Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). See Notes on Debates, 4 November 1782, ed. n.
After the passing of the Resolution concerning Cap: P. Jones a motion was made by Mr. Madison1 to reconsider the same, that it might be referred to the Agent of Marine to take order, as a better mode of answering the same purpose; since it did not become the sovereign body to give public Sanction to a recommendation of2 Capt: Jones to the Commander of the French Squadron, especially as there was no written evidence that the latter had signified a disposition to concur in the project of Capt: Jones:3 The motion was lost; a few States only being in favor of it.4
The reason assigned by those who voted against the promotion of Cols: to Brigadrs. according to districts was that such a division of the U. S. tends to foster local ideas, and might lead to a dismemberment.5
The Delegates from Penna. reminded Congress that no answer had been given to the Memorials (see Novr. 20) from that State[,] that the Legislature were proceeding in the measure intimated in the said Memorials and that they meant to finish it & adjourn this evening.6 The reasons mentioned by the Delegates as prevailing with the Legislature were 1st. the delay of Congress to give an answer which was deemed disrespectful[.] 2d. the little: chance of any funds being provided by Congress for their internal debts. 3dly. the assurance [given by one of their members [Mr. Jos: Montgomery mentioned privately not on the floor.]7 that no impediment to the support of the war cd. arise from it, since Congress had provided means for that purpose in Europe.8
A Committee consisting of Mr. Rutlidge Mr. Madison & Mr. Hamilton was appointed to confer immediately with a Committee from the Legislature on the subject of the Memorials, & were instructed to make such communications relative to our affairs abroad as would correct misinformations.9 The Committee which met them on the part of the Legislature were Mr. Jos: Montgomery, Mr. Hill & Mr. Jacob Rush.10
The Committee of Congress in the conference observed that the delay of an answer had proceeded in part from the nature of so large an assembly of which the Committee of the Legislature cd. not be insensible, but principally from the difficulty of giving a satisfactory one untill Rhode Island sd. accede to the Impost of 5 PerCt. of which they had been in constant expectation;11 That with respect to the prospect from Congress for the public Creditors Congress had required of the States interest for the ensuing year, had accepted the territorial cession of N. Y. and meant still to pursue the scheme of the impost;12 that as to their affairs in Europe the loan of13 6 Million of livres only last year had been procured from France by Dr. Franklyn in place of 12 asked by him, the whole of which had been applied;14 that the loan of 5,000,000 Guelders opened by Mr. Adams had advanced to abt. 1½ Million only and there seemed little progress to have been made of late;15 that the application16 for 4 Million as part of the estimate for the ensuing year was not founded on any previous information in its favor but against every intimation on the subject, & was dictated entirely by our necessities;17 so that if even no part of the requisitions from the States sd. be denied, or diverted, the support of the war, the primary object, might be but deficiently provided for.18 That if this example which violated the right of appropriation delegated to Congress by the federal Articles,19 should be set by Pa. it would be both followed by other States & extended to other instances; that in consequence our system of administration, and even our bond of Union wd. be dissolved;20 that the enemy would take courage from such a prospect and the war be prolonged if not the object of it endangered; that our national credit would fail with other powers, & the loans from abroad which had been our cheif resource fail with it. That an assumption [by individual States] of the prerogative21 of paying to their own Citizens the debts of the U. S. out of the money required by the latter was not only a breach of the federal system but of the faith pledged to the public Creditors; since payment was mutually guaranteed to each & all of the Creditors by each & all of the States; and that lastly it was unjust with respect to the States themselves on whom the burden would fall not in proportion22 to their respective abilities, but to the debts due to their respective Citizens; and that at least it deserved the consideration of Pa. whether she would not be loser by such an arrangement.23
On the side of the other Comittee it was answered24 that the measure cd. not violate the confederation because the requisition had not been founded on a valuation of land;25 that it would not be the first example, N. H. & N. Y. havg. appropriated mony raised under requisitions of Congress;26 that if the other States did their duty in complying with the demands of Congress no inconveniency would arise from it, that the discontents of the Creditors wd. prevent the payment of taxes; Mr. Hill finally asking whether it had been considered in Congress how far delinquent States cd. be eventually coerced to do justice to those who performed their part? To all which it was replied that a valuation of land had been manifestly impossible during the war, that the apportionments made had been acquiesced in by Pa. and therefore the appropriation could not be objected to:–27 that altho other States might have set previous examples, these had never come before Congress. & it wd be more honorable for Pa. to counteract than abet them especially as the example from her weight in the Union & the residence of Congress wd. be so powerful28 that if other States did their duty the measure wd. be superfluous; that the discontents of the Creditors might always be answered by the equal justice & more pressing necessity which pleaded in favor of the army, who had lent their blood & services to their Country, and on whom its defence still rested: that Congress unwilling to presume a refusal in any of the States to do justice cd. not anticipate it by a consideration of the steps wch. such refusal might require, & that ruin must ensue if the States suffered their policy to be swayed by such distrusts.29 The Committee appeared to be considerably impressed with these remarks, & the Legislature suspended their plan.30
1. When JM wrote this sentence, he evidently wrote “Mr. M” only and later added “adison” slantwise to complete his surname.
