Adams Papers

Proposed Amendment to the Articles of Confederation, 23 October 1777

Proposed Amendment to the Articles of Confederation

[23? October 1777]1

To <agree upon and fix> ascertain the necessary Sums of Money to be raised for the service of the united States, and to appropriate and apply the Same <to public Uses> for defraying the public Expences.

MS in JA’s hand (PCC, No. 47, reverse of f. 109½); in the margin: “Content 1111 111111.”

1Because JA’s suggested wording was written on the back of wording proposed by Elbridge Gerry dealing with that paragraph in Art. 6 of the Articles of Confederation which forbade state duties that interfered with proposed treaties with France and Spain, the supposition is that JA drafted his proposal about the time this paragraph was being debated along with other articles, on 23 Oct. JA’s proposal, however, related not to Art. 6 but to Art. 8 in the final version of the Articles, which provided for defraying the expenses of the United States. When compared with the provision enacted, JA’s wording seemingly gave the congress greater latitude in determining the sums of money needed. As enacted, Art. 8 provided for defraying “all charges of war and all other expenses, that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare.” Ascertaining sums “to be raised” and appropriating and applying them would have put the congress under less restraint than defraying expenses incurred. Nothing in the printed record suggests that JA actually offered this language, although given the tally mentioned in the descriptive note (above), he may have sounded out his colleagues privately. Art. 8 passed unanimously as earlier amended, the only change in its language from John Dickinson’s draft being the decision to apportion taxes among the states according to the value of the land in each rather than population, a decision which JA opposed (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 9:801–802, 827, 833–834; Merrill Jensen, The Articles of Confederation, Madison, Wis., 1940, p. 256, 266).

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