To William Bradford
[Williamsburg, 30 October–5 November 1779]1
satisfaction, a visit from
I must own as your not
any beneficial affects fro[m]
a satisfaction should be
your health, than that
the waters have been as
I flatter myself they have
for a confirmation of it to
future season when it may be convenient for you to extend your ride as far as Orange; where I may generally be found in those months in which the Springs are most used.2
The abrupt arrival of the French on the Coast of Georgia will have reached you long before this.3 Reports already begin to prevail that the British Army is in part if not wholly captivated. It will be a great disappointment to me I confess if many of them escape. This fortunate event will thoroughly cure them of their rapacious zeal for the rich & flourishing Metropolis of S. Carolina. The people in that quarter have been sorely infested with them for the greatest part of a year, and will no doubt cooperate, by the most decisive exertions4
rate of Articles best [?]
Every days experience
[ex]pedients can extricate
[reme?]dial Tax imposed in
tly the demand for Money
no reliance on foreign loan[s]5
[ev]er afforded any sensible
relief, nor ca[n] any [relief be expected?] as long as our money is in a course of depreciation. The sale of confiscated estates or of unappr[opr]iated lands can have little influence I fear on an evil of such magnitude. The most natural & extensive remedy we can apply seems to be taxation & Congress seem to have stretched it as far as they thought they could prudently venture. Their requisition from the States as well as I recollect, for the current year amounts to no less than 60 Million of Dollars. Most people supposed when it was made, that it wd. be at lea[s]t equal to this years expenditures, and when aided with other resources would produce a favourable revolution in the State of our Finances. I own I was myself of this number. But the present state of things threaten a total disappointmt. of their expectations. And from the Journals of Congress a copy of which has lately fallen into my hands, I find that on the 4th. of June last the emissions of the present year amounted to rather more than 35 Million of Dollars; which, as the last 2 or 3 emissions appear to have been double the preceeding ones, & the [n]ecessity of a progressive enlargement in the remaing seven Months will con[ti]nue[,] will probably swell them by end of the year to 100 Million. Should this be the case the Continental debt instead of being aided by the taxes of this year, will be higher by 40 Million of Drs. than at the beginning of it.6 Is it not manifest then that untill some measures are generally taken to prevent the further emission of money whilst the redemption of that already emitted is going on that the public credit must every day grow worse & worse? What [bett?]er views Congress may have I am a total stra[nger to.]
I am somewhat astonished as they must be fu[ll]y sensible of the evil and have been a[p]prized of the remedy adopted here7 that they hav[e not] recommended it to the other States. It promises I think certain relief, and the people in general as far as I can find are so much of the same
was ever less unaccepta[ble]
I have dwelt so
room to add
off on my return to
always give me infin[ite]
1. JM’s loss of his horse in Williamsburg late in October (see above, advertisement in Virginia Gazette, 25 October 1779) makes it almost certain that he was still there, attending the Council of State, when he wrote this letter. Its missing date is suggested by the nature of JM’s remarks about the military operations in Georgia. His mention of reports that the British army, or some part of it, had been “captivated” appears to reflect his reading of the sanguine account in the 30 October 1779 issue of the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, Clarkson and Davis). On the other hand he probably had not seen this paper for 6 November, with its much less cheering word about the military situation in Georgia. In the second paragraph of the letter JM’s statement that the British army had infested South Carolina “for the greatest part of a year” also helps a little to solve the problem of the date. Having captured Savannah on 29 December 1778, General Augustine Prevost and his troops were raiding along the South Carolina coast early in January 1779 to within seventy miles of Charleston and, after a number of reverses, to the outskirts of that city by early May (JM to Bradford, 17 July 1779, n. 5).
2. In this much mutilated section, JM is apparently suggesting that since his friend was still in poor health, he should try “the waters” in Virginia and visit Montpelier during the trip. Because of illness, Bradford had resigned his commission as lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania continental line on 1 April 1779.
3. Beginning early in September 1779, a French fleet and landing force under Admiral Charles Henri Hector, Comte d’Estaing, together with American troops commanded by General Benjamin Lincoln, surrounded General Prevost’s troops in Savannah. An assault upon them by land and by sea failed on 9 October 1779. About ten days later the French fleet sailed away and Lincoln’s army withdrew to Charleston (Christopher Ward, War of the Revolution, II, 688–94).
4. Following “exertions,” a section of the letter, perhaps comprising seven lines of text, is missing.
5. During 1779 Congress borrowed 2,407,800 livres (approximately $24,078,000 in specie) from France (Journals of the Continental Congress, XV, 1442).
6. During 1779 Congress emitted bills of credit totaling $65,141,120. Of this amount $35,000,680 had been issued up to 4 June. Therefore JM’s prediction of $100,000,000 to be issued during 1779 was much too gloomy. Congress attempted to back its paper money issues by requisitioning $60,000,000 from the states (Virginia’s share, $9,600,000) in that year. If they all had paid their quotas in full, the national debt, exclusive of foreign loans, would have increased by only $5,141,260 during the year, rather than the $40,000,000 anticipated by JM. On 1 September 1779 Congress resolved that the bills of credit to be issued during that calendar year, when added to those outstanding from earlier emissions, should not exceed $200,000,000. This ceiling was reached by the close of 1779 (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIII, 28; XIV, 626, 1013–14; XV, 1324–25). JM’s interest in the financial situation, manifested in this letter, led him to prepare an essay on “Money” sometime late in 1779 or early in 1780 (q.v.).