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Notes on Debates, 17 February 1783

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.

The report respecting a valuation of land being lost as appears from the Journal, it was revived by the motion of Mr. Dyer seconded by Mr. Mercer as it stands, the appointment of Commissrs. by Congress for adjusting the quotas, being changed for a grand Committee consisting of a delegate present from each State for that purpose.1

A motion was made to strike out the clause requiring the concurrence of nine voices in the report to Congress; and on the question shall the words stand? the States being equally divided the clause was expunged. It was thereafter reconsidered & reinserted.2

The whole report was agreed to with great reluctance by almost all, by many from a spirit of accomodation only, & the necessity of doing something on the subject. Some of those who were in the negative particularly Mr. Madison thought the plan not within the spirit of the Confederation, that it would be ineffectual, and that the States would be dissatisfied with it.3

A motion was made by Mr Hamilton 2ded. by Mr Fitzimmons to renew the recommendation of   Feby 1782 for vesting Congress with power to make abatements in favor of States part of which had been in possession of the Enemy. It was referred to a committee.4

1For the report of the committee of the whole on “valuation,” the amendment of that report by Congress on 11 February, the referral of the amended report to the Rutledge committee, and the report of that committee, see JM Notes, 11 Feb., and nn. 1–5, 8, 10, 11; 14 Feb. 1783, and n. 7. On 17 February only six states, rather than the requisite minimum of seven, voted in favor of the committee’s recommendation. Among the six was Virginia, with Jones, Bland, and Mercer voting “ay” and Madison and Lee “no” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 133–35).

For Mercer’s position on the issue, see JM Notes, 8 Feb., and nn. 3, 4; JM to Randolph, 18 Feb. 1783, and nn. 2, 3. The following recommendation in the committee report on 17 February enlisted his, but not JM’s support: “the said estimate [of the value of privately owned land and buildings in each state], when approved by Congress, shall be a rule for adjusting all accounts between the United States and the individual states: that is, that each State shall be debited for its just quota or proportion, on the principle aforesaid, of the money theretofore advanced or paid, and of the amount in value of the supplies furnished by all the states for the service of the United States, and credited for the money advanced, and the amount in value of the supplies furnished by such State for the service of the United States: that the said estimate shall operate for a term not exceeding five years, as a rule [p. 248] for apportioning on the several states the sums which Congress shall, from time to time, deem necessary and require to be raised for supporting the public credit and contingent expences” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 134–35).

The Dyer-Mercer substitute proposal differed from the committee report in replacing 1 January with 1 March and the commission to adjust quotas with a grand committee of Congress. Nine states, rather than the six which had supported the committee’s report, voted in favor of the new recommendation. New York alone opposed. Daniel Carroll, Maryland’s sole representative, cast an ineffective negative vote. The division among the Virginia delegates remained unaltered (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).

2The proceedings mentioned in this paragraph are not recorded in the official journal.

3Judging from the feeble handwriting, JM inserted “Mr. Madison” many years later. In a letter of 17 February, Hugh Williamson, after referring to the adopted resolution as one “which the Southern States have carried with great difficulty,” continued: “it is not so good as we wished, but the best we could get, for valuing the lands and their improvements, according to the Confederation. I believe we failed in twenty different plans before we fixed on one” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 46). JM probably viewed the mode “fixed on” as violating “the spirit” of Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation, for that article omitted any mention of the population of a state as relevant to estimating the value of land therein (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).

4On 6 February the Hamilton-FitzSimons motion to postpone the expensive and lengthy operation of evaluating land and to extend, in settling accounts between the United States and each state when the evaluation should be completed, “equitable abatements to such States as have been more immediate sufferers by the war” had been lost by a vote of four states to three (JM Notes, 5–6 Feb. 1783, and n. 13). In view of the adoption of the Dyer-Mercer proposal, the renewed Hamilton-FitzSimons motion, referred to Lee, Dyer, and Samuel Holten of Massachusetts, proposed that the states authorize Congress to make desirable adjustments, according to “the particular circumstances of the several States” at “different periods” during the 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, 138). See also JM Notes, 26 Feb. 1783.

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