites from blacks. These data are to be referred to a Grand Come, by whom a report in which nine voices must unite, is to be made to Congress which report is to settle the proportions of each State, & to be ratified or rejected by Congs. without alteration. Who could have supposed that such a measure could ever have been the offspring of a zealous and scrupulous respect for the Confederation? . . .”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, February 18, 1783. (Italics for cypher.)
[1 ]Virga—Mr. Jones, Mr. Madison, Mr. Bland, no; Mr. Lee, Mr. Mercer, ay. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]“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.
[2 ]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 sd that if Congress had declared the law to be void, the displeasure of the Legislature might possibly have produced a different issue. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]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 wd certainly abate their ardor & in a critical emergency, might incline them to prefer some political connection with G. B., as a necessary cure for our internal instability. Again Without permanent & 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 wd. 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 S. States. (See Mr. Ghoram, in the debates of this day.) If general funds were not introduced it was not likely the balances wd. ever be discharged, even if they sd. be liquidated. The consequence wd. be a rupture of the confederacy. The E. States would at sea be powerful & rapacious; the Southern, opulent & weak. This wd. be a temptation; the demands on the S. St. would be an occasion; reprisals wd. be instituted; Foreign aid would be called in by first the weaker then the stronger side, & finally both be made subservient to the wars & politics of Europe. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]“Congress are still engaged on the subject of providing adequate revenues for the public debts, particularly that due to the army. The recommendation of the Impost will be renewed with perhaps some little variation, to which will be superadded probably a duty on a few enumerated articles. Mr Mercer altho’ he continues to be adverse to the measure declares now that he will not carry his opposition out of Congress. Whether any other general revenues will be recommended is very uncertain. A poll tax seems to be the only one sufficiently simple & equal for the purpose, and besides other objections to which even that is liable, the Constitution of Maryland which interdicts such a tax is an insuperable bar. The plan talked of by some for supplying the deficiency is to call on the States to provide each its proportion of a permanent revenue within itself, and to appropriate it to the continental debt. The objections against this plan are that as the execution of it will depend on a unanimous & continued punctuality in the 13 States, it is a precarious basis for public credit, that this precariousness will be increased by mutual jealousies among the States that others may be sparing themselves exertions which they are submitting to; and that these jealousies will be still more increased by the mutual opinion which prevails that they are comparatively in advance to the U. States; an opinion which cannot be corrected without closing the accounts between all of them & the U. States; pre-requisites to which are a valuation of the land, and a final discrimination of such parts of the separate expenditures of the States as ought to be transferred to the common mass, from such parts as ought in justice to fall on the particular States themselves. Some States also will contend and it would seem neither agst the principles of justice nor the spirit of the Confederation, for a retrospective abatement of their share of the past debt according to their respective disabilities from year to year throughout the war. What will be the end of this complication of embarrassments time only can disclose. But a greater embarrassment than any is still behind. The discontents and designs of the army are every day taking a more solemn form. It is now whispered that they have not only resolved not to lay down their arms till justice shall be done them but that to prevent surprise a public declaration will be made to that effect. It is added and I fear with too much certainty, that the influence of General Washington is rapidly decreasing in the army insomuch that it is even in contemplation to substitute some less scrupulous guardian of their interests.
[1 ]“Either by giving them security for the payment of the same as it may become due, or by commutation for such sum in gross, as may be mutually agreed on by each state, and the officers to them respectively belonging; that each and every state, which shall make compensation to their officers, agreeably to the foregoing resolution, shall be exonerated and fully and finally discharged from their respective proportions of all taxes and all other payments of monies whatsoever, on account of half-pay to the officers belonging to the United States or any of them; provided always that nothing in this resolution shall extend to discharge any state from paying their just proportion of the half-pay which may be due to such officers as have not heretofore or do not now belong to the line of any particular state, or to the officers belonging to any particular state, which may by the events of the war be rendered unable to make such compensation.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 166.
[1 ]Against the motion were New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia; North Carolina and South Carolina; in favor of it New Hampshire and Connecticut. Massachusetts and Rhode Island each voted in favor but by one delegate only. New Jersey was divided.—Journals of Congress, iv., 166, 167.
[1 ]It recommended to the executives of the several States to inform the commander-in-chief or “commander of a separate army” whenever outrages on person or property were committed by persons in the service of the enemy, in order that retaliatory measures might be taken.—Journals of Congress, iv., 167.
