Abbildungen der Seite


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

no no

lina, be referred to the superintendent of finance, and that it be left to his discretion to act therein as he may conceive most proper.

On the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Ellsworth, and Mr. Hamilton, to whom was referred a motion of Mr. Hamilton relative to the southern army :

Resolved, That the secretary at war and the superintendent of finance, take „mmediate measures for removing the lines of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, together with the corps of artillery and cavalry now under the command of major-general Greene, to such places within their respective states as they shall think proper.

On the question to agree to the above resolution, the yeas and nays being
required by Mr. Rutledge,
N.-Hampshire, Mr. White, ay . Delaware, Mr. M'Comb, ay 2...
Massachusetts, Mr. Osgood,


Maryland, Mr. Carroll,

Rhode Island, Mr. Collins,

Virginia, Mr. Jones,

Connecticut, Mr. Ellsworth,


no Say New-York, Mr. Floyd, Hamilton,


no) New Jersey, Mr. Boudinot,

N.-Carolina, Mr. Hawkins,

Williamson, ay S
Condict, ау

18.-Carolina, Mr. Rutledge, Pennsylvania, Mr. Mifflin,


Fitzsimmons, ay say

Gervais, no)
So it was resolved in the affirmative.

The committee consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Ellsworth and Mr. Hamilton, appointed to prepare an address to the states, to accompany the act of the 18th of this month, reported a draught, which being read and amended, was agreed to as follows:

Address to the States, by the United States in Congress assembled. The prospect which has for some time existed, and which is now happily realized, of a suc cessful termination of the war, together with the critical exigencies of public affairs, have made it the duty of Congress to review and provide for the debts which the war has left upon the United States, and to look forward to the means of obviating dangers which may interrupt the harmony and tranquillity of the confederacy. The result of their mature and solemn deliberations on these great objects, is contained in their several recommendations of the 18th instant herewith transmitted. “Although these recommendations speak themselves the principles on which they are founded, as well as the ends which they propose, it will not be improper to enterinto a few explanations and remarks, in order to place in a stronger view the necessity of complying with them.

The first measure recommended is, effectual provision for the debts of the United States. The amount of these debts, as far as they can now be ascertained, is 42,000,375 dollars, as will appear by the schedule No. 1. To discharge the principal of this aggregate debt at once, or in any short period, is evidently not within the compass of our resources; and even if it could be accomplished, the ease of the community would require that the debt itself should be left to a course of gradual extinguishinent, and certain funds be provided for paying, in the mean time, the annualinterest. The amount of the annual interest, as will appear by the paper last referred to, is computed to be 2,415,956 dollars. Funds, therefore, which will certainly and punctually produce this annual sum at least, must be provided.

In devising these funds, Congress did not overlook the mode of supplying the common treasury, provided by the articles of confederation; but after the most respectful consideration of that mode, they were constrained to regard it as inadequate and inapplicable to the formr into which the public debt must be thrown. The delays and uncertainties incident to a revenue to be established and collected, from time to time, by thirteen independent authorities, is at first view irreconcileable with the punctuality essential in the discharge of the interest of a national debt. Our own experience, after making cvery allowance for transient impediments, has been a sufficient illustration of this truth. Some departure, therefore, in the recommendations of Congress, from the federal constitution, was unavoidable; but it will be found to be as small as could be reconciled with the object in view, and to be supported besides by solid considerations of interest and sound policy.

The fund which first presented itself on this, as it did on a former occasion, was a tax on imports. The reasons which recominended this branch of revenue, have heretofore been

stated in an act, of which a copy, No. 2, is now forwarded, and need not be here repeated It will suffice to recapitulate, that taxes on consumption are always least burthensome, because they are least felt, and are bome too, by those who are both willing and able to pay them; that, of all taxes on consumption, those on foreign commerce are most compatible with the genius and policy of free states; that from the relative positions of some of the more commercial states, it will be impossible to bring this essential resource into use without a concerted uniformity; that this uniformity cannot be concerted through any channel so properly as through Congress, nor for any purpose so aptly as for paying the debts of a revolution, from which an unbounded freedom has accrued to commerce.

In renewing this proposition to the states, we have not been unmindful of the objections which heretofore frustrated the unanimous adoption of it. We have limited the duration of the revenue to the term of 25 years; and we have left to the states themselves the appointment of the officers who are to collect it. If the strict maxims of national credit alone were to be consulted, the revenue ought manifestly to be co-existent with the object of it, and the collection placed in every respect under that authority which is to dispense the former, and is responsible for the latter. These relaxations will, we trust, be regarded on one hand, as the effect of a disposition in Congress to attend at all times to the sentiments of those whom they serve, and on the other hand, as a proof of their anxious desire that provision may be made in some way or other for an honorable and just fulfilment of the engagements which they have formed.

