George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Mathews, 30 January 1781

From John Mathews

Philadelphia Jany 30th 1781.

My Dear sir

As this intelligence received yesterday possibly may not be conveyed to you through any other channel at this time; and being well assured it will aford you much satisfaction to be informed of it: I have therefore taken the liberty of communicating it to you. Tho the information does not come officially from the state, yet it comes in such a manner that it is to be depended on—That Maryland has at last agreed to Confederate—We have the resolves as they passed the lower house, which have since passed the upper house. This is a most important circumstance & comes very seasonably to our relief: for C[ongress] have been disputing for a long time past, what powers were necessary to enable them to prosecute the business entrusted to them: and were at this moment, as far from agreeing about it, as when we begun. I hope now we have some certain principles to act upon, we shall be steady & decisive. Tho’ the powers of the confederation are very inadequate to a vigorous prosecution of the present war, yet we must endeavour to make the most of them we can. and it is better to have some authority to regulate us, than, (as for some time past has been the case,) to have none.

Virginia has agreed to a cession of their back lands, with some reservations. This is also a very important matter, our present circumstances considered. I flatter my self it will give us some credit, which we stand much in need of, and may possibly give a spring to our affairs.1

Congress have been seriously engaged for the last ten days in a committee of the whole, considering of ways & means for defraying the expences of the prest year. They have agreed to call on the states for a duty of four ⅌ Ct on all goods imported—the like duty on all prize-goods. and one eighth of a dollar ⅌ ton on all foreign shipping. This it is computed will produce about 6 or 700,000 specie dollars.2 This is but a trifle when compared with our wants, but however we are going on.

Please to make my most respectful compliments to Mrs Washington. And believe me to be, My Dr sir With every sentiment of respect & Esteem Yr Excys most Obedt servt

Jno. Mathews

P.S. This has been wrote almost in the dark, & in great haste.3


1For the Maryland legislature’s agreement to the Articles of Confederation and the Virginia legislature’s cession of the state’s land claims northwest of the Ohio River, see James Duane to GW, 29 Jan., n.7.

2Mathews presented a preliminary report on finances to Congress on 31 January. Congress adopted the final measures on 3 February. The measures adopted did not include the duty on foreign shipping, and the duty on imported goods was raised to 5 percent. See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:102–3, 110–13; see also Samuel Huntington to the States, 8 Feb., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 16:687–88.

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