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for settling accounts in Europe, agreed to by Congress, see Secret Journal of this date.
WEDNESDAY, December ll. The secretary of war was authorized to permit the British prisoners to hire themselves out, on condition of a bond from the hirers for their return. The measure was not opposed, but was acquiesced in, by some, only as conformable to antecedent principles established by Congress on this subject. Colonel Hamilton, in particular, made this explanation.
Mr. WILSON made a motion, referring the transmission of the resolutions concerning Vermont to the secretary of war in such words as left him an option of being the bearer, without the avowed sanction of Congress. The votes of Virginia and New York negatived it. The president informed Congress, that he should send the resolutions to the commander-in-chief to be forwarded.
THURSDAY, December 12. The report made by Mr. Williamson, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Madison, touching the publication in the Boston paper, supposed to be written by Mr. Howell, passed with the concurrence of Rhode Island; Mr. Howell hesitating, and finally beckoning to his colleague, Mr. Collins, who answered for the state in the affirmative. As the report stood, the executive of Massachusetts, as well as of Rhode Island, was to be written to, the Gazette being printed at Boston. On the motion of Mr. OSGOOD, who had seen the original publication in the Providence Gazette, and apprehended a constructive imputation on the Massachusetts delegates by such as would be ignorant of the circumstances, the executive of Massachusetts was expunged.
Friday, December 13. Mr. HOWELL verbally acknowledged himself to be the writer of the letter from which the extract was published in the Providence Gazette. At his instance, the subject was postponed until Monday.
SATURDAY, December 14. No Congress.
Monday, December 16. The answer to the objections of Rhode Island as to the impost, penned by Mr. Howell, passed without opposition, eight states being present, of which Rhode Island was one, a few trivial alterativps only being made in the course of discussion. Mr. Howell, contrary to expectation, was entirely silent as to his affair.
Tuesday, December 17. Mr. CARROLL, in order to bring on the affair of Mr. Howell, moved that the secretary of foreign affairs be instructed not to write to the government of Rhode Island on the subject. The state in which such a vote would leave the business, unless the reason of it was expressed, being not adverted to by some, and others being unwilling to move in the case, this motion was incautiously suffered to pass. The effect of it, however, was soon observed, and a motion in consequence made by Mr. HAMILTON, to subjoin the words, “ Mr. Howell having in his place confessed himself to be the author of the publication.” Mr. RAMSAY, thinking such a stigma on Mr. Howell unnecessary, and tending to place him in the light of a persecuted man, whereby liis opposition to the impost might have more weight in his state, proposed to substitute, as the reason, “ Congress having received the information desired on that subject." The yeas and nays being called for by Mr. HAMILTON, Mr. Howell grew very uneasy at the prospect of his name being thereby brought on the Journals, and requested that the subject might be suspended until the day following. This was agreed to, and took place on condition that the negatived counter-direction to the secretary of foreign affairs should be reconsidered, and lie over also.
WEDNESDAY, December 18. This day was chiefly spent on the case of Mr. Howell, whose behavior was extremely offensive, and led to a determined opposition to him those who were most inclined to spare his reputation. If the affair could have been closed without an insertion of his name on the Journal, he seemed willing to withdraw his protest; but the impropriety which appeared to some, and particularly to Mr. Hamilton, in suppressing the name of the author of a piece which Congress had so emphatically
reprobated, when the author was found to be a member of Congress, prevented a relaxation as to the yeas and nays. Mr. HOWELL, therefore, as his name was necessarily to appear on the Journal, adhered to the motion which inserted his protest thereon. (See the Journal.) The indecency of this paper, and the pertinacity of Mr. Howell in adhering to his assertions with respect to the non-failure of any application for foreign loans, excited great and (excepting his colleagues, or rather Mr. Arnold) universal indignation and astonishment in Congress; and he was repeatedly premonished of the certain ruin in which he would thereby involve his character and consequence, and of the necessity which Congress would be laid under of vindicating themselves by some act which would expose and condemn him to all the world.
THURSDAY, December 19. See Journals.
FRIDAY, December 20. 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 despnir of fulfilling them, which benumbed the efforts for that purpose. On the other side, it was alleged that a relaxation of the demand would be followed by a relaxation of the efforts; that unless other resources were substituted, either the states would be deluded, by such a measure, into false expectations, or, in case the truth should be disclosed to prevent that effect, that the enemy would be encour aged to persevere in the war against us. The motion meeting with little patronage it was withdrawn.
