Motion To Inform States of Financial Crisis
MS (NA: PCC, No. 47, fol. 339). Docketed: “Motion of Mr Madison[,] Letter 17th May 1782[, and] do 16. Circular to the States[:] May 20 referred to Mr Madison Mr Root Mr Lowell Mr Rutledge Mr Clymer to confer with the Superintendant of finance.”
[20 May 1782]
That the Superintendt of Finance be instructed to transmit to the several Legislatures of the States, a representation of the alarming prospects which their1 neglect to comply with the pecuniary requisitions of Congress has produced, and of the absolute necessity of immediate and adequate remittances to the Treasury of the U. States; and that he make use of such mode of transmitting the same as will2 best ensure Secresy & dispatch.3
1. JM wrote “their” above a deleted “a.”
2. After “will,” JM struck out “be attended with least danger of delay.”
3. JM’s motion was occasioned by Robert Morris’ dispatch of 17 May 1782 to the president of Congress, enclosing a proposed letter to the executive of each state. As evidence of how “the habitual Inattention of the States has reduced us to the Brink of Ruin,” Morris pointed out that since 1 January the states had paid to the treasury only $5,500, or “about one-fourth of what is necessary to support us for a single Day.” Morris wanted Congress to resolve his dilemma. On the one hand, he recognized that “a faithfull Representation of our distressed Circumstances” would almost surely “fall into improper Hands,” thereby producing “the most dangerous Consequences.” On the other hand, if the circular letter was not sent and if disaster ensued “from the continued Negligence of the States,” they could place the blame on Congress for not warning them “of their Danger” (NA: PCC, No. 137, I, 463–66). Congress apparently adopted JM’s motion without tallying the vote (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 279–80). For the recommendation of the committee appointed to consider Morris’ suggested circular letter, see Report on Mission To Inform States of Financial Crisis, 22 May 1782, editorial note. John Lowell of Massachusetts entered Congress on the same day that he became a member of this committee (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 278).