2. Immediately following “of,” JM deleted “an officer to.”
3. See Report on Jones’s Request, 4 December 1782, and n. 1. The reason advanced by JM in support of his motion to reconsider a resolution which he chiefly had drafted agrees with the implication of Hamilton’s canceled passage (ibid., n. 4). This passage, obviously written in a hurry, may have been prepared by Hamilton on 4 December rather than during the deliberations of the committee. He of course could have been expressing JM’s own “second thought” in the form of an amendment to be introduced if JM persuaded Congress to adopt his motion to reconsider.
4. The printed journal does not mention JM’s motion or the vote rejecting it (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 761).
5. Congress had been unable for many months to agree upon a mode of selecting colonels for promotion to the rank of brigadier general in the continental army. The issue was complicated by the pressures resulting from state sovereignty, sectional rivalry, economic cost, military efficiency, degree of need, and from the fact that a senior colonel was sometimes not the most meritorious of his rank. From 25 May 1781 until 19 January 1782 the number of continental brigadiers, to be allotted by Congress among eight districts consisting of one or two states, had been established at seventeen (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 540; XXII, 39).
The problem became the more difficult to solve in 1782 because of the virtual suspension of military operations on land, the spur which the increased feeling of security gave to the insistence upon state sovereignty, the drastic reduction in the number of recruits from war-ravaged Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, and the empty condition of the Confederation treasury. The continental lines of the southern states, even more than those of the middle seaboard and New England, were overstaffed with officers of every rank (Lincoln to JM, 22 November 1782, and nn. 2, 4). Virginia, for example, had too few men in the field to form a brigade of full strength for each of her brigadier generals to command. No brigadier, on the other hand, could be assigned to a vacancy in the line of another state without wounding the pride of that state and embittering the senior colonel thereof, in spite of the fact that the states in Article IX of the Articles of Confederation had conferred upon Congress “the sole and exclusive right and power” to appoint “all officers of the land forces, in the service of the united states, excepting regimental officers” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 219; XXII, 349–50, 350, n. 1, 451–53).
Although on 14 October 1782 a committee (Bland, chairman) recommended that in selecting a colonel for promotion the “fixed principle” of seniority be adhered to, except when “signal merit or services” justified making an exception, it also urged that Congress cease appointing more brigadiers unless the continental line of a state should require an officer of that grade. Fifteen days later, after consulting Washington about this report and the wider problem of systematizing promotions to the rank of brigadier general, Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln endorsed the two suggestions of the committee and further proposed to Congress that the states be divided into three districts—eastern (New England), middle (from New York to Maryland, both included), and southern. A brigadier-general vacancy in a state’s continental line, or in that of two or more states within one district where their troop units had been combined to form a brigade, should be filled in either instance by promoting the senior colonel or lieutenant colonel commandant of the continental line or lines involved. On 4 December, two days after a committee (Carroll, chairman) recommended the adoption of these proposals, Congress withheld its approval by a margin of 5 states to 2. JM’s vote in favor of the report was ineffective because he was the only delegate attending from Virginia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 553, n. 1, 650–51, 698–99, 699, n. 1, 762–63). Congress thereupon named a new committee, again with Daniel Carroll as chairman, to review its predecessor’s report. The committee recommended the report anew, almost without change, and Congress adopted it on 12 December 1782 (NA: PCC, No. 21, fols. 311–12; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 790–91).
6. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 387; 388, n. 13; 418; Notes on Debates, 20 November, and nn. 1, 8; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 10 December 1782.
7. In the original draft of this passage, the period and final bracket immediately followed “Montgomery.” Judging from the contrast in handwriting, JM at a later time interlineated the terminal clause and indicated where it should go by inserting a caret between “Montgomery” and the period.
Ill health obliged Joseph Montgomery (1733–1794), a member of the Pennsylvania legislature, to end his tenure as a delegate in Congress on or about 1 November 1782 (Motion on Exchange of Cornwallis, 22 November 1782, n. 1).
9. Instead of his full surname JM at first wrote only “Mr. M.” Later in a small hand he inserted “adison” slantwise between “Mr. M” and the period immediately following it. Hamilton introduced the motion proposing the appointment of a committee (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 761).
10. Henry Hill (1732–1798), a native of Maryland, became a rich Philadelphia wine merchant and owner of a large estate along the Schuylkill River. He shared prominently in effecting the transition of Pennsylvania from colony to commonwealth at the outbreak of the Revolution. He was a member of the legislative assembly, 1780–1784, and of the supreme executive council, 1785–1788. He helped to found Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pa. (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, III , 441–42; XVI , 29–31; L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, I, 346, n. 2).
Jacob Rush (1747–1820), a younger brother of Dr. Benjamin Rush, had been graduated by the College of New Jersey in 1765. He continued his preparation for the bar, to which he had been admitted in Philadelphia in 1769, by two further years (1771–1773) of study at the Middle Temple in London. For a time in 1777–1778, when Charles Thomson was ill, Rush was deputy secretary of Congress. Following two years (1782–1784) as a member of the General Assembly, the remainder of his public career was devoted to the judiciary of his state—a judge of the state Supreme Court, 1784–1791; president judge of the third circuit court (northeastern Pennsylvania), 1791–1806, and of the first circuit (Philadelphia city and county), 1806–1811; and judge of the Court of Common Pleas, 1811–1820. In politics he became “a Federalist of the straightest sect” (ibid., I, 44, n. 8; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , IX, 875; X, 94 n., 95, 96, 108; Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XXXIX , 53–68).
12. See JM to Randolph, 16–17 September, and n. 13; 29 October, and n. 12; Notes on Debates, 20 November; 6 December 1782. The relevance of New York’s cession to the matter at issue was the hope that the western lands would either ultimately provide income from their sales or be acceptable security for effecting further loans from foreign governments or bankers.
13. Between “loan” and “of,” JM wrote and canceled “solicited by Mr. Adams.”
14. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 407–9; JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782, n. 4.
16. Between “the” and “application,” JM wrote and deleted “4 Million applied for as part.”
18. JM interlineated the last four words of this sentence over an excised “unprovided for.”
19. That is, contrary to the eighth article of the Articles of Confederation, which delegated to Congress the authority to appropriate funds “supplied by the several States” for paying all expenses “incurred for the common defense or general welfare,” the legislature of Pennsylvania was threatening to use tax revenue to reimburse federal creditors living in the state rather than to honor the requisition of Congress. See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 217; also the citations in n. 6, above.
20. JM wrote “be dissolved” over “gradual.” See n. 23, below.
21. JM interlineated “with it” after “fail,” “[by individual States]” after “assumption,” and “by particular States” after “prerogative.” He canceled the third of these inserts.
22. Immediately following “guaranteed,” JM canceled “to all by each.” He interlineated “in proportion” above a deleted “according.”
23. Pennsylvania had gone more heavily in debt for continental purposes than almost any other state (Merrill Jensen, The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781–1789 [New York, 1950], pp. 302–4). Hence, by discharging these obligations, she would assume more than what her proportionate share of the entire continental debt would be, if it were allocated equitably among the thirteen states. Much of the argument set forth by JM in this paragraph of his notes anticipates the contention of Hamilton and his supporters in 1790 that an assumption of state debts by the central government would strengthen the new union under the Constitution. The committee of Congress in the present instance naturally emphasized how greatly the Confederation would be imperiled if the debts owed by Congress were assumed by the state wherein the creditors resided.
24. JM interlineated “other” and substituted “answered” for a canceled “replied.”
25. The reference is to the eighth article of Confederation, stipulating that a financial requisition by Congress should be allocated among the states in amounts proportionate to the population and valuation of land in each state. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 122; 123, nn. 2, 3, 4.
26. For the example of New Hampshire, see ibid., IV, 121–23. A parallel case would have been that of New Jersey, and perhaps JM inadvertently wrote “N.Y.” rather than “N.J.” (Report on Payment of New Jersey Troops, 1 October 1782). On the other hand, the committee of the Pennsylvania legislature may have had in mind an act of the New York General Assembly early in 1781 providing for an emission of paper money, contrary to the ordinance of Congress of 18 March 1780, to pay overdue debts owed by Congress for military supplies and to purchase additional ones desperately needed by New York’s continental troops. See Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 16, 22–23; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 472–73.
27. JM interlineated “not be objected to” as a replacement for what appears to have been either “would bind” or “was binding.” Although the votes in Congress on requisitioning $8,000,000 for 1782 and on each state’s quota of that total are not recorded in the printed journal, these measures certainly were adopted by the requisite number of state delegations. Hence Pennsylvania was bound (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1087–88, 1090; XXIII, 571).
28. Interlineated by JM over a deleted “formidable.”
29. Here the committee was replying evasively to Henry Hill’s query about what coercive measures might “eventually” be employed against “delinquent States.” Congress had indeed given at least “consideration” to “steps” proposed by JM on 12 March 1781 as an amendment to the Articles of Confederation, authorizing Congress to enforce an embargo of the trade of a delinquent “State or States” by employing the armed forces “of the United States as well by sea as by land” (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 17–19; 19, n. 8; 71–72; IV, 34; 35, n. 15).