New York Assembly. Remarks on an
Act for the Relief of Merchants in the City of New York
[New York, March 20, 1787]
Col. Hamilton supposed that it was agreed on all hands, that some relief should be granted—there was, he said two questions before the committee, one, if they would put them on a footing with the other citizens; and the other, if they did not merit something more.1 If said he, you receive their certificates, and grant them your own, you extend to them only that relief which you have already given to your other citizens, who purchased up the loan-office certificates of other states; but there can be no difference between any one species of our debt; and there can be no substantial difference between taking a certificate of this state, and a certificate of the United States; much has been said about discriminating, but all arguments of discrimination amount to nothing. Whether we by this assumption make our state a creditor state or not, cannot be determined; the present calculation of the public debts is no criterion to go by. He remembered, he said, that when he was in Congress the liquidated debt was some where about 40,000,000, and that it was supposed the unliquidated debt was £40,000,000 more, if this is the case, which he believed it was, the state of New-York would be a debtor state. From the situation of public affairs, it is to be regretted that there is no system existing which can give general relief to public creditors. In the present instance, it is only required that you do that justice to one part of your citizens, which you have already done to another part. If we should make our state a creditor state, by extending this relief to our citizens, can we not obtain redress, if our confederation exists, and God forbid, that it may not; he was willing he said, to extend the relief, he did not want to confine it to any particular class of the people.2
The [New York] Daily Advertiser, March 22, 1787.
1. The Assembly had resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider “An act for the relief of the persons therein mentioned, merchants in the city of New-York, who previous to the late war were, and still are indebted to merchants in Great-Britain, and for other purposes therein mentioned.” The clause under debate reads, in part, as follows:
“Be it enacted by the People of the State of New-York, represented in Senate and Assembly,… That the Treasurer of the State be, and he is hereby authorised and required, to receive on loan, in behalf of the People of this State … from the said petitioners, and others in a similar situation, the amount of the debts which they … owe to merchants in Great-Britain … in such public securities as are made receivable in payment for all forfeited estates,… or is such other public securities, as shall be … bona fide the property of the person presenting the same,… and to issue in lieu thereof certificates for the principal sums so loaned, payable with interest, at the rate of six per cent. per annum.” (New York Assembly Journal description begins Journal of the Assembly of the State of New York (Publisher and place vary, 1782–1788). description ends , 1787, 138.)
Before H spoke, other members of the Assembly discussed the proposed clause in the bill for affording relief to New York merchants. See The Daily Advertiser, March 22, 1787.
2. For further information on the bill for the relief of merchants, see “Remarks on an Amendment to an Act Relative to Debts Due Persons Within the Enemy’s Lines,” April 12, 1787.