The report of the committee on the motion of Mr. Hamilton proposed that the secretary of Congress should transmit to the executive of Rhode Island the several acts of Congress, with a state of foreign loans. The object of the committee was, that, in case Rhode Island should abet, or not resent, the misconduct of their repre. sentative, as would most likely be the event, Congress should commit themselves as little as possible in the mode of referring it to that state. When the report came under consideration, it was observed that the president had always transmitted acts of Congress to the executives of the states, and that such a change, on the present occasion, might afford a pretext, if not excite a disposition, in Rhode Island not to vindicate the honor of Congress. The matter was compromised by substituting the “ secretary of foreign affairs, who, er officio, corresponds with the governors, &c., within whose dep irtment the facts to be transmitted, as to foreign loans, lay.” No motion or vote opposed the report as it passed.
SATURDAY, December 21. The committee to confer with Mr. Livingston was appointed the preceding day, in consequence of the unwillingness of several states to elect either General Schuyler, Mr. Clymer, or Mr. Read, the gentlemen previously put into nomination, and of a hint that Mr. Livingston might be prevailed on to serve till the spring. The committee found him in this disposition, and their report was agreed to without oppo sition. See the Journal.
MONDAY, December 23. The motion to strike out the words “accruing to the United States” was grounded on a denial of the principle that a capture and possession, by the enemy, of movable property extinguished or affected the title of the owners. On the other side, this principle was asserted as laid down by the best writers, and conformable to the practice of all nations; to which was added, that, if a contrary doctrine were established by Congress, innumerable claims would be brought forward by those whose property had, on recapture, been applied to the public use. See Journal.
Letters were this day received from Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, and the Marquis de la Fayette. They were dated the 14th of October. That from the first enclosed a copy of the second commission to Mr. Oswald, with sundry preliminary articles, and distrusted the British court. That from the second expressed great jealousy of the French government, and referred to an intercepted letter from Mr. Marbois, opposing the claim of the United States to the fisheries. This despatch produced much indignation against the author of the intercepted letter, and visible emotions in some against France. It was remarked here that our ministers took no notice of the distinct commissions to Fitzherbert and Oswald ; that although, on a supposed intimacy, and joined in the same commission, they, the ministers, wrote sepirately, and breathed opposite sentiments as to the views of France. Mr. Livingston told me that the letier of the Count de Vergennes, as read to him by the Chevalier Luzerne, very delicately mentioned and complained that the American ministers did not, in the negotiations with the British ministers, maintain the due communication with those of France. Mr. Livingston inferred, on the whole, that France was sincerely anxious for peace.
The President acquainted Congress that Count Rochambeau had communicated the intended embarkation of the French troops for the West Indies, with an assurance from the king of France that, in case the war should be renewed, they should immediately be sent back.
TUESDAY, December 24. The letter from Mr. Jay, enclosing a copy of the intercepted letter from Marbois, was laid before Congress. The tenor of it, with the comments of Mr. Jay, affected deeply the sentiments of Congress with regard to France. The policy, in particular, manifested by France, of keeping us tractable by leaving the British in possession of posts in this country, awakened strong jealousies, corroborated the charges on that subject, and, with concomitant circumstances, may engender the opposite extreme of the gratitude and cordiality now felt towards France; as the closest friends, in a rupture, are apt to become the bitterest foes. Much will depend, however, on the course pursued by Britain. The liberal one Oswald seems to be pursuing will much promote an alienation of temper in America from France. It is not improbable that the intercepted letter from Marbois came through Oswald's hands. If Great Britain, therefore, yields the fisheries and the back territory, America will feel the obligation to her, not to France, who appears to be illiberal as to the first, and favor. able to Spain as to the second object, and, consequently, has forfeited the confidence of the states interested in either of them. Candor will suggest, h wever, that the situation of France is and has been extremely perplexing. The object of her blood and money was not only the independence, but the commerce and gratitude, of Amer. ica; 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 mide sensible of her own weakness, in order to be grateful to the hand that relieved her. This policy, if discovered, tended, on the other hand, to spoil the whole. Experience shows that her truest policy would have been to relieve America by the most direct and generous means, and to have mingled with them no artifice whatever. With respect to Spain, also, the situation of France has been as peculiarly delicate. The claims and views of Spain and America interfere. The former attempts of Britain to seduce Spain to a separate peace, and the ties of France with the latter, whom she had drawn into the war, required her to favor Spain, at least to a certain degree, at the expense of America. Of this Great Britain is taking advantage. If France adheres to Spain, Great Britain espouses the views of America, and endeavors to draw her off from France. If France adheres to America in her claims, Britain might espouse those of Spain, and produce a breach between her and France; and in either case Britain would divide her enemies. If France acts wisely, she will in this dilemma prefer the friendship of America to that of Spain. If America acts wisely, she will see that she is, with respect to her great interests, more in danger of being seduced by Britain than sacrificed by France.
