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Report on Robert R. Livingston’s Funds, [31 March] 1783

Report on Robert R. Livingston’s Funds

MS (NA: PCC, No. 19, III, fol. 595). In JM’s hand, except as mentioned in n. 4, below. Docketed by Charles Thomson: “Report of Mr Madison Mr Rutlidge Mr Fitzsimmons On Letter 28 March Secy forn Affairs. delivered March 31. 1783. Recd. Entd. Debated May 16 1783 postponed. March 1. 1785 Referred to Mr [Samuel] Hardy Mr [John] Beatty Mr [Elbridge] Gerry.”

[31 March 1783]

The Committee to whom was refd. a letter from the Secy. of F. A. of the 28th. inst; informing Congs. that there remain in his hands about [p. 419] 7300 dollars, savd. from the Salaries of the Foreign Ministers by the course of Exchange during the last year; and requesting some order of Congs. relative to the disposition thereof;1 Recommend that in consideration of the expences incurred by the sd Secy since his appt. beyond the Salary annexed to it; as appears by his letter of   day of  2 & of the extra ser[v]ice [dis]charged by him in transacting the business from which the savings abovemd. have resulted,3 he be allowed to retain   dollars out of the same, & that he be directed to place the residue in the hands of the Superintendent. of Finance.4

1In his letter of 28 March to President Elias Boudinot, Livingston pointed out that, preparatory to “leaving” the Department of Foreign Affairs on 1 April, he wished to settle all of his financial accounts. Among these was a balance of 38,332 livres, equivalent “at par to about” $7,310 (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 350–51). For the referral of the letter to the committee on 28 March 1783, see NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 90.

2In his letter of 2 December 1782, making known to Congress his intention of resigning, Livingston stated that his annual expenses as secretary for foreign affairs exceeded his $4,000 salary by at least $3,000 (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, 338, n. 4).

3In his letter of 28 March 1783, Livingston mentioned that his “extra service” had included acting, at “some trouble and risk,” as disbursing “agent” for Henry Laurens, one of 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, 351). In similar fashion Livingston had helped John Adams and Francis Dana, minister-designate to the court of Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia (ibid., V, 862–63; VI, 375). The regulations of 10 January 1781, by which the duties of the secretary for foreign affairs were defined, did not oblige him to act as a disbursing agent (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 43–44). He could have served in this capacity only by authorization of Robert Morris. On 14 September 1782 Congress adopted JM’s motion to inform the “several public ministers” overseas “that the care and management of all monies” obtained in Europe could be “disposed of” only by the superintendent of finance in accord with appropriations made by Congress (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, 124–25). The salaries of those “public ministers” were derived from the foreign loans.

4Robert Morris. On 8 May 1783, upon the recommendation of a committee, Congress resolved that henceforward the secretary for foreign affairs should share in determining the political and economic policies of the United States in its international relations but failed to act upon the committee’s proposal to increase his salary to $8,000. The next day Livingston informed Congress that financial considerations obliged him to resign (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, 337, n. 2; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 334–35, 336–37). Expectation that there soon would be a final accounting with him may partially explain why action on the present report was postponed after being debated on 16 May 1783.

On the manuscript are notes, not written by JM, which perhaps further reveal the nature of that debate and the reason for the inconclusive outcome. Immediately following “disposition thereof” is a single bracket, inserted heavily in ink. Along the left margin, embracing all of the committee’s proposal after the word “Recommend,” is a wavy, ink-drawn, single parenthesis, curving below the last line of the report. Below this Abraham Clark wrote, “Whereupon ordered that the money in the hands of the secretary of foreign affairs be paid to the Superintendt of finance.” This passage is canceled with crosshatches in ink. Below the passage is a second one, also in Clark’s hand and deleted, reading, “Whereupon ordered that the money in [p. 420] the hands of the secretary of foreign affairs, saved from the salaries of foreign ministers by the Course of exchange, be placed in the hands of the Superindt of finance.” These two attempted emendations appear to signify, for reasons noted below, that, after the debate on 16 May had demonstrated the unacceptability of the committee’s recommendation, the manuscript of the report was handed to Clark.

On the docket page of the manuscript, Clark erroneously noted that Livingston had been appointed on 4, instead of 10, August 1781; that his personal expenses connected with the office dated from 1 October 1781; that during the fourteen months from that date to 2 December 1782, when he expressed his intention of resigning, he claimed to have spent $3,000, or $214 a month, more than his salary; and, therefore, that his out-of-pocket costs from 2 December 1782 to the close of May 1783 would be about $1,200, making a total of $4,500. The fact that Clark extended the estimate until the close of May makes almost certain that he wrote these jottings and his suggested amendments to the committee’s report during the debate on 16 May. See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 851–52, 1028; XXIII, 759; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 100.

On 4 June 1783 Congress thanked Livingston “for his services during his continuance in office” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 382). See also Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 275–76; George Dangerfield, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, pp. 177–80.

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