From Abishai Thomas1
Philad. 9 Decr. 1793
By an act of the Legislature of the State of North Carolina2 I am directed to make a return of all the settlements of Army accounts which hath been made in the State; designating by whom the claims of the Officers & Soldiers had respectively been drawn, in effecting this I have had recourse to the original Vouchers which were deposited with the Commissioners of accounts,3 & are now in the Treasury, but a difficulty has occur’d which the Comptroller4 has refer’d to your decision. In order to make my return compleat so as to answer the purpose of the Law I have requested permission to take up the powers, orders or assignments on which the claims have been drawn,5 because otherwise my report will contain evidence on one side of the question only, for instance the claim of A is receipted for by B & the order in favor of B is filed with the statement of the claim. A complains of fraud, institutes a suit against B my book is admitted as testimony for the plaintiff and poor B is legally convicted of the fraud when perhaps he might clearly prove his innocence in case the authority on which he settled & drew the claim could appear in his behalf, or the fraud be more amply detected if the authority was a forgery. These orders I do not consider by any means as necessary to be filed with the accounts, the proofs of payment by the state are unconnected with them, and where they have been deficient the Commissioners in no instance ever called on me to produce one, & this I consider as ample proof that they were not considered by the board as necessary to accompany the vouchers, indeed while the Vouchers were with the Commissioners I had permission to withdraw several orders of the description in question. I therefore presume to hope that on considering the grounds of my proposition you will concur with me in opinion, and give consent to my withdrawing the papers in question.
With much respect I have the honor &c
ADfS, North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Raleigh.
1. Thomas was the agent of North Carolina for settling claims of the state against the United States.
2. Thomas is referring to “An Act to effect justice to the honest soldier, and to the widow, orphan, heirs and representatives of the officers, noncommissioned officers and privates of the late line of this state,” which reads as follows:
“Whereas many army claims have been drawn by persons unauthorized by the real claimant, and the persons who have drawn the same not generally known, to the great injury of the honest claimant, and to manifest evil to the state:
“I. Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly of the state of North-Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authorty of the same, That the Agent of this state for the settlement of its accounts with the United States, do, on or before the first day of April next, make out and transmit to the Comptroller, an accurate list of the names of the officers, non-commissioned officers and privates, and others, who had their accounts settled at Halifax, by the Commissioners for settling the army accounts, in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-three, with the sums drawn in due-bills and certificates, and by whom drawn or receipted for.
“II. And be it further enacted, That the Agent aforesaid do in like manner make out and transmit to the Comptroller aforesaid, on or before the said first day of April next, an accurate list of the names of the officers, noncommissioned officers and privates, and others, who had their accounts settled by Hawks and Coor, at Newbern, in the year or at any other time, by any Board or Boards, or by resolution of the General Assembly, distinguishing the sums drawn, and by whom drawn or receipted for, except only those drawn at Warrenton in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-six.
“III. And be it further enacted, That the Agent aforesaid do in like manner transmit to the Comptroller on or before the said first day of April next, an accurate and authentic list of the names of the persons and the amount of the final settlements, together with the names of the persons who receipted for or drew the same from Robert Fenner, Esquire, late Agent for the continental line of this state.
“IV. And be it further enacted, That the Comptroller shall on receipt thereof, that is to say, on the receipt of the said lists, immediately proceed to arrange the names therein contained for pay due them in alphabetical order, and annex to the said names respectively the sums drawn, distinguishing the due-bills, certificates and final settlements in different columns, together with the name of the person who receipted for and drew the same; and include in the said lists so by him to be arranged, the settlement made at Warrenton, in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-six, and the settlement made at Hillsborough in the present year, distinguishing each of the said settlements by a column, containing Ha. for Halifax, H. for Hillsborough, N. for Newbern, W. for Warrenton, R. for Resolution of the General Assembly, and so on; in which list by him to be made out he shall also include the final settlements delivered by the Treasurer, by the late Comptroller, and by himself.
“V. And be it further enacted, That when the Comptroller shall have made out the said list, that he shall have one hundred and twenty copies thereof printed at the expence of the state, and shall transmit two copies thereof to the Clerk of each county court respectively within the state; one of which copies shall be kept by the Clerk as a record in his office, and the other shall be subject to the inspection of any person willing to examine the same.
