Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from James Blanchard, May 1791

From James Blanchard1

Philadelphia May 1791

Gentlemen

I enclose you a Letter2 Similar to a Number that have been Sent to the Officers of the Late Continental army and I beg Leave to give you the reason of its being done.

When Government under the new Constitution was making arrangements for the payment of the public debt the officers from the Massachusetts Line prefered a Memorial to Congress3 praying some mode might be adopted to ascertain the value of the Certificates they received for their pay and Subsistance at the Conclusion of the war (as other depretiated Curency heretofore had been done) and they be debeted on the public Books for what they had received and the residue be Still due to them.

The representatives of the Southern States Urged the Justice of the Claim and the impropriety of one Class of men accumelating such Large sums for so Small Considerations from the failure and delay of the public to the distress and ruin of another Class of men to whom they were so much indebted for the Freedom and Independence they then Enjoyed.

But the Gentlemen from the Northern States having been purchasers of Final Settlements were of a different opinion and their petition was rejected4 and a Funding Law passed5 which ascertained a Note given for £70.18 that had in Seven year accumelated £29.12. to be worth £82. or there abouts.

The Massachusetts officers waited on their representatives on their return to the State, who Informed them that a Funding Law had passed by a Majority and the value of their Certificates were Ascertained by the said Law, but if the public paid their debts to Individuals on the Same principles that one Individual was compelled by the Laws of the Country to pay to another, there was a residue that could be paid to the original Creditor.

The Officers wishing for Tranquility & every possible means of Justice, observed that notwithstanding they had alienated their Certificates Similar to all other Bills of public Credit that had been reduced by a scale of depretiation to the Current value and their assigns had received a Retribution from 200. to 500. perCent in Specie by a Law on their purchase, they would be Contented with the residue at it Stood on the public books.

But Last Sessions a remonstrance was presented to Congress under the fictitious Signiture of Original Creditors against the Injustice of the Funding Law in delaying to pay the said residue to the present possessors of Certificates.6

This representation come forward at an Unseasonable Time and in such Indecent & Illiberal Terms that Only Mr Morris from the Senate and three Gentlemen from the House of representatives voted for the adoption of it.7

And as it was declared by Mr Sedgwick in Congress the 12th. of February 1790 and Confirmed by a Majority of the members that the Army had been fully paid Exclusive of the final Settlements8—and that Justice could not be done to other public Creditors, because the greatest part of the public debt was in fictitious Certificates and Mr Beudinot9 and Other members of Congress had Large Sums of that Species of paper—and it was declared and placed upon record that the Army were a description of men that any farther payment would do them an Injury.

The Officers from different States and at different meetings Signifying their uneasiness from a different Opinion requested the Letter might be Circulated and by the Advice and direction of a Number of respectable Officers I have done it.

I am Gent Your Humble servt

James Blanchard

N.B. I beg leave to refer you to the Journals of Congress Feby. 12. & 16.& 19. &C &C.10

Copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On a note attached to this letter is written: “Copy of a Letter directed to the Officers of the Lat[e] C[ontinental] Army.”

Blanchard addressed a similar, but not identical, letter, dated June 1, 1791, to the officers of the New Hampshire line. This letter is printed in the New Hampshire State Papers (Albert Stillman Batchellor, ed., Early State Papers of New Hampshire [Concord, 1893], XXII, 814–15).

Blanchard had served as quartermaster and regimental paymaster of the Third New Hampshire Regiment during the American Revolution. In 1791–1792 he was a persistent opponent of the funding system and an advocate of discrimination in favor of those Revolutionary War soldiers who through necessity had alienated their certificates. Although he was not a member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati, the published records of that organization include letters written by him to officers of the society and to Samuel Livermore, Representative in Congress from New Hampshire. Blanchard’s letters suggest that he was a self-appointed delegate to persuade the soldiers of the Revolutionary Army in the various states to demand from the United States Congress a settlement of their claims. See The Institution and Records of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati (Concord, 1893), 58–63.

2Blanchard is presumably referring to a circular letter dated April 19, 1791, which has not been found. He refers to this circular in his June 1, 1791, letter to the officers of the New Hampshire line as follows: “You will receive a Circular Letter of my Signature of the 19 of April Similar to a Number that have been sent to the Officers of the Late American Army.…”

3An entry in the Journal of the House description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends for August 3, 1790, reads:

“A petition of the Officers of the late Massachusetts line of the American Army, in behalf of themselves and the Soldiers of the said line, was presented to the House, and read, praying that further and adequate compensation may be made for military services rendered during the late war.

Ordered, That the said petition do lie on the table.” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , 287.)

4In the June 1, 1791, letter to the officers of the New Hampshire line, this sentence reads: “But the Representatives from the Northern States being purchasers of Certificates.…”

5“An Act making provision for the (payment of the) Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 138–44 [August 4, 1790]).

6On December 20, 1790, in the Senate Robert Morris presented “The memorial and remonstrance of the public creditors who are citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania” petitioning for a revision of the Funding Act.

On December 23, 1790, the Senate “Resolved, That it would be inexpedient to alter the system for funding the public debt established during the last session of Congress, and that the petition of Thomas M’Kean and others, styling themselves a committee of the public creditors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, cannot be granted” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , II, 1781). This resolution was passed with one dissenting vote from Robert Morris.

7According to the Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , 390, only Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and Thomas Scott of Pennsylvania voted in favor of the petition.

8There is no record in the Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends of this statement by Theodore Sedgwick of Massachusetts on February 12. In the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, however, there is a document entitled “For the American daily advertiser,” which is written in the same handwriting as the Blanchard letter printed above. Signed “A Continental,” it contains the following “Extract from Mr. Sedgwicks Speech in Congress Feby. 12. 1790: That with regard to discovering who was the original Holder, except so far as respected the army debt it was declared there was no document by which the necessary fact could be discovered.

“That it was Stated as a fact with regard to much the greatest part of the public debt any fictitious name was Inserted.

“That with regard to the army Debt the Soldiers who were in Service at the end of the war received ample Sattisfaction at the time of their Inlistment.”

9Elias Boudinot of New Jersey.

10On these dates the House considered H’s “Report Relative to a Provision for the Support of Public Credit,” January 9, 1790. See Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , 158, 160, 161; Annals of Congress I description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , 1267–84; II, 1338–42.

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