[1 ]He had in view the followg objects: 1. The abatements proposed by Mr. Hamilton. 2. A transfer into the common mass of expenses of all the separate expenses incurred by the States in their particular defence. 3. An acquisition to the U. States of the vacant territory. The plan thus extended would affect the interest of the States as follows, viz. N. 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 thro’ 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 interests would be opposed to the abatements, & 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 shews the original credits transfers having being constant; heretofore they have flowed into Pa. Other States may hereafter have an influx. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]“Whereas, in the opinion of Congress, it is essential to those principles of justice and liberality, which ought to govern the intercourse between these States, that in the final adjustment of accounts for the supplies or contributions of the States respectively, toward the common expenses in the course of the war, equitable allowances should be made in favor of those States, parts of which have been at different periods in possession of the enemy; and whereas the strict application of the rule prescribed by the 8th article of the confederation, as declared by the resolution of the 17th February, would operate greatly to the prejudice of such States, and to the calamities of war, and an undue proportion of the public burden
[1 ]“A committee be appointed to devise the most proper means of arranging the Department of Finance.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 171.
[1 ]“Provision for the public debt continues the wearisome topic of congressional discussion. Mercer declared that although he deems the opponents of a general revenue right in principle, yet as they had no plan and it was essential that something should be done he should strike in with the other side.
[1 ]In the draught as laid before the Come by — — the (7) paragraph was placed last of all, so as to render the plan individual. In the (10) 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 draught was unaltered, except that a former resolution of Congress in the words of the (6) paragraph was incorporated by the Secy before it went to the press. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]It was introduced by Carroll, Dyer, and Mifflin and provided “That such officers as are now in service, and 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 21st 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 reject 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, agree thereto; that the said 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.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 173.
[1 ]“Another week has passed without affording the least relief from our suspense as to the progress of peace. At New York they are so much in the dark that their curiosity has recourse to the gleanings of the Philada. gazettes. The length of the negotiation may be explained, but the delay of all parties to notify its progress is really astonishing. Our last official information is nearly 5 months old & that derived from the royal speech upwards of three months.
[1 ]“Capt. Barney commanding the American packet boat which has been long expected with official intelligence from our Ministers in Europe arrived here this morning. He brings a supply of money the sum of which I cannot as yet specify & comes under a passport from the King of G. B. The despatches from our Ministers are dated the 5, 14 & 24 of Decr.. Those of the 14th inclose a copy of the preliminary articles, provisionally signed between the American & British Plenipotentiaries. The tenor of them is that the U. S. shall be acknowledged & treated with as free, sovereign & independt; that our boundaries shall begin at the mouth of the St. Croix, run thence to the ridge dividing the waters of the Atlantic from those of St. Laurence, thence to the head of Cont river, thence, down to 45° N. L. thence to Cadaraqui; thence thro’ the middle of Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, & Superior, to Long Lake to the Lake of the Woods & thence due W. to the Missipi, thence down the middle of the river to L. 31, thence to Apalachicola, to Flint river, to St. Marys, & down the same to the Atlantic; that the fisheries shall be exercised nearly as formerly; that Congress shall earnestly recommend to the States a restitution of confiscated property, a permission to the refugees to come & remain for 1 year within the States to solicit restitution, and that in the most obnoxious cases restitution may be demanded of purchasers on reimbursing them the price of the property, that debts contracted prior to 1775 shall be mutually paid according to sterling value; that all prisoners shall be mutually set at liberty, troops withdrawn & all records & papers restored; that the navigation of the Mississippi, from the source to the mouth, shall be mutually free for the subjects of G. B. & the Citizens of America, a proposition comprehending the W. I., was offered on the subject of Commerce, but not admitted on the part of G. B.