The deputation to Rhode Island had set out on the 22d, and proceeded half-a-day's journey. Mr. NASH casually mentioned a private letter from Mr. Pendleton to Mr. Madison, informing him that the legislature of Virginia had, in consequence of the final refusal of Rhode Island, repealed her law for the impost. As this circumstance, if true, destroyed, in the opinion of the deputies, the chief argument to be used by them, viz., the unanimity of the other stiites, they determined to return and wait for the southern post, to know the truth of it. The post failing to arrive on the 23d, the usual day, the deputies on this day came into Congress and stated the case. Mr. MADISON read to Congress the paragraph in the letter from Mr. Pendleton. Congress verbal'y resolved, that the departure of the deputies for Rhode Island should be suspended until the further order of Congress ; Mr. Madison promising to give any information he might receive by the post. The arrival of the post immediniely ensued. A letter to Mr. Madison from Mr. Randolph confirmed the fact, and was communicated to Congress. The most intelligent members were deeply affected
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and prognosticated a failure of the impost scheme, and the most pernicious effects to the character, the duration, and the interests, of the Confederacy. It was at length, notwithstanding, determined to persist in the attempt for permanent revenue, and a committee was appointed to report the steps proper to be taken.
A motion was made by Mr. RUTLEDGE to strike out the salvage for recaptures on land, on the same principle as he did the words “ accruing to the United States." As the latter had been retained by barely seven states, and one of these was not present, the motion of Mr. Rutledge succeeded. Some of those who were on the other side, in consequence, voted against the whole resolution, and it failed. By compromise, it passed as reported by the committee.
The grand committee reported, after another meeting, with respect to the old money, that it should be rated at forty for one. The chair decided, on a question raised, that, according to rule, the blank should not have been filled up by the committee; so the rate was expunged.
From Tuesday, the 24th of December, the Journals suffice until
Monday, December 30. A motion was made by Mr. CLARK, seconded by Mr. RUTLEDGE, to revise the instructions relative to negotiations for peace, with a view to exempt the American plenipotentiaries from the obligation to conform to the advice of France. This motion was the eff-ct of impressions left by Mr. Jay's letters, and the intercepted one frorn Marbois. This evidence of separate views in our ally, and the inconsistency of that instruction with our national dignity, were urged in support of the motion. In opposing the motion, many considerations were suggested, and the original expediency of submitting the commission for peace to the counsels of France descanted upon. The reasons assigned for this expediency were, that at the juncture when that measure took place, the American affairs were in the most deplorable situation, the Southern States being overrun and exhausted by the enemy, and the others more inclined to repose after their own fatigues than to exert their resources for the relief of those which were the seat of the war; that the old papor currency had failed, and with it public credit itself, to such a degree that no new currency could be substituted ; and that there was then no prospect of introducing specie for the purpose, our trade being in the most ruinous condition, and the intercourse with the Ilavana 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 nt interpose without a serious desire of peace, and without the energy requisite to effect it. The hope of peace was, therefore, mingled with an apprehension that considerable concessions might be exacted from America by the mediators, as a compensation for the essential one which Great Britain was to submit to. Congress, on a trial, found it impossible, from the diversity of opinions and interests, to define any other claims than those of independence and the alliance. A discretioníry power, therefore, was 10 be dele. gated with regard to all other claims. Mr. Adams was the sole minister for peace; he was personally at variance with the French ministry ; his judgment had not the confidence of some, nor his partiality, in case of an interference of claims espoused by different quarters of the United States, the confidence of others. A motion to associate with biin two colleagues, to wit, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Jay, had been disagreed to by Congress; the former of these being interested as one of the land companies in territorial claims, which had less chance of being made good in any other way than by a repossession of the vacant country by the British crown; the latter belonging to a state interested in such arrangements as would deprive the United States of the navigation of the Mississippi, and turn the western trade through New York; and neither of them being connected with the Southern States. The idea of having five ministers taken from the whole Union was not suggested until the measure had been adopted, and communicated to the Chevalier de Luzerne to be forwarded to France, when it was too late to revoke it. It was supposed also that Mr. Laurens, then in the Tower, would not be out, and that Mr. Jefferson would not go; and that the greater the number of ministers, the greater the danger of discords and indiscretions. It was added that, as it was expected that nothing would be yielded by Great Britain which was not extortd by the address of France in managing the mediators, and as it was the intention of Congress thit their minister should not oppose a peace recommended by them and approved by France, it was thought good policy to make the declaration to France, and by such a mark of confidence to render her friendship the more responsible for the issue. At the worst, it could only be considered as a sacrifice of our pride to our interest.
