Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 5

Contents:

Thursday, February 20

Motion for limiting the impost to twenty-five years—Decision—The goods seized under passport—Resolution relative to.

The motion for limiting the impost to twenty-five years having been yesterday lost, and some of the gentlemen who were in the negative desponding of an indefinite grant of it from the states, the motion was reconsidered.

Mr. WOLCOTT and Mr. HAMILTON repeat the inadequacy of a definite term. Mr. RAMSAY and Mr. WILLIAMSON repeat the improbability of an indefinite term being acceded to by the states, and the expediency of preferring a limited impost to a failure of it altogether.

Mr. MERCER was against the impost altogether, but would confine his opposition within Congress. He was in favor of the limitation, as an alleviation of the evil.

Mr. FITZSIMMONS animadverted on Mr. Mercer’s insinuation yesterday touching the loan-office creditors, and the policy of dividing them from the military creditors; reprobated every measure which contravened the principles of justice and public faith; and asked, whether it were likely that Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, to whose citizens half the loan-office debt was owing, would concur with Virginia, whose citizens had lent but little more than three hundred thousand dollars in any plan that did not provide for that in common with other debts of the United States. He was against a limitation to twenty-five years.

Mr LEE wished to know whether by loan-office creditors were meant the original subscribers or the present holders of the certificates, as the force of their demands may be affected by this consideration.

Mr. FITZSIMMONS saw the scope of the question, and said that, if another scale of depreciation was seriously in view, he wished it to come out, that every one might know the course to be taken.

Mr. GORHAM followed the sentiments of the gentleman who last spoke; expressedhis astonishment that a gentleman (Mr. Lee) who had enjoyed such opportunities of observing the nature of public credit should advice such doctrines as were fatal to it. He said it was time that this point should be explained; that if the former scale for the loan-office certificates was to be revised and reduced, as one member from Virginia (Mr. Mercer) contended, or a further scale to be made out for subsequent depreciation of certificates, as seemed to be the idea of the other member, (Mr. Lee,) the restoration of public credit was not only visionary, but the concurrence of the states in any arrangement whatever was not to be expected. He was in favor of the limitation, as necessary to overcome the objections of the states.

Mr. MERCER professed his attachment to the principles of justice, but declared that he thought the scale by which the loans had been valued unjust to the public, and that it ought to be revised and reduced.

On the question for the period of twenty-five years, it was decided in the affirmative, seven states being in favor of it; New Jersey and New York only being no.

Mr. MERCER called the attention of Congress to the case of the goods seized under a law of Pennsylvania, on which the committee had not yet reported, and wished that Congress would come to some resolution declaratory of their rights, and which would lead to an effectual interposition on the part of the legislature of Pennsylvania. After much conversation on the subject in which the members were somewhat divided as to the degree of peremptoriness with which the state of Pennsylvania should be called on, the resolution on the Journal, which is inserted below, was finally adopted; having been drawn up by the secretary, and put into the hands of a member, the resolution passed without any dissent.The result proved that mildness was the soundest policy--the legislature, in consequence, having declard the law under which the goods were seized to be void, ascontradictory to the Federal Constitution. Some of the members, in conversation, said that, if Congress had declared the law to be void, the displeasure of the legislature might possibly have produce a diffrent issue.a

Resolved, That it does not appear to Congress that any abuse has been made of the passport granted by the commander-in-chief for the protection of clothing and other necessaries sent from New York, in the ship Amazon, for the use of the British and German prisoners of war. [p.55]

Resolved, That the goods imported in thesaid ship Amazon, and contained in the returns laid before Congress by the assistantsecretary at war, are fully covered and protected by the said passport, and ought to be sent with all expedition, and without any let or hinderance, to the prisoners for whose use they were designed.

[The evening of this day was spent at Mr. Fitzsimmons’s by Mr. Gorham, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Peters, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Madison. The conversation turned on the subject of revenue, under the consideration of Congress, and on the situation of the army. The conversation on the first subject ended in a general concurrence Mr. Hamilton excepted) in the impossibility of adding to the impost on trade any taxesthat would operate equally throughout the United States, or be adopted by them. On the second subject, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Peters, who had the best knowledge of the temper, transactions, and views of the army, informed the company, that it was certain that the army had secretly determined not to lay down their arms until due provision and a satisfactory prospect should be afforded on the subject of their pay; that there was reason to expect that a public declaration to this effect would soon be made; that plans had been agitated, if not formed, for subsisting themselves after such declaration; that, as a proof of their earnestness on this subject, the commander was already become extremely unpopular, among almost all ranks, from his known dislike to every unlawful proceeding; that this unpopularity was daily increasing and industriously promoted by many leading characters: that hischoice of unfit and indiscreet persons into his family was the pretext, and with some the real motive; but the substantial one, a desire to displace him from the respect and confidence of the army, in order to substitute General as the conductor of their efforts to obtain justice. Mr. Hamilton said, that he knew General Washington intimately and perfectly; that his extreme reserve, mixed sometimes with a degree of asperity of temper, (both of which were said to have increased of late,) had contributed to the decline of his popularity; but that his virtue, his patriotism and firmness, would, it might be depended upon, never yield to any dishonorable or disloyal plans into which he might be called; that he would sooner suffer himself to be cut to pieces; that he, (Mr. Hamilton,) knowing this to behis true character, wished him to be the conductor of the army in their plans for redress, in order that they might be moderated and directed to proper objects, and exclude some other leader who might foment and misguide their councils; that with this view he had taken the liberty to write to the general on this subject, and to recommend such a policy to him.]

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Chicago: Elliot, Jonathan, ed., "Thursday, February 20," Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 5 in The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, ed. Jonathan Elliot (Philadelphia: J. B. Lipincott Company, 1901), Original Sources, accessed September 19, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2JWXKZYNDKWHV3.

MLA: . "Thursday, February 20." Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 5, edited by Elliot, Jonathan, in The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, edited by Jonathan Elliot, Vol. 5, Philadelphia, J. B. Lipincott Company, 1901, Original Sources. 19 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2JWXKZYNDKWHV3.

Harvard: (ed.), 'Thursday, February 20' in Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 5. cited in 1901, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, ed. , J. B. Lipincott Company, Philadelphia. Original Sources, retrieved 19 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2JWXKZYNDKWHV3.