[1 ]“My letter by Express communicated to you the outlines of the intelligence brought by Capt. Barney from our Ministers in Europe. The tediousness of the Cypher does not permit me now to enter into detail. I can only add that notwithstanding the flattering aspect of the preliminary Articles there are various circumstances which check our confidence in them, as there are some which will detract from our joy if they should be finally established. To explain this it must suffice to observe that The latest letters from our Ministers express the greatest jealousy of G. B. and, secondly that the situation of France between the interfering claims of Spain & the U. S., to which may perhaps be added some particular views of her own having carried her into a discountenance of claims the suspicions of our ministers on that side gave an opportunity to British address to decoy them into a degree of confidence which seems to leave their own reputations as well as the safety of their country at the mercy of Shelburne. In this business Jay has taken the lead & proceeded to a length of which you can form little idea Adams has followed with cordiality. Franklin has been dragged into it. Laurens in his separate letter professes a violent suspicion of G. B. and good will & confidence toward France The dilemma to which Congress are reduced is infinitely perplexing. If they abet the proceedings of their Ministers, all confidence with France is at an end which in the event of a renewal of the war, must be dreadful as in that of peace it may be dishonorable. If they [dis]avow the conduct of their Ministers, by their usual frankness of communication, the most serious inconveniences also present themselves. The torment of this dilemma cannot be justly conveyed without a fuller recital of facts than is permitted. I wish you not to hazard even an interlined decypherment of those which I have deposited in your confidence.
[1 ]See pp. 397, 398.
[1 ]The other exception, as to the Cards & the wire for making them &c., was struck out unanimously on the motion of Mr. Clark; being considered as no longer necessary & contrary to the general policy of encouraging necessary manufactures among ourselves. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]This was meant to guard agst a construction that they were to take effect when peace sd be agreed on by those powers, & the latter be ready to sign, altho’ the former sdl. be restrained untill the other parties sd. be ready for signing. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]The Committee who reported the instruction were, Mr. Carroll, Mr. Jones, Mr. Witherspoon Mr. Sullivan & Mr. Matthews. Mr. Witherspoon was particularly prominent throughout. [Note in MS.]
[2 ]Mr Bland, Lee & Rutledge. [Note in MSS.]
[3 ]Mr. Rutledge, he framed in the Committee the first draught of the declaration made in Sept last & the instruction abt. the same time. This was considerably altered but not in that respect. [Note in MSS.]
[1 ]It provided that the States be recommended to provide funds to be gathered from the five per cent. ad valorem on importations, except on rum, etc., on which a specific duty should be charged; also five per cent. ad valorem on prizes and prize goods; also a land tax of — ninetieths of a dollar on every hundred acres of land; also a house-tax of half a dollar on each dwelling-house (cottages excepted), and two and a-half per cent. on rent above $20.—Journals of Congress, iv., 177.
[1 ]See note, p. 407.
“Philada March 24. 1783.
“The express by whom I send this conveys to the Governor the wellcome event of a general peace. The preliminary articles were signed on the 20th. of Jany. The day to which hostilities are limited is omitted in the abstract of the preliminaries transmitted to Congs. This intelligence altho’ not from our Ministers is authenticated beyond all possibility of doubt. For the outlines of the articles I refer to the letter to the Govr. & for the articles themselves as red by Congs. to my letter by tomorrows post.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph. Mad. MSS.
[1 ]Alluding probably to the intercepted letter from M. de Marbois. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]This construction of the instructions was palpably wrong. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]Another cause mentioned was the large balance of specie in favor of the N. Powers during the war. [Note in MS.]
[1 ]“The pecuniary aid of France for the year 1783, had been unalterably limited to 6 Millions of livres. The greatest part of this sum had been anticipated and how our army could have been kept together for three months is utterly beyond my solution. As it is, God only knows how the plans in agitation for satisfying their just expectations will terminate; or what will be the issue in case they should be abortive. The effects of the anonymous addresses mentioned in my last on the irritable state of their minds, have been effectually obviated by the seasonable & judicious steps taken by the Commander-in-Chief. The manner however in which he found it necessary, and indeed felt it to be his duty, to espouse their interest enforces in the highest degree the establishment of adequate and certain revenues. The provision reported by a comite on this subject and of which I sketched you the import, is still before Congress. The past deliberations upon it do not with certainty prognosticate its fate. I fear it calls for more liberality & greater mutual confidence than will be found in the American Councils.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, March 25, 1783. Mad. MSS.
[1 ]New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, no; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut, no; New York (Mr. Floyd, aye); New Jersey, aye; Delaware, no; Maryland, aye; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, no.
[2 ]Six noes and four ayes. Journals of Congress, iv., 182.
[1 ]Madison had for some time past been urging Randolph to go into the State Legislature where his influence on the side of adequate provisions for general funds would be most efficacious. He wrote to him April 1, 1783:
[1 ]His mission was dispensed with and he was thanked for the readiness he had shown in undertaking the service. Dana’s desire to return from St. Petersburg was approved of, unless he was engaged in any negotiations, in which event he might remain.—Journals of Congress, iv., 184.
