Page images

JANUARY, 1804.

Slate Balances.

H. of R.

the interest of the whole United States that these States, in conformity with the Constitution, and balances should be done away. It is for the inter- upon the most correct principles that could be esest of the creditor States that no subject of dispute tablished. No other method could have produced may remain—that the hatchet may be buried. a settlement at all. And, further, it was well calTheir balances are already funded; and if the culated to insure an equitable settlement-at least, debtor balances be extinguished these will be con- a more equitable one than could be obtained in sidered as sacred. And need I say that it is for any other way. Several of the States which were the interest of the debtor States ? They, year found debtor were then increasing rapidly in after year, have called for the extinguishment. wealth and population, and are still increasing, far

With regard to the State of Delaware, the con- beyond the creditor States, or any former calcutinuance of these balances is of the most serious lations. Can it then be pretended, with the least injury to her. I know an honorable Senator from color of propriety, that, under these circumstances, Maryland, who owns lands on both sides of the line it was either unfair or unequitable to apportion which separates Delaware from Maryland, who the expenses of the Revolution according to the cannot get as much by one-third for his land in enumeration of the inhabitants of each State? In Delaware, as for that within the borders of Mary- my judgment, the measure was correct and legit. land, although the land in Maryland is part of the imate. same tract, and of precisely the same quality as In order to show that the State of Delaware that in Delaware. is not this of some importance could not be justly charged with all the balance to the State of Delaware? is it not enough to dis- found against her, the gentleman bas produced a tress, and essentially to check, the progress of her supposititious statement, made by the Secretary citizens in every laudable pursuit? must it not ne- of the Treasury in his report to Congress, on the cessarily tend essentially to retard the improve subject of funding the State debts. This statement of her land, to depress trade and to paralyze ment however was, as far as appears, wholly supindustry, and all this without one scintilla of use posititious, not bottomed on a single data, and very to the United States or to any State in the Union ? probably introduced into the report with no other I hope the Committee, considering the subject in view than to induce Congress to pursue those this view, will agree to the resolution, impressed measures with relation to the public debt which with the opinion that it would be equally for the he was then intent upon. It cannot with any shawelfare of the United States, for those States dow of reason be brought in competition, or in the which are debtor, and for those which are credi- least degree to invalidate a setilement made by tor, to adopt it.

men specially appointed for that purpose, acting Mr. ELMER.-I agree in opinion with the gen- under the solemnity of an oath, and who spent tleman from Delaware, who introduced the reso- much time and pains to make a correct and equilution on your table, that it involves in it an im- table adjustment of all the accounts. portant and interesting question. And I am, with The honorable gentleman has further urged, as him, fully persuaded that every member of this an objection to the settlement, that the agent for Committee will weigh the consequence of it with the State of Delaware complained, at the time, of that seriousness and candor which it demands, and the conduct of the Commissioners in refusing to decide upon it, after the most mature deliberation, hear him in support of the claims which he exaccording to his sense of justice and propriety, hibited. But this, like most other objections, will notwithstanding any prejudices or preconceived vanish in empty air when fairly examined. I alopinions which he may have formed. But I can ways understood that none of the State agents by no means agree in sentiment with him, that were heard any further than to explain or elucisome mistake must have taken place in the settledate their accounts. The agent for New Jersey, ment of the accounts between the United States I, know, was as fully debarred of a hearing before and the individual States, nor that any such mis- the Commissioners as the agent of Delaware. It take ought to be presumed of so serious a nature is perfectly clear to me, that it would have been as to induce the Supreme Legislature of the land to highly improper to have heard the agents; and I extinguish the balances found due from the debtor very much doubt whether all the eloquence of the States, by the strong arm of sovereign authority. honorable gentleman, aided by all the learned coun

