Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34. The six words italicized in the present copy are those underlined by JM.
this day not noted in the Journal as in some other instances1
Revenues taken up as reported Mar. 7.2
The 5. paragraph in the report on Revenue havg. been judged not sufficiently explicit, and recommitted to be made more so, the following paragraph was recd. in its place viz “That it be further recommended to the several States, to establish for a term limited to 25. Years, and to appropriate” &c [to the word 2 Million of dollars annually]. “which proportions shall be fixed and equalized from time to time according to such rule as is or may be prescribed by the articles of Confederation: and in case the revenues so established and appropriated by any State shall at any time yield a sum exceeding its proportion, the excess shall be refunded to it, and in case the same shall be found to be defective the immediate deficiency shall be made good as soon as possible, and a future deficiency guarded against by an enlargement of the Revenues established provided that untill the rule of the confederation can be applied, the proportions of the 2,000,000 of dollars aforesaid, shall be as follows: viz … This amendment was accepted,3 a motion of Mr. Clark to restrain this apportionmt. in the first instance to the term of 2 years, being first negatived. He contended that a valuation of land would prob[ab]ly never take place, and that it was uncertain whether the rule of numbers wd. be substituted and therefore that the first apportionment might be continued throughout the 25 years, altho it must be founded on the present relative wealth of the States which would vary every year, in favor of those which are the least populous.4
This reasoning was not denied, but it was thought that such a limitation might leave an interval in which no apportionment wd. exist, when a confusion would proceed, & that an apprehension of it would destroy public Credit.
A motion was made by Mr. Bland 2ded. by Mr. Lee to go back to the first part of the report & instead of the words “levy” an impost of 5 PerCt. to substitute the word “collect” an impost &c.5 It was urged in favor of this motion that the first word imported a Legislative idea, & the latter an executive only, and consequently the latter might be less obnoxious to the States.6 On the other side it was said that the States would be governed more by things than by terms; that if the meaning of both was the same, an alteration was unnecessary; that if not, as seemed to be the case, an alteration would be improper. It was particularly apprehended that if the term “collect” were to be used, the States might themselves fix the mode of collection; whereas it was indispensable that Congs. sd. have that power as well that it might be varied from time to time as circumstances or experience sd. dictate, as that a uniformity might be observed throughout the States.7 On the motion of Mr. Clarke the negative was voted by a large Majority there being 4 ays only.
On (8) parag:8 there was no argt. nor opposition
The (9) paragraph being considered by several as inaccurate in point of phraseology; a motion was made by Mr. Madison to postpone it to take into consideration the following towit “That in order to remove all objections against a retrospective application of the constitutional rule to the final apportionment on the several States, of the monies & supplies actually contributed in pursuance of requisitions of Congress, it be recommended to the States to enable the U. S. in Congs. assembd. to make such equitable abatements & alterations as the particular circumstances of the States from time to time during the war may require, and as will divide the burden of such actual contributions among them in proportion to their respective abilities at the period at which they were made.”9 On a question for striking out, the original paragraph was agreed to without opposition: On the question to insert the amendment of Mr. M, the votes of the States were 5 ays, 6 noes, viz N.H. no, Cont. no, N.J. no, Delr. no, Maryd. no, S.C. no. The rest ay.