[2 ]The dates are so given in the MS. but should read, Wednesday, April 2, Thursday, April 3, Friday, April 4, and Saturday, April 5. The proceedings on April 4 are the only ones recorded in the printed journals.
[1 ]“Your favor of the 29th. ult: was duly recd yesterday. Your apprehensions from the article in favor of British Creditors correspond with those entertained by all whose remarks I have heard upon it. My hope is that in the definitive treaty the danger may be removed by a suspension of their demands for a reasonable term after peace.
[1 ]“The important contents of the inclosed paper were brought hither yesterday by a British officer sent for that purpose by Sr G. Carleton. To-day Congrs recd letters from Dr. F. & Mr. Adams, inclosing a declaration entered into by them & the British Plenipy, by which the epochs at which hostilities are to cease between France & G. B. are adopted between the latter & America. A great diversity of opinion prevails as to the time at which they were to cease on this Coast. The Merchants & the lawyers are most affected by the question.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, April 10, 1783. Mad. MSS.
[2 ]This was the proclamation “Declaring the cessation of arms, as well by sea as by land, agreed upon between the United States of America and his Britannic majesty; and enjoining the observance thereof.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 186, 187.
[1 ]“Genl Carleton is very importunate for an immediate execution of the provisional articles on the part of Congress in the points of liberating the prisoners, and recommending restitution to the Loyalists. On his part he has set the example on the first point but says nothing of executing the other important conditions which are in our favor. This proposition has led Congs into a critical discussion of the import of the Provl Articles, in which the opinions are almost as numerous as the articles themselves. Some think that the instrument was converted by the signature of preliminary articles between F. & G. B. into the Treaty of Peace, of which a ratification in America is alluded to in the 6 art. Others think that it was conditioned no otherwise on terms of peace between these powers, than that such an agreement rendered it a lawful & necessary foundation for a Treaty of peace between the U. S. & G. B. Some again suppose that the provl. art: need no ratification from Congs but that they ought to wait for a Treaty to be grounded on them. Others suppose that a ratification is essential or at least proper. The latter description again are divided—some proposing to ratify them as articles still contingent, others to ratify them as having taken effect in consequence of the preliminary Articles between G. B. & F. This variety & contrariety of interpretation arise in a great measure from the obscurity & even contrariety of the articles themselves.”—Madison to Edmund Randolph, April 15, 1783. Mad. MSS.
[1 ]“That the commander in chief be directed to enter into preparatory arrangements, relative to the 7th article of the said treaty, with the commanders in chief of the British land and naval forces in America.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 188.
[1 ]“The report on funds &c, passed Congress on Saturday last with the dissent of R. Island, and the division of N. York only. The latter vote was lost by the rigid adherence of Mr. Hamilton to a plan which he supposed more perfect. The clause providing for unauthorized expenditures could not be reinstated, and, consequently no attempt was made to link all the parts of the acts inseparably together. As it now stands it has I fear no bait for Virga, which is not particularly interested either in the object or the mode of the revenues recommended, nor in the territorial Cessions, nor in the change of the constitutional rule of dividing the Public burdens. A respect for justice, good faith & national honor is the only consideration which can obtain her compliance.
[1 ]Several unimportant private measures were under consideration.
[2 ]According to the Journal (IV. 194.) the address to the States was agreed to April 24.
[3 ]“Address to the States, to accompany the Recommendations of the 18th.
[1 ]He accompanied the family of James Floyd on their journey back to New York as far as Brunswick, sixty miles from Philadelphia, returning to Philadelphia Friday evening. He was then paying his addresses to Miss Floyd, who soon afterwards rejected him.
[1 ]Madison related the march of events outside of Congress in the two following letters:
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
Philada 6 May, 1783.
After a silence of 4 weeks your favor of the 26 Ult, was particularly welcome. Your conjecture was but too well founded as to the compiler of the Proclamation. The offensive passages were adverted to by some, but the general eagerness on the occasion, increased by some unavoidable delays, rendered all attempts to draw the attention of Congress to smaller inaccuracies unacceptable.We have no late despatches from Paris, except a letter from Mr. Adams which affords a new & signal exemplification of those qualities which have so much distinguished his correspondence with Congress. We are informed from Madrid by Mr. Carmichael & the Marquis de la Fayette, that that Court since the British acknowledgmt of our Independence has dismissed its hauteur & reserve towards the U. S. has treated the American Chargé d’Affaires with due attention & has signified its acquiescence in the limits fixed by the provisional articles between the U. S. & G. B. The navigation of the Mississippi remains to be discussed.
