Page images
[blocks in formation]

England had suffered and done more for the ob; taining of independence, than what had been done or suffered by the Southern States. That we are greatly indebted to the prowess of our Eastern brethren, that they were unanimous in sentiment, prompt, and fought many a well-fought battle in the Revolutionary war, and acquitted themselves with honor, I am not disposed to deny, and that we are greatly indebted to them for the bold, intrepid manner of their conduct against the common enemy; and that it was by the exertion of those patriots with that of those throughout the Union that procured our independence.

The patriots in New England, being of one sentiment, had only to contend with the common enemy; a contention which, when compared with that of their Southern brethren, will be found to be unequal in exertion, honor, or consequences. The Eastern was a foreign, the Southern a foreign and civil war. In the East they could, without suspicion of being betrayed, collect together and level all their forces against one object, and could retreat with safety into the bosom of their country. But there were no such advantages with us-we had no retreat. We had the common enemy on the coast, the savages on the frontier, and enemies within our own bosom. We were nearly equally divided, and it has never been decided which had the majority, and the controversy was not to be determined by argument but by battle, and battles were frequent, not of a people against a foreign foe, but a battle of neighbor against neighbor; and among the slain it was common to see acquaintances, neigh bors, brothers, and sometimes a father who had fallen by the hostile arms and prowess of his son. It was a war the most distressing and intolerable of all wars, too much so to be further related. But I hope, after the imperfect sketch that I have given, the honorable gentlemen from Massachusetts will admit that their friends in the South have at least experienced their equal share of distress in the Revolutionary war. That the patriots of the South (and it was a war of patriots and not of States-States were only described by geographical boundaries, and boundaries that were yet to be contested for) have suffered in the contest equal to any given number of patriots in the States of New England; and let it be recollected that the object of the contest has, by the united exertions of those patriots, been obtained, and let us not tarnish it by invidious comparisons, or sully it by keeping in remembrance and repeated discussion this bone of contention; this old, dry bone that, as before stated by my friend from Delaware, has no nutriment upon it.

JANUARY, 1804.

ulation, has done within a few thousand dollars
as much as the powerful State of Massachusetts,
and that the two weakest States to the south ward,
and on the southern frontier, harassed, divided,
and under British domination a great part of the
time, have from this evidence done more, vastly
more indeed, in proportion to their whole num-
bers, than was done by the two most powerful,
unanimous, and wealthy States of New England.
But this report is not to be relied upon, and when
I say this, it is not my intention to impeach the
integrity of the Commissioners who made it, nor
to cast any reflection upon any one of the credi-
tor States, touching the manner of keeping or
exhibiting their accounts. But I mean to say, that
the manner in which North Carolina kept her
accounts and performed her services, was such
that it was impossible that justice could have
been done her in the settlement.

In the early stages of the Revolution, it never
occurred to the Legislature of that State that they
would be indemnified for any services but such as
were done by the immediate order of the General
Government. Of course, all the services performed
for her immediate defence, such as expeditions
against the savages-and there were several cam-
paigns carried into the Indian country, and a con-
tinual line kept up on the frontier for protection
against savage depredations during the whole
war-together with a number of volunteer servi-
ces to the aid of South Carolina and Georgia,
against their internal and external enemies, with
the perpetual services necessarily performed for the
subjection of our own disaffected citizens-these
services were sometimes volunteer, sometimes by
draught, and sometimes it was made the duty of a
given number to hire, clothe, and equip a soldier.
This was done under a general sense of duty,
without any expectation of private or public re-
muneration, other than the hope of an eventual
freedom. What ground of hope existed? The
paper money of every description had sunk to
nothing, and the State had no fund to authorize
even a hope for redemption. All was gone, and
nothing remained but the most disinterested and
vigorous exertion to secure the main object. And
towards the close of the war the only place of
safety was in the camp-a constant, unregistered
service. Under these circumstances, can it be
possible that we had justice in the settlement?
Having no documents to be produced to the board,
could we obtain a credit? The thing was impos-
sible, but the services, nevertheless, were perform-
ed, for which, if we could have obtained a credit,
would have placed us in a different position.
There is one other case noticed by my colleague
(Mr. BLACKLEDGE) of services actually performed
in the Continental department that we had no
credit for, owing to a fraud having been commit-
ted by the board for settling the army accounts.
The Legislature thought proper to set aside and
nullify the whole of these proceedings, and pre-
vious to their being again liquidated and settled,
these accounts were barred by the act of Con-
gress. The extent thus barred I am not advised

But perhaps the honorable gentlemen from Massachusetts draw their conclusions of the services performed by the Eastern States from the report of the Commissioners of Settlement. If this is the source from which those conclusions are drawn, I am convinced, upon examination, that it will also fail. Agreeably to this report, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Georgia, are creditor States. So that it appears from this document that the little convulsed State of South Carolina, not having a third of the pop-of, but they were considerable.

