Alexander Hamilton Papers

Continental Congress Remarks on Raising Funds for the United States, [27 January 1783]

Continental Congress
Remarks on Raising Funds for the United States

[Philadelphia, January 27, 1783]

Mr. Hamilton went extensively into the subject;1 the sum of it was as follows: he observed that funds considered as permanent sources of revenue were of two kinds: 1st. Such as wd. extend generally & uniformly throughout the U.S., & wd. be collected under the authority of Congs. 2dly., such as might be established separately within each State, & might consist of any objects which were chosen by the States, and which might be collected either under the authority of the States or of Congs. Funds of the 1st. kind he contended were preferable; as being 1st., more simple, the difficulties attending the mode of fixing the quotas laid down in the Confederation rendering it extremely complicated & in a manner insuperable; 2d, as being more certain; since the States according to the secd. plan wd. probably retain the collection of the revenue and a vicious system of collection prevailed generally throughout the U.S. a system by which the collectors were chosen by the people & made their offices more subservient to their popularity than to the public revenue; 3d. & as being more œconomical since the collection would be effected with fewer officers under the management of Congress, than under that of the States.

“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress.

1I.e., the manner of raising adequate and permanent funds for the Confederation.

Consistent with the “Report on the Army Memorial” of January 25, 1783, Congress on the same day resolved “to take into consideration the means of obtaining from the several states substantial funds, for funding the whole debt of the United States” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 95). The problem was debated for several days. On January 27, after making some observations on the necessity of permanent and substantial funds for the Confederation, James Wilson recommended that it be resolved “That it is the opinion of Congress that complete justice cannot be done to the Creditors of the United States, nor the restoration of public credit be effected, nor the fuuture exigences of the war provided for, but by the establishment of general funds to be collected by Congress.” Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts proposed that the latter part of Wilson’s motion be amended to read “establishment of permanent and adequate funds to operate generally throughout the U. States” (“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress). H’s remarks followed Gorham’s proposal.

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