Yesterday was fixed for an interview between Genl W. and Sr G. Carleton for the purpose of taking arrangements for carrying the stipulations of the provisional articles into effect. The interview was proposed by the former, who intimated that as the evacuation of the Post of N. Y. was particularly interesting to the State of N. Y. Govr Clinton would accompany him on the interview. The answer of Carleton imported that he did not decline the proposition, but suggested that as Genl Gray was expected with final orders it might be best to postpone the conference, adding that he should be attended by Lt - Govr Elliott and Chief-Justice Smith.—Mad. MSS.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Philada. May 6, 1783.
Your favor of the 21. Ult. written at Col. Pendleton’s was brought to hand by the Post of last week. Col. Floyd’s family did not set out untill the day after it was received. I accompanied them as far as Brunswick, about 60 miles from this and returned hither on friday evening. . . . Congress have recd a long and curious letter from Mr. Adams, dated in Feb. addressed to the president not to the Secretary for foreign affairs. He animadverts on the revocation of his commn for a treaty of commerce with great Britain presses the appointment of a minister to that Court with such a commn draws the picture of a fit character in which his own likeness is rediculously & palpably studied finally praising and recommending Mr. Jay for the appointment provided injustice must be done an older servant.
Letters from the Marquis de la Fayette and Mr. Carmichael that the Court of Spain has become pretty tractable since the acknowledgment of our Independence by G. B. The latter has been treated with due respect, and the Court has agreed to accede to the territorial line it fixed for W. Florida in the provisional Articles. The navigation of the Mississippi remains to be settled.
My absence from Congs the past week disables me from giving you exact information of their latest proceedings. I am told that in consequence of Mr. Adams’s letter the secretary of foreign affairs has been instructed to project a treaty of commerce with great Britain, which will probably bring the attention of Congress to the general department of foreign affairs. (Italics for cypher.)—Mad. MSS.
[1 ]The Commander in Chief was directed to place in the frontier posts, whenever they should be evacuated in pursuance of the articles of the treaty of peace, troops whose service had not expired, until further measures should be decided upon. The Superintendent of Finance was ordered to pay the officers deputed by the army to present their memorial to Congress on January 8th their reasonable expenses during their stay in town.—Journals of Congress, iv., 221.
The project for a treaty of commerce with great Britain was brought forward by Livingston at this time. It prompted Madison to write the two following letters:
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Philada, May 13, 1783.
Marbois lately took occasion in our family to complain of ungenerous proceedings of the British against individuals, as well as against their enemies at large, and finally signified that he was no stranger to the letter transmitted to Congress which he roundly averred to be spurious. His information came from Boston, where the incident is said to be no secret; but whether it be the echo of letters from Philada or has transpired from the correspondence of Mr. Adams to his private friends is uncertain. This conversation passed during my absence in new Jersey, but was related to me by Mr. Carroll.A project for a treaty of commerce with Britain has been reported by the Secretary of foreign affairs and is now in the hands of a commee. The objects most at heart are first a direct trade between this country & the West Indies. Second a right of carrying between the latter & other parts of the British empire. Thirdly a right of carrying from the West Indies to all other parts of the world. As the price of these advantages it is proposed that we shall admit British subjects to equal privileges with our own citizens. As to the first object it may be observed that the bill lately brought into the British Parliament renders it probable that it may be obtained without such a cession, as to the second that it concerns the Eastern States chiefly & as to the third that it concerns them alone, whilst the privilege to be conceded will chiefly if not alone affect the Southern States. The interest of these seems to require that they should retain at least the faculty of giving any encouragement to their own merchants’ ships or mariners, which may be necessary to prevent a relapse under scotch monopoly, or to acquire a maritime importance. The Eastern States need no such precaution.
