Report on Maryland’s Payment to Troops
MS (NA: PCC, No. 19, IV, 411–13). Docketed: “Report of Come. on Lettr. from Supt of Finance of June 20. 1783, with the papers inclosed relative to certain proceedings of the State of Maryland. Mr Madison Mr. Hawkins Mr. Duane Delivered July 28. 1783 read.” The first three paragraphs of the report are in JM’s hand, the last five in that of Benjamin Hawkins.
[28 July 1783]
The Committee to whom was referred a letter of the 20 June 1783, with the papers inclosed report1
That it appears from the said papers that the Legislature of the State of Maryland at their last Session directed the intendant of their Revenues to advance five months pay to the Line of that State in the army of the U.S. without the Sanction of any act of Congs.
That in order to supply the means for this advance they at the same time revoked an act appropriating a particular tax towards discharging requisitions of Congs. and ordered the same to be applied to the discharge of the five months pay.2
That the Superintendant of Finance has remonstrated in a letter to the Executive of Maryland agst. so unjustifiable a proceeding; has transmitted a copy of the Act of Congs. of the 1st day of October 1782 expressing fully their sense in the case of a similar proceeding on the part of the State of N. Jersey; and has pointed out the alarming tendency of the Act of Maryland to frustrate the later important arrangement for an advance of pay to the Army at large; and to subvert the foundations of public credit.3
If Acts of Congress most essential to the common interest and grounded on authority clearly vested by the articles of Union may be defeated by the interference of individual Legislature—If actual grants and appropriations as the Quota due from a State toward the pressing burthens of the public may be revoked and the money applied and expended without the consent or even the knowledge of Congress or their ministers—Vain must be every attempt to maintain a National Character or national credit.4
Congress under this apprehension passed the act of the 1st day of October 1782 in a case similar to the present; And on the principles there established no credit can be given to the State of Maryland for any advance made as aforesaid; Nor to any other State for advances which may be made by them; without the allowance of the United States in Congress.
These facts in the opinion of your committee render it the duty of Congress, as guardians of the confederation and of the equal rights of every part of the fœderal army to
Resolve that the Legislature of the State of Maryland be called upon to take into their most serious consideration the pernicious tendency of the measure complained of by the Superintendant of the Finances.
That the State of Maryland be therefore ernestly required to pay into the public Treasury the Quota so appropriated for the use of the United States by their Legislature that Congress may be enabled to do equal justice to the army and the rest of the public creditors by adhering to the Systems which they have on great considerations adopted for the common good.5
1. On 1 July Congress referred to a committee, composed of Oliver Ellsworth, chairman, JM, and John Francis Mercer, a letter of 20 June to Congress from Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, enclosing (1) an act of the General Assembly of Maryland, 1 June; (2) a letter from Benjamin Stoddert, president of the Council of Maryland, to Morris on 13 June; and (3) a copy of Morris’ reply to Stoddert on 20 June. On 23 July Congress transferred these documents to the reconstituted committee mentioned in the headnote, above (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 565–77; No. 185, III, 70; No. 186, fol. 110).
2. In his letter of 13 June to Morris, Stoddert enclosed a copy of the Maryland General Assembly’s statute of 1 June 1783, which “revoked” so much of the revenue measures of April 1782 as had pledged the proceeds of a 5 per cent tax to the use of Congress. These proceeds were diverted to cover five months’ delinquent pay due to the officers and troops of the state’s continental line (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 569–72, 577). The “intendant” was Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 281).
3. In his letter of remonstrance to Stoddert, Morris emphasized that “at the special Request of the United States Congress, and with the solemn Promise of their Support,” he had “pledged” his “official Credit by the Issue of a large Sum in Paper” in order that the army “might not be sent Home in a State of absolute Indigence, which from the unparrallelled Neglect of the States was almost unavoidable.” He continued: “judge Sir my feelings when I see Revenues sacredly appropriated to the United States suddenly diverted into another Channel. What Ground of Reliance can be formed on Grants liable to such Operations? I shall not presume to examine how far it consists with Justice to take back what has been given.” If all other States should follow Maryland’s example, the promise of three months’ pay by Congress to the continental troops could not be fulfilled, and they would be thrown back for relief upon states which in a year’s time had supplied Congress with only meager financial assistance (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 573–75).
For the “act” of 1 October 1782, drafted by JM, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 173–75. For his expression of opinion, similar to that of Morris when Pennsylvania in January 1783 threatened to pay its own continental troops, see ibid., VI, 145.
4. In this paragraph, Hawkins referred especially to Article VIII, and in lesser degree to Articles XII and XIII, 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, 217, 221). His warning had been often sounded by JM, Hamilton, and other delegates in Congress.
5. The following excised paragraphs—of which the second is to some extent a rewriting of the first—are in JM’s hand and obviously supplied Hawkins with a part of the phraseology, as well as most of the ideas, embodied by him in the last four paragraphs of the report.
“These facts in the opinion of the Committee render it the duty of Congs. as Guardians of the Confederation and of the equal rights of every part of the fœderal army to resolve & direct that in pursuance of the principles established in the act of the 1st. day of Oct. 1782, no credit be given to the State of Maryland for any advance that may be made as aforesaid; nor to the said nor any other States for any advances that may be made to their respective lines of the army, without the allowance of the U. S. in Congs.
“Resolve that the State of Maryland be called upon to take into their serious reconsideration the irregular measure which they have adopted, and that they be informed that Congs. can not without departing from principles which they solemnly established and countenancing a practice of the most pernicious tendency, permit the State of Maryland or any other State to receive credit for advances made to their respective lines of the army without the allowance of the U. S. in Cong. assd.” (NA: PCC, No. 19, IV, 412).
On 28 July Congress took no action on this report after it was submitted, probably by Hawkins, and read (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 454–55). On 12 August, upon a motion by James McHenry, seconded by Daniel Carroll, which had been introduced on 1 August, Congress resolved: “That the consideration of the report of a committee, to whom was referred a letter of the 20th of June last, from the Superintendant of finance, with the papers enclosed. relative to certain proceedings of the State of Maryland, be postponed, that the delegates from Maryland may have an opportunity to receive information from the legislature, respecting the subject matter thereof” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 502–3; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 249). In the draft of the motion McHenry had justified it by stating that an “immediate approbation” by Congress of the JM-Hawkins report “might be viewed as highly disrespectful to the State whose public act it condemns” (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 581, 581a). On 3 November 1783 the Maryland delegates sent a copy of the resolution of Congress of 12 August to the General Assembly of their state (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 368). JM had not attended Congress on either 28 July or 12 August.