Thomas Jefferson Papers

Note on the National Debt, [1792–1793?]

Note on the National Debt


Without pretending to minute exactness we may say that strike off the assumption which is 3/9 of the whole debt foreign and domestic, borrow money to pay the residue at ⅔ of the interest, which is equivalent to getting rid of two of the remaining 6/9 and our real debt would have been 4/9 of what it now is.1 The surplus of moderate2 taxes after supporting government and paying the interest of the real debt, honorably yet prudently used at market might have made sensible impression on the remaining capital of debt: so as to leave no hazard in pronouncing3 that the debt is three what it needed to have been.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 72: 12593); undated scrap entirely in TJ’s hand; apparently unrelated list written perpendicularly at foot of text: “Rittenh. Maroc.” Recorded in SJL under 31 Mch. 1792: “our debt trebled by Hamilton.” This document reflects TJ’s sustained interest in reducing the national debt (see Vol. 14: 190–7). Although its provenance and date remain conjectural, it can be tentatively assigned to the latter part of TJ’s tenure as Secretary of State, a time when his growing dissatisfaction with Hamilton’s financial program was becoming increasingly apparent (see, for example, Note of Agenda to Reduce the Government to True Principles, [ca. 11 July 1792]; and TJ to Washington, 9 Sep. 1792).

1At this point “Another ninth might have b” is canceled.

2Word added in the margin.

3Preceding five words substituted for “authorized the affirmation.”

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