Motion on Payment of Interest on the Domestic Debt and on Sending a Deputation to Rhode Island
[Philadelphia] December 6, 1782
That the Superintendant of Finance be & he is hereby directed to represent to the Legislatures of the several States the indispensible Necessity for their complying with the requisitions of Congress for raising 1,200,000 dollars for paying a years Interest of the Domestick Debt of the U.S.1 & 2 Millions towards defraying the Expences of the Estimate for the ensuing year2 & the Inconveniences, Embarrassments & Injuries to the publick Service which will arise from the States Individually making Appropriations3 of any part of the sd. 2 Millions of dollars or of any other Monies required by the U.S. in Congress assembled;4 assuring them withall that Congress are determined to make the fullest justice to the public Creditors an invariable object of their ⟨counsels⟩ and exertions.5
Resolved that a deputation consisting of 6 be sent to the State of Rhode Island7 for the purpose of making a full & just representation of the public affairs of the U.S. and of urging the absolute necessity of a compliance with the Resolution of Congress of the 3d day of feby 1781 respecting the duty on imports & prizes8 as a measure essential to the safety and reputation of these states.9
D, in the writings of H, John Rutledge, and James Madison, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.
1. On September 4, 1782, Congress resolved to call on the states for $1,200,000 “as absolutely and immediately necessary” for payment of the interest on the public debt (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 545).
2. On October 16, 1782, Congress acted to raise a part of the money which the Superintendent of Finance, Robert Morris, had estimated as required for the year 1783. Of the total of six million dollars needed for the year, Congress asked the states to raise immediately two million (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 660).
3. The part of the motion asking the states not to appropriate the money requested by Congress resulted from a conference between a committee of Congress and a committee of the Pennsylvania legislature (“Motion on Appointment of Committee to Confer with Legislature of Pennsylvania,” December 4, 1782, note 3). It was feared that the Pennsylvania legislature at its next session might again appropriate money to satisfy the claims of its citizens against the United States rather than to meet the congressional requisition. According to James Madison, many members assumed that the only way to forestall such state action was to provide a permanent fund for discharging the public debt (“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).
4. The preceding portion of the manuscript is in the writing of John Rutledge. The remainder is in the writing of H except for a few words by Madison.
5. At the request of David Howell of Rhode Island, the first part of the motion was voted on separately. It was agreed to unanimously.
6. Space left blank in MS.
7. All the states except Rhode Island and Georgia had passed laws granting Congress the impost requested in the congressional resolve of February 3, 1781 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XIX, 112). As Georgia was in the possession of the British and infrequently represented in Congress, her assent was not important. The assent of Rhode Island, however, was indispensable to the success of the plan. Repeated requests by Congress that Rhode Island agree to the impost, led to repeated refusals. Early in November, Congress learned unofficially that the lower house of the Rhode Island legislature had rejected the impost.
James Madison recorded that the resolution to send a deputation to Rhode Island was added because it was believed “that a renewal of the call on R. Island for the impost ought to accompany the motion; that such a combination of these plans would mutually give efficacy to them, since R. Island would be solicitous to prevent separate appropriations, & the other States would be soothed with the hope of the Impost” (“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).
8. “3d,” “feby 1781,” “& prizes” were inserted by Madison.
9. After considerable debate on the propriety of sending a deputation to Rhode Island, the motion was resolved in the affirmative, and a deputation of three members was appointed (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 771–72). The deputation left for Rhode Island on December 22. Before it had traveled far, news was received that Virginia had repealed its act of accession to the impost and that Maryland possibly would do the same.