These considerations still justified the original measure in the view of the members who were present and voted for it. All the new members who had not participated in the impressions which dictated it, and viewed the subject only under circumstances of an opposite nature, disapproved it. In general, however, the latter joined with the former in opposing the motion of Mr. CLARK, arguing with them that, supposing the instruction to be wrong, it was less dishonorable than the insta; bility that would be denoted by rescinding it; that if Great Britain was disposed to give us what we claimed, France could not prevent it; that if Great Britain strug gled against those claims, our only chance of getting them was through the aid of France; that to withdraw our confidence would lessen the chance and degree of this aid ; that if we were in a prosperous or safe condition, compared with that in which we adopted the expedient in question, this change had been effected by the friendly succors of our ally, and that to ake advantage of it to loosen the tie would not only bring on us the reproach of ingratitude, but induce France to believe that she had no hold on our affections, but only in our necessities; that, in all possible situations, we should be more in danger of being seduced by Great Britain than of being sacrificed by France, the interests of the latter, in the main, necessarily coinciding with ours, and those of the foriner 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 suppo sition, it did not appear that the doctrines maintained, or the measures recommended in it, had been adopted by the French ministry, and consequently that they ought not to be held responsible for them.
Upon these considerations it was proposed by Mr. WOLCOTT, seconded by Mr. HAMILTON, that the motion of Mr. CLARK should be postponed, which took place without a vote.
Mr. MADISON moved that the letter of Dr. Franklin, of the 14th of October, 1762, should be referred to a committee, with a view of bringing into consideration the preliminary article proposing that British subjects and American citizens should reciprocally have, in matters of commerce, the privilege of natives of the other party, and giving the American ministers the instruction which ensued on that subject. This motion succeeded, and the committee appointed consisted of Mr. Madison, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Clark, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Osgood.
The contract of General Wayne was confirmed with great reluctance, being considered as improper with respect to its being made with individuals, as admitting of Infinite abuses, as out of his military line, and as founded on a inciple that a present cominerce with Great Britain was favorable to the United States — a principle reprobated by Congress and all the states. Congress, however, supposed that these considerations ought to yield to the necessity of supporting the measures which a valuable officer, from good motives, had taken upon himself.
TUESDAY, December 31. The report of the committee made in consequence of Mr. Madison's motion yesterday, instructing the ministers plenipotentiary on the article of commerce, passed unanimously, as follows:
" Resolved, That the ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating peace be instructed, in any commercial stipulations with Great Britain which may be comprehended in a treaty of peace, to endeavor to obtain for the citizens and inhabitants of the United States a direct commerce to all parts of the British dominions and possessions, in like manner as all parts of the United States may be opened to a direct commerce of British subjects; or at least that such direct commerce be extended to all parts of the British dominions and possessions in Europe and the West Indies; and the said ministers are informed, that this stipulation will be particularly expected by Con. gress, in case the citizens and subjects of each party are to be admitted to an equality in matters V commerce with natives f the other party."
WEDNESDAY, January 1, 1783. The decision of the controversy between Connecticut and Pennsylvania was reported.