Upon what foundation, sir, does this resolution cils of the nation, would have altered the opinion rest? What are the facts or reasons which have of the Commissioners, or produced a different reor can be adduced to prove the settlement errone- sult. Besides, it has not been shown that any of ous in point of principle or equity, or to justify his accounts were rejected; and, if not, it would Congress to abolish an important part of it? The bave been perfectly idle to have spent time in gentleman alleges, that in apportioning the ex- advocating them. "No partialities for or against penses of the Revolution, which proved so glorious, particular States have been made to appear against and happily relieved us from the tyranny of a for- the Commissioners, and none can, with any proeign Power, among the several States, the Com- priety, be imputed to them. The settlement, theremissioners deviated from the rule prescribed by the fore, has the appearance of being as correct as the Articles of Confederation, upon which the requi- nature of the business and other circumstances sitions of the old Congress were founded, in a point rendered practicable, and ought to be maintained which materially affected some of the debtor States. by the nation. But it should be observed, that this line of con- Mr. Chairman, could I be impressed with the duct was authorized by the laws of the United I propriety and justice of the measure, and could

8th Con.—29

H. OF R.

State Balances.

JANUARY, 1804.

I be persuaded that it would tend to strengthen in a variety of ways, and with great ingenuity, to the bands of the Union and promote the peace and impress the Committee with a belief that the harmony of the States, I would, with as much State which he represents was relatively hard cordiality as any gentleman of the Committee, dealt by in the settlement, and, therefore, in reagive my assent to the resolution on your table. son and justice, she is not bound to pay the balBut, sir, there are several objections which oper-ance due from her. But all his labor on this head ate forcibly on my mind against it. I fear it would will have but little weight. We shall probably tend to destroy, or at least greatly to weaken, the hear the same tale from the members of the credprinciple of distributive justice, which is the band itor as well as the debtor States, and the dispute of our union, and which we are most solemnly on this subject would be futile and endless. I bebound to maintain and support with scrupulous lieve I could make some gentlemen of this Comexactness. The public debt, as has been well ob- mittee believe that New Jersey suffered as much served, arose out of the exigencies of the Revolu- injustice, if not more, in the liquidation of the action-it is the price of our glorious emancipation-counts than Delaware. In fact, sir, there are and the balances resulted from the equalization of very strong reasons for suspecting that a State that debt among the parties benefitted.

which was for almost the whole period of the war When pressing emergencies compelled Congress the theatre of hostile maneuvres, and frequently to call upon any State to furnish supplies or troops occupied by large contending armies, must have beyond her estimated quota, she always accom- had accounts to a very large amount for military panied the request with assurances that she would services, and supplies for our army in distressing be remunerated upon the final adjustment of the times, in such an irregular and unsupported form accounts. In consequence of this, great and effi- as to be excluded upon the principles adopted for cient aid was frequently afforded to the common their adjustment. And whatever credit may be cause, which could not otherwise have been ex- due to other States, and much merit is attached pected or obtained. When peace arrived, Con- to all of them, I must contend that in zeal, activity, gress did not lose sight of her promises, but, in 1787, and energy, New Jersey was second to none. But constituted a Board of Commissioners for the ap. I shall not dwell on this topic. Every observation portionment and liquidation of all the debts incur- of this kind is totally irrelative to the present subred during the war, and clothed them with ample ject. I rely upon the correctness of the settlement, powers to distribute the most complete justice that which, I repeat, ought to be presumed, as it was was attainable; and the States were called upon made with great deliberation, under the solemn to exhibit their respective accounts. After the authority of the General Government, and in part adoption of the present Constitution, a law was at least ratified and confirmed by subsequent acts. passed confirming the ordinance of the old Con- After occupying ultimately a variety of less eligress, and prescribing the mode that was to be gible stations, the gentleman took his stand upon observed in the liquidation of the accounts. This what he styles strong ground, beyond the reach of solemn transaction, so long in maturing, could every assault. He asks how the debtor States never have been intended as a mere mockery of are to be compelled to pay? Will the United the parties concerned. It was predicated upon | States employ physical force, and lay them under Federal principles, and was designed to obtain sub-contributions at the point of the bayonet, with stantial justice. Thus instituted and appointed, fleets and armies? No, this is not contemplated the Commissioners proceeded, with great care and by any gentleman. We should all start at the laborious investigation, to the liquidation of the proposition. But the gentleman himself has sugaccounts; and, after great length of time, struck gested a method of obtaining these balances, which, the balances with

