« AnteriorContinuar »
The coi imunications made from the minister of France concurred, with other circumstances, in effacing the impressions made by Mr. Jay's letter and Marbois's enclosed. The vote of thanks to Count Rochambeau passed with unanimity and cordiality, and afforded a fresh proof that the resentment against France had greatly subsided.
THURSDAY, January 2. Nothing requiring notice.
Friday, January 3. The vote of thanks to the minister of France, which passed yesterday, was repealed in consequence of his having expressed to the president a desire that no notice might be taken of his conduct as to the point in question, and of the latter's communicating the same to Congress. The temper of Congress here again manifested the transient nature of their irritation against France.
The motion of Mr. HOWELL, 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, and 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, and was o further testimony of the abatement of the effects of Mr. Jay's letter, &c.
The proceedings of the court in the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsyl. vania 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 Jour: nals. It was remarked, that the delegates from Connecticut, particularly Mr. Dyer, were more captious on the occasion than was consistent with a perfect acquiescence in the decree.
Monday, January 6. 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.
Mr. Berkley having represented some inconveniences incident to the plan of a consular convention between France and the United States, particularly the restriction of consuls from trading, and his letter having been committed, a report was made proposing 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 and authority to the said 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; and others, lastly, contended that the whole ought to be new modelled, the consuls having too many privileges in some respects, and 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 passed in Congress; the members originally present adhering to the views which then governed them. The subject was finally postponed ; eight states only being represented, and nine being requisite for such a question. Even to have suspended the convention, after it had been proposed to the court of France, and possibly acceded to, would have been indecent and dishonorable, and, at a juncture when Great Britain was courting a commercial intimacy, to the probable uneasiness of France, of very mischievous tendency. But experience constantly teaches that new meinbers of a public body do not feel the necessary respect or responsibility for the acts of their predecessors, and that a change of members and 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 superintendent of finance.
TUESDAY, January 7. See the Journals.
In the evening, the grand committee had the assigned conference with Mr. Mor. ris, 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 estab. lished. He observed, that even if an advance could be made, it would be unhappy that it should 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, and 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 General 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, and 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 M’Dougall, Colonel Brooks, and Colonel Ogden, the deputies on the subject of the memorial, the superintendent to be present.
WEDNESDAY, January 8, Thursday, January 9, and Friday, January 10. On the report * 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, alleging the impediments arising from the possession of New York, &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 this 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 would prevail; and without their intervention, it could not be executed but at an expense, delay, and uncertainty, which were inadmissible; that it would perhaps be, therefore, preferable to represent these difficulties to the states, and recommend an exchange of this rule of dividing the public burdens for one more simple, easy, and equal. The delegates from South Carolina generally, and particularly Mr. ŘUTLEDGE, advocated the propriety of the constitutional rule, and 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 should 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 would 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 thention the distrust which it manifested of their own prudence and fidelity. It was, at length, proposed and agreed to, that a special committee, consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Me Ostood, and Mr. Madison, should confer with the superintendent of finance on the subject of his letter, and make report to Congress. After the adjournment of Congress, this committee conferred with the superintendent; 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 showed that, contrary to his expectations and estimates, there were three and a half 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's 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
This p:oposed to requ e the states to value the land, and return the valuations to Congress.
itself only as it would 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 superintendent and the committee, that there was, in fact, little danger of bills drawn on France, on the credit of the loan of four inillions 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 Great Britain for it; and that if the war should 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 superintendent 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, accordingly, the next day made and adopted unanimously. Mr. DYER alone at first opposed it, as an unwarrantable and dishonorable presumption on the ability and disposition of France. Being answered, however, that without such a step, or some other expedient, 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, and our honor, to the mercy of a foreign nation, it was a mortification which could 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 would evince the more the necessity of the succor, and induce France the more readily to yield to 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 on her. It was also adverted to, in private conversation, as a great unhappiness, that, during negotiations for peace, when an appearance of vigor and resource were so desirable, such a proof of our poverty and imbecility could not be avoided.
The conduct of Mr. Howell, &c., had led several, and particularly Mr. PETERS, into an opinion that some further rule and security ought to be provided for concealing matters of a secret nature. On the motion of Mr. PETERS, a committee coinposed 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 and honor not to disclose certain enumerated matters.
