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The report of the committee on the case of Vermont, mentioned on Thursday, the 14th of November, was called for by Mr. M'KEAN, and postponed, on his motion, to make way for a set of resolutions, declaring that, as Vermont, in contempt of the authority of Congress and their recommendations of 1799, exercised jurisdiction over sundry persons professing allegiance to the state of New York, banishing them and stripping them of their possessions, the former be required to make restitution, &c.; and that, in case of refusal or neglect, Congress will enforce the same, &c. A motion was made by Mr. CLARK, seconded by Mr. HOWELL, to strike out the latter clause; in favor of which it was said, that such a menace ought to be suispended until Vermont should refuse to comply with the requisition; especially, said Mr. Howell, as the present proceeding, being at the instance of Phelps and other exiles, was an ex parte one.
Against the motion for expunging the clause, it was observed, that a requisition on Vermont without such a menace would have no effect; that if Congress interposed, they ought to do it with a decisive tone ; that as it only enforced restitution in cases where spoliations had been committed, and therefore was conditional, the circumstance of its being ex parte was of no weight, especially as Congress could not call on Vermont to appear as a party after her repeated protestations against appearing.
On this occasion, Mr. CARROLL informed Congress, that he had entirely changed his opinion with regard to the policy requisite with regard to Vermont, being thoroughly persuaded that its leaders were perfidious men, and that the interest of the United States required their pretensions to be discountenanced ; that in this opinion he was not a little confirmed by a late conversation with General Whipple, of New Hainpshire, at Trenton, in which this gentleman assured him, that the governing party in Vermont were perfidiously devoted to the British interests, and that he had reason to believe that a British commission for a governor of that district had come over, and was ready to be produced at a convenient season. Some of the members having gone out of Congress, and it being uncertain whether there would be more than six states for the ise, an adjournment was moved for and voted.
The proceedings on this subject evinced still more the conciliating effect of the territorial cession of New York, on several states, and the effect of the scheme of an ultra-montane state, within Pennsylvania, on the latter state. The only states in Congress which stood by Vermont were Rhode Island (which is supposed to be interested in lands in Vermont) and New Jersey, whose delegates were under instructions on the subject.5
WEDNESDAY, December 4. After the passing of the resolution concerning Captain Paul Jones, a motion was made by Mr. MADISON to reconsider the same, that it might be referred to the agent of marine to take order, as a better mode of answering the same purpose; since it did not become the sovereign body to give public sanction to a recommendation of Captain Jones to the commander of the French squadron, especially as there was no written evidence that the latter had signified a disposition to concur in the project of Captain Jones. The motion was lost; a few states only being in favor of it.
The reason assigned by those who voted against the promotion of colonels to brigadiers, according to districts, was, that such a division of the United States tends to foster local ideas, and might lead to a dismemberment.
The delegates from Pennsylvania reminded Congress that no answer had been given to the memorials (see November 20) from that state; that the legislature were proceeding in the measure intimated in the said memorials, and that they meant to finish it and adjourn this evening. The reasons mentioned by the delegates as prevailing with the legislature, were - first, the delay of Congress to give an answer, which was deemed disrespectful; secondly, the little chance of any funds being provided by Congress for their internal debts; thirdly, the assurance (given by one of their members, Mr. Joseph Montgomery, mentioned privately, not on the floor) that no impediment to the support of the war could arise from it, since Congress had provided means for that purpose in Europe.
A committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Hamilton, was appointed to confer immediately with a committee from the legislature on the subject of the memorials, and was instructed to make such communications, relative to our affairs abroad, as would correct misinformations. The committee which met them, on the part of the legislature, were Mr. Joseph Montgomery, Mr. Hill, and Mr. Jacob Rush.