as much justice as could possi- j although I do not know that it is contemplated bly be attained. Some inequality of a partial na- by any person, is certainly by no means repug; ture might probably have taken place, yet none nant to the principles of our Government; and of a very serious nature can fairly be supposed that is, to fund a sum equal to the balance due And shall we now, when the documents are de- to the debtor in favor of the creditor States, in stroyed, or placed without our reach, and without a ratio proportionate to their respective credits. any evidence of incapacity or corruption in the We, however, do not call upon them for payment Commissioners, proceed to disannul their proceed in any way. We are content to let the matter ings by extinguishing the balances which they rest in the present situation of business-and why reported ? I trust not. Justice and propriety, in should not the debtor be content? But it is asked my mind, forbid the measure.

why keep up this bone of contention, which does Further, Mr. Chairman, the resolution on your not contain an atom of nourishment?' Why keep table is objectionable inasmuch as it would ex- alive a spark which may be blown up into a desohibit to the nation and to the world an instance of lating fame? But may we not ask, in our turn, inconstancy in our Councils, and thereby weaken from whence does this contention proceed; and the confidence of individuals and of the respect- what reason can be given for relinquishing a ive States in the wisdom and stability of the Gen-claim so well sanctioned? It would illy comeral Government. It has on its front an anti- port with that magnanimity and heroic patriotism federal aspect, and in every point of view exhib- which the whole Union has exhibited to the view its an incorrect principle of legislation, and ex- of an admiring world, for the debtor States to retreme impropriety.

fuse payment on a proper occasion. I cannot The gentleman from Delaware has endeavored I entertain the idea. The State of New York has

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

already expended a considerable sum on the terms ment, the State he represents could not have been held out to her by law, and she has ample resources found so much in arrears; although he calls upon for doing more, honorable to hersell, and advan- us to expunge the sums reported against the debtor tageous to the public.

States, he is willing that those reported to be due If the whole sum should prove hard and op- to the creditor States should be paid. Sir, said pressive upon the some of the debtor States, let Mr. T., I conceive that the debts and credits must it be lightened, and the mode of payment made stand upon precisely the same ground. They easy and convenient to them. I am far from wish- both resulted from one settlement, and it is iming that any State should ever pay anything that possible to separate them. Upon what ground can would prove burdensome and oppressive upon her we pay the creditor States, if we admit that citizens. But stability and consistency forbid us nothing is due from the debtor ? He conceived to stretch forth the arm of sovereignty and with that expunging these balances, as contemplated one dash blot out a debt ascertained with so much by the resolution, upon the ground of a partialorun. care and founded on principles so correct and just settlement, would most clearly imply that the truly federal. The measure might be attended sums awarded to the creditor States are not due. with evil consequences which the most sagacious This, of itself, would render it unjust and imdo not apprehend, and which the wisest may not politic to extinguish the balances due from the hereafter be able to prevent.

debtor States. Mr. Chairman, this subject has been so often Another argument in favor of the resolution is, discussed, and is so well understood by the nation that the debtor States cannot be compelled to pay and by the members of the House, that it is not these balances. If that be correct, where is the probable any arguments which can be adduced will injury to the debtor States which has been exchange the sentiments of any one. I shall, there-hibited in such lively colors ? If the States can.fore, conclude with expressing my firm persuasion not be compelled to pay these debts, how can they that the resolution on your table ought not, and so materially reduce the value of real estates? my confidence is that it will not pass.