The enumeration being very indistinct and objectionable, and a written engage ment being held insufficient with those who without it would violate prudence or honor, as well as marking a general distrust of the prudence and honor of Congress, the report was generally disrelished; and, after some debate, in which it was faintly supported by Mr. WILLIAMSON, the committee asked and 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 appointment on Tuesday last, the grand committee met, as did the superintendent of finance. The chairman, Mr. WOLCOTT, informed the committee that Colonels Ogden and Brooks, two of the deputies from the army, had given him notice that General M'Dougall, the first of the deputation, was so im sposed with the rheumatism as to be unable to attend, and expressed a desire
t the committee would adjourn to his lodging at the Indian Queen Tavern, t dep'ties being very anxious to finish their business, among other reasons, on account of the scarcity of money with them. At first the committee seemed disposed to comply; but it being suggested, that such an adjournment by a committee 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, January 13. The report on the valuation of land was referred to a grand committee. A motion was made by Mr. PETERS, seconded by Mr. MADISON, “ that a com
mittee be appointed to consider the expediency of making further applications fo. loans in Europe, and to confer with the superintendent of finance on the subject." In support of this motion, Mr. PETERS observed that, notwithstanding the unce:tainty of success, the risk of appearing unreasonable in our demands on France, and the general objections against indebting the United States 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 court of France would be influenced by an apprehension that, in case of her failure, and of a pacification, Great Britain 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 could not be made worse ; that it would be prudent in France, and therefore it might be expected of her, to afford the United States such supplies as would enable them 10 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 and gratitude of this country, as well as its separation from Great Britain, 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, and would appear extravagant to France. Several others assented to it with reluctance, and several others expressed serious scruples, as honest men, against 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, and Mr. Izard.
In the evening, according to appointment, the grand committee gave an audience to the deputies of the army, viz.: General M’Dougall and Colonels Ogden and Brooks. The first introduced the subject by acknowledging the attention manifested to the representations of the army by the appointment of so large a committee; his observations turned chiefly on the three chief topics of the memorial, namely, an immediate advance of pay, adequate provision for the residue, and halt-pay. On the first, he insisted on the absolute necessity of the measure, to soothe the discontents both of the officers and soldiers ; painted their sufferings and services, their successive hopes and disappoint nents 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 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 and 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 disappointinent to them. ilhe deputies were asked, first, what particular steps they supposed would be taken tog the army in case no pay could be immediately advanced ; to whicn they answerra, that it was impossible to say precisely; that although the sergeants, and some of the inost in elligent privatez, 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 against it. They remarked, on this occasion, that the situation of the officers was rendered extremely delicate, and had been sorely felt, when called upon to punish in soldiers a breach of engagements to the public, which had been preceded by uniform and flagrant breaches by the latter of its engagements to the former. General M’DOUGALL said, that the army were verging to that state, which, we are told, will make a wise man mad; and Colonel BROOKS said, that his apprehen
sions were di awn from the creumstance that the temper of the army was such that they did not reason or deliberate coolly on consequences, and, 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 and 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 without 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, although not furn shed with their pay properly so called, were in fact furnished with the same pecessaries.
On the second 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 which 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, and the army thereby exposed to unnecessary sufferings, it must naturally be expected that the patience of the latter would have its limits. As the deputies were sensible that the general disposition of Congress strongly favored this object, they were less diffuse on it. General M’DOUGALL made a remark which mayo 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 and considerate part of the army were deeply affected at the debility and d-fects in the federal government, and the unwillingness of the states to cement and invigorate it, as, in case of its dissolution, the benefits expected from the revolution would be greatly impaired; and as, in particular, the contests which might ensue among the states would be sure to embroil the officers which respectively belonged to them.
On the third 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, and 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 and professions for which military habits, of seven 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, although it was as reasonable that those who had lent their blood and services to the public should 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 emoluments. They referred, however, to their memorial to show that they were authorized and ready to commute their half-pay for any equivalent and less exceptionable provision.
After the departure of the deputies, the grand committee appointed a sub-comnuttee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Rutledge, to report arrangements, in concert with the superintendent of finance, for their consideration.
TUESDAY, January 14. 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 and inequality, if not impracticability, of fulfilling the article of the Confederation relative to this point; Mr. Rutledge, however, excepted, who, although 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 prscribed by the Federal Articles, the committee would 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, and a few * only were disposed to recommend to the states an alteration of it, it was necessary to proceed,
* Mr. Hamilton was most strenuous on this point. Mr. Wilson also favored the idea ; Mr. Madison also, but restrained, in some measure, by the declared sense of Virginia · Mr. Gorham and several others, alse , but wishing previous experience.