The committee of Congress in the conference observed, that the delay of an answer had proceeded in part from the nature of so large an assembly, of which the committee of the legislature could not be insensible; but principally from the difficulty of giving a satisfactory one until Rhode Island should accede to the imp«st of five per cent., of which they had been in constant expectation; that, with respect to the prospect from Congress for the public creditors, Congress had required of the states interest for the ensuing year, had accepted the territorial cession of New York, and meant still to pursue the scheme of the impost; that as to their affairs in Europe, the loan of six millions of livres only last year had been procured from France by Dr. Franklin, in place of twelve asked by him, the whole of which had been applied; that the loan of five millions of guilders, opened by Mr. Adams, had advanced to about one and a half million only, and there seemed little progress to have been made of late ; that the application for four millions, as part of the estimate for the ensuing year, was not founded on any previous information in its favor, but against every intimation on the subject, and was dictated entirely by our necessities; so that, if even no part of the requisitions from the states should be denied or diverted, the support of the war, the primary object, might be but deficiently provided for; that if this example, which violated the right of appropriation delegated to Congress by the Federal Articles, should be set by Pennsylvania, it would be both followed by other states, and extended to other instances; that, in consequence, our system of administration, and even our bond of union, would be dissolved ; that the enemy would take courage from such a prospect, and the war be prolonged, if not the object of it be endangered ; that our national credit would fail with other powers, and the loans from abroad, which had been our chief resource, fail with it ; that an assumption, by individual states, of the prerogative of paying their own citizens the debts of the United States, out of the money required by the latter, was not only a breach of the federal system, but of the faith pledged to the public creditors, since payment was mutually guarantied to each and all of the creditors by each and all of the states; and that, lastly, it was unjust with respect to the states themselves, on whom the burden would fall, not in proportion to their respoctive abilities, but to the debts due to their respective citizens ; and that at least it deserved the consideration of Pennsylvania whether she would not be loser by such an arrangement.
On the side of the other comınittee it was answered, that the measure could not violate the confederation, because the requisition had not been founded on a valuation of land ; that it would not be the first example, New Hampshire and New York having appropriated money raised under requisitions of Congress; that if the other states did their duty in complying with the demands of Congress, no inconvenience would arise from it ; that the discontents of the creditors would prevent the payment of taxes ; Mr. Hill finally asking whether it had been considered in Congress, how far delinquent states could be eventually coerced to do justice to those who performed their part? To all which it was replied, that a valuation of land had been manifestly impossible during the war; that the apportionments made had been acquiesced in by Pennsylvania, and therefore the appropriation could not be objected to; that, although other states might have set previous examples, these had never come before Congress; and it would be more honorable for Pennsylvania to counteract than to abet them, especially as the example from her weight in the Union, and the residence of Congress, would be so powerful, that if other states did their duty the measure would be superfluous ; that the discontents of the creditors might always be answered by the equal justice and more pressing necessity which pleaded in favor of the army, who had lent their blood and services to their country, and on whom its defence still rested; that Congress, unwilling to presume a refusal in any of the states to do justice, would not anticipate it by a consideration of the steps which such refusal might require, and that ruin must ensue, if the states suffered their policy to be swayed by such distrusts. The committee appeared to be considerably impressed with these remarks, and the legislature suspended their plan..
Thursday, Decemoer 5. Mr. Lowell and Mr. Read were elected judges of the Court of Appeals. Mr. P
Sm th, of New Jersey, had the vote of that state, and Mr. Merchant, of Rhode
The resolutions respecting Vermont, moved by Mr. M'KEAN on the 27th day of November, were taken into consideration. They were seconded by Mr. HAMILTON, as entered on the Journal of this day. Previous to the question on the coercive clause, Mr. MADISON observed, that, as the preceding clause was involved in it, and the Federal Articles did not delegate to Congress the authority about to be enforced, it would be proper, in the first place, to amend the recital in the previous clause by inserting the ground on which the authority of Congress had been interposed. Some, who voted against this motion in this stage, having done so from a doubt as to the point of order, it was revived in a subsequent stage, when that objection did not lie. The objections to the motion itself were urged chiefly by the delegates from Rhode Island, and with a view, in this, as in all other instances, to perplex and protract the business. The objections were – first, that the proposed insertion was not warranted by the act of New Hampshire, which submitted to the judgment of Congress merely the question of jurisdiction; secondly, that the resolutious of August, 1781, concerning Vermont, having been acceded to by Vermont, annulled all antecedent acts founded on the doubtfulness of its claim to independence. In answer to the first objection, the act of New Hampshire was read, which, in the utinost latitude, adopted the resolutions of Congress, which extended expressly to the preservation of peace and order, and prevention of acts of confiscation by one party against another. To the second objection it was answered — first, that the said resolutions of August being conditional, not absolute, the cession of Vermont could not render them definitive; but, secondly, that prior to this accession, Vermont having, in due form, rejected the resolutions, and notified the rejection to Congress, the accession could be of no avail, unless subsequently admitted by Congress; thirdly, that this doctrine had been maintained by Vermont itself, which had declared that, inasmuch as the resolutions of August did not correspond with their overtures previously made to Congress, these had ceased to be obligatory ; which act, it was to be observed, was merely declaratory, not creative, of the annulment.
The original motion of Mr. MÄKEAN and Mr. HAMILTON was agreed to, seven states voting for it, Rhode Island and New Jersey in the negative.