How can they hang in terror over their heads ? Mr. Thatcher was decidedly opposed to the It is even said that it is dangerous to suffer these extinguishment of these balances due from the debts to remain. No evils have yet resulted to debtor States; and as the State which he had the the United States, said Mr. T., from this source, honor to represent was deeply interested in this nor could he perceive that any were to be apprequestion, he should attempt a reply to what had hended. He knew there was in this House a mabeen advanced in support of this resolution, and jority of about thirty members, who represented should briefly state his reasons for voting in the debtor States, besides those from States formed negative.

out of debtor' States ; but he had too firm a reliThese balances, said Mr. T., were found due ance upon their sense of justice to suppose, that upon a settlement of the demands of the respect because gentlemen were the majority, they would ive States for services and supplies during our vote themselves out of debt. Surely, said Mr. T., Revolutionary war. Although Congress, no doubt, when gentlemen reflect that these sums are due equalised the burden as much as possible, during for those exertions which achieved the Independthe Revolution, it was found, at the close of the ence of America, they will acknowledge the juswar, that the States had contributed to the com- tice of the claim. The State of New York (the mon defence in very unequal proportions. It was largest debtor State) has already paid a part of well known that the New England States, in par- its debt, under a law of Congress authorizing that ticular, had furnished more than their respective State to apply the sums expended upon fortificaquotas of men and money. From a sense of this tions to the reduction of these balances. Shall inequality, Congress submitted the debts due from we relinquish the claim because some of the States and to the several States, to a Board of Commis- do not acknowledge the debt? The idea is inaders who, for several years, investigated the sub- missible. ject with the most minute and laborious attention. We are urged, sir, to adopt this resolution, beDuring this time each State had an opportunity cause it is said Delaware can never pay her debt. to present and to substantiate its claims; and the Even if that be correct, it is no argument for exreport of the Commissioners has been repeatedly punging these balances. By adopting the resolusanctioned by Congress. Although, as ihe gen- tion, we extinguish our claim, not only against tleman from Delaware has said, the State which that State, but against all the others. The conhe represents was not heard before the Commissclusion will then be irresistible, that we question sioners by its special agents, this was the case of the accuracy and the fairness of the settlement, all the States.

and the final consequence will probably be the It is impossible, said Mr. T., as the gentleman extinguishment of the credits also. from New Jersey has observed, to examine the This settlement cannot be disturbed upon any ground upon which this report was formed. From ground consistent with policy or good faith. It the loss of documents, the lapse of time, and the is the result of a reference voluntarily made by vast extent of the subject, this is certainly im- all parties concerned, and they are conclusively practicable. It is not even proposed by the mover bound by the award. of the resolution. The gentleman from Delaware Mr. Thomas remarked, that as this subject had has not arraigned the motives of the Commis- been so often before the public, so much had been sioners, but he conceives that, upon a just settle- I said on it on former occasions, and he considered

H. OF R.

State Balances.

JANUARY, 1804.

it so well understood, that he had determined not Chairman, I ask where is the policy of this measto have risen or said anything on it at this time, ure; can the Legislature relinquish these balances, nor would he, bad he not deemed it necessary to and at a single stroke, as with a sponge, wipe reply to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. them off

, without violating the public faith deTHATCHER.) That gentleman has endeavored to liberately and solemnly pledged? I hope they impress the Committee with an opinion, that by will not; respect to the former Government, as extinguishing those balances we shall affect the well as to ourselves, forbid the idea. But we are credits of the creditor States; this said Mr. T. will cold, by the advocates of the resolution, that it not be the case; those States have received the never will be paid; if that is a sound doctrine, it whole of the balances reported in their favor, and goes to prove the inexpediency of passing the resoextinguishing the balances reported against those lution. Mr. Chairman, this is turning the tables; called debtor, cannot possibly affect the credits of whereas it has been the practice for ages, that the the creditor States; besides, if the credits of those creditor call on the debtor, but in this instance States could have been affected by a measure of the old order of things is reversed, and the debtor this kind, why did not the act of Congress passed in duns the creditor: this novel mode would suit my 1799 affect them ? By the operations of that act, circumstances well, as I am largely in debt; but about one-balf of the amount of those balances such a practice must not be indulged; in my opinwere extinguished had the States complied with ion it is dangerous to society. Sir, I will refrain the terms of it; and he would ask the gentleman from bringing into view a comparison of the exfrom Massachusetts, or any other gentleman on ertions of the States in the Revolutionary war, that floor, whether these credits, as they are called, lest a comparison should wound the feelings of were impaired by that act ? He presumed no one gentlemen. I am convinced that they all did their would say that they were, nor can the measure utmost, and the exertions of the State I have the contemplated in this resolution impair them in honor to represent were inferior to none in the the least.

