New York Assembly. Remarks on an
Amendment to an Act Relative to
Debts Due Persons Within the Enemy’s Lines
[New York, April 12, 1787]
Went into a committee on the bill to repeal the citation acts.…1
Mr. Hamilton advocated the bill with great ability and candor; he mentioned the bad effects of the present laws; the difficulties that the courts of justice threw in the way of them—and the impossibility ever to amend them is such a manner as to have them acted upon. He urged the influence the opinion of our courts ought to have on the legislature. The courts were not interested, and then decision were perfectly impartial. He asked if the southern district of the state, instead of having fared tolerably well, had been ruined, would the legislature have compelled their debtors who were without the lines to have paid additional sums. This he did not believe. And why then, said he, compell the creditors to take a less sum. He mentioned that in several instances, the severity of the law fell on gentlemen who were attached to the American cause, and who had acted meritoriously in the revolution. It was certainly not right to view all the creditors as enemies. Remarking on the ill effects of the legislature interfering in private contracts, and the violation of public faith which it occasioned, he observed, that it would destroy all credit; and be the means of injuring many whom the legislature had intended to benefit.
The [New York] Daily Advertiser, April 17, 1787.
1. A committee of the whole house reported on a bill entitled “An act to amend an act entitled an act relative to debts due to persons within the enemy’s lines, and another act entitled an act to explain and amend the act entitled an act relative to debts due persons within the enemy’s lines.” The first act relative to debts due persons within the enemy lines, passed on July 12, 1782, stayed prosecutions for debts owed to such persons and discharged New York citizens from the payment of interest on claims due them (Laws of the State of New York, I description begins Laws of the State of New York Passed at the Sessions of the Legislature Held in the Years 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 and 1784 Inclusive, being the First Seven Sessions (Albany, 1886). description ends , 499–501). This act was amended in November, 1784. The clause of the proposed bill which was under debate provided that debts due persons who, during the War, were within the enemy lines should be paid in three annual installments, and that interest should be paid on the sum due from a date unspecified in the act. After H’s remarks the Assembly took up the question of the date from which interest should be paid. H made a motion that “the blanks in the said clause should be filled up by inserting the first day of January 1784.” His motion was defeated, and the Assembly voted to insert the “first day of May 1786” (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, 157).
The bill was passed on April 20 (Laws of the State of New York, I description begins Laws of the State of New York Passed at the Sessions of the Legislature Held in the Years 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 and 1784 Inclusive, being the First Seven Sessions (Albany, 1886). description ends I, 562–64).