Friday, December 6. An ordinance, extending the privilege of franking letters to the heads of all the departments, was reported and taken up. Various ideas were thrown out on the subject at large; soine contending for the extension proposed; some for a total abolition of the privilege, as well in members of Congress as in others; some for a limitation of the privilege to a definite number or weight of letters. Those who contended for a total abolition, represented the privilege as productive of abuses, as reducing the profits so low as to prevent the extension of the establishment throughout the United States, and as throwing the whole burden of the establishment on the mercantile intercourse. On the other side it was contended, that, in case of an abolition, the delegates, or their constituents, would be taxed just in proportion to their distance from the seat of Congress; which was neither just nor politic, considering the many other disadvantages which were inseparable from that distance; that as the correspondence of the delegates was the principal channel through which a general knowledge of public affairs was diffused, any abridgment of it would so far confine this advantage to the states within the neighborhood of Congre-s; and that, as the correspondence at present, however voluminous, did not exclude from the mail any private letters which would be subject to postage, and if postage was extended to letters now franked, the number and size of them would be essentially reduced, the revenue was not affected in the manner represented. The ordinance was disagreed to, and the subject recommitted, with instruction to the committee, giving them ample latitude for such report, as they should think fit.
À Boston newspaper, containing, under the Providence head, an extract of a letter purporting to be written by a gentleman in Philadelphia, and misrepresenting the state of our loans, as well as betraying the secret proposal of the Swedish court to enter into a treaty with the United States, with the view of disproving to the people of Rhode Island the necessity of the impost of five per cent., had been handed about for several days. From the style and other circumstances, it carried sti ongly
the appearance of being written by a member of Congress. The unanimous suspicions were fixed on Mr. Howell. The mischievous tendency of such publications and the necessity of the interposition of Congress, were also general subjects of conversation. It was imagined, too, that a detection of the person suspected would destroy in his state that influence which he exerted in misleading its counsels with respect to the impost. These circumstances led Mr. WILLIAMSON to move the following proposition on this subject:
" Whereas there is reason to suspect, that as well the national character of the United States, and the honor of Congress, as the finances of the said states, may be injured, and the public service greatly retarded, by some publications that have been made concerning the foreign affairs of said states, - Resolved, That a committee be appointed to inquire into this subject, and report what steps they conceive are necessary to be taken thereon."
It was opposed by no one.
Mr. CLARK, supposing it to be levelled in part at him, rose and informed Congress. that, not considering the article relative to Sweden as secret in its nature, and considering himself at liberty to make any communications to his constituents, he had disclosed it to the assembly of New Jersey. He was told that the motion was not aimed at him, but the doctrine advanced by him was utterly inadınissible. Mr. RUTLEDGE observed, that, after this frankness on the part of Mr. Clark, as well as from the respect due from every member to Congress, and to himself, it might be concluded, that, if no member present should own the letter in question, no member present was the author of it. Mr. Howell was evidently perturbated, but remained silent.
The conference with the committee of the legislature of Pennsylvania, with subsequent information, had rendered it very evident that, unless some effectual meas. ures were taken against separate appropriations, and in favor of the public creditors, the legislature of that state, at its next meeting, would resume the plan which they had suspended.
Mr. RUTLEDGE, in pursuance of this conviction, moved that the superintendent of finance be instructed to represent to the several states the mischiefs which such appropriations would produce. It was observed, with respect to this motion, that, however proper it might be as one expedient, it was, of itself, inadequate ; that nothing but a permanent fund for discharging the debts of the public would divert the states from making provision for their own citizens ; that a renewal of the call on Rhode Island for the impost ought to accompany the motion ; that such a combination of these plans would mutually give efficacy to them, since Rhode Island would be solicitous to prevent separate appropriations, and the other states would be soothed with the hope of the impost. These observations gave rise to the motion of Mr. HAMILTON,
“ That the superintendent of finance be, and he is hereby, directed to represent to the legislatures of the several states the indispensable necessity for their complying with the requisitions of Congress for raising one million two hundred thousand dollars, for paying one year's interest of the domestic debt of the United States, and two millions of dollars towards defraying the expenses of the estimate for the ensuing year, and the inconveniences, embarrassments, and injuries to the public service, which will arise from the states' individually making appropriations of any part of the said two millions of dollars, or any other moneys required by the United States in Congress assembled; assuring them withal, that Congress are determined to make the fullest justice to the public creditors an invariable object of their counsels and exertions ; that a deputation be sent to the state of Rhode Island, for the purpose of making a full and just representation of the public affairs of the United States, and of urging the absolute necessity of a compliance with the resolution of Congress of the 3d day of February, 1781, respecting the duty on imports and prizes, as a measure essential to the safety and reputation of these states."