[blocks in formation]

I will now submit this case to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. GREGG.) who differed widely from his venerable colleague, whether, under all the above circumstances, and many more that might be cited, North Carolina had justice done her in the settlement; or whether it was possible for her to bring forward to the board the vouchers and evidences of the services she performed in the Revolutionary war. It appears to me, sir, upon this view of the case, that every impartial, honest, and candid mind, will be ready to conclude that the thing was impossible. And also, let honest candor examine the statement made by my friend from Delaware, (Mr. RODNEY,) and I think that the conclusion will most inevitably be, that the State of Delaware has not a fair settlement, and that it was impossible that she can be in arrears near $1,000,000.

H. OF R.

is to be remarked that they are not entitled to all the privileges attached to common creditors; they are limited in the act that admits them to fund'; they are not admitted to transfer their balances so funded, from which it may be inferred that it was a thing of compromise-that it was so understood, that creditors should not transfer and that the debtors were not to be called upon; that they were considered to be nominal, but not real debtors, and this for the purpose of raising and augmenting the funded stock. For, by adverting to the proceedings of those times, assuming and funding was the system-it was the common order of the day. But if it had been understood that under the legal operation of the act of 1790, that the States reported as debtor States were to be liable, the act would not have passed. A measure so dangerous would not have obtained. And from the conduct and expressions of one of the Commissioners at a subsequent session of Congress this opinion was also entertained by the Commissioners themselves; for this Commissioner, although he insisted that it was a just settlement, yet he advocated the extinguishment of these balances. Under all these circumstances I most sincerely hope that gentlemen will feel themselves at liberty to expunge from your record this demand by voting for the resolution on your table.

The Committee rose, and had leave to sit again.

THURSDAY, January 19.

being heard, in part, on the subject-matter of the claims of said Company, retired from the bar.

Ordered, That the further hearing of the said agent be postponed until to-morrow.

These are the impressions that an impartial examination of this case has produced on my mind, and I am led to believe that many gentlemen representing the creditor States, and even bystanders, are obliged to coincide in the same general sentiment, to wit, that justice had not been done, and that justice could not be done in the settle ment of the State balances; and as the gentlemen from the creditor States have at all times reprobated a revision of settlement, and as the debtor States, from a conviction of the injustice of the demand, will not voluntarily pay it, and as there has been no means pointed out to compel the payment, why will you keep it up? But gentlemen say that they are not asking payment at this time. Why, if it is just, not ask it now? Why has the The House, in pursuance of a resolution of the demand been so long delayed? A just demand eleventh instant, proceeded to the hearing of Wilgains nothing by delay. Why disguise this busi- liam Cowan, agent for the Virginia Yazoo Comness? Would it not comport more with the dig-pany, at the bar of the House; and the said agent nity of this House and the honor of the creditor States to come out at once, and say in plain, unequivocal language what they intend to do? Is it kept over us as a rod to tantalize or to keep us in the back ground? Gentlemen will not avow this. Then for what other purpose? To this no explanation can be had. All is left to conjecture. And may we not suspect that there is a lying in wait to obtain power to demand, to enforce this measure? I hope this is not the case; but the holding it up attaches suspicion, that, if groundless, ought to be done away by a removal of the cause of it. I am further of an opinion that it was the intention of the old Congress, and of the Congress under the present Government, who passed the act of 1790, never to call upon those States who should be reported against for the balances, and all that was contemplated was to admit the creditor States to fund the excess. This has been done-and I am strongly impressed with a belief that nothing more was intended. If anything more was intended, it is reasonable to suppose that it would have been expressed either on the resolves of the old Congress, or in the act authorizing the Commissioners to make the settlement-a mode would have been pointed out as to the manner, time, or to whom, the payments were to be made. But not a syllable is expressed on that subject. And as to the creditor States, it 8th CON.-30

A message from the Senate informed the House that the Senate have passed the bill, entitled "An act making appropriations for the support of the Military Establishment of the United States, in the year one thousand eight hundred and four," with several amendments; to which they desire the concurrence of this House.

