Thomas Jefferson Papers

A Bill to Redeem the Public Debt, [3 December 1792]

A Bill to Redeem the Public Debt

[3 Dec. 1792]

It being highly expedient that no time should be lost in redeeming those portions of the principal of the Public debt which may be annually redeemed, and more desireable, until other funds shall be provided, to apply to this object the Surplus of duties described in the act making provision for the reduction of the Public debt, than to the purchase of any other part of the said Debt:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Repr. of the U.S. of A. in Congr. assembled that the said Surplus now in the treasury, or hereafter coming into the treasury shall be applied under the direction of the persons therein named to the redemption of those proportions of the public debt bearing a present interest of six per centum per annum which may be lawfully redeemed, for the year preceding the said payments: and the residue, if any, to the redemption of the proportion of the same debt which may be redeemed the then succeeding year.

PrC (DLC: TJ Papers, 80: 13899); overwritten in a later hand; undated, but recorded in SJPL under 3 Dec. 1792: “draught of a bill for redeeming debt”; endorsed by TJ: “A Bill to amend the act intitled ‘An act making provision for the reduction of the Public debt.’”

In his recent annual message to Congress, Washington had urged the House of Representatives to “enter upon a Systematic and effectual arrangement for the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt” (Washington to Congress, 6 Nov. 1792, Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxii, 211–12). The House responded by requesting the Secretary of the Treasury, who had drafted the passage in question, to submit a report “for the redemption of so much of the public debt, as by the act, entitled ‘An act making provision for the debt of the United States,’ the United States have reserved the right to redeem” (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1826, 9 vols. description ends , i, 624; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xii, 565). Hamilton thereupon submitted a report to the House on 3 Dec. 1792 that provided for the regular redemption of the public debt through a combination of new government loans, new taxes on either riding and drawing horses or pleasure carriages, and surplus dividends from the government’s stock in the Bank of the United States (Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xiii, 261–75). As an alternative to Hamilton’s plan, TJ’s bill would have authorized the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund, the persons named in the 1790 act for the reduction of the public debt, to redeem the principal of the debt with the surplus revenue from existing import and tonnage duties. Although the surplus had been earmarked for this purpose by that act (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title-page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , ii, 2369–70), Hamilton had argued in his report to the House that this revenue was inadequate for the redemption of the debt. There is no evidence that TJ’s bill was ever introduced in or considered by the House of Representatives.

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