James Madison Papers

Report on Settlement of Accounts, [20 and 27 February] 1782

Report on Settlement of Accounts

MS (NA: PCC, No. 19, IV, 347–49). Docketed: “Report of Mr Cornell Mr Montgomery Mr Madison On a letter of 18 from superintendant of finance[.] Read Debated 26. The two last paragraphs recommitted[.] Passed Feby 27th 1782.” JM wrote all of the report except two passages mentioned below in notes 4 and 5.

[20 and 27 February 1782]1

The Committee to whom was referred a letter from the Superindt. of Finance of the 18th. instant2 recommend the following resolutions,

That five Commissioners be appointed for the Settlements of accounts under the direction of the Superintendant of the Finances namely one for the Quarter Master’s Departmt one for the Commissary’s Department, one for the Hospital Department, one for the Cloathier’s Department, and one for the Marine Department; each of which commissions shall have full power & authority to liquidate & finally settle the accounts of the departments respectively assigned to them up to the last day of December 1781 inclusive3

That the Superintendant of Finance be authorised and directed to appoint the said five Commissioners, and that he report the names of the same to Congress. & in order that they may disapprove such appointment if they shall think proper.4

That each of the said Commissioners be allowed one Clerk for his assistance in the execution of his Trust: or5 in case more sd. be found necessary, that he be authorised to add such number as the Superintendt. of Finance shall approve.

That a Salary be allowed to each of sd. Commissioners at the rate of 1500 Dollars per Annum, during the time in which he shall be employed in the duties assigned to him; and that each Clerk be allowed a Salary at the rate of 500—Dollrs per annum during the time of his Service. to be in full to Each for their Services and Expences.6

That it be recommended to the several Legislatures of the States to empower the said Commissioners to call for Witnesses & examine them on oath or affirmation touching such accounts as are respectively assigned to them for settlement; and that it be also recommended to the said Legislatures to make provision by law for the speedy & effectual recovery from individuals of debts due & effects, belonging to the U. States7

1Although not mentioned in the printed journal of Congress, Robert Morris’ letter of 18 February was referred the next day to Ezekiel Cornell, Joseph Montgomery, and JM. This committee rendered a report on 20 February. See Charles Thomson’s committee book in NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 13.

2The first two pages of this letter are in ibid., No. 137, I, 333–34. The final page is missing. Morris recommended that the accounts of the commissary, quartermaster, hospital, and marine departments be settled by special commissioners, appointed by Congress, who should have “a Degree of Vigor and Decision in the Conduct of the Business which few men possess, a knowledge of Business which is not commonly to be found, and such uncorrupted and uncorruptible Integrity as will give Security to the United States.” Morris warned Congress that, in all likelihood, the commissioners would uncover “many fraudulent Practices” by the personnel of those four departments.

3Except for changing Morris’ “four” to “five” at the opening of this paragraph, so as to include the “Cloathier’s Department,” and adding the provision that the commissioners should be under the direction of the superintendent of finance, the committee up to this point made merely minor textual alterations in Morris’ own draft.

4As adopted by Congress, the words “and he is hereby” appear between “be” and “authorised.” Furthermore, the portion of this paragraph beginning with “&” is in Charles Thomson’s hand and was probably an amendment made during the debate of 26 or 27 February on the report.

5The word “and” replaces “or” in the version adopted by Congress.

6Morris had asked for authorization to reach an agreement with the commissioners respecting their services and “the Allowances to be made to their Clerks” (NA: PCC, No. 137, I, 334). The last clause of this paragraph, which may have been written by John Hanson, was probably appended during the debate mentioned in n. 4, and “of them” was inserted between “Each” and “for” prior to the adoption of the report.

7JM wrote this paragraph as a substitute for two paragraphs which Congress evidently asked the committee to reconsider as a result of the debate on 26 February. The two paragraphs read:

“That it be recommended to the States to empower the said Commissrs. to send for such persons & papers as may be found necessary in the course of their business.

“That a Committee be appointed to prepare a bill to be recommended to the States, providing for an effectual recovery from individuals, of effects belonging & debts due to the U. States.”

JM crossed out these recommendations, wrote “turn over” at the bottom of the manuscript, and penned the substitute on the reverse of the page. Possibly the alteration had been required by a majority in Congress who felt that the committee’s original recommendations had shown too little deference to state sovereignty.

Morris had difficulty in finding men sufficiently well qualified to hold the five new positions (nn. 2 and 3, above). Congress accepted his departmental appointees on the following dates: commissary, 22 April; quartermaster, 1 August; hospital, 11 October; clothing, 14 October 1782; and marine, 19 June 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 204, 425; XXIII, 645, 648; XXIV, 402). For another report on the subject of this item, insofar as it related to the quartermaster general’s department, see Report on Personal Liability of Officers of the United States, 13 March 1782.

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