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MARCH, 1792.)

Defeat of the Army under General St. Clair.

[H. of R.


He said the House ought to deliberate Jonathan Sturges, Peter Sylvester, Thomas Tredwell, well, before they requested the President to do a

Thomas Tudor Tucker, John Vining, Artemas Ward, thing which he had it not in his power to do. It Alexander White, Hugh Williamson, and Francis was evident that the object of a Court Martial or

Willis. Court of Inquiry must be to elucidate facts which

Nars.—Fisher Ames, Robert Barnwell, Egbert Benwould require the presence of officers, who could son, Benjamin Goodhue, James Hillhouse, John Page, not possibly give their attendance in season to Cornelius C. Schoonmaker, Israel Smith, William

Smith, and Thomas Sumpter. meet the object of the resolution. He made some further remarks, and then the question on the re Ordered, That Mr. Fitzsimons, Mr. Giles, solution was put, when

Mr. STEELE, Mr. MERCER, Mr. VINING, Mr. CLARK, A division of the said motion was called for; and Mr. Sedgwick, be appointed the said comand the question being put, that the House do mittee. agree to the first clause thereof, in the words fol Ordered, That the Secretary of the Treasury lowing:

and the Secretary of War return the petitions Resolved, That the President of the United States whose cases are comprehended in the provision of

presented to this House by invalids and others, be requested to institute an inquiry into the causes of the late defeat of the Army under the command of Ma- any act of the present session, with the papers jor General St. Clair :"

accompanying the said petitions, which have been

referred to them, and are now in their respective It passed in the negative-yeas 21, nays 35, as offices; and that the several petitioners have leave follows:

to withdraw their petitions. Y.As.—John Baptist Ashe, Elias Boudinot, Abraham

The House proceeded to consider the report of Clark, William Findley, William B. Giles, Benjamin the committee to whom was referred the petition Goodhue, Daniel Heister, Aaron Kitchell, Richard Bland of the officers of the levies late in the service of Lee, Nathaniel Macon, John Page, Josiah Parker, Cor- the United States. Whereupon, nelius C. Schoonmaker, Joshua Seney, Thomas Sump That part of the said report in the words folter, Peter Sylvester, George Thatcher, Thomas Tred- lowing: well, Abraham Venable, Artemas Ward, and Francis « That the said officers are entitled to a similar bounWillis.

ty allowed to the officers of the regiments, for each reNars.-Fisher Ames, Abraham Baldwin, Robert cruit by them enlisted; and that a special provision be Barnwell, Egbert Benson, Shearjashub Bourne, Benja- made therefor," min Bourne, John Brown, Thomas Fitzsimons, Nicholas Gilman, James Gordon, Andrew Gregg, Samuel being read, was, on the question put thereupon, Griffin, William Barry Grove, Thomas Hartley, James disagreed to by the House. Hillhouse, Daniel Huger, Philip Key, Amasa Learned, Resolved, That the said petition be rejected. Samuel Livermore, James Madison, John Francis Mercer, Andrew Moore, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg,

Wednesday, March 28. William Vans Murray, Nathaniel Niles, Theodore Sedgwick, Jeremiah Smith, Israel Smith, William Smith,

Mr. Fitzsimons, from the committee to whom John Steele, Samuel Sterrett, Jonathan Sturges, John were referred the Treasurer's accounts of receipts Vining, Alexander White, and Hugh Williamson. and expenditures of the public moneys, from the And so the said motion was rejected.

1st October to the 31st December, 1791, inclusive, Another motion was then made and seconded, lie on the table.

made a report; which was read, and ordered to that the House do come to the following resolu The SPEAKER laid before the House a Letter tion:

from the Secretary of the Treasury, accompany; Resolved, That a committee be appointed to in- ing the returns of duties arising on imports and quire into the causes of the failure of the late expedi; tonnage for one year, ending the 30th September tion under Major General St. Clair ; and that the said last, and a return of exports to the same period; committee be empowered to call for such persons, pa- which was read, and ordered to be committed to pers, and records, as may be necessary to assist their Mr. Parker, Mr. Key, and Mr. GILMAN. inquiries."