Genl. Washington & Genl Carleton have had an interview on the subject of arrangements for executing the provisional Treaty. It was interrupted by the sudden indisposition of the latter. In the conversation which took place, he professed intentions of evacuating New York & all the posts in the U. S. held by British Garrisons as soon as possible, but did not authorize any determinate or speedy expectations. (Illegible) that a number of Negroes had gone off with the Refugees since the arrival of the Treaty, and undertook to justify the permission by a palpable & scandalous misconstruction of the Treaty, and by the necessity of adhering to the proclamations under the faith of which the Negroes had eloped into their service. He said that if the Treaty should be otherwise explained, compensation would be made to the owners and to make this the more easy, a register had been & would be kept of all Negroes leaving N. Y. before the surrender of it by the British Garrison. This information has been referred by Congs. to a Committee. But the progress already made in the discharge of the prisoners, the only convenient pledge by which fair dealing, on the other side, could be enforced, makes it probable that no remedy will be applied to the evil. (Italics for cypher.) Mad. MSS.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
Philada. May — 1783.
My dear Sir,
Your favor of the 9th inst. was duly brought by yesterday’s Mail. My impatience is great to know the reception given to the propositions of Congress by the Assembly. I foresaw some of the topics which are employed against them, & I dread their effect from the eloquent mouths which will probably enforce them; but I do not despair. Until those who oppose the plan, can substitute some other equally consistent with public justice & honor, and more conformable to the doctrines of the Confederation, all those who love justice and aim at the public good will be advocates for the plan. The greatest danger is to be apprehended from the difficulty of making the latter class sensible of the impracticability or incompetency of any plan short of the one recommended; the arguments necessary for that purpose being drawn from a general survey of the federal system, and not from the interior polity of the States singly.
The letter from the Delegation by the last post to the Govr. appr the Legislature, thro him that negotiations for a Treaty of Commerce with G. B. might be expected soon to take place; and that if any instructions should be deemed proper no time ought to be lost in giving the subject a legislative discussion. For my own part I wish sincerely that the commercial interests of Virginia were thoroughly investigated & the final sense of the State expressed to its representatives in Congress.
The power of forming Treaties of Commerce with foreign nations is among the most delicate with which Congs are entrusted and ought to be exercised with all possible circumspection. Whilst an influence might be expected from them on the event or duration of the war, the public interest required that they should be courted with all the respectable nations of Europe, and that nice calculations of their tendency should be dismissed. The attainment of the object of the war has happily reversed our situation and we ought no longer to enslave ourselves to the policy of the moment. The state of this Country in relation to the Countries of Europe it ought to be observed, will be continually changing, and regulations adapted to its commercial & general interests at present may hereafter be directly opposed to them. The general policy of America is at present pointed at the encouragement of Agriculture, and the importation of the objects of consumption. The wider therefore our ports are opened, and the more extensive the privileges of all competitors in our commerce, the more likely we shall be to buy at cheap & sell at profitable rates. But in proportion as our lands become settled, and spare hands for manufactures & navigation multiply, it may become our policy to favor those objects by peculiar privileges bestowed on our citizens; or at least to introduce regulations [not] inconsistent with foreign engagements suited to the present state of things.
The relative situation of the different States in this respect is another motive to circumspection. The variance of their policy & interests, in the article of Commerce strikes the first view, and it may with great truth be noted that as far as any concessions may be stipulated in favor of foreign nations they will chiefly be at the expense of those States which will share least in the compensations obtained for them. If, for example, restrictions be laid on the legislative rights of the States to prohibit, to regulate or to tax as they please their imports & exports, & to give such preferences as they please to the persons or vessels employed in them, it is evident that such restrictions will be most felt by those States who have the greatest interest in exports & imports. If on the other side the Citizens of the U. S. should in return for such a stipulation be allowed to navigate & carry, in forbidden channels, is it not equally evident that the benefit must fall to the share of those States which export & consume least, and abound most in resources of ships & seamen.
Nor should it be overlooked that as uniform regulations of the Commerce of the different States will so differently affect their several interests, such regulations must be a strong temptation to measures in the aggrieved States which may first involve the whole confederacy in controversies with foreign nations, and then in contests with one another. I may safely suggest also to your ear, that a variety of circumstances make it proper to recollect that permanent engagements, entered into by the Confederacy with foreign powers, may survive the Confederacy itself; that a question must then arise how far such engagements formed by the States in their federal character, are binding on each of them separately and that they may become pretexts for quarrels with particular States, very inconvenient to the latter, or for a general intrusion into American disputes. On the other hand candor suggests that foreign connections, if founded on principles equally corresponding with the policy & interests of the several States might be a new bond to the federal compact.
