James Madison Papers

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 6 April 1782

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Charles Hay.

Virga. In Council Apl. 6th. 1782.


My letters that you miss1 were sent to the Post Office, and I suppose must have been either mislaid or taken away by Some curious Tory, who will meet with but little gratification in reading them, as they containd nothing of consequence, indeed that Seems to be the Case on both Sides. When I came to the government I found the correspondence establishd and most willingly agreed to keep it up in hopes of knowing what was doing in Congress, except when Secresy was injoin’d; I am disappointed in my expectations & I suppose for good reasons, tho’ when I had the honor of a Seat there I look’d on it as a part of my duty to give Such information.2 I wish you to transmit me, if to be procured the Sum paid in from each State of the forty for one money, for the use of Congress, and to inform me whether any of them continue to pay it in; This State is much in arrear on that Score.3 There is in the hands of the Loan Officer4 and Continental Paymaster5 a considerable Sum, which I understand is ordered to Philadelphia by the Financier, from which I conclude it will be hoarded up, and a demand of redemption made on us to exchange it dollar for dollar; Should this be the Case you may easily see how injurious it will be to the State: what little we have in circulation is from four to five for one.6 I am &c

2See Randolph to JM, 11–13 April 1782, and n. 14. Harrison had been a delegate to the Second Continental Congress from 1776 until 1778, although he did not attend in the latter year.

3On 25 July 1781 Robert Morris had dispatched a circular letter to the executive of each state, requesting information speedily about the “moneys, supplies, transportation, &c.” advanced to the Confederation since 18 March 1780, as well as about “the amount of the several paper currencies now circulating in your State, the probable increase or decrease of each, and the respective rates of depreciation” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 601–4). The military crisis in Virginia had prevented Governor Nelson from doing more than to promise his co-operation (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 281; 282, n. 4). His successor, Governor Harrison, had either overlooked the request or decided to ignore it. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 25 February 1782, and n. 1. In the present letter he asked, in effect, to be informed of what the executives of the other states had done to comply with Morris’ request. Obviously they had done little, for as late as 12 July 1782 Morris commented to Alexander Hamilton, “The Answers I have received here have been very few and very short of the Objects so that I have not been able to Act as I wished for want of necessary information” (Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton [7 vols. to date; New York, 1961——], III, 107).

4John Hopkins, Jr.

5Harrison’s son Benjamin, Jr., continental paymaster of the southern department and, since 1776, a business correspondent of Robert Morris (Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 14–15).

6See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 23 April; and Motion for Financial Reports, 30 April 1782; also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 49, n. 2. For Morris’ determination to centralize the funds of Congress in its treasury, see his letter of 15 April 1782 to Alexander Hamilton (Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., Papers of Alexander Hamilton, III, 72–74). In expressing his concern, Harrison overlooked the fact that the resolution of Congress of 2 November 1781 had merely recommended that the states “pass acts” to enable Morris to achieve his purpose (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1091). Morris required the receiver of continental taxes in each state to publish monthly the amount of money derived from taxes which he had transmitted to the treasury of the United States. The continental receiver for Virginia stated in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 29 June 1782 that no money had been received to forward during April, May, and June. Although an act of the Virginia General Assembly in its session of May 1782 stipulated that certain tax income “shall be appropriated to continental purposes,” the measure included no provision for sending the money to Morris or even for transferring it to the custody of his fiscal agent in Virginia (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 12–14).

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