The House resolved itself into a Committee of And the question being put that the House do the Whole House on the Report of the Secretary agree to the same, it was resolved in the affirma- of the Treasury respecting the Public Debt; and, tive-yeas 44, nays 10, as follows:

after some time spent therein, the Committee Yuas.—John Baptist Ashe, Abraham Baldwin, Shear-reported progress, and had leave to sit again. jashub Bourne, Benjamin Bourne, John. Brown, Abra- that the Senate have passed the bill entitled " An

A message from the Senate informed the House hamn Clark, William Findley, Thomas Fitzsimons, William B. Giles, Nicholas Gilman, James Gordon, An- act for finishing the light-house on Baldhead, at drew Gregg, Samuel Griffin, William Barry Grove, the mouth of Cape Fear river, in the State of Thomas Hartley, Daniel Heister, Daniel Huger, Philip

North Carolina." Key, Aaron Kitchell

, John W. Kittera, Richard Bland Lee, Samuel Livermore, Nathaniel Macon, James Madison, John Francis Mercer, Andrew Moore, Frederick

Thursday, March 29. Augustus Muhlenberg, William Vans Murray, Natha Mr. Sedgwick, from the Committee appointed, niel Niles, Josiah Parker, Theodore Sedgwick, Joshua presented a bill authorizing a grant and convey, Seney, Jeremiah Smith, John Steele, Samuel Sterrett, lance of certain lands to the Ohio Company of

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H. OF R.)

The Public Debt.

[March, 1792.

Associates, on the terms therein expressed; which cluded by saying, he hoped that a principle which was received, and read twice and committed. would be so fatal to the United States would be

Mr. Steele, from the committee to whom was rejected, by adopting the proposition he offered. referred the report of the Attorney General on Mr. Ames offered various estimates, by which the petition of Andrew Jackson, made a report; he demonstrated that funding the debt on the which was read, and ordered to lie on the table. principle now opposed would not incapacitate the

Mr. Vining, from the committee to whom was Government from discharging it; on the other referred the Report of the Secretary of the Trea- hand, it would facilitate the object greatly. sury on the petitions of the Minister and Trustees Mr. LAURANCE observed, that the opposers of of the Lutheran Church in Rheland township, the proposed system, after offering various moChester county, in the State of Pennsylvania ; of tions, appear at last to be agreed in a specific obthe Wardens of the Calvanist Church in Vincent ject. He denied that the consequences which it township, in the county and State aforesaid ; and had been said resulted from the funding system of the Trustees of the Grammar school and Acade- of Great Britain had taken place. Adverting to my of Wilmington, in the State of Delaware, the operation of the system in this country, he made a report; which was read, and ordered to said the observations were no better founded. lie on the table.

With respect to the irredeemable quality, it was The SPEAKER laid before the House a Letter not a novel circumstance: under the old Confrom the Secretary of the Treasury, accompany- gress foreign loans had been made on a similar ing his report on the petition of William Smith, principle. It is well known that the old Congress of the town of Baltimore; which was read, and contracted a debt which they could not discharge ordered to lie on the table.

under ten years; and the payments then could be

only made by instalments. No fault had ever THE PUBLIC DEBT.

been found with this transaction. He then enThe House resolved itself into a Committee of tered into a general defence of the funding systhe Whole House on on the Report of the Secre- tem; and, adverting to its operation, he showed tary of the Treasury on the subject of the Public what had been done. The credit of the country Debt.