Union. I can assure the honorable mover of the Mr. Chairman, said Mr. T., what possible good resolution, that the citizens of Rhode Island have can result from a continuation of those claims the most reason to complain of the setilement of All agree that a payment of them cannot be co-any State in the Union; the reason is obvious, erced; and it cannot be expected that those SMtes, the law under which the Commissioners acted, believing the claims unjust, will pay those bal- was so framed as to exclude one-third of our debt, ances voluntarily; therefore, will your Treasury by a clause in the law, constituting the board, in ever be a cent the richer by holding these claims these words—"Nor shall the claim of any citizen over the heads of those States? Will it bring a be admitted as a charge against the United States, cent into your Treasury? But, on the contrary, in the account of any Siate, unless the same was may not much evil result to the interests of this allowed by such Staie, before the 24th September country by keeping up this bone of contention ? | 1788.” In consequence of this clause in the statute, Will it not have a powerful tendency to irritate three hundred thousand dollars, in the accounts the minds and disturb that cordial harmony so of the State of hode Island against the United necessary to be preserved among the members of States, for services rendered, and supplies furnishthis Union ? I trust the members of this Commit- ed during the Revolutionary war, was included. tee generally will see the folly of continuing the Two of the Commissioners gave me this informashadow of a claim over the heads of those States tion, and very much regretted that it was not in any longer, which can never be of any benefit, their power to do us equal justice with our sister but which may be productive of much mischief, States; they also remarked that the charges for and will unite in expunging them from your similar services rendered, were five per cent. on records.

an average lower than charges made by the SouthMr. Stanton.—Mr. Chairman, the honorable ern States. Sir, if it were practical to obtain a member from Delaware, who introduced the reso- revision of the settlement, I would, in behalf of lution on your table for extinguishing the balances the State of Rhode Island, cheerfully embrace it, found due to the United States from the debtor under a full persuasion of extricating that State States, says the aggregate amount is $3,517,582; I have the honor of representing from the severe the proportion of Delaware is about $600,000. burden of taxation they are now struggling under.

The honorable member from that State tells us, Taking it for granted that a reconsideration cannot with his usual pathos, and great zeal, but without be effected. I hope the resolution will be rejected. producing any proof, that the State he represents Sir, if it should be asked how it came to pass that is much injured by the settlement made by the our debt was so large, I would answer, in conseCommissioners for settling the accounts of the quence of the British feet and army taking posUnited States with the individual States, that the session of Newport, and all the valuable land of citizens of Delaware have suffered a diminution Narraganset Bay, also Block Island, and remaining in the value of their land, by having this enormous three years in the bowels of the State, annibiladebt banging over their heads; at the next mo- ting our commerce, burning our towns, plunderment, the honorable gentleman'asserts, that there ing our inhabitants, dragging them into prisons, is no coercion in the General Government to oblige and stripping the shores of their stock. Sir, I will deblor States to pay the balances. If his position pot longer trespass on the indulgence of the House, be correct, he may dismiss his fears, and so may but content myself by giving my hearty negahis constituents, the people of Delaware. Mr. I tive to the resolution.

JANUARY, 1804.

State Balances.

