George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for Settling Accounts, 21 July 1790

From the Commissioners for Settling Accounts

New York
July 21st 1790.

Sir

The time limited by the Ordinance of Congress of the 7th May 1787 for settling the accounts between the United States and individual States having expired.1

We conceive it to be our duty to give this information, that such disposition may be made of the accounts and vouchers of the several States as you shall be pleased to direct.2 With profound respect We are Sir yr most Obt Servts

Wm Irvine

John Taylor Gilman

John Kean

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1On 7 May 1787 the Confederation Congress passed “An Ordinance for settling the Accounts between the United States and Individual States” to investigate the claims of the state governments for reimbursement of expenses they had incurred in waging war against the British. The act “Ordained, That a Board consisting of three Commissioners be appointed by the United States in Congress Assembled, whose duty it shall be to receive from the Comptroller of the Treasury, and from the Commissioner of Army Accounts, all the Accounts and Claims of the several States deposited in their respective Offices, and to examine such of the said Accounts as shall have been passed by the Commissioners of the several districts, in order that the same may be finally adjusted on uniform and equitable principles. . . . Their Commission shall continue in force for one year and an half from the time of their entering on the duties of their Office.” William Irvine, John Taylor Gilman, and Abraham Baldwin were appointed as the board of commissioners on 13 Sept. 1788 and took the oath of office on 19 Jan. 1789. Thus, the board’s commission expired on 19 July 1790 (DNA:PCC, items 18B and 195; 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 32:262, 264–66; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 2:25–26).

2Lear’s reply to the commissioners reads: “I am ordered by the President of the U. States to inform you that the Bill for Settling Accts between the U.S. and Individual States is not yet brought to him, nor does he know when it will. If inconveniences to you (as hath been intimated to him) from which you wish to be relieved, are felt, the Papers, I am directed to add, may be committed to the care or orders of the Secretary of the Treasury” (Lear to the Commissioners for Settling Accounts, 24 July 1790, DfS, in GW’s hand, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

On 14 July 1790 a conference committee was appointed to compromise House and Senate differences on the Settlement of Accounts Bill and reported on 21 July. GW received the resulting legislation on 27 July and signed it on 5 Aug. 1790. On 9 Aug. he nominated Irvine, Gilman, and Kean as commissioners under the new law, and the Senate confirmed the appointments the next day (Baldwin had earlier resigned from the original board on 30 April 1789, and GW appointed Kean in his place on 6 Aug. 1789). Kean accepted his new commission on 24 Aug. 1790 (Kean to GW, 24 Aug. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:447–48, 2:92, 93, 6:1880–81). Gilman, whose previous tenure had been marked by ill health, hesitated to accept his, finally writing to the president from Exeter, N.H., in November that he would have to decline the appointment: “I waited in New York until the 17th of August in Expectation of receiving Official information of my appointment or Commission, but being informed that the Secretary of State had sailed for Rhode Island some days before; that their was not any Commission for me at his Office; and having received several Letters advising that Mrs Gilman was in ill Health I thought it my duty to return Home.

“Mrs Gilman remains in Ill Health, their is not much prospect of her recovery and I cannot think of leaving her under such Circumstances, for which reason, be pleased Sir to accept of this my resignation as one of the Commissioners for settling the accounts between the United States and the several States” (Gilman to GW, 29 Nov. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

In response to Lear’s reply, the commissioners delivered their papers to the Treasury Department in late July before GW signed the new act into law. United States auditor Oliver Wolcott, Jr., reported to his superior on 31 July 1790 that he had finished examining the accounts of the state loan officers then at his office at the Treasury Department. Hamilton notified the president in mid-October that the commissioners’ papers were then en route to the department’s new offices in Philadelphia (Wolcott to Hamilton, 31 July 1790, DLC:GW; Hamilton to GW, 17 Oct. 1790).

Index Entries