The House proceeded to consider the motion of the twenty-eighth of October last, for the appointment of a committee "to inquire into the expediency of extinguishing the claims of the United States for certain balances reported to be due from several of the States to the United States, by the Commissioners appointed to settle the accounts of the individual States with the United States, with power to report by bill, or otherwise," as amended by the Committee of the Whole, and to which the said Committee yesterday reported their disagreement; and the said motion, as amended, being twice read in the words, following, to wit:

Resolved, That it is expedient to extinguish the claims of the United States for certain balances reported to be due from the several States to the United States, by the Commissioners appointed to settle the accounts of the individual States with the United States.

H. or R.

State Balances.

JANUARY, 1804.

Mr. WILLIAMS, of North Carolina, said: This being a question of importance to the State I have the honor to represent, I will offer some reasons to the House in favor of the present resolution. I shall first contend that the act passed in the year 1790, was in violation of the original compact which was entered into by all the States, estab-five, therefore, in the same proportion as our poplishing the principles by which each State was to supply her part for the support of the Revolutionary War; and that, by changing that mode, it operated against the State of North Carolina. Secondly, that by the settlement which was made by the Commissioners, injustice was done to that State.

In making these remarks, I do not wish to be understood by the House that they ever ought to go into an examination of that settlement; but if, from the nature of things, any one State can show how she was injured, that will have considerable weight, and be a good reason to abolish those debts which are said to be due from the several States. In the eighth article of the Confederation, all charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence and general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of the common treasury, which shall be sup plied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land, and the buildings and improvements thereon, shall be estimated according to such mode as Congress shall, from time to time; direct and appoint. In the twelfth article it is expressly declared that the articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by each State: nor shall any alteration take place, unless such alteration be agreed to in Congress, and afterwards confirmed by the Legislatures of every State.

extensive in territory, and land very cheap. But let us consider what is the comparative difference between the price of land in the Northern States and in North Carolina. I believe, sir, at the time this settlement was made it was at least five to one, that is, one acre would sell for as much as ulation increased, and the inequality of the value of land, so much was the relative proportion of the debt changed, and thrown on the citizens of that State; and whenever a capitation tax is laid it always operates hard on that part of the community which are upon an equality and not very wealthy.

I will now show in what manner injustice was done to that State in the settlement of the accounts. In the year 1781 the Legislature passed a law giving full power to the board of creditors to settle and liquidate the claims of individuals for supplies furnished during the war, and fix the price of articles. In 1783 a law was passed fixing the scale of depreciation, and under those existing laws the Commissioners must have settled the accounts of that State, or it would be impossible for her to have been a debtor State. But it may be said that if the State passed laws which operated against her, it was not the fault of the General Government. But at that time we had not adopted the Federal Constitution, therefore each State had a right to pass such laws as would relieve her from a heavy debt which she had incurred in our struggle for liberty. Also, the very situation of our country rendered it impossible for an accurate account to be kept of the supplies furnished by the different States, when an enemy was ravaging our country; and if one State should have the good fortune to keep her accounts more accurate, she ought not now to wish to exact the sums stated to be due from her sister States. I believe there were few States in the Union which suffered more than the State of North Carolina, for she not only was ravaged by a foreign enemy, but a continual scene of distress was kept up by an internal enemy. A number of her citizens, after having furnished all they could spare to support our army, were, perhaps, the next day stripped of all their property, and nothing left to support their helpless

But a gentleman from Pennsylvania has stated that Congress unanimously agreed to change the eighth article of the Confederation; therefore, the act passed in 1790, saying that each State should pay in proportion to the number of inhabitants, was done by consent, and that consent would do away error; but if the gentleman will examine the case strictly, he will find he is wrong, for two States never did consent to alter the mode pre-families. scribed by the Confederation, and it is a principle which cannot be denied, that wherever parties enter into a contract, they must all consent before it can be altered; and I take the question now before us to be similar; for each in her sovereign capacity entered into that compact, and Congress had no more right to pass a law in violation of it, than we now have to pass a law directly in violation of the Constitution which we have sworn to support.

I will now endeavor to show that by changing the mode by which each State was to furnish her proportional part to support the war, it operated against the State of North Carolina. I believe after the close of the war it was nearly ten years before the number of the inhabitants was taken within the United States; during that period there was considerable emigration to that State, it being

It appears that Congress repeatedly recommended to the several States, as well for hastening the extinguishment of the debts as also for the establishing of the harmony of the United States, to make liberal cessions of their territorial claims. The Legislature of North Carolina, taking the matter into consideration, not only made a liberal cession of her claims, but ceded all that extensive country which forms the State of Tennessee. This I take to be a strong reason why she ought to be released from her debt. The gentlemen who have spoken against the resolution, I take it, have not stated any solid reasons why the debts should not be abolished. They have contended that the settlement made by the Commissioners was a just one, and that it would be impossible to rectify the matter; and that if we release those debts, the creditor States may be called on to re

[blocks in formation]

fund the money they have received. I think neither of those positions are correct; for I believe the settlement was made in the dark, and in darkness it will remain. The total amount of the advances made by the several States, as fixed by the final settlement, is not known. Neither has the proportion of the debts been correctly ascertained. This matter has been kept a secret; and if the business had been conducted with such propriety, and settled fairly, why is it concealed from us? I am warranted to make use of these expressions from the proceedings of Congress.