had been raised from the lowest ebb, and a larger Mr. Giles proposed a clause to be added to the sum of the debt had been paid off than any man first proposition offered by Mr. Fitzsimons, the in the country had any conception of. Here he object of which was to preclude the admission of noticed some remarks which had been made yesthe irredeemable principle in the debt hereafter terday by a gentleman, who had said that the to be subscribed to the loan of the United States. Secretary had insulted the House by his proposiMr. G. supported his motion by adducing sundry tions; and said, in his opinion, such reflections reasons. The creditors, by not availing them were not merited by an officer who had done so selves in season of the chance of subscribing under much for his country. He defended the irrethe terms of the first subscription, the Govern- deemable principle, and showed the advantages ment are under no obligation to renew those which the country derived from it. He further terms. He said his motion was to have a subse- remarked, that the Government was not precluded quent operation, and therefore cannot be con- from exerting its faculties in discharging the debt sidered as an infraction of existing contracts. to as great a degree as any person had proposed, The irredeemable principle, he observed, is an or as had been considered prudent; and while the exotic, and appears to have been adopted without United States are thus circumstanced, the douceur a due consideration of its applicability to our cir- to the creditors, in the principle now opposed, is cumstances. The funding system of Great Bri- in fact no possible disadvantage to the Governtain has prostrated that Government. The prospe, ment. rity of that country is not owing to its financial Mr. Mercer said the funding system was not arrangements; Great Britain is in its decay; this understood by the country at large, and he was Government is in its youth. It is improper for us to not surprized when he found it was not underuse such stimulants as may be necessary to induce stood in this House. He was glad, therefore, to vigor in age. The irredeemable quality is the hear observations thrown out, which served more result of necessity in the funding system of Great fully to develop this system. The irredeemable Britain ; and that principle will operate its ruin. quality he was astonished to hear advocated by The argument drawn from a violation of con- any gentleman in this House; for sure he was tracts applies as well to the first system as to that that no measure of the Government was more now proposed; the reduction of the interest was odious elsewhere, or more universally execrated. a violation of the original contract.

He adverted to some of the financial operations He then entered into a consideration of the of the British Government, and drew a compariprinciple of equality, and showed from the present son which placed the funding system of this counstate of the debt, part of it being in the hands of try in a less eligible point of view than that of those who were inimical to the cause which this Great Britain. He said that by an easy process debt was contracted to support, the obligation of it could be made to appear that one-half, or at the Government to add to the gift, which in fact least one-third, of the six per cents might have has already been made to these people, by infusing been paid off, viz: by borrowing at three or four this irrredeemable quality, may well be question- per cent. This is the mode which the British ed. He added some further remarks, and con- minister adopted. He showed, from certain state

MARCA, 1792.)
The Public Debt.

[H. OF R. ments, that this irredeemable quality operated to reverse of all this, he said, were facts; credit bethe injury of the holders of the three per cents of tween man and man is lessened; extravagance the United States. The British three per cents and immorality have spread their baneful influwere at 100 per cent. for a number of years to ence. He then adverted to the system generally, gether. He denied that the loans which had and reprobated it as a departure from the original been made by the old Government were on the contract--that contract which was most solemnly irredeemable principle. He said the terms were guaranteed by the Constitution. in favor of the borrower on exactly similar prin What is the obligation of the Government in ciples with the contracts in common life. He respect to the residue of the debt? He conceived introduced some observations of those who had that the present Congress was perfectly, clear to written on the subject of finance. He said that act agreeably to the principles of the original confunding systems had uniformly operated to the tract, as much so as the first Congress. In prodestruction of the common people; the principle viding for the residue, he said the Government has raised a splendid superstructure on no founda- I was bound to provide for it by a provision to pay tion whatever. He contrasted the situation of six per cent., but not to pay interest on interest. the modern with the ancient Dutch Republic. Here he entered into a consideration of the policy He stated the enviable situation of the Swiss of funding the facilities. This he reprobated, as Cantons; this, he said, was an eulogium on the unnecessarily increasing the public debt; and he steady produce of labor and industry:

could conceive of no other reason but that of inMr. GERRY stated his ideas on the irredeemable creasing the debt which gave rise to this meaprinciple. He defended it on the grounds of jus- sure-a measure which ought not to have been tice and policy. He then adverted to the opera- adopted, and ought to have been prevented by the tion of the funding system. It had changed the States doing their duty. He denied the right of whole face of our affairs-had transformed us one Congress to say that another shall not provide from the vassals of foreign creditors to freemen- for paying off the whole of the debt, or of any had revived the trade, agriculture, and manufac- part of it for this reason he considered it uncontures of the country, and placed the credit of the stitutional, and should vote against the irredeemUnited States on an equality with that of the able quality. He had no doubt of the right of most flourishing European Governments, and in Congress to alter the funding system in regard to a situation much superior to some of them. this principle, and that they would do it whenever

Mr. Hester, in a speech of some length, op- they thought proper. posed the irredeemable principle, and the funding The question being put on Mr. Giles's motion, system in general.

it was negatived-32 to 25. Mr. FINDLEY said he was opposed to the irre And then the House adjourned. deemable quality; he doubted whether it was not going beyond what is allowed by the Constitution.