On (10) paragraph relative to expences incurred by the States without the sanction of Congs. Mr. Clarke exclaimed agst. the unreasonbleness of burdening the Union with all the extravagant expenditures of particular States: and moved that it might be struck out of the Report. Mr. Helmsly 2ded. the motion.10 Mr. Madison said that the effects of rejecting this paragraph wd. be so extensive that a full consideration of it ought at least to preceede such a step, that the expences referred to in the paragraph were in part such as would have been previously sanctioned by Congs. if application cd. have been made; since similar ones had been so with respect to States within the vicinity of Congs. and therefore complaints of injustice would follow a refusal, that another part of the expences had been incurred in support of claims to the territory of which cessions were asked by Congs. and therefore these cd. not be expected, if the expences incident to them should be rejected; that it was probable if no previous assurance were given on this point, it would be made a condition by the States ceding, as the Cessions of territory would be made a condition by the States most anxious to obtain them; that by these mean[s] the whole plan would be either defeated,11 or the part thereof in question be ultimately forced on Congs. whilst they might with a good grace yield it in the first instance; not to mention that these unliquidated & unallowed claims would produce hereafter such contests & heats among the States as wd. probably destroy the plan even if it sd. be acceded to by the States without this paragraph.12
Mr. Higgenson & Mr Ghorum were earnest in favor of it, remarking that the distance of Massachusetts from Congs. had denied a previous sanction to the Militia operations agst. General Burgoyne &c. The Penobscot expedition also had great weight with them.15
Mr. Williamson was in favor of it.16
Mr. Wilson said he had always considered this Country with respect to the war, as forming one community; and that the States which by their remoteness from Congs. had been obliged to incur expences for their defence without previous sanction, ought to be placed on the same footing with those which had obtained this security; but he could not agree to put them on a better which wd. be the case if their expences sd. be sanctioned in the lump: he proposed therefore that these expences sd. be limited to such as had been incurred in a necessary defence; and of which the object in each case sd. be approved by Congress:17
Mr. Madison agreed that the expressions in the paragh: were very loose,18 & that it wd. be proper to make them as definite as the case wd. admit; he supposed however that all operations agst. the enemy within the limits assigned to the U. S. might be considered as defensive, & in that view the expedition agst. Penobscot might be so called. He observed that the term necessary left a discretion in the Judge as well as the term reasonable: and that it wd. be best perhaps for Congress to determine & declare that they wd. constitute a tribunal of impartial persons to decide on oath as to the propriety of claims of States not authorized heretofore by Congs. He sd. this wd. be a better security to the States & wd. be more satisfactory than the decisions of Congs., the members of wch. did not act on oath, & brought with them the spirit of advocates for their respective states rather than of impartial judges between them. He moved that the clause with Mr. Wilsons proposition be recommitted; which was agreed to without opposition.19
Mr. Madison thought the value of land, could never be justly or satisfactorily obtained; that it wd. ever be a source of contentions among the States, and that as a repetition of the valuation would be within the course of the 25. years, it wd. unless exchanged for a more simple rule mar the whole plan22
Mr. Ghorum was in favr. of the paraghs. He represented in strong terms the inequality & clamors produced by valuations of land in the State of Mas: ts. & the probability of the evils being increased among the States themselves which were less tied together & more likely to be jealous of each other.23
Mr. Williamson was in favr. of paraghs.24
Mr. Wilson was strenuous in favor of it. sd. he was in Congs. when the article of Confederation directing a value of land was agreed to, that it was the effect of the impossibility of compromising the different ideas of the Eastern & Southern States as to the value of Slaves compared with the Whites, the alternative in question.25
Mr. Clarke was in favor of it. He said that he was also in Congs. when this article was decided, that the Southern States wd. have agreed to numbers, in preference to the value of land if 1/2 their slaves only sd. be included: but that the Eastern States would not concur in that proportion.26
It was agreed on all sides that instead of fixing the proportion by ages as the report proposed it would be best to fix the proportion in absolute numbers. With this view & that the blank might be filled up, the clause was recommitted.27
1. Immediately preceding this comment, JM drew an index fist. For examples of the official journal’s failure to mention other days when Congress convened, see JM Notes, 13 Feb., and n. 1; 19 Feb., and n. 1; 12–15 Mar. 1783, and n. 1.
3. This copy of most of the amendment which JM introduced on behalf of the committee on the restoration of credit differs occasionally from the wording of the manuscript of the amendment. See Amendment to the Report on Public Credit, 27 Mar. 1783. These variations may reflect inaccurate copying by JM, minor amendments adopted on 27 March, or both. JM’s notation of the passage of the amendment obviously implies only that its factual contents and statements of purpose remain unchanged. The brackets and the passage enclosed in them are JM’s.