Upon these considerations I think it would be advisable to form all our commercial Treaties in future with great deliberation, to limit their duration to moderate periods, & to restrain our Ministers from acceding finally to them till they have previously transmitted them in the terms adjusted, for the revision and express sanction of Congress. In a Treaty of Commerce with G. B., it may be the policy of Virga, in Particular, to reserve her right as unfettered as possible over her own commerce. The monopoly which formerly tyrannized over it has left wounds which are not yet healed, & the numerous debts due from the people, & which by the provisional articles they are immediately liable for, may possibly be made instruments for re-establishing their dependence. It cannot therefore be for the interest of the State to preclude it from any regulations which experience may recommend for its thorough emancipation. It is possible that experience may never recommend an exercise of this right, nor do my own sentiments favor, in general, any restrictions or preferences in matters of commerce but those who succeed us will have an equal claim to judge for themselves, and will have further lights to direct their judgments. Nor ought the example of old & intelligent nations to be too far or too hastily condemned by an infant and inexperienced one. That of G. B. is in the science of commerce, particularly worthy of our attention; And did she not originally redeem the management of her Commerce from the monopoly of the Hanse towns by peculiar exemptions to her own subjects? Did she not dispossess the Dutch by a like policy? And does she not still make a preference of her own Vessels and her own mariners the basis of her maritime power? If Holland has followed a different system the reason is plain. Her object is not to exclude rivals from her own navigation, but to insinuate herself into that of other nations.
The leading objects in the proposed Treaty with G. B. are, 1. a direct commerce with the W. Indies. 2, the carrying trade between the different parts of her dominions. 3, a like trade between these & other parts of the world. In return for these objects we have nothing to offer of which we could well deprive her, but to secure to her subjects an entire equality of privileges with our own citizens. With regard to the 1. object it may be observed, that both the temper & the interest of the nation leave us little ground to apprehend an exclusion from it. The French have so much the advantage of them from the facility of raising food as well as the other produce of their Islands, that the English will be under the necessity of admitting supplies from the U. S. into their Islands, and they surely will prefer paying for them in commodities to paying for them in cash. With regard to the 2nd & 3d objects it may be observed that altho’ they present great advantages, they present them only to those States which abound in maritime resources. Lastly with regard to the concession to be made on the part of the U. S., it may be observed that it will affect chiefly if not solely those States which will share least in the advantages purchased by it. So striking indeed does this contrast appear that it may with certainty be inferred that If G. B. were negotiating a Treaty with the former States only, she would reject a mutual communication of the privileges of natives; nor is it clear that her apprehensions on this side will not yet lead her to reject such a stipulation with the whole.
If this subject should be taken up by the Legislature, I hope that, altho’ not a member, your attention & aid will be given to it. If it sd not be taken up publicly I wish for your own private sentiments & those of the most intelligent members which you may be able to collect.
We have no European intelligence. Sr G. Carleton in a letter to Gel W. avows the same sentiments as were expressed in the conference relative to the negroes, but repeats his caution agst their being understood as the national construction of the Treaty. . . .
In reviewing the freedom of some of the remarks which I have hazarded above, I am almost induced to recall them till I can cover them with cypher. As there is little danger attending the mail at present and your own (illegible) will take care of such as may be improper to be reverberated to this place I shall upon the whole let them stand.—Mad. MSS.
[1 ]The committee to whom was referred a claim of the officers of a brigade raised in Rhode Island in 1779 for one year for depreciation of their pay reported against an allowance, since none had thus far been made to any officers or soldiers discharged before April 10, 1780.—Journals of Congress, iv., 222.
[1 ]The pay for Chaplains and for couriers and postage for our missions abroad was under consideration.—Journals of Congress, iv., 222.
[1 ]Hamilton made the motion, seconded by Madison, that Dana be informed that the primary object of his mission to St. Petersburgh was terminated, and that the benefits of a commercial treaty were remote and without present inducements, that if any such treaty should be made it should be of brief duration, as experience would show more clearly the principles upon which the intercourse between the two countries should be conducted. The passage relating to armed neutrality was as follows.
[1 ]Oliver Pollock was commissioned as commercial agent to the Havana and the agent of marine was instructed to take legal measures against the bonds of privateers for abuses committed by them.—Journals of Congress, iv., 226.