FRIDAY, March 30. He had heard it often said, that principle was infused into the system on the idea of its being an

Mr. Parker, from the committee to whom was equivalent for a reduction of the interest; this referred the Letter from the Secretary of the idea seems to be assumed by gentlemen, but he Treasury, accompanying returns of the amount of had not heard any of them adduce any reason in duties arising on imports and tonnage for one support of it. He did not think it in any degree an year ending the 30th September last, and a return equivalent, nor did he think the creditors con- of exports for the same period, made a report; sidered it in any such light. He was not unac- which was read, and ordered to lie on the table. quainted with many of the public creditors; they

The House proceeded to consider the report of did not consider this as an equivalent; the debt-the Committee to whom was referred the Report ors, in this case, assumed the office of judges, and of the Secretary of the

Treasury on the petitions they only considered what was an equivalent. of the Minister and Trustees of the Lutheran He admitted that the debt was above par; but church, in Rheland township, Chester county, in common interest had not declined; it was in fact the State of Pennsylvania; of the Wardens of the higher than at any period during the war; this

, Calvinist church in Vincent township, in the counhe said, showed that the irredeemable quality was ty and State aforesaid; and of the Trustees of the not an equivalent. Hence, he inferred the credit Grammar School and Academy of Wilmington, of the country was not supported by the funding in the State of Delaware: Whereupon, system; the present credit of the country is a That part of the said report, in the words folnominal and destructive credit; therefore, he in- lowing, was agreed to by the House, sisted that, admitting the residue of the creditors “ That the sum of be allowed for the use of to loan on this principle, will not be giving them the Grammar School and Academy of Wilmington, in an equivalent. He considered the funding system, the State of Delaware, and that provision by law be made from the first, as tending to the interest, not of the for that purpose.” citizens, but of foreigners; it has given rise to one Ordered, That a bill or bills be brought in purbubble after another, which have deluded our citi- suant thereto, and that Mr. Vining, Mr. MERCER, zens to their destruction. He denied that it had and Mr. Ashe, do prepare and bring in the same. increased the specie, or circulating medium, or A message from the Senate informed the House raised the value of the lands, or promoted the that the Senate have passed the bill, entitled “ An manufactures or industry of the country. The act more effectually to provide for the national de


H. OF R.]
The Public Debt.

[MARCH, 1792. fence, by establishing an uniform Militia through- and the American mind thoroughly informed on out the United States," with several amendments; the prominent features at least-the irredeemable to which they desire the concurrence of this quality, and the deferred stock. House.

Called upon to act, a mind in which nature had THE PUBLIC DEBT.

implanted the seeds of justice, would first well The House again resolved itself into a Commit- examine the right, and then cautiously consider

the policy tee of the Whole House on the Report of the Se

That Congress have the right at all of mortgagcretary of the Treasury on the subject of the Public ing the revenues of the Union, or laying a tax Debt. The following resolution of Mr. Fitzsimons, is at least questionable. In speaking of a right, I

irrepealable or unalterable by a luture Congress, being under consideration, viz:

mean what can or cannot be rightfully done. I Resolved, That the term for receiving on loan that exclude all idea of force, violence, or breach of part of the domestic debt of the United States which yet public faith. On a question of right, these consiremains unsubscribed, be extended to the first day of derations are withdrawn. If they can rightfully do

next, on the same terms as was provided by the Act making provision for the Public Debt of the United it, they rightfully bind a next Congress; who can

not, if they ought not, either alter or annul the States:"

