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 (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.
The Report including the objections to interest on British debts; was also agreed to nem: con: not very cordially by some who were indifferent to the object; and by others who doubted the mode of seeking it by a new stipulation.3
1. For the appointment of, and instruction to, the committee which submitted this “report,” see JM Notes, 14 May 1783, and n. 1. The report was made on 16 May, first debated three days later, and spread on the journal on 30 May (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 102; Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 366). For the fourth of the provisional articles of peace with Great Britain, see Harrison to Delegates, 9 May 1783, n. 6. The fifth and sixth articles pledged Congress to “earnestly recommend” to the state legislatures “the restitution of all estates, rights and properties” taken from Loyalists who had not “borne arms” against the United States, to allow Loyalists who had fought in the British army “to remain twelve months unmolested” while trying to regain their confiscated property, and to “immediately set at liberty” persons “in confinement” or under prosecution for “the part which he or they may have taken in the present war” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 248–49).
The committee prefaced its recommendation by affirming the desire of Congress, and its trust that King George III shared that desire, to give “speedy and full effect to all the stipulations” of the treaty so as to hasten “the blessings of peace.” The resolution “required” the states to “remove all obstructions” preventing the Loyalists or British from being released, if in jail, or from being paid their just debts, and “earnestly recommended” that the states, “with that spirit of moderation and liberality, which ought ever to characterise the deliberations and measures of a free and enlightened nation,” enable the Loyalists to recover their confiscated properties (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 371).
2. On a motion of Richard Peters, seconded by Ralph Izard, the eight states effectively represented in Congress voted unanimously to commit the report to a committee composed of James Wilson, chairman, Bland, and Abraham Clark (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 371–72; NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 105). Hamilton, the only delegate in attendance from New York, had been chairman of the committee submitting the report. He voted against its commitment. The Wilson committee seems never to have rendered a report, possibly because of the interruption of public business by the flight of Congress to Princeton. See JM Notes, 21 June 1783, and n. 7; Motion in re Preliminary Peace Treaty, 18 Oct. 1783.
3. The report of the Wilson-Bedford-Mercer committee, appointed on 29 May, was adopted without a tallied vote. These resolutions, which embodied two instructions and one expression of “desire,” were for the guidance of the American peace commissioners. One instruction required them to seek an amendment to Article IV of the preliminary articles of peace, guaranteeing that “no execution shall issue for any debt contracted before the war, in less than three years after the signing of the definitive treaty.” On this subject Congress also expressed the “opinion” that it would be “highly inequitable and unjust” if British creditors charged their American debtors with interest for the war years when they had suffered “depredations of private property” and been “excluded in a great measure from a commercial intercourse with foreign nations, and consequently deprived of all mart for their produce.” Congress “farther instructed” the peace commissioners “to contend for an express stipulation in the definitive treaty of peace providing for a fair liquidation of all charges for subsistence of prisoners of war, and other reasonable demands,” together with a pledge to pay “in a reasonable period” the “balances” which may be “justly due” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 374–76). See also Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 20 May, and n. 3.
Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, dispatched a copy of these resolutions on 31 May 1783 to the American peace commissioners (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 458–59). For discontent over the prospects of an early demand by British creditors for American citizens to pay their pre-Revolutionary debts, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 422–23, and n. 7; 439; 440, n. 2; 458, n. 3; Randolph to JM, 15 May, and n. 5; Jones to JM, 25 May; Pendleton to JM, 26 May 1783.