From Benjamin Hawkins
North Carolina June the 10th 1784
I have the honour to enclose to your Excellency some acts passed the last Session of our Legislature—by which you will see in some measure the disposition of this State to comply with the views of Congress; as well as, to grant such further powers as may render the Confederation more competent to the purposes of the Union.1
The Act for levying our proportion of one million five hundred thousand dollars, exclusive of the impost, and impowering Congress to collect the same, will by no means raise so large a sum; it being only a land Tax, of six pence on every hundred acres of land, and a poll Tax of one shilling and six pence, on all white males from twenty one upwards, and on all slaves from twelve years old to fifty. it establishes the principle recommended by Congress, and I trust the good sense of this, and the other States, will soon (if they do not already) see the necessity of establishing solid a⟨mutilated⟩ effectual revenues to enable Congress to perform ⟨mutilated⟩ engagements.2
The members of the Legislature could not consent to vote the full sum required, after they had ceded all the lands westward of the Apalachian Mountain; they urged, it was not necessary, since Congress were in possession of the Cession of New York Virginia and North Carolina.
The Cession of our Western lands was much debated and opposed: The house of Commons were long divided, whether to make the Tenessee, Cumberland Mountain or the Apalachian our western boundary; but finally passed the act as you see it, fifty three against forty one: There are within our Cession more than three thousand men able to bear arms.3
The recommendation of Congress respecting the 5th article of the Treaty is not complied with nor is there any thing done to carry the Treaty into effect—and I suspect it will be difficult to induce us to think aright on this subject; (altho our Citizens seem well disposed) while we have ambitious, discontented spirits, whose popular existance depends on forming the passions of the common people against the refugees. the State cry of peculation and embezzlement of the public money, aided by complaints of hard times and heavy taxes, was never listened to with more avidity than the Clamours against the refugees and payment of British ⟨de⟩bts. and this too, by men, who cannot possibly be ⟨los⟩ers if all bona fide debts were wiped off with a sponge, but who most assuredly share in the disgrace of their country by such shameful unwarrantable conduct.4
I have not in this State heard a single objection to the commutation or rendering ample justice to the army. early in the spring there was circulated the pamphlet said to be written by Burk of South Carolina against the instituton of the Cincinnati which gave some uneasiness to some people, who were apprehensive the institution would be productive of an aristocracy dangerous to the principles of our Governments. but a little reflection with the remembrance of the patience perseverance and sufferings of the army in defense of their just rights and liberties has worn down the suspicions in some measure; and will I hope teach them to put their trust in those, who in the worst of times stood the constant centinals over the liberties of their Country, and to suspect those only who have screened themselves in the hour of danger and now step forth to revile the virtuous welldoer and his endeavours to adopt wise and equitable measures.5
The Legislation has changed the annual election from March to august, and the annual meeting will be in October.6 I hope they then will amend such of our acts as are imperfect and pass such others respecting the treaty as may be consonant with the wishes of those who are for wise and equitable measures. I have the honour to be with great and sincere esteem sir your Excellencyes Most obedient and most humble servant
Benjamin Hawkins (1754–1818), perhaps best known for his services as the agent of the United States in dealing with the southern Indians, was a member of Congress for North Carolina from 1781 to 1784, but he left Congress in the summer of 1783 and was elected to represent Warren County in the North Carolina house of commons. He was active in the recent session of the legislature that had met from 19 April to 4 June. He was one of the North Carolina senators in the First Congress and in 1796 GW made him superintendent of the Indian tribes south of the Ohio.
1. In addition to the acts cited in notes 2 and 3, Hawkins sent these acts passed in the April-June session of the North Carolina legislature: “An Act vesting a power in the United States in Congress assembled to levy a Duty on Foreign Merchandize, for the use of the United States”; “An Act for Authorizing the United States in Congress Assembled to Regulate the Trade of This State With Foreign Nations”; and “An Act to Impower the Delegates of this State in Congress to Assent to a Repeal of Part of the Eighth of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union Between the Thirteen States of America, and to Subscribe and Ratify the Alteration Proposed in the Recommendation of Congress of the 18th of April, 1783, in Place Thereof, as Part of the Said Instrument of Union.” The last of these empowered the North Carolina delegates to approve Congress’s proposal that requisitions upon states be proportional to population instead of land value as Article 8 provided (N.C. State Records, description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends 24:547–49, 561, 564–65; copies of the acts are in DLC:GW).
2. See “An Act for Levying a Tax for the Purposes Therein Mentioned, and for Investing the United States in Congress Assembled With a Power to Collect the Same” (N.C. State Records, description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends 24:557–59).
3. The vote was on “An Act Ceding to the Congress of the United States Certain Western Lands Therein Described, and Authorizing the Delegates from this State in Congress to Execute a Deed or Deeds for the Same” (ibid., 561–63). On 3 June William R. Davie entered in the house journal a lengthy protest to the passage of the cession act, which was signed by thirty-seven members (Journal of N.C. House of Commons, description begins The Journal of the House of Commons. At a General Assembly begun and held at Hillsborough, on the Nineteenth Day of April, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-Four . . . Being the First Session of this Assembly. Halifax, N.C., 1784. description ends 69–70). The Congress received North Carolina’s cession act on 3 June as it was on the point of adjourning and took no action. In October 1784 North Carolina repealed its cession act, and it did not cede the state’s western lands until 1789.
4. Article 5 of the treaty of peace signed in Paris on 3 Sept. 1783 dealt with the restitution by individual American states of confiscated property belonging to British subjects. On 29 May the North Carolina house of commons rejected by a vote of 62 to 18 a first reading of a bill that would have paved the way for the restoration of some of the state’s unsold confiscated Loyalist property to its owners. Hawkins was one of the eighteen men who voted in favor of the bill, and he signed a statement entered in the house journals on 3 June protesting the rejection of the bill. See Journal of N.C. House of Commons, description begins The Journal of the House of Commons. At a General Assembly begun and held at Hillsborough, on the Nineteenth Day of April, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-Four . . . Being the First Session of this Assembly. Halifax, N.C., 1784. description ends 58, 69–71. The letters supplied in angle brackets are mutilated.
6. The act explains why the legislature chose to change the time of its election from March to August and its time of meeting from April to October, each year. See N.C. State Records, description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends 24:547.