obligation. But if this right does exist, it does Mr. Mercer rose and offered a proposition to not extend to the admission of the principles the Committee to the following effect: That the of this resolution. That a deferred stock and an unsubscribed debt of the United States should be ad- irredeemable quality are in violation of natural mitted to subscription on the following principles: right, and of the Constitution of the United States, “That subscribers should be entitled to stock of can, I think, be easily demonstrated. the United States for their principal debt, bearing Our natural reason, independent of the written an interest quarterly at the rate of five per cent. Constitution, will tell us, that a Legislative Body, per annum, and, for the interest due thereon to the deriving authority from the same source, and untime of subscription, stock bearing an interest pay- der the same grant, must continue equal in power able quarterly at the rate of three per cent. per through every period of its existence. Different annum, until redeemed;" which being seconded sessions have equal rights. If a preceding session by Mr. Parker, Mr. Mercer proceeded to observe, could make laws which a subsequent session could that the resolution of the honorable member of not repeal

, the Legislative power would be graduPennsylvania now before the Committee, and to ally abridged by the exercise, and eventually anwhich this was offered as an amendment, involved nihilated. The power of repeal is the renewing two questions, which, however united in form and principle essential to its existence; and, although blended in discussion, certainly required, by the the mutability of human affairs may not require, just order of deliberation, a separate vote. and convenience may have suggested the rule that

The first question was, Whether we should now it should not be exercised during the same session, propose a subscription on loan of the unsubscribed yet this rule does not destroy the right: it still is debt of the United States? And then the second frequently and always will be exercised whenever would be, Whether we should pursue principles occasion shall require it. But this right of repeal originating in speculative theory, and an experi- has never been doubted as applying to a subsequent ment abandoned equally by bold projectors and session, except in the singular case of mortgaging blind admirers? such as those of the present Fund-revenues or laying an irrepealable tax. As this is ing System.

the most important of all Legislative powers, and The House was now free to act for the benefit that which in fact includes all others, it demands of the United States. The holders had not come serious attention. The existence of a nation dein by the time limited in the first proposal for sub-pends on the possession of resources. These have scription. They remained now creditors of the their natural limits, beyond which they cannot be United States on the terms of the original contract, extended. A Legislative power of anticipating and if the United States proposed a new contract, the public resources, or transferring the revenue, they were at liberty to offer such as a full consi- has no limits defined or prescribed until it arrives deration of the subject and the benefits of experi- at the physical inability to raise more supply. ence now recommended.

They who anticipate are the judges of the exigenThe chief merit or demerit of the proposition cies of the State, and the extent of the funds rebefore the Committee rested on the leading fea- quired. But as exigencies will happen hereafter tures of the old system. The funding a debt or as well as now, and as Government will always transferring by way of mortgage to a particular have the natural right of subsisting itself, and proclass of persons, whether citizens or foreigners, the viding for future exigencies, as they arrive, they public resources, was, in its simplest form, a mo- will find the necessity, and with it the natural right mentous measure; but, when complicated by prin- of reversing the system ultimately, and of repealciples unalterable and irrevocable by ourselves or ing the mortgages already made, to the extent that posterity, it assumed an awful aspect.

the necessity, in their judgment, may require. The Such principles had hitherto been adopted in a right existing to undo what was done, decides this great measure without inquiry, and swallowed question, that nothing can have been rightfully without hesitation, but they included all that was done by the preceding Legislature, which the sucdear to society. They should be now developed, ceeding Legislature cannot as rightfully undo. A

MARCH, 1792.]

The Public Debt.

(H. OF R.

power then of mortgaging the public revenue or ing as it was before, so that there can be no such laying an irrepealable tax, being repugnant to natu- claim on the original contract. ral reason, will, I trust, not be found in the letter

But it may be further said, that they have made of the Constitution of the United States, and will a new contract, since the adoption and on the faith appear utterly inconsistent with its spirit. of the new Government. Then let them show