[1 ]January 2, 1781, Virginia offered a cession of the whole territory claimed by her northwest of the Ohio River, on condition that she be reimbursed for her expenses in conquering and defending the ceded territory; that the inhabitants be protected; that Congress fulfill the promises Virginia had made to George Rogers Clarke and his officers and soldiers of grants of land for their services in reducing the British posts; that further grants be made, if necessary, to her continental and state troops, and that the land be used for the common benefit. The land companies arrayed themselves against the cession, as it provided that their claims should be considered void. November 3, a committee of Congress reported that the lands, pretended to be ceded, belonged to the Six Nations of Indians, and were under the government of New York. The subject came up again in Congress September 6, 1782, and on October 29, the cession of all rights, interests and claims of New York was accepted. Virginia’s cession was accepted September 13 substantially as originally offered. See also Rives’s Madison, 1., 445, et seq.
[1 ]“Resolved, That if any captain or commander of any packet, ship of war or armed vessel in the service of the United States, shall load, or suffer to be laden on board the vessel of which he has command, any goods and merchandise, without express order or permission of Congress or their agent of marine, he shall forfeit his commission for such offence.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 227.
[2 ]Madison was in the meantime becoming highly impatient to know how the plan for raising revenue was being received in Virginia. He wrote to Edmund Randolph, May 27.
[1 ]“Mr. Livingston has taken his final leave of the Department of Foreign Affairs. He would have remained, if such an augmentation of his salary had been made as would have secured him against future expense. But besides the disinclination of several members to augment salaries, there was no prospect of a competent number of States for an appropriation of money until he must have lost the option of Chancellorship of New York. No successor has been yet nominated, although the day for a choice has passed. I am utterly at a loss to guess on whom the choice will ultimately fall. Arthur Lee will be started, if the defect of a respectable competitor should be likely to force votes upon him.
[1 ]The Secretary of War was authorized to furlough certain Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia troops.
[1 ]The committee commended the conduct of the department and found all public monies entrusted to continental officers duly accounted for, but that the States had not accounted for the “specifics by them respectively supplied for the use of the continent,” and that a number of people who had been entrusted with public money neglected or refused to settle their accounts and could not be compelled to do so, because of the want of necessary laws in the States. They found that the whole sum brought into the public treasury from May 14, 1781, to January 1, 1783, amounted to $2,726,304, and the whole expenditure $3,131,046, the expenditures exceeding the receipts in 1782 by $404,713, “which was supplied by a circulation in the notes of the financier.” They were ordered to consider what measures might be necessary to compel accounts being rendered by delinquent persons.—Journals of Congress, iv., 228-241.
[1 ]“The definitive Treaty is not yet on this side the watr., nor do we yet hear what stage it is in on the other side. Mr. Dana informs us in a letter of the 17 of Feby that, in consequence of proper encouragement he had finally announced himself at the Court of St. Petersbg., but does not gratify us with a single circumstance that ensued. The Gazette of this morning inclosed contains the latest intelligence from the British Parliamt which I have seen.
[1 ]Motion of Mr. Williamson 2ded. by Mr. Bland June 19, 1783, com̃ited to Mr. Williamson, Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Madison.
[1 ]The motion was “that all reasonable and necessary expenses, incurred in subduing the British posts at the Kaskaskies and St. Vincents, and the expense of maintaining garrisons there, or to the northwest of the river Ohio, since the reduction of the said posts, ought to be allowed, being agreeable to the aforesaid act.” New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware voted aye.—Journals of Congress, iv., 230.
[2 ]The remonstrance expressed surprise at the matter coming up for consideration and called attention to the previously expressed claim of New Jersey to its full proportion of all vacant territory. “We cannot be silent,” it said, “while viewing one state aggrandizing herself by the unjust detention of that property, which has been procured by the common blood and treasure of the whole, and which on every principle of reason and justice, is vested in Congress for the use and general benefit of the union they represent.” It was urged that the cession be not accepted, but that Congress press upon Virginia “to make a more liberal surrender of that territory of which they claim so boundless a proportion.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 231.
[1 ]“Their grievances, all terminate as you may suppose, in the want of their pay which Congs are unable to give them; and the information we received from the States is far from opening any fresh sources for that purpose. Indeed the prospect on the side of the latter compared with the symptoms beginning to appear on the side of the army is to the last degree afflicting to those who love their country and aim at its prosperity. If I had leisure to use a Cypher, I would dilate much upon the present state of our Affairs; which as it is I must defer to another occasion.