Alexander Hamilton Papers

Continental Congress Motion and Remarks Against Limiting the Duration of the Proposed Impost, [19 February 1783]

Continental Congress
Motion and Remarks
Against Limiting the Duration
of the Proposed Impost

[Philadelphia, February 19, 1783]

A motion was made by Mr. Hamilton seconded by Mr. Bland to postpone the clause of the report made by the Come. of the whole, for altering the Impost, viz. the clause limiting its duration to 25 years,1 in order to substitute a proposition declaring it to be inexpedient to limit the period of its duration; first because it ought to be commensurate to the duration of the debt, 2dly. because it was improper in the present stage of the business, and all the limitation of which it wd. admit had been defined in the Resolutions of  , 1782.2

Mr. Hamilton said in support of his motion that it was in vain to attempt to gain the concurrence of the States by removing the objections publickly assigned by them against the Impost, that these were the ostensible & not the true objections; that the true objection on the part of R.I. was the interference of the impost with the opportunity afforded by their situation of levying contributions on Cont., &c which recd. foreign supplies through the ports of R.I.; that the true objection on the part of Va. was her having little share in the debts due from the U.S. to which the impost would be applied; that a removal of the avowed objections would not therefore, remove the obstructions whilst it would admit on the part of Congs. that their first recommendation went beyond the absolute exigences of the public; that Congs. having taken a proper ground at first, ought to maintain it till time should convince the States of the propriety of the measure.

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

1Since January 29 (see “Remarks on Plans for Paying the Public Debt,” January 29, 1783, note 1), a committee of the whole had considered means of raising permanent funds for the United States. In addition to resolutions calling on the states to provide an evaluation of lands as a basis of congressional requisitions, other sources of revenue had been discussed. H’s remarks refer to the proposal that Congress request authority to levy an impost of five percent for not more than twenty-five years (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 128).

2The resolutions, the date of which Madison left blank, were probably those of December 16, 1782. On that date Congress in a letter to William Bradford, speaker of the Assembly of Rhode Island, answered the objections Rhode Island had made to Congress’s request for authority to levy impost duties. At the end of the letter, which was in the writing of H, several resolutions limiting Congress’s use of continental funds were appended. See “Report on a Letter from the Speaker of the Rhode Island Assembly,” December 16, 1782.

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