Against Mr. Rutledge's part of the motion no objection was made; but the sending a deputation to Rhode Island was a subject of considerable debate, in which the necessity of the impost – in order to prevent separate appropriations by the states, to do equal justice to the public creditors, to maintain our national character and credit abroad, to obtain the loans essential for supplying the deficiencies of revenue, to prevent the encouragement which a failure of the scheme would give the enemy to persevere in the war - was fully set forth. The objections, except those which came against the scheme itself from the delegates of Rhode Island, were drawn from the unreasonableness of the proposition. Congress ought, it was said, to wait for an official answer to their demand of an explicit answer from Rhode Island, before they could, with propriety, repeat their exhortations. To which it was replied, that, although this objection might have some weight, yet the urgency of our situation, and the chance of giving a favorable turn to the negotiations on foot for peace, rendered it of little comparative significance. The objections were finally retracted, and both the propositions agreed to. The deputation elected were Mr. Osgood, Mr. Mifflin, and Mr. Nash, taken from different parts of the United States, and each from states that had fully adopted the impost, and would be represented without them, except Mr. Osgood, whose state, he being alone, was not represented without him.
SATURDAY, December 7. No Congress.
The grand committee met again on the business of the old paper emissions, and agreed to the plan reported by the sub-cummittee in pursuance of Mr. FITZSIMMONS'S motion, viz., that the outstanding bills should be taken up, and certificates issued in place thereof at the rate of one real dollar for --- nominal ones, and that the surpluses redeemed by particular states should be credited to them at the same rate. Mr. CARROLL alone dissented to the plan, alleging that a law of Maryland was adverse to it, which he considered as equipollent to an instruction. For filling up the blank, several rates were proposed. First, one for forty — on which the votes were, no, except Mr. Howell. Second, one for seventy-five — no; Mr. White and Mr. Howell, ay. Third, one for one hundred – no ; Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Fitzsimmons, ay. Fourth, one for one hundred and fifty — no; Mr. Fitzsimmons, my. The reasons urged in favor of one for forty were - first, an adherence to public faith ; secondly, that the depreciation of the certificates would reduce the rate sufficiently low, they being now negotiated at the rate of three or four for one. The reason for one for seventy-five was — – that the bills passed at that rate when they were called in, in the Eastern States; for one for one hundred — that, as popular ideas were opposed to the stipulated rate, and as adopting the current rate might hurt the credit of other securities, which derived their value from an opinion that they would be strictly redeemed, it was best to take an arbitrary rate, leaning to the side of liberality; for one for one hundred and fifty — that this was the medium depreciation when the circulation ceased. The opposition to these several rates came from the southern delegates, in some of whose states none, in others but little, had been redeemed, and in all of which the depreciation had been much greater. On this side it was observed, by Mr. MADISON, that the states which had redeemed a surplus, or even their quotas, had not done it within the period fixed by Congress, but in the last stages of depreciation, and in a great degree even after the money had ceased to circulate; that, since the supposed cessation, the money had generally changed hands at a value far below any rate thit had been named; that the principle established by the plan of the 18th of March, 1780, with respect to the money in question, was, that the holder of it should receive the value at which It was current, and at which it was presumed he had received it; that a different rule, adopted with regard to the same money in different stages of its downfall, would give general dissatisfaction. The committee adjourned without coining to any decision.
Monday, December 9. No Congress.
TUESDAY, December 10 A motion was made by Mr. RAMSAY, directing the secretary of war, who was about to visit his family in Massachusetts, to tike Vermont in his way, and deliver the resolutions passed a few days since to Mr. Chittenden. For the motion, it was urged that it would insure the delivery, would have a conciliating effect, and would be the means of obtaining true and certain knowledge of the disposition and views of that people. On the opposite side, it was exclaimed against as a degradation of so high a servant of the United States, as exposing him to the temerity of leaders who were, on good ground, suspected of being bostile to the United States, and as treating their pretensions to sovereignty with greater complaisance than was consistent with the eventual resolutions of Congress. The motion was rejected.
A motion was made by Mr. GILMAN, that a day be assigned for determining finally the affair of Vermont. The opposition made to the motion itself by Rhode Island, and the disagreement as to the day among the friends of the motion, prevented a decision, and it was suffered to lie over.
For the letter of t e superintendent of finance to Thomas Barclay, commissioner