4. Abraham Clark’s motion was to amend the proviso which closed JM’s proposed amendment, except for the list of state-by-state quotas appended by Thomas FitzSimons (Amendment to the Report on Public Credit, 27 Mar. 1783, and n. 6). Clark was by no means the first delegate who expressed doubt whether an acceptable valuation of land, as stipulated by the eighth article of the Articles of Confederation, would ever be made or whether all the states would ever consent to amend that article so as to provide a more practical basis upon which to apportion financial quotas. See JM Notes, 9–10 Jan., and nn. 3, 8; 14 Jan., and nn. 4, 6, 7, 9; 28 Jan., and nn. 19, 42; 31 Jan., and nn. 11, 17; 4 Feb.; 5–6 Feb., and nn. 7, 9; 7 Feb., and nn. 9, 10, 12; 8 Feb., and n. 4; 10 Feb.; 11 Feb., and nn. 2–6, 8–11; 12 Feb., and n. 14; 17 Feb.; JM to Randolph, 14 Jan.; 4 Feb.; 18 Feb., and n. 3; Randolph to JM, 7 Feb.; JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb. 1783. Clark meant that if an allotment of financial quotas as of 1783 should not be frequently revised by Congress, every state which then was relatively poor in wealth and small in population would thereafter, as it grew in both those respects, pay year after year a decreasingly equitable proportion of the total sum requisitioned from the states.
5. The substitution recommended by the Bland-Lee motion would affect the first and second paragraphs of the committee’s report (Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 Mar.; JM Notes, 18 Mar. 1783, n. 1).
7. If “the States” should construe “collect” to mean that “the mode of collection” was under their control, they thereby would negate the provision of the third paragraph of the committee’s report making “the collectors” of the imposts “amenable to” Congress (Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 Mar.; JM Notes, 18 Mar. 1783, n. 1).
10. Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 Mar., and n. 16; JM Notes, 18 Mar. 1783, n. 1. In 1783 William Hemsley, a delegate from Maryland, had first attended Congress on 25 February (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 145; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, xlv; VII, lxvii). His support of Abraham Clark of New Jersey on this issue was to be expected, for Maryland remained immune from invasion by the British during the Revolution. Although New Jersey had been a principal theater of the war from 1776 to 1779, her proximity to the meeting place of Congress usually enabled her, before contracting extraordinary military expenses, to obtain guarantees of eventual reimbursement from the treasury of the Confederation (JM Notes, 26 Feb. 1783, and nn. 31, 38).
11. JM was emphasizing the close relationship between the tenth paragraph of the report and the eighth, which requested Virginia and five other states to make “liberal cessions” of their lands west of the Appalachian Mountains to the United States. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 72–77; Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 Mar., and n. 14; JM Notes, 7 Mar. 1783, and n. 2.
12. Viewing the two paragraphs as embodying an equitable compromise, JM was urging Congress to accept it with “good grace” rather than perforce eventually, as perhaps the only means of preventing the failure of the entire plan for restoring public credit. For the “unliquidated & unallowed claims,” see Randolph to JM, 15 Jan., n. 13; JM Notes, 27 Jan., n. 13; 21 Feb.; 26 Feb., and nn. 17, 28, 40, 43; Memo. on Revenue Plan, 6 Mar. 1783, ed. n.
13. Eliphalet Dyer voiced the interest of Connecticut, which, besides attaching provisos to her still pending offer to cede her trans-Appalachian land to the United States, had incurred indebtedness by frequently calling out her militia without prior authorization of Congress (Memo. on Revenue Plan, 6 Mar. 1783). See also Article VI, paragraph 5, of the Articles of Confederation (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 216).
