Alexander Hamilton Papers

Resolution of the New York Legislature Calling for a Convention of the States to Revise and Amend the Articles of Confederation, [20 July 1782]

Resolution of the New York Legislature
Calling for a Convention of the States
to Revise and Amend the Articles of Confederation1

[Poughkeepsie, New York, July 20, 1782]2

The Senate again resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, to take into Consideration the State of the Nation; and after some considerable Time spent therein, the President resumed the Chair, and Mr. Ten Broeck from the said Committee, delivered in a Report; which he read in his Place, and delivered in at the Table, where it was again read, considered by Paragraphs, and agreed to. Whereupon the Senate came into the following Resolutions, viz.

Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature; after full and solemn Consideration of the several Matters communicated by the Honorable the Committee of Congress, relative to the present Posture of our Affairs, foreign and domestic, and contained in a Letter from the Secretary for foreign Affairs respecting the Former, as well as of the Representations from Time to Time made by the Superintendent of the Finances of the United States, relative to his particular Department—That the Situation of these States is in a peculiar Manner critical, and affords the strongest Reason to apprehend from a Continuance of the present Constitution of the Continental Government; a Subversion of public Credit; and Consequences highly dangerous to the Safety and Independence of these States.

Resolved, That while this Legislature are convinced by the before-mentioned Communications, that notwithstanding the generous Intentions of an Ally from whom we have experienced, and doubtless shall still experience all possible Support; Exigencies may arise to prevent our receiving pecuniary Succours hereafter, in any Degree proportioned to our Necessities—They are also convinced from Facts within their own Knowledge, that the Provisions made by the respective States for carrying on the War, are not only inadequate to the End, but must continue to be so, while there is an Adherence to the Principles which now direct the Operation of public Measures.

Resolved, That it is also the Opinion of this Legislature, that the present Plan instituted by Congress for the Administration of their Finances, is founded in Wisdom and sound Policy—That the salutary Effects of it, have already been felt in an extensive Degree; and that after so many violent Shocks sustained by the public Credit, a Failure in this System, for Want of the Support which the States are able to give, would be productive of Evils too pernicious to be hazarded.

Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature, that the present British Ministry, with a Disposition not less hostile than that of their Predecessors, taught by Experience to avoid their Errors, and assuming the Appearance of Moderation, are pursuing a Scheme calculated to conciliate in Europe, and seduce in America—That the œcomical Arrangements they appear to be adopting, are adopted to enlarging the Credit of their Government, and multiplying its Resources, at the same Time that they serve to confirm the Prepossessions and Confidence of the People; and that the Plan of a defensive War on this Continent, while they direct all their Attention and Resources to the Augmentation of their Navy, is that which may be productive of Consequences ultimately dangerous to the United States.

Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Legislature, that the present System of these States, exposes the common Cause to a precarious Issue, and leaves us at the Mercy of Events over which we have no Influence; a Conduct extremely unwise in any Nation, and at all Times, and to a Change of which we are impelled at this Juncture, by Reasons of peculiar and irresistable Weight; and that it is the natural Tendency of the Weakness and Disorders in our national Measures, to spread Diffidence and Distrust among the People, and prepare their Minds to receive the Impressions the Enemy wish to make.

Resolved, That the general State of European Affairs, as far as they have come to the Knowledge of this Legislature, affords in their Opinion, reasonable Ground of Confidence, and assures us, that with judicious vigorous Exertion on our Part, we may rely on the final Attainment of our Object; but far from justifying Indifference and Security, calls upon us by every Motive of Honor, good Faith and Patriotism, without Delay, to unite in some System more effectual, for producing Energy, Harmony and Consistency of Measures, than that which now exists, and more capable of putting the common Cause out of the Reach of Contingencies.

Resolved, That in the Opinion of this Legislature, the radical Source of most of our Embarrassments, is the Want of sufficient Power in Congress, to effectuate that ready and perfect Co-operation of the different States, on which their immediate Safety and future Happiness depend—That Experience has demonstrated the Confederation to be defective in several essential Points, particularly in not vesting the fœderal Government either with a Power of providing Revenue for itself, or with ascertained and productive Funds, secured by a Saction so solemn and general, as would inspire the fullest Confidence in them, and make them a substantial Basis of Credit—That these Defects ought to be without Loss of Time repaired, the Powers of Congress extended, a solid Security established for the Payment of Debts already inured, and competent Means provided for future Credit, and for supplying the current Demands of the War.

Resolved, That it appears evidently to this Legislature, that the annual Income of these States, admitting the best Means were adopted for drawing out their Resources, would fall far short of the annual Expenditure; and that there would be a large Deficiency to be supplied on the Credit of these States; which, if it should be inconvenient for those Powers to afford, on whose Friendship we justly rely, must be sought for from Individuals, to engage whom to lend, satisfactory Securities must be pledged for the punctual Payment of Interest, and the final Redemption of the Principal.

Resolved, That it appears to this Legislature, that the aforegoing important Ends, can never be attained by partial Deliberations of the States, separately; but that it is essential to the common Welfare, that there should be as soon as possible a Conference of the Whole on the Subject; and that it would be adviseable for this Purpose, to propose to Congress to recommend, and to each State to adopt the Measure of assembling a general Convention of the States, specially authorised to revise and amend the Confederation, reserving a Right to the respective Legislatures, to ratify their Determinations.

Ordered, That Mr. Paine3 carry a Copy of the aforegoing Resolutions, to the Honorable the House of Assembly, and request their Concurrence thereto.4

New York Senate Journal description begins Journal of the Senate of the State of New York (Publisher and place vary, 1782–1786). description ends , 1782, 89–90.

1J. C. Hamilton stated that the text of the resolution which he printed was “abridged from the original draft” and that the original was “from the pen of Hamilton” (Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , II, 295–97). Most scholars have followed his lead in attributing the resolutions to H. See HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , I, 291; Mitchell, Hamilton description begins Broadus Mitchell, Alexander Hamilton, Youth to Maturity, 1775–1788 (New York, 1957). description ends , 266.

The resolutions were submitted to the Senate through Abraham Ten Broeck by the committee of the whole. Because Philip Schuyler, H’s father-in-law and close political ally, was a member of the committee of the whole and because H was in Poughkeepsie at the time the resolutions were prepared, it is generally assumed H must have been the author of the resolutions. There is no conclusive evidence, however, that he wrote them or that he advised the person who did write them.

2The resolutions were adopted by the Senate on this date, and on July 21 they were unanimously approved by the Assembly.

3Ephraim Paine was a member of the New York Senate from the middle district.

4Governor George Clinton enclosed the concurrent resolutions in a letter of August 4 to the Continental Congress. They were referred on August 15, 1782, to a “Grand Committee” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 470, note 2), and on April 28, 1783, they were recommitted to a committee consisting of Oliver Ellsworth, Daniel Carroll, James Wilson, Nathaniel Gorham, and H. On July 23, 1783, the committee was renewed and Clinton’s letter referred to H, Richard Peters, James McHenry, Ralph Izard, and James Duane. On July 30, 1783, H, who left the Continental Congress at that time, was replaced by Samuel Huntington (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 285, note 2). The committee reported on September 2, 1783, that consideration of the New York legislature’s resolution be postponed until the states replied to the congressional resolution of April 18, 1783, calling for congressional authority to levy an impost (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXV, 523).

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