Generally speaking, the Legislative power is under what part of that Constitution, either in conferred on the Congress of the United States; each letter or spirit, they can expect this mortgage, this succeeding session being equal to the Congress irrepealable tax, in their favor. of the United States with the preceding, must de Having thus examined the letter, let us advert rive equal rights from a grant confined and limit to the spirit. ed to no particular session. And in no particular Every free Constitution made for the use of part of the Constitution is any such power ex- man, infers that the various necessities and unforepressed or implied. It is not in the power of lay- seen events which characterize human affairs foring taxes; because this is laying taxes without bid the irrepealable quality of laws. By our Conrepeal, and there is no such additional clause in stitution, and that of every Government that really the Constitution. The power of laying taxes is contemplates the rights of freemen, the grant and granted in the same manneras all the other specified distribution of taxes, or the public contributions, is powers. If they can exercise this rightfully with confined to the Representatives of the people. out a power of repeal or modification, they may When I speak of the Representatives of the peoexercise all the powers in the same manner-they ple, I do not speak according to the new fashioned are all given in the same terms: this will not, 1 doctrines of the day, that the Executive and Sesuppose be contended for.

nate are Representatives of the people; they only Is such a power included in the power of pay- represent the people in my idea, whom the people ing the debts of the United States? I apprehend themselves deputise to represent them. If persons not. If Congress had the money, they might pay elected by the people elect others, they are not the the debts, no doubt; but if they have not, and are Representatives of the people; they may be Reobliged to resort to taxes to raise the money-as it presentatives of the Representatives of the people, is physically impossible to raise by their authority which is a very different thing in form and effect. all the money, without interfering with the rights The power of laying taxes, the burden of which of a future Congress—all that is incumbent on them must fall on the great mass of the industrious poor, to do, is to raise as much as they can, and then the who feel every deduction from the fruits of their unperformed obligation descending upon the suc- labor as a diminution of the sources of life, should ceeding Legislature with equal force, constitutes the rest with those immediate Representatives, over true and only real principles of public credit in a whom these persons have a constant control, to free Government; for, no theory will admit the whom they are responsible and whom they may position, nor will practice support the idea, that frequently remove. But if one weak or corrupt the principles of morality and the force of public set of Representatives, could, by an imprudent or faith will be confined to one session. Reason and wicked act, transfer all the attainable resources of experience show it, that these principles will aid society in such a manner that a future set of Rea future Legislature as well as ourselves; they presentatives could have no power over them withthen will do as we have done, contrive to pay as out the concurrence of the Executive and Senate, much as they can. On this credit-a credit founded then all this principle of the Constitution is utterly on the terms of the Constitution—the United States evaded, are empowered to borrow money; the Constitu But it may be said, that exigencies of State will tion is admitted as of notoriety; well understood arise-wars may happen, when it will not be posby the money lenders. The same power was given sible to raise the necessary supplies within the to the old Congress, to borrow money on the credit year. What is to be inferred from this? Only of the United States; they confessedly had no that we must anticipate, not borrow. This power power of mortgaging the resources of the Govern- is certainly given to the new Government, and ment, and laying an irrepealable tax, for they no was to the old it is not denied; but it has been extoriously had no power of laying a tax at all. Yet plained. Is it intended that we cannot borrow they borrowed money abroad, before we could be without pledging particular resources or laying considered as a nation, in the midst of a war, that irrepealable taxes?' Surely no; because we have shook the credit of an old established and opulent certainly borrowed without, still do it, and all naadversary; and they sustained a credit at home, tions do it; and unless this can be proved, no right which, however productive of individual losses, can be inferred; for a right not expressly given, is carried us triumphantly through a contest that only to be inferred from necessity. If 'it should cost our enemies one hundred and ten millions be said that we cannot borrow on such good terms, sterling.

this quits the ground of right, and dwindles into a It may be said, they contracted a debt that we question of expediency and convenience, on which are now called on to pay. Admitted, and that it I shall observe; but, for the present, it is to be reis a sacred debt; but the original holders, who have marked, that exigencies and wars may happen certainly as much claim as any subsequent pur- hereafter, and at all times as well as now, and at chasers, trusted to the old Constitution without any other time: and on these principles, will be this power, and the sixth article of the new Consti- found as sound arguments for the right of repeal tution places this debt precisely on the same foot-I and revocation as of anticipation.

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