George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Dobbs Spaight, 25 February 1794

From Richard Dobbs Spaight

No. Carolina 25th Feb: 1794


In the Year 1791 Francis Child the comptroller of the state, by order of the Governor and council lodged in the hands of William Skinner esquire commissioner of loans for the state of No. Carolina, certificates to the amount of 409,570. Dolls. 17/100 the property of the state in order to be funded, agreable to an act of Congress making provision for the debts of the United States.1 in the same year and under the same act of congress certificates to the amt of 22,415. dolls. 10/100 were lodged in the hands of the said Commissioner by a certain Duncan McAusland and by him transferred to the State of North Carolina.2 The Commissioner of loans has uniformly refused to allow the said certificates in the whole amounting to 413,985 dolls 27/100, to be funded, agreable to the aforesaid act.3 The General Assembly being of opinion that in this transaction the State has not received that ample justice which she was entitled to under the act of Congress, have requested me to state the facts to you, and to require that justice be done in the premises.4

The legislature having been enformed at their last Session, that the Commissioner of loans had, agreable to instructions from the Treasury department of the United States, written his name or some other word on the face or back of the certificates lodged in his hands by this state, which might tend to deface them, directed John Craven esquire comptroller,5 to call on Mr Skinner and examine them, and if he found them defaced or acted on in any manner by the said commissioner of loans, as might directly or ultimately affect the interest or convey an insult upon the right or dignity of the State to report the same to me as early as possible. Agreable to the directions of the legislature the comptroller has waited on the commissioner of loans and requested permission to examine these certificates which was possitively refused him by that officer. I think it my duty to remonstrate to you against the proceedings of the Commissioner of loans, in the present case for certainly the state has a right to be informed whether the certificates tendered by the Comptroller had been defaced or remained in the same situation as they were when lodged in his hands. I have further to request that you will be pleased to cause an enquirey to be made into the conduct of the treasury department respecting the certificates so that it may be fully ascertained, whether or not they have been defaced or acted upon in any manner that may tend to the injury of this State and if it shall appear to have been the case, that you will cause such reparation to be made as will be consistant with justice.

Of the interest which has acrued on the Balance of the 2,400,000 Dollars assumed by the state of North Carolina, but not subscribed under the act of Congress making provision for the debts of the United States, no part has ever been received by this State the General Assembly have therefore requested that I should demand payment of the amount of the interest which has acrued to the State upon the said balance.

I enclose you a copy of the resolutions of the general Assembly on this Subject, and a copy of the comptrollers letters to me informing me of the commissioner of loans having refused him permission to examine the certificates.6 I have the honor to be &c.

R.D. Spaight

LB, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks.

1Francis Child (d. 1792), a Revolutionary War officer, served as comptroller of North Carolina from 1784 until his death. On the issues discussed in this letter, see William Skinner’s letters to Alexander Hamilton of 22 July, 11 and 29 Aug., and 15 Oct. 1791; Hamilton’s letters to Skinner of 12 Aug. and 8 Sept. 1791; and Edmund Randolph to Hamilton, 9 Nov. 1791 (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 8:565–69; 9:27–28, 122–23, 190–92, 486). For the legislation providing for redemption of these certificates, see “An Act making provision for the [payment of the] Debt of the United States,” 4 Aug. 1790 (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:138–44).

2Duncan MacAuslan was a Fayetteville, N.C., merchant.

3According to a receipt of 30 Sept. 1791 that Skinner provided for certificates totaling $409,570.17, the certificates would remain in his office “subject to the Decision of the Secretary of the Treasury” (Skinner to Hamilton, 15 Oct. 1791, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 9:387–88). The correct total value of the certificates is $431,985, not $413,985.

4Four resolutions adopted by the North Carolina assembly on 8 Jan. 1794 instructed Spaight to inform GW that the Treasury Department had refused to fund the certificates and “require that justice be done,” to order the state comptroller to examine the certificates, to request that the federal government pay interest on the said certificates, and to transmit a copy of these resolutions and of correspondence on this subject to the state’s representatives in Congress (N.C. House Journal 1793 description begins Journal of the House of Commons. North-Carolina. At a General Assembly begun and held at Fayetteville, on the second Day of December, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighteenth: It being the first Session of this Assembly. Halifax, N.C., [1794]. description ends , 55).

5John Craven (d. 1808) served as comptroller of North Carolina from 1792 until 1804.

6In his letter to Spaight of 30 Jan. 1794, Craven wrote that Skinner “positively refused” to allow him to view the disputed certificates, but “observed at the same time that if the assembly, or your Excellency & the council thought proper to appoint some person to receive them & return the Receipts given by him, he would at any time make that exchange & deliver them up” (Nc-Ar: Governor’s Correspondence).

Under GW’s direction, Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., forwarded Spaight’s “just received” letter and its enclosures to Alexander Hamilton with a brief cover letter of 20 March, in which he requested that Hamilton report to GW “in regard to the matter contained in the said letter & enclosures” (DLC:GW). For Hamilton’s response, see his “Report to the Governor of North Carolina” of 31 July, in which Hamilton justified the denial of payment for the certifi cates and informed Spaight that North Carolina was not eligible for any interest payment. He wrote that the conduct of Skinner, “as suggested, in refusing an inspection of the Certificates, was unauthorized by this Department” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:628–34). Edmund Randolph enclosed Hamilton’s report with a brief cover letter to Spaight of 10 Aug. (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

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