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PREFACE Of the Author. - Pelatiah Webster, Political Essays on the Nature and Operation of Money, Public Finances and Other Subjects 
Political Essays on the Nature and Operation of Money, Public Finances and Other Subjects, published during the American War, and continued up to the present Year, 1791 (Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1791).
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PREFACE Of the Author.
THE first thirty years of my life were spent in the literary way, and generally employed in a course of hard study, and close attention to some subject or other; after which, by a turn in my private affairs, I went into a course of mercantile business, which was indeed more a matter of necessity than inclination. My old habits of reading and thinking could not easily be shaken off, and I was scarce ever without either a book or some subject of discussion ready prepared, to which I could resort, the moment I found myself at leisure from other business.
My usual method of discussing any subjects which I undertook to examine, was, as far as possible, to find out and define the original, natural principles of them, and to suffer my mind to be drawn on without bias or any incidental prejudice, to such conclusions as those original principles would naturally lead to and demonstrate, i. e. I endeavoured, as far as I could, to make myself my own original, and draw all my knowledge from the original and natural sources or first principles of it.
The powerful pressures of the British force during the war, and the obstinate and determined defence of the Americans, soon threw every thing into disorder, and produced every day new occurrences and new problems, which America had never seen before, and, of course, knew not how either to obviate or solve them.
The first operations of the war affected my connexions in trade so much, that it threw me out of my usual course of business, and left me at leisure to contemplate those occurrences; and I thought I might render an essential service to my country by examining them, reducing them to their original principles, explaining their nature, and pointing out their natural operation and probable effects.
I conceived that the most important and alarming of these events and questions were those which respected our resources, and especially the state of the Continental money, which was the sole supply of the public treasury at that time. This induced me to turn my attention very seriously to the nature and operation of money and finance; a subject which I had never before examined, further than daily practice and private economy made necessary.
Some reasonings and conclusions on this subject were published under the signature of A Financier in 1776, and make the first of the following Essays; all the rest were published successively (as dated) under the signature of A Citizen of Philadelphia.
Whilst I reasoned on the great subjects of the natural operation of money and of national finances, and drew such theorems and conclusions as appeared to me to result from their natural, original principles, I had an opportunity to compare those conclusions with real fact, and to judge of their truth by experiment of their actual effects; and in this I was rarely mistaken. The effects or consequences which I inferred from the principles on which I reasoned, scarcely in one instance failed to follow in the kind, tho’ not always in the degree, which I expected, e. g. the strength of the States, and the patriotism, the patience, the firmness, and steady virtue of our people, were greater than I could expect, whilst I reasoned on human nature and human passions, as exhibited in the example of other nations, especially in the instance of unpaid armies. From these sprang resources for continuing the war, beyond my sanguine calculations, whilst national ruin appeared to me more near and certain than it really was.
Again, the obstinate perseverance of the British nation in continuing the American war was less than I computed on. I believe, the American independence was the only point which that nation ever yielded, after exerting every nerve of their strength to carry their purpose.
Further, I had no idea that the Continental money could be made to pass at all as a medium of trade at a depreciation even of 50 or 100, much less of 500, for 1.
It may be worth notice here, that these Essays exhibit not only a discussion of the principles and nature of money and national finances, but contain also a kind of history of these principles compared with facts or their real operation, during the convulsions of America thro’ a seven years’ war, when the dangers, the distresses, the firmness, the terrors, the wisdom, the folly, the expedients, the exertions, the resources, the strength and the weakness, the successes and the disappointments, which appeared under all modes and forms, put every principle into operation, and every conclusion and theorem to the test, and left no room for false reasonings or idle projections, because their fallacy was sure to be detected very soon by a failure or deficiency of their effects.
These Essays were all written at the times in which the several subjects of them were fresh, and strongly impressed on every American mind, and the feelings of every body were alive and wound up to the highest pitch of anxiety, and an asylum of even safety was eagerly sought. It may, therefore, be agreeable to my fellow-citizens to revise these distressing scenes, as people sometimes have pleasure in viewing places in which they have passed thro’ sorrows and calamities that are now over and past.
A review of arguments and reasonings on the abstruse subject of money and finance, cennected with fact, i. e. with the actual effects and consequences of them, may afford some gratification and amusement to speculative people, who are disposed to examine and explore those difficult, but very interesting matters, errors and mistakes in which have tript up the heels of, and brought by the board, very many statesmen in every nation.
For this reason it is probable that politicians and statesmen who may happen to be involved in these inquiries, may find benefit in an attention to American experience.
Such a connexion of principles, theorems, and facts, in the great subject of money and finance, is a phenomenon rarely to be found in any nation so clearly exhibited, as in the history of money and finances in our States during the war and its consequences.
In short, in the history of American distresses, perfect wisdom is not to be expected; but we have an opportunity of learning wisdom from it. Many projects, plans, schemes, and manœuvres, some of them hurtful, and others vain and ridiculous enough, were set on foot, and some of them pushed into execution with great severity, which either died soon without effect, or were marked with calamity during their continuance.
Many others more wise and judicious were also proposed, and sooner or later adopted with success and great benefit.
We have now an opportunity of distinguishing the wise from the foolish, the good from the bad, by their effects, which may help us much to wisdom in our future counsels.
We are now at leisure for consideration, and cannot plead pressures and distresses in excuse for any mistakes; and we have the effects of former errors, like beacons of caution set up before our eyes to guard us against repeating them.
Some Essays on different subjects are introduced here, which I leave, with all the rest, to make their way in the world, according to their merits.
In these Essays Continental money is often considered; to understand the arguments it may often be necessary to recur to the value of that money at the date of each Essay: I have, for this purpose, added at the end of this book four scales of depreciation, viz. the scale of Congress, that of the State of Pennsylvania, established by law, April 3, 1781, and two others, one for Philadelphia, the other for Virginia, taken from the merchants’ books.
The two first, for political reasons, vary from the true exchange part of the time; the other two, taken from the merchants’ books, are as near the true and actual exchange, as a thing of such a fluctuating and variable nature can be expected to be.
I have also added a chronology of remarkable events, as people generally connect the occurrences of these times with some or other of those events.
I cannot say I had all the success in these publications which I wished.
In some cases, they crossed the favorite plans proposed by influential men, which, like their children, they could not bear to see killed, or even corrected.
In some cases they opposed some great and strong interests, which bore them down.
In some cases, they stood opposed to general opinion in point of real propriety. The subjects were new, and the public mind had not time to fix itself on the ground of experience; many errors prevailed at that time.
In sine, most people at the time were wrought up to such a passionate attachment to the American cause, that they had not patience to examine and consider coolly the means necessary to support it.
But all men have now an opportunity to compare the various plans and projects of those times with the facts which followed, and doubtless will have pleasure in distinguishing the wise and prudent from the wild and idle, by their actual effects.
In this view, I here present my Essays all together to the reader’s perusal and censure.
Philadelphia, February 22, 1791.