Author: Joseph Jones  | Date: 1889

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The Revenue Plan (1783)


. . . CONGRESS have been for some time past almost wholly employed in devising some general and adequate funds for paying the interest and, in time, sinking the principal, of the public debt, as well as to provide for future loans, should the continuance of the war render borrowing necessary. Difficulties, apparently insurmountable, presented themselves in almost every stage of the business, owing to the different circumstances of the several States, and the necessity that the subjects selected for taxation to form the funds should operate throughout them all, generally and equally, or nearly so, to make them acceptable. After opening and discussing a variety of questions, no object has been yet discovered, to which so few objections lie, as the impost duty formerly recommended to the States, and which, with some alterations from the former plan to obviate the objections that have been raised, has been agreed to in a Committee of the Whole, and will I think be finally adopted. What this duty when granted by the States will amount to annually is very uncertain. In time of peace there can be no doubt but it will be considerable, and for years prove an increasing fund; but it is thought by no means adequate to the payment of the interest and sinking the principal of the public debt. Other means have, therefore, been considered in aid of the impost duty—land, polls, salt, wine, spirits, tea, &c. These last being what are called luxuries it is thought may bear a small tax in addition to the impost duty. I fear at present that few of these will go down, and that we shall be obliged at last to rest the payment of the public debt upon the mode prescribed by the Confederation—(requisitions, proportioned on the States according to the value of land, buildings, &c.—a plan for obtaining which scale of proportion has been digested and agreed upon in Congress, and will immediately go on to the States,) and the produce of the 5 per cent. duty, if granted. A small poll tax, did not the Constitution of Maryland stand in the way, might probably succeed, as it would operate more equally perhaps than any other, and may be adopted, allowing Maryland to substitute some other adequate and productive fund in its room. A short time will bring to a conclusion our efforts on this business, which I am in hopes will terminate in the adoption of such measures as may be acceptable to the States, and produce the granting such funds as will restore public credit, give value to the great mass of depreciated certificates, and enable Congress to render to every class of the public creditors ample justice. Congress have the purest intentions towards the public creditors, and will use their best exertions in obtaining from the States the means to do them speedy and complete justice. Such is their opinion of the merit and services of the army, that did it not wound the sense of justice, they want not the inclination to give them the preference to any other class of creditors. But equity and sound policy forbid discriminations. One ground of discontent in the army, and on which they found the opinion that justice is not intended to be done to them, is the delay in complying with their requests. But with those acquainted with the deliberations of public bodies, and especially if so mixed a body as that of Congress, allowances will be made for slow determination. Every class of public creditors must know the inability of Congress to pay their demands, unless furnished with the means by the several States, and the exertions of that body have not been wanting heretofore to obtain the means, though they have not produced the desired effect. The measures now digesting will, there is good reason to expect, prove more efficacious for obvious reasons.

Reports are freely circulated here that there are dangerous combinations in the army, and within a few days past it has been said that they are about to declare that they will not disband until their demands are complied with. I trust these reports are not well founded, and that the army will exercise awhile longer at least, that patient forbearance which hath hitherto so honourably distinguished them. . . .

Joseph Jones. 1777–1787 (edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford, Washington, 1889), 97–99.

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Chicago: Joseph Jones, Letters,, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 121–122. Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4WB4GBXJVWIT9QY.

MLA: Jones, Joseph. Letters,, edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 121–122. Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4WB4GBXJVWIT9QY.

Harvard: Jones, J, Letters,, ed. . cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.121–122. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4WB4GBXJVWIT9QY.