H. OF R.

Mr. BLACKLEDGE.—Mr. Chairman, I had de- By the eighth article of the Confederation the termined not to trouble the Committee with any States stipulate to bear all expenses of war, each remarks upon the subjeci now under discussion, in proportion to all its appropriated lands and imfrom a conviction that enough had already been provements, but reserve to their respective Legissaid by the gentleman from Delaware to satisfy latures the power of laying and levying the taxes every liberal mind of the propriety of adopting necessary to pay off their quotas; and by the thirthe resolution. But, sir, when I hear the gentle teenth article of that instrument, they provide that man from Massachusetts (Mr. THATCHER) apply. no alteration shall at any time be made in the Aring epithets to those States that are reported ticles of Confederation, or any of them, unless such debtors, calculated to stamp them with the charac- alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the Uniter of profligate dishonesty, while others in an in- ted States, and be afterwards confirmed by the direct way appear to be aiming at the same end, Legislatures of every State. Yet, sir, after the I feel it a duty I owe the State which I have the Commissioners had been appointed, and bad achonor to represent in part, to assign the reasons tually been nearly or quite iwo years engaged in why she has heretofore refused, and I am con- the settlement, when it may be presumed that the vinced will ever continue to refuse paying the amount of the charges of each State was pretty balance reported against her. Every gentleman nearly known, as well as the effect which a setwho has as yet spoken against the resolution, has tlement of them according to the principles of the endeavored to impress upon the Committee a be- Articles of Confederation would have, Congress lief that the settlement made by the Commission proceeded by their act of the fifth of August, 1790, to ers was either just, or at least as nearly so as was direct the Commissioners, in apportioning the debt possible. But, sir, on this subject I must beg of the Union among the States, to do it according leave to differ in opinion with them; and if I can to the number of polls which each should contain, be favored with the attention of the Committee, I as prescribed by the Constitution. Thus, sir, was trust I shall be able to show clearly that by the the State of North Carolina, as well as some others, operation of some of the principles by which the whose lands were of but little value compared Commissioners were governed in this settlement, with those of the commercial and wealthy States, the State of North Carolina was in the first place deprived of every advantage which had been secharged with a much larger proportion of the cured to them by the Articles of Confederation, national debt than she ought to have been, and without having any equivalent for the injuries in the next place, that her charges against the they had been subjected to under that insirument; Union, or at least a large portion of them, were and this too when no one ever pretended that, by improperly valued at a much lower rate than they the Constitution, Congress possessed a power to should have been, and from hence it has happened alter the ratio. It is not possible to ascertain exthat she was reported a debtor instead of being actly the amount of the loss which any State susmade a creditor to a very considerable amount. tained by this measure, because the gross amount

The first injury sustained by the State of North of the accounts has "from motives of policy” been Carolina in this settlement, which I shall notice, ever kept concealed. But by turning to the seis the one which arose from changing the ratio venth volume of the old journals, in the year 1782, by which the several States were bound to each near the close of the war, we shall see what sum other to bear all the expenses of the war. That each State was required to raise of $2,000,000, apthe Committee may the more clearly comprehend portioned among them under the Confederation; the force of her exception against this measure, I and comparing that with the sums which each must beg them to bear in mind that every item in had to pay of the $2,000,000 laid and collected, the accounts which were settled by the Commis according to the ratio prescribed by the Constitus sioners were for advances which had been made tion, we may form a pretty correct opinion of the by the several States, towards defraying the ex- effect which the measure had upon the different penses of the war, previous to the 24th day of States. And it appears that of the $2,000,000 September, 1788; while the States were bound raised in 1782, under the Confederation. North by the Articles of Confederation, and each was Carolina (at that time including all the State of suffering all the disadvantages, and enjoying all Tennessee) had to pay $148,000, and Virginia (at the advantages arising from that instrument; and that time including all the State of Kentucky) that the ordinance by which the Board of Com- had to raise $290,000. Whereas of the direct tax missioners was established for settling these ac- of $2,000,000 apportioned among the States, accounts, was passed by the old Congress on the cording to the principles of the Constitution, North 7th of May, 1787. They will thus see that the Carolina and Tennessee had to pay $212.504, Virwhole of the charges originated, and that the ginia and Kentucky $387,132. 'From whence it Board of Commissioners was established for set- results that North Carolina, in every two millions tling them previous to the adoption of the present of the aggregate of all the charges of the several Constitution; and from hence I think they will be States against the Union, lost by the change of induced to conclude with me, that Congress had ratio the sum of $67,701, and Virginia $97,132. not a right to vary the ratio as they did by their Then supposing the aggregate of the charges to act of the 5th of August, 1790, without first ob- have been but $24,000,000, and judging by the taining the consent of the several States to the sum reported against the State of Delaware, and measure, in the manner pointed out by the Articles admitting she never paid one cent, it must have of Confederation.

been very nearly double that sum. North Carolina

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »