Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.
Come. of the whole.1
Mr. Mercer revived the subject of retrospective operation;2 and after it had been much discussed & the difference elucidated wch. might happen between apportiong. according to the first valuation which sd. be made, merely the sums paid on the requisitions of Congs. & apportiong the whole requisitions, consisting of the sums paid & the deficiencies, which might not be pd. until some distant day, when a different rule formed under different circumstances of the States sd. be in force, the assent to the last question put yesterday was reversed, & there was added to the preceding question, after “5 Years.”—“and shall operate as a rule for apportioning the sums necessary to be raised for supporting the public credit & other contingent expences & for adjusting all accounts between the U. States & each particular State for monies paid or articles furnished by them & for no other purpose whatsoever.”3 On this question there were 6 ays, so it became a vote of the Come. of the whole.4
3. The chief matter at issue was the basis on which “retrospective operation,” or reapportionment, of the indebtedness of the Confederation should be made according to the first valuation of lands. John Francis Mercer was concerned lest the debt be reapportioned without regard to contributions previously made in money or kind by individual states. Clearly such reapportionment would be disadvantageous to Virginia and other states which, having contributed heavily in kind, would now be called upon to bear a proportionate share of the deficiencies created by states which had contributed slightly. Mercer evidently believed, as did Governor Harrison, that despite appearances of delinquency in discharging past quotas, Virginia’s contributions would, with a final settlement of accounts, be found considerable (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 145).
The reason why Eliphalet Dyer shared this view, as expressed on 7 February, is equally clear (JM Notes, 7 Feb., and n. 14). In 1782, for example, Connecticut had paid over 76 per cent of her financial quota and was owed large sums by Congress for provisions and munitions forwarded to the continental army (NA: PCC, No. 142, II, 191; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIII, 86–87, 278; XXIV, 232, n. 13, 368–69).
4. Charles Thomson recorded the vote as being seven states “ay.” The delegates from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut (including Dyer), New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were unanimously in the affirmative, and three (including Rutledge) of the four delegates from South Carolina also supported the amendment. Mercer joined Arthur Lee in voting “no,” thus offsetting the “ay” of JM and Joseph Jones and rendering the vote of Virginia ineffective. The votes of Rhode Island and North Carolina were lost by similar deadlocks, and Maryland was represented only by Daniel Carroll (NA: PCC, No. 36, III, 450; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 120–21). See also JM Notes, 17 Feb. 1783, and n. 1.
Although the duration to which quotas under the first valuation should be operative was limited to five years, the manuscript motion shows that the phrase “within these years,” as affecting the period of time to which the “rule” would be effective, was struck out, probably in debate (NA: PCC, No. 36, III, 463; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 120 and n. 1). Mercer, who on 12 February vigorously opposed “the principle of general revenue” for Congress, may have feared that deletion of the phrase would be an invitation to loose construction by a future Congress. On 17 February he joined Dyer in successfully moving a reconsideration of the whole subject of land-valuation quotas so as to have a proposal phrased in a manner acceptable to them (JM Notes, 12 Feb.; 17 Feb.; JM to Randolph, 18 Feb. 1783; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 135–37).