After the adoption of the Federal Constitution, Congress was anxious to bring the matter to a close, and labored some time to effect it, but at last they assumed a debt of upwards of twenty millions of dollars, whereas it was only necessary to have assumed about eleven millions of dollars, and the same result which now exists might have been effected had they waited till the accounts had been settled; and thus they created a debt of upwards of ten millions of dollars. Therefore, Congress have, in the whole of their proceedings, shown clearly that they never intended to call on the debtor States, and that it was only necessary to make provision for those States which had a balance struck in their favor. Ought not, then, those creditor States be content, when they have had their debt assumed by the Government, and they are annually drawing interest for the same? And with respect to the objections which gentlemen have made, that by discharging the debtor States, it will be the means of destroying their debts, they are merely ideal. I believe there is not a person on this floor who is in favor of the resolution that has any such wish; neither do I think it ever will be attempted.

H. OF R.

only be policy but justice to abolish these debts, which are said to be due, as it is impossible to know whether they were settled on principles of equity and justice between the several States; and it was a joint cause, and one which will always do honor to America as long as time shall last. I hope that the House will reject the report of the committee, and be of the opinion that the balances which are reported to be due from the several States ought to be extinguished.

Mr. KENNEDY.-Mr. Speaker: The State which I in part represent being one of those that are denominated debtor States, and being strongly impressed with a belief that the means by which she has become so are improper, I conceive it my indispensable duty to submit to the House my rea sons for forming such opinion.

In endeavoring to perform this task, the first point that I shall attempt to establish is, that the act of Congress which fixed the ratio according to numbers, and under which the accounts were settled that produced these balances, was unconstitutional; and in order to prove this position, it may not be improper to give, for the information of those gentlemen who have not made themselves particularly acquainted with the subject, a concise statement of the proceedings of the old Congress relative to the matter now under consideration.

Permit me, sir. in the first place, to premise that when the King of Great Britain thought proper to commence a cruel and distressing war against the American colonies, for the purpose of reducing them into a state of passive obedience, it became their interest to unite for their security, and accordingly they associated and leagued together under certain terms and conditions, the whole of which are contained in what is known by the Articles of Confederation; the 8th of which declares that all charges of war and all other ex

fence or general welfare shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and .ne buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated, according to such mode as the United States, in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint; and the thirteenth article thereof prohibits any alteration in any of them unless agreed to in Congress, and which shall be afterwards confirmed by the Legislature of every State, From which it may be perceived that the manner of settling, adjusting, and finally determining the proportions to be borne by the several States of the evidences of the war, was as completely fixed and established as the same by language could be done.

Some gentlemen have asked, if we release the debtor States, what is the quid pro quo? Have not the creditor States got their debts funded, and the faith of our Government pledged for the pay-penses that shall be incurred for the common dement? But, independent of that, I think, sir, the liberty and freedom we now enjoy would be a sufficient quid pro quo. But there is one reason more, which I think alone would be sufficient to extinguish these debts. The cause which gave rise to them-that noble cause of liberty which gave to us our independence. It seems as if the God of Nature had destined this happy land of America the only asylum for liberty; and I would ask those gentlemen if it was not by the joint effort of all our sister States that we liberated ourselves from the hand of tyranny? Was it not owing to the supplies of the several States, be they great or small, that we are now breathing the air of liberty? Was it not by that noble impulse which filled the breasts of the American people with a thirst for freedom that gave birth to our Government? For in that momentous hour, when the fate of our nation was suspended on the wings of fortune, if one of our States had withdrawn her assistance from the Union, I believe we should not now be within these walls as legislators, but under the scourge of a Monarch. And in order to unite us more permanently under our present form of Government, I think it would not |

In the year 1782, in order to bring the accounts relative to those expenses to a final settlement, Congress appointed Commissioners for that purpose, and at the same time recommended to the several States, to authorize Congress in the final settlement of the proportions to be borne by each State of the expenses before mentioned, to adopt

[blocks in formation]

such principles as, from the particular circumstances of the several States at different periods, might appear just and equitable, without being confined to the rule laid down in the eighth article of confederation. This recommended alteration did not meet with the approbation of all the States; of course it failed, as the article intended to be amended or affected thereby remained untouched and unrevoked.