“VI. And be it further enacted, That the copy of said list so to be kept of record, shall be taken and deemed as evidence in all suits which may arise in the premises between individuals. Provided nevertheless, That the defendant may in all causes, when suit shall be instituted against him for such due-bill, certificate or final settlement, said in the said list to be drawn by him, have leave to produce evidence that the same was not drawn by him, or if drawn or receipted for by him, have leave to produce evidence that the same was drawn by proper power or transfer, or that the same had been fairly settled with the real claimant.
“VII. And be it further enacted, That if at any time before the said first of April, the Agent aforesaid should find that he can dispense with the original papers now in his office, or in the office of the Commissioners of the United States for settling the accounts of individual states, or should he find that at any time before the first day of June next the same can be dispensed with, that then instead of the lists so by him herein directed to be made, he do forthwith transmit to the Comptroller, either by post or some safe conveyance, all the necessary original receipts relative to the premises; and that the Comptroller do then immediately proceed to make out the list herein before required to be made out by the Agent, and then do and perform all the other parts herein prescribed to him.
“VIII. And be it further enacted, That should the Agent aforesaid have to make out such list, that it shall be considered as extra services in him, and he shall receive for the same such compensation as the next General Assembly shall deem proper and equivalent.” (Laws of North-Carolina. At a General Assembly, begun and held at Newbern, on the Fifteenth Day of November, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Two, and in the Seventeenth Year of the Independence of the said State: Being the First Session of the said Assembly [n. p., n. d.], 3–4).
3. Thomas is referring to the commissioners appointed to settle the accounts between the states and the United States. The final report of the commissioners, dated June 29, 1793, was presented to Congress on December 5, 1793. See Tobias Lear to H, August 19, 1793, note 1.
4. Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
5. Fraudulent assignments and false letters of administration upon which such assignments were sometimes based had already become a problem to the Treasury Department. See Wolcott to H, May 3, 1792. In North Carolina the question of false claims, especially in regard to Army payments, had raised suspicions concerning the state certificates and due bills issued during the Confederation period and had led to a rejection of all those issued at Warrenton in 1786. In 1790 the North Carolina legislature provided for the reissue of legitimate Warrenton certificates and the issue of certificates for Army claims which had not previously been presented. According to the commissioners who had issued the most recent certificates at Hillsboro, many of the new claims were settled on certificates of administration that may have been illegally signed by the clerk of Beaufort County, Alderson Ellison. A committee appointed to examine the charge reported on December 27, 1792, that “after examining a number of witnesses relative to a copy of the muster-rolls of the late army of the United States having crept abroad, they have not been able to discover any thing material relative to such investigations, and that the suspicion, so far as related in any respect to the Commissioners of army settlements at Hillsborough, and to the business of the agency, were altogether groundless. The committee, however, report, that they have discovered the suspicions relative to Alderson Ellison, Clerk of Beaufort county, having granted administrations out of court, to be well grounded; and the court of Beaufort did sanction the granting said administrations, at the term of September last, in a most illegal manner: They therefore recommend, that the Attorney or Solicitor-General should be instructed to take such measure as will bring to punishment all persons concerned in the granting or sanctioning the said administrations, and that in the mean time the Justices who were upon the bench when the administrations were sanctioned, should be bound over, and that Alderson Ellison should be suspended from his office” (Journal of the House of Commons. State of North-Carolina. At a General Assembly, begun and held at Newbern, on the fifth Day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the sixteenth: It being the first Session of this Assembly [Edenton: Printed by Hodge & Wills, Printers to the State], 53).
Thomas made a preliminary report to the North Carolina legislature on February 25, 1793 (Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina [Goldsboro, North Carolina, 1886–1907], XVII, 189–263). The following December James Craven, the comptroller of North Carolina, reported that the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1793 was responsible for the delay in completing the reports required by the act (Journal of the House of Commons. North Carolina. At a General Assembly begun and held at Fayetteville, on the second Day of December, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighteenth: It being the first Session of this Assembly [Halifax: Printed by Hodge & Wills, n. d.], 22).