To render this fund as productive as possible, and at the same time to narrow the room for collusions and frauds, it has been judged an improvement of the plan, to recommend a liberal duty on such articles as are most susceptible of a tax according to their quantity, and are of most equal and general consumption ; leaving all other articles, as heretofore proposed, to be taxed according to their value.

The amount of this fund is computed to be 915,956 dollars. The estimates on which the computation is made, are detailed in paper No. 3. Accuracy in the first essay on so complex and Auctuating a subject is not to be expected. It is presumed to be as near the truth as the defect of proper materials would admit.

The residue of the computed interest is 1,500,000 dollars, and is referred to the states to be provided for by such funds as they may judge most convenient. Here again the strict max. ims of public credit gave way to the desire of Congress to conform to the sentiments of their constituents. It ought not to be omitted, however, with respect to this portion of the revenue, that the mode in which it is to be supplied, varies so little from that pointed out in the articles of confederation, and the variations are so conducive to the great object proposed, that a ready and unqualified compliance on the part of the states may be more justly expect ed. In fixing the quotas of this sum, Congress, as may be well imagined, were guided by very imperfect lights, and some inequalities may consequently have ensied. These, however, can be but temporary, and as far as they may exist at all, will be redressed by a retrospective adjustment, as soon as a constitutional rule can be applied.

The necessity of making the two foregoing provisions one indivisible and irrevocable act, is apparent. Without the first quality, partial provision only might be made where complete provision is essential; nay, as some states might prefer and adopt one of the funds only, and the other states the other fund only, it might happen that no provision at all would be made : without the second a single state out of the thirteen might at any time involve the nation in bankruptcy, the mere practicability of which would be a fatal bar to the establishment of national credit. Instead of enlarging on these topics, two observations are submitted to the justice and wisdom of the legislatures. First: The present creditors, or rather the domestic part of them, having either made their loans for a period which has expired, or having become creditors in the first instance involuntarily, are entitled on the clear principles of justice and good faith, to demand the principal of their credits, instead of accepting the annual interest. It is necessary therefore, as the principal cannot be paid to them on demand, that the interest should be so etrectually and satisfactorily secured, as to enable them, if they incline, to trans. fer their stock at its full value. Secondly; if the funds be so firmly constituted as to inspire a thorough and universal confidence, may it not be hoped, that the capital of the domestic debt, which bears the high interest of six per cent, may be cancelled by other loans obtained at a more moderate interest? The saving by such an operation, would be a clear one, and might be a considerable one. As a proof of the necessity of substantial funds for the support of our credit abroad, we refer to paper No. 4.

This much for the interest of the national debt: for the discharge of the principal within the term limited, we rely on the natural increase of the revenue from commerce, on requisitions to be made, from time to time, for that purpose, as circumstances may dictate, and on the prospect of vacant territory. If these resources should prove inadequate, it will be neces. sary, at the expiration of 25 years, to continue the funds now recommended, or to establish such others as may then be found more convenient.

With a view to the resource last mentioned, as well as to obviate disagreeable controversies and confusions, Congress have included in their present recommendations, a renewal of those of the 6th day of September, and of the 10th day of October, 1780. In both those respects, a

liberal and final accommodation of all interfering claims of vacant territory, is an object which cannot be pressed with too much solicitude.

The last object recommended is, a constitutional change of the rule by which a partition of the common burthens is to be made. The expediency, and even necessity of such a change, has been sufficiently enforced by the local injustice and discontents which have proceeded from valuations of the soil in every state where the experiment has been made. But how infinitely must these evils be increased, on a comparison of such valuations among the states themselves! On whatever side indeed this rule be surveyed, the execution of it must be at. tended with the most serious difficulties. If the valuations be referred to the authorities of the several states, a general satisfaction is not to be hoped for : If they be executed by officers of the United States traversing the country for that purpose, besides the inequalities against which this mode would be no security, the expense would be both enormous and obnoxious : If the mode taken in the act of the 17th day of February last, which was deemed on the whole least objectionable, be adhered to, still the insufficiency of the data to the purpose to which they are to be applied, must greatly impair, if not utterly destroy all confidence in the accuracy of the result; not to mention that as far as the result can be at all a just one, it will be indebted for the advantage to the principle on which the rule proposed to be substituted is founded. This rule, although not free from objections, is liable to fewer than any other that could be devised. The only material difficulty which attended it in the deliberations of Congress, was to fix the proper difference between the labour and industry of free inhabitants, and of all other inhabitants. The ratio ultimately agreed on was the effect of mutual concessions; and if it should be supposed not to correspond precisely with the fact, no doubt ought to be entertained that an equal spirit of accommodation among the several legislatures, will prevail against little inequalities which may be calculated on one side or on the other. But notwithstanding the confidence of Congress, as to the success of this proposition, it is their duty to recollect that the event may possibly disappoint them, and to request that measures may still be pursued for obtaining and transmitting the information called for in the act of the 17th of February last, which in such event will be essential.

The plan thus communicated and explained by Congress, must now receive its fate from their constituents. All the objects comprised in it are conceived to be of great importance to the happiness of this confederated republic, are necessary to render the fruits of the revolution a full reward for the blood, the toils, the cares and the calamities which have purchased it. But the object of which the necessity will be peculiarly felt, and which it is peculiarly the duty of Congress to inculcate, is the provision recommended for the national debt. Although this debt is greater than could have been wished, it is still less on the whole than could have been expected, and when referred to the cause in which it has been incurred, and compared with the burdens which wars of ambition and of vain glory have entailed on other nations, ought to be bore not only with cheerfulness but with pride. But the magnitude of the debt makes no part of the question. It is sufficient that the debt has been fairly contracted and that justice and good faith demand that it should be fully discharged. Congress had no option but between different modes of discharging it. The same option is the only one that can exist with the states. The mode which has, after long and elaborate discussion, been preferred, is, we are persuaded, the least objectionable of any that would have been equal to the purpose. Under this persuasion, we call upon the justice and plighted faith of the several states to give it its proper effect, to reflect on the consequences of rejecting it, and to remember that Congress will not be answerable for them.

If other motives than that of justice could be requisite on this occasion, no nation could ever feel stronger; for to whom are the debts to be paid ?

To an ally, in the first place, who to the exertion of his arms in support of our cause, bas added the succours of his treasure ; who, to his important loans, has added liberal donations ; and whose loans themselves carry the impression of his magnanimity and friendship. For more exact information on this point we refer to paper No. 5.

To individuals in a foreign country, in the next place, who were the first to give so pre. cious a token of their confidence in our justice, and of their friendship for our cause, and who are members of a republic which was second in espousing our rank ainong nations. For the claims and expectations of this class of creditors we refer to paper No. 6.

Another class of creditors is, that illustrious and patriotic band of fellow-citizens, whose blood and whose bravery have defended the liberties of their country, who have patiently borne, among other distresses, the privation of their stipends, whilst the distresses of their country disabled it from bestowing them; and who, even now, ask for no more than such a portion of their dues as will enable them to retire from the field of victory and glory, into the bosom of peace and private citizenship, and for such effectual security for the residue of their claims as their country is now unquestionably able to provide. For a full view of their sentiments and wishes on this subject, we transmit the paper No. 7; and as a fresh and lively instance of their superiority to every species of seduction from the paths of virtue and honor, we add the paper No. 8.

The remaining class of creditors is composed partly of such of our fellow-citizens as originally lent to the public the use of their funds, or have since manifested most confidence in their country, by receiving transfers from the lenders ; and partly of those whose property has been either advanced or assumed for the public service.' To discriminate the merits of these several descriptions of creditors, would be a task equally unnecessary and invidious. If the voice of humanity plead more loudly in favour of some than of others, the voice of policy, no less than of justice, pleads in favour of all. A wise nation will never permit those who relieve the wants of their country, or who rely most on its faith, its firmness and its resources, when either of them is distrusted, to suffer by the event.

Let it be remembered finally, that it has ever been the pride and boast of America, that the rights for which she contended, were the rights of human nature. By the blessing of the author of these rights, on the means exerted for their defence, they have prevailed against all opposition, and form the basis of thirteen independent states. No instance has beretofore occurred, nor can any instance be expected hereafter to occur, in which the unadulterated forms of republican government can pretend to so fair an opportunity of justifying themselves by their fruits. In this view the citizens of the United States are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society. If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude and all the other qualities which ennoble the character of a nation, and fulfil the ends of government. be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and lustre which it has never yet enjoyed; and an example will be set which cannot but have the most favourable influence on the rights of mankind. If on the other side, our governments should be unfortunately blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and essential virtues, the great cause which we have eny, aged to vindicate, will be dishonored and betrayed; the last and fairest experiment in favour of the rights of human nature will be turned against them, and their patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced by the votaries of tyranny and usurpatios.

By order of the United States in Congress assembled.

TUESDAY, April 29, 1783. The papers referred to in the foregoing address and which are to accompany it, are as follows:

. PAPER, No. I.
An Estimate of the National Debt, viz.

Livres. Dollars. Due to the farmers general of France,

1,000,000 To individuals in France on unliquidated accounts, estimated, 3,000,000

To the crown of France, including a loan of 10,000,000 borrowed in Holland, and for which France is guarantee,

28,000,000 To ditto, a loan, for 1783,



at 5 livres 8 sous per dol. 7,037,037 To lenders in Holland, received in part of the loan contracted for by Mr. J. Adamas, 1,678,000 forins,

671,200 Burrosed in Spain by Mr. Jay,

150,000 - One yez's interest of Dutch loan of 10,000,000 livres,

26,848 Foreign debt, 1st January, 1783, 7,885,085

Domestic Debt. On loan-office certificates, reduced to specie value,

11,463,802 Interest unpaid for 1781,

190,000 Ditto 1782,

687,828 Credit to sundries in treasury books,

638,042 Army debt to 31st december, 1782,

5,635,618 En quidated debt, estimated at,

8,000,000 Comingtation to the army, agreeable to the act of 22d March last, 5,000,000 Bounty due to privates

500,000 Deficiencies in 1783, suppose



Total debt, 42,000,375 Annual Interest of the debt of the United States, On the foreign debt, part at 4 and part at 5 per cent:

369,038.6 on the domestic debt, at 6 per cent.


[ocr errors]

PAPER, No. II. The letter of the 16th of December last to the governor of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, as entered on the journal of that day.

By the United States in Congress assembled, December 16, 1782. The committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison and Mr. Fitzsimmons, to whom was referred the letter of 30th November, from the hon. William Bradford, speaker of the lower house of assembly of the state of Rhode-Island, containing, under three heads, the rea. sons of that state for refusing their compliance with the recommendation of Congress for a duty on imports and prize goods; report,

“That they flatter themselves the state, on a re-consideration of the objections they have offered, with a candid attention to the arguments which stand in opposition to them, will be induced to retract their dissent, convinced that the measure is supported on the most solid grounds of equal justice, policy and general utility. The following observations, contrasted with each head of the objections, successively, will furnish a satisfactory answer to the whole.

First objection. “That the proposed duty would be unequal in its operation, bearing hardest upon the most commercial states, and so would press peculiarly hard upon that state, which draws its chief support from commerce.” • The most common experience, joined to the concurrent opinions of the ablest commercial and political observers, have established beyond controversy this 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."

The merchant considers the duty demanded by the state on the imported article, in the same light with freight or any similar charge, and adding it to the original cost, calculates his profit on the aggregate sum. It may happen that at particular conjunctures, where the markets are overstocked, and there is a competition among the sellers, this may not be practicable; but in the general course of trade the demand for consumption preponderates, and the merchant can with ease indemnify himself and even obtain a profit on the advance. As a consumer, he pays his share of the duty, but it is no further a burthen upon him. The consequence of the principle laid down is, that every class of the community bears its share of the duty in proportion to its consumption, which last is regulated by the comparative wealth of the respective classes, in conjunction with their habits of expense or frugality. The rich and luxurious pay in proportion to their riches and luxury; the poor and parsimonious, in proportion to their poverty and parsimony. A chief excellence of this mode of revenue is, that it preserves a just measure to the abilities of individuals, promotes frugality, and taxes extravagance. The same reasoning in our situation applies to the intercourse between two states: if one imports and the other does not, the latter must be supplied by the former. The duty being transferred to the price of the commodity, is no more a charge on the importing state for what is consumed in the other, than it is a charge on the merchant for what is consumed by the fariner or artificer. Either state will only feel the burthen in ratio to its consumption, and this will be in ratio to its population and wealth. What happens between the different classes of the same community internally happens between the two states; and as the merchant, in the first case, so far from losing the duty himself, has a profit on the moncy he advanced for that purpose ; so the importing state, which in the second case is the merchant with respect to the other, is not only reimbursed by the non-importing state, but has a like benefit on the duty advanced. It is therefore the reverse of a just position, that the duty proposed will bear hardest on the most commercial states; it will, if any thing, have a contrary effect, though not in a sufficient degree to justify an objection on the part of the non-importing states. For it is as reasonable they should allow an advance on the duty paid, as on the first cost, freight or any accidental charge. They have also other advantages in the measure fully equivalent to this disadvantage. Over nice and minute calculations, in matters of this nature, are inconsistent with national measures, and in the imperfect state of human affairs, would stagnate all the operations of government. Absolute equality is not to be attained: to aim at it, is pursuing a shadow at the expense of the substance, and in the event we should find ourselves wider of the mark, than if in the first instance we were content to approach it with moderation.

Second objection. “That the recommendation proposes to introduce into that and the other states, officers unknown and unaccountable to them, and so is against the constitution of the state."

It is not to be presumed that the constitution of any state could mean to define and fix the precise numbers and descriptions of all officers to be permitted in the state, excluding the cre. ation of any new ones, whatever might be the necessity derived from that variety of circumstances incident to all political institutions. The legislature must always have a discretionary power of appointing officers, not expressly known to the constitution, and this power will inelude that of authorizing the federal government to make the appointments in cases where the general welfare may require it. The denial of this would prove too much; to wit, that the power given by the confederation to Congress, to appoint all officers in the post office, was illegal and unconstitutional,

« ZurückWeiter »