In the year following, they formally agreed to revoke that article. and in the place thereof declared that the charges and expenses of the war should be apportioned among the States according to numbers, which was submitted to the Legisla tures of the several States, for their ratification; but, in this, as in the first attempt, they were also unsuccessful, some of the States deeming it contrary to their interest to adopt the same.

In the year 1787, the subject was again resumed by Congress; by passing an ordinance establishing a new board of Commissioners, with powers to make a final adjustment of all the accounts, agreeable to such quota as Congress should thereafter determine. If, sir, Congress meant by this ordinance to fix the rate of expense, agreeably to the eighth article, and to empower the Commissioners to make a final adjustment of all the accounts subsisting between the United States and the several members thereof, that principle was, in my opinion, correct; but if they intended thereby to declare their power of establishing the ratio upon any other principle, then I must be permitted to say that the ordinance is in direct violation of the terms of the Confederation, and therefore void; for I hold it to be a sound principle, that the old Congress had no powers but what were expressly given by the then federal compact, and whenever they exceeded the limits by that instrument prescribed to them, their acts are entirely invalid. Having shown, as I humbly conceive to the satisfaction of every reasonable gentleman, that the former Congress had no power to settle those accounts upon any principles, other than those under which they were contracted, I will omit further remarks on that point, and proceed to show that the Congress under the Federal Constitution are equally as destitute of such powers.

Sir, after the most deliberate examination I have not been able to discover anything in that instrument that either expressly or implicitly gives to them that power; but, on the contrary, find the sixth article positively declaring that all debts contracted, and all engagements entered into before the adoption of that Constitution, should be as valid against the United States under the Constitution as under the Confederation.

Will any gentleman pretend to say, that, when the expenses of the war are apportioned among the States, according to numbers, that the balances would be precisely the same that they would be when apportioned according to the value of the surveyed or granted land and improvements? I trust that no one will hazard that opinion.

It follows, then, of course, that if the balances due any of the States, upon the settlement of those accounts, according to the principles fixed by the act,

JANUARY, 1804.

are less than they would have been had the settlement been made according to the principles contained in the Confederation, those balances being due from the United States, are, so far as they are reduced, not as valid as they were under the Confederation; therefore, the act that fixes the standard by which they are reduced is contrary to the Constitution, and of course void.

By the seventh section of the first article of the same instrument, Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; not to add to or diminish, but to pay, the debts of the United States.

Having, as I conceive, in a clear point of view, proved the act under consideration unconstitutional, I will dismiss that point, and proceed to show wherein the alteration of the principles upon which the accounts ought to be settled affected and materially injured the State of North Carolina; in the doing of which, those circumstances necessarily will be mentioned which will serve to prove what I have already asserted, that the balances would have been different had the ratio been made upon the proper principles.

Mr. Speaker, that State being inferior in square miles to but few in the Union, gentlemen might suppose, without reflection, that her quota of the general expense, when calculated in the way I contend for, would be proportionately large. But, sir, I must be permitted to remark, that she had within her chartered limits a large quantity of surplus or unappropriated land, which was not by the Articles of Confederation to be taken into the valuation-that expressly declaring the lands granted or surveyed, with their improvements, only to be estimated.

There is, sir, another fact equally well founded: the lands in that State are of less value than the lands in any State within the Union. This, I conceive, has not arisen because they are of inferior quality, but principally on account of her difficult navigation. And perhaps I might not be far wrong in saying that one of the large Northern cities is worth half as much as all the lands in that State. From which, I may fairly conclude that her relative proportion in numbers is much greater than the relative proportion in the value of the surveyed or granted land and improvements. And in order to establish this fact, I will briefly state to the House the proportion in which the former Congress laid their requisitions on the several States in the year 1779. Fifteen millions of dollars were required, of which North Carolina had to pay one million and ninety thousand. In the same year, out of eighty battalions of troops, she had only to raise six; at another time two millions of dollars were required, of which she had only to contribute cne hundred and forty-eight thousand. In none of these did her quota exceed one-twelfth part.

But, by the act of 1790, she had to pay one-tenth of the expense, as, by the first census, that was about her relative proportion in numbers. And as the aggregate amount of expense is at least thirty millions of dollars, (and less than that sum cannot be presumed,) her quota, according to num

« PreviousContinue »