Fact No. II1
[Philadelphia, October 16, 1792]
For the National Gazette.
Genuine Truth never deviates into misrepresentation. That an impostor has assumed its name in the National Gazette of the 10th inst. is sufficiently evinced by the following circumstance. The writer, who appears under that signature, after endeavouring to torture certain expressions of the Secretary of the Treasury, into a meaning which, construed with candour, and in connection with their context, never could be put upon them—proceeds thus, “If these opinions seem to be contradicted in any manner or degree by the other observations of this officer, namely, that ‘the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment,’ and ‘that there should be a constant effort to reduce the present and avoid new debts as far as may be,’ it is most fairly to be explained by allowing for a more cautious language latterly produced by the public alarm taken at such doctrines,” Etc. Now, it happens, unfortunately for this uncandid interpretation, that the first of the above quoted positions (to wit) that “the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment,” is contained in the very first communication, or report, which the Secretary of the Treasury ever made on the subject of the public debt;2 in that very report which contains the expressions tortured into an advocation of the doctrine that public debts are public blessings; in immediate connection with the very expressions upon which that construction has been put.
Again: The phrase “critical point,” quoted from a report of the Secretary of the Treasury on Manufactures,3 is made to refer to that point at which public debts cease to be public blessings; whereas in the true sense in which the phrase is used, it refers really to that point, at which “A public debt may be swelled to such a size, as that the greater part of it may cease to be useful as capital, serving only to pamper the dissipation of idle and dissolute individuals, as that the sums required to pay the interest of it may become oppressive & beyond the means which a government can employ consistently with its tranquility, to raise them; as that the resources of taxation to face the debt may have been strained too far, to admit of extension adequate to exigencies which regard the public safety;” (see page 25 of the report of the Secretary of the Treasury on Manufactures). It is this “critical point,” including a complication of circumstances of which the Secretary speaks, and concerning which he observes, that “where it is cannot be pronounced; tho’ it is impossible to believe that there is not such a point:” this is a further sample of the disposition to mistake and misrepresent. In fine, the just and obvious construction of what the Secretary has said is simply this—that while it cannot be admitted as a general proposition, that public debts are public blessings, with which latitude the doctrine is sometimes laid down, yet there may be particular situations of a country, in which a portion of a public debt, funded on right principles, may be advantageous by supplying a deficiency of actual capital—and that such was the situation of the United States, at the time the question concerning a provision for the public debt was depending, that the proper funding of the existing debt would render it a public advantage—and hitherto at least the position is verified by experience.
Gloomy predictions of the future, it is true, are thrown out, by factious, or hypochondriac politicians; but these being mere predictions, must be referred for their fulfilment or refutation to Time.
In any event, the doctrine charged upon the Secretary of the Treasury, which he emphatically terms “a doctrine inviting to prodigality, and liable to dangerous abuse,” is not attributable to any thing he has said, still less to any thing he has done. If conduct is allowed to be a test of sincerity, the course he took in the last session, in regard to the war with the Indians, is a pregnant and energetic proof of his aversion to an accumulation of debt.4 Whatever may be the good or ill qualities of that officer, much flexibility of character is not of the number. He is not therefore liable to the suspicion of having disavowed any principle which he really entertains, because it may have excited a degree of clamour.
[Philadelphia] National Gazette, October 17, 1792.
1. “Fact No. II” was written in reply to an article dated October 8, 1792, and signed “Truth” which appeared in the National Gazette on October 10, 1792. “Truth” was writing in reply to H’s “Fact No. I,” September 11, 1792. The article by “Truth” reads as follows:
“I have read with sedulous attention all the late discussions about the political doctrines of the Secretary of the Treasury, (the political opinions of public men being of public importance to every citizen) and have carefully gone over his reports, so far as relating to or declaratory of his particular opinions; as well as repeatedly perused the various published extracts therefrom with the comments; and, upon the whole, I think it impossible for candour to deny, or for prudence to attempt to explain away, the following positions, or the deductions flowing therefrom. From his own shewing, it is clearly his opinion,
“That, tho’ he cannot accede to the position ‘in the latitude, in which it is sometimes laid down, that public debts are public blessings,’ tho’ ‘there may be a plethora in the body politic,’ in this respect, ‘as in the natural body’; tho’ ‘there may be a state of things in which every such artificial capital is unnecessary.’
“Yet that in a certain latitude, short of what is sometimes contended for, ‘at a critical point,’ which it is impossible to doubt the existence of; and in the ordinary state of things, public debts are public blessings; and particularly, that ‘the proper funding of the present debt (amounting to above seventy millions) will render it (not the funding, paying or providing for, but said debt itself) a national blessing.’
“If these opinions seem to be contradicted in any manner or degree, by the other observations of this officer, namely that ‘the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment,’ and ‘that there should be a constant effort to reduce the present and avoid new debts, as far as may be,’ it is most fairly to be explained, by allowing for a more cautious language latterly, produced by the public alarm taken at such doctrines; and also by the expectation, that there will be no fear of having enough of this national blessing, ‘as the vicissitudes of nations beget a perpetual tendency to the accumulation of debt’; and ‘as there is too strong a propensity in the government of nations, to anticipate and mortgage the resources of posterity, rather than encounter the inconveniencies of a present increase of taxes.
([Philadelphia] National Gazette, October 10, 1792.)
4. For information on the “course” which H “took in the last session, with regard to the war with the Indians,” see “Fact No. I,” September 11, 1792. See also “Report Relative to the Additional Supplies for the Ensuing Year,” March 16, 1792.