Thomas Jefferson Papers

Report concerning Continental Bills of Credit, [7 May 1784]

Report concerning Continental Bills of Credit

[7 May 1784]


That all sums of Continental bills of credit paid by or to any State on account of the United states shall be credited or debited in account according to the specie value of such bills at the time of paiment, as settled by the legislature of the same state in their table of depreciation constructed1 for the use of their state: and where none such has been constructed,2 an average shall be taken from those of the states adjoining wherein such tables have been constructed,2 on which paiments an interest shall be allowed at the rate of 6. per cent. per annum from the time of paiment.

That all such bills now in the Treasury of any state, [if received before the 18th. of March 1780. shall be credited to such state according to their value on that day as declared by Congress in their resolutions of and if received after that day shall be credited at their specie value at the time to be settled as directed in the preceding resolution, and if]3 after the last day to which such table descends, they shall then be credited at the rate at which they were4 purchased or received, or if not purchased or received at any particular rate, then at the market value of such bills within the state at the time, to be estimated on the best evidence which may be obtained: on which sums also a like interest of 6. per cent from the time of receipt shall be allowed: and the affidavit of the Treasurer receiving the said bills shall be evidence of the time and rate at which they were received.

That all such bills now in the hands of individuals shall be redeemed at the same rates allowed5 for those in the Treasury of their state: that the holders of such bills shall be at liberty to carry them to the Loan officer of the U.S. within their state who shall give them in exchange for the same a certificate expressing the sum in specie which the U.S. owe in lieu thereof and the time from which it bears interest, which time shall be [the 18th of Mar. 1780. for all those received before that day, and the time of actual receipt for all those received after.]6 The Loan officer shall require from the holder the best evidence of the time of his receiving them which the nature of the case will admit, viz. that of circumstances and disinterested persons where to be had, and where not to be had to his satisfaction, then resorting to the examination of the party himself on oath, and giving to the same so much credit as in his conscience he shall think it deserves: [and in all cases of importance and difficulty shall associate to himself two honest and able persons to assist him in the examination and judgment.]7 These certificates shall be funded and paid as the other debts of the United States. But no certificate shall be issued for a less sum than thirty8 specie dollars.9

That the Superintendant of finance direct the form and mode of issuing the aforesaid certificates, and take order for destroying the Continental bills of credit brought in.

MS (DLC: Rives MS); entirely in TJ’s hand except as indicated in notes. This MS was enclosed by TJ in his letter to Madison of 8 May 1784. Despite its deletions and interlineations, this is evidently not a rough draft, but a fair copy which TJ presented to the Grand Committee; the differences between this MS and the MS report as presented to Congress on 17 May are, therefore, to be regarded as amendments made by the committee during the course of its discussions. Another MS (DNA: PCC, No. 26); entirely in TJ’s hand except as indicated in notes; endorsed by Thomson: “Report of grand Comee on Old Cont: Money Entd. Read May 17. 1784. Monday 24 May assigned for consideration.” At foot of text TJ wrote: “passed in Commee May. 7. 1784.” Broadside (DNA: PCC, No. 26); endorsed: “Report of Grand Comee on Old Continental Money on Letter Oct. 28th. 1783 from Govr. Hancock respecting Continental Bills of old Emission—Report on Motion of Mr Osgood & Motion of Mr Gorham enclosed. Read May 17th. 1784.” For convenience the two MS copies of this report are referred to respectively as Committee MS and MS Report.

As indicated in the endorsements, the report was not presented to Congress until after TJ had left Annapolis. As chairman of the Grand Committee, he turned this and other papers over to Blanchard before his departure (TJ to Charles Thomson, 21 May 1784; see also TJ to Robert Morris and Timothy Pickering, 9 Apr. 1784). On the background of this report and the policy of Robert Morris that gave rise to the Massachusetts protest, see Jensen, The New Nation, p. 390ff. Hancock’s letter of 28 Oct. 1783 (in reality a resolution of the Massachusetts legislature cast in the form of a letter from Hancock to the president of Congress, the text of which is in Mass. Acts and Resolves, Sep. sess., 1783, ch. 99) was referred on 26 Jan. 1784 to a committee of which Williamson was chairman and TJ was a member. The Massachusetts delegates pressed for a report but, since none was forthcoming, they moved on 8 Apr. that the committee be discharged and the matter be referred to the Grand Committee; this was done (DNA: PCC, No. 186; Mass. delegates to legislature, 4 June 1784, Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 616). The delegates also stated that the report of the Grand Committee on the extant bills of the old emissions was passed in committee by a vote of six states, “Massachusetts being one of the five that voted against it, indeed we think the first paragraph of it, which is intended to annul the Resolution of Congress of March 1780, so far as it authorizes the States to charge the money brought in to be sunk pursuant to that Resolve at 40 for 1, to be highly inconsistent with good faith and Justice: and to require the serious attention of the Legislature.” They further reported that, because of the pressure of important matters previous to the adjournment of Congress, it was out of their power to obtain from Congress a decision on the report (same, vii, No. 616). This is a more complete statement of the history of the report than appears in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvii, 395–6. See TJ to Madison, 25 Apr.

1The following, which appears at head of the resolution as given in the broadside and in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvii, 395, is on a slip of paper in DNA: PCC, No. 26 accompanying MS Report and is in the hand of Thomas Stone, being intended as an introduction to the report as presented on 17 May: “The Grand Committee to whom was referred a Letter of the Governor of Massachusetts of the 28th. of October 1783, relative to the Continental Bills of Credit of the old Emissions, submit the following.”

2This word deleted in Committee MS and “formed” interlined in Stone’s hand, which is the reading in MS Report and in broadside.

3The words in brackets (supplied) are deleted in Committee MS and the following interlined: “shall be credited to such state at the value they bore in specie at the time they were received by the state, which value shall be settled by a table of depreciation as directed in the preceding resolution for all the period of time comprehended in such depreciation table; and if the said bills were,” which is the reading in MS Report and in broadside.

4MS Report and broadside read “… actually purchased,” &c.

5This word deleted in Committee MS and “prescribed” interlined, which is the reading in MS Report and broadside.

6Words in brackets (supplied) deleted in Committee MS and the following interlined: “the 1st day of April 1781. where the said bills were received before that day, and where received afterwards, the time of their actual receipt.” The same deletion and inter-lineation were made in MS Report. Broadside agrees with the corrected text. It is not certain whether this alteration was made in committee or in Congress, though the former is more likely.

7Words in brackets (supplied) are written at foot of text of Committee MS and indicated by an asterisk as belonging to this point, at which this passage appears in MS Report and in broadside.

8This word deleted in Committee MS and in MS Report “twenty” is interlined, which is the reading in broadside text. This alteration was probably made in committee.

9Text of broadside ends at this point, though what appears to be a proof copy of the printed text (but printed from a different setting of type) in Massachusetts Archives and having on the same sheet printed reports of the Grand Committee on the Penobscot expedition and on Morris’ letter of 29 Apr. 1784 on the continuance of continental loan offices in the states, does have the concluding paragraph.

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