14. John Rutledge represented a state which claimed little territory west of the Appalachians. In accord with JM’s expectation, as recorded in his notes of 26 February 1783 (q.v., and nn. 40, 42), Rutledge evidently believed that for Congress to invite “a flood” of controversial claims would be disadvantageous to South Carolinians who were owed by the United States a disproportionately large total of valid debts.
15. On 23 July 1777 William Sever, president of the council of Massachusetts, wrote to John Hancock, president of Congress, informing him of the large number of militia from the western counties of the state which had been dispatched to aid “the northern army,” commanded by General Horatio Gates, resist the British troops led by General John Burgoyne (NA: PCC, No. 65, I, 203–6; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VIII, 601–2; JM Notes, 31 Jan., and n. 4). For the Penobscot expedition, see JM Notes, 26 Feb. 1783, n. 22.
16. Hugh Williamson’s support reflected North Carolina’s heavy expenses occasioned by the presence of British and Loyalist troops within her borders from 1780 to 1782 (NA: PCC, No. 72, fols. 87–89; 101–4; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 107, n. 5; 185, n. 8; III, 9, n. 1; IV, 272–73).
17. Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 56–57; JM Notes, 27 Jan. 1783.
18. In the tenth paragraph, the passage at issue reads: “all reasonable expences which shall have been incurred by the states without the sanction of Congress, in their defence against, or attacks upon British or savage enemies, either by sea or by land, and which shall be supported by satisfactory proofs, shall be considered as part of the common charges incident to the present war, and be allowed as such” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 173).
19. Ibid. For JM’s effort on behalf of the committee to meet James Wilson’s objection, see Amendment to Report on Public Credit, 17 April 1783.
20. These paragraphs contained the recommendation that the eighth article of the Articles of Confederation be amended for the purpose of substituting the number of persons, with some exceptions, for the value of land as the basis upon which the amount of the financial quota of each state should be determined by Congress (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 173–74).
21. Theodorick Bland and Arthur Lee had been among the most vocal delegates in opposing an abandonment of land evaluation as a gauge for apportionment by Congress of its monetary requisition among the states (JM Notes, 27 Jan., and n. 29; 28 Jan., and n. 5; 31 Jan.; 5–6 Feb., and n. 13; 10 Feb.; 11 Feb. 1783).
22. JM here repeated what he often had said before. See n. 4.
25. As a member of Congress James Wilson had shared during the latter half of 1776 in the frequent debates concerning the standard to be used in allocating financial quotas among the states. The first two printed drafts of the Articles of Confederation provided for the relative number of white inhabitants rather than their wealth to be the gauge (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , III, 327; V, 433, 548, 596, 677–78; VI, 1079–82, 1098–1102, 1105–6). On 14 October 1777, after another year of intermittent discussion of the issue and about a month after Wilson left Congress, the delegates by a sectional vote substituted land values for population as a basis for apportioning financial quotas. The New England delegates voted unanimously against this change, while those from New York and Pennsylvania deadlocked in the tally (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VIII, 735, 746; IX, 801–2). On 15 November 1777 Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, including the controversial eighth article (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , IX, 907–25, and esp. 913–14). See also JM Notes, 7 Feb., and n. 7; 11 Feb., and n. 2; JM to Randolph, 11 Mar. 1783.
26. JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VI, 1002, 1079. Abraham Clark did not attend Congress on 14 October 1777 when the ninth (which soon would be the eighth) article of the Articles of Confederation was adopted (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , IX, 801–2, 833, 913–14).
27. After stipulating that the “common treasury” of the United States would be “supplied” by allocating the “expences” among the states “in proportion to the number of inhabitants,” counted “triennially,” except for Indians not taxed, the twelfth paragraph closed with the proviso, “that in such numeration no persons shall be included who are bound to servitude for life, according to the laws of the state to which they belong, other than such as may be between the ages of ” (NA: PCC, No. 26, fol. 412; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 173–74). For JM’s effort on behalf of the committee to express what he believed to be “agreed on all sides,” see Amendment to Report on Public Credit, 28 March 1783.