Page images

low citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government."

These sentiments were echoed from both houses,, with the most affectionate zeal, and concord.

The report of the secretary of the treasury, in obedience to the resolution of Congress, of the 21st of September, claimed the next attention of Congress.

This luminous report of the secretary of the treasury, on which were suspended the good faith of United America, and perhaps the very existence of the government itself, was accompanied with the following remarks.

"Good faith is recommended not only by the strongest inducements of political expediency; but is enforced by considerations of still greater authority. These are arguments for it, which rest on the immediate principles of moral obligation; and in proportion as the mind is disposed to contemplate in the order of Providence, an intimate connection between public virtue, and public happiness, will be its repugnance to a violation of those principles.

"This observation, (he added,) derives additional strength, from the nature of the debt of the United States. It is the price of liberty. The faith of America has been repeatedly pledged for it, with solemnities that gave peculiar force to the obligation," &c.

On the 28th of January, the subject of the report of the secretary of the treasury came regularly before the house, and was postponed to the 8th of February, to give time for reflection, and consideration.

On the 8th of February, Congress resumed this interesting and important subject, which opened a field of debate that shook the government to its foundation. The subject of making adequate provision for the foreign debt

was met cordially, and unanimously; but the subject of the provision for the domestic debt, which had been, and continued to be the object of the corruptest speculations, excited great warmth of feeling, and may fairly be said to be the origin of all that division of sentiment and feeling. which agitated, and continues to agitate, the national councils. The evidences of domestic debt were then current in market at 2s. 6d. on the pound, and this it was contended. was all that the holders of the debt had a right to claim. this it was objected, that the original holders of their evidences of public debt ought not to be defrauded of their just rights, because knaves, and fools had parted with theirs for a less sum than its nominal value.

[ocr errors]


Mr. Madison then attempted to introduce a resolution that would do justice to both parties, by granting to the original holder the full value of the face of his debt, and to the speculator the full value of what he honestly paid in fair market. This opened a torrent of debate, with such warmth and zeal as shook the government to its centre. The resolution was lost. The report of the secretary of the treasury, that the full amount of all the ́debts should be religiously paid, as therein expressed, was finally carried.

The next question that claimed the attention of Congress, was the assumption of the state debts.

A resolution to effect this was accordingly introduced, that again opened a torrent of debate, in which it was urged by the opposition, that it was not only unconstitutional, but would have a tendency to destroy the state governments. To this it was urged, that it would become the most effectual means of strengthening, and confirming the union. The resolution finally prevailed.

Pending this discussion the question for fixing the permanent seat of government was brought into view, and

had some bearing upon the subject, and some weight in its final decision.

It was next proposed, that certain deductions should be made voluntarily by the public creditors, and that the debt become irredeemable, otherwise than by the consent of the creditor, except in certain specific proportions. This resolution also opened a torrent of debate; but was finally carried in the affirmative. The proceeds of the sale of public lands, lying in the western territory, together with the surplus revenue, and a loan of two million of dollars, which the president was authorised to borrow, at 5 per cent, were to be applied, as a sinking fund, to the redemption of the debt.

This measure laid the foundation of public credit upon such a basis, as raised the depreciated debt from 2s. 6d. immediately up to 20s. on the pound, and in a short time to a handsome per centage above par. The spring thus given to public credit, realised immediate fortunes to the extensive holders of public securities, and gave a general spring to the affairs of the nation. New energies, and new efforts sprang up throughout the nation; public confidence, public, and private credit, a spirit of agriculture, commerce, and enterprise, universally prevailed; a foundation was laid for all that unrivalled prosperity America has enjoyed, and all that greatness she is destined to enjoy.

On the 12th of August, Congress closed the arduous labours of the session, and adjourned to meet at Philadelphia, on the 1st Monday of December following.

Pending these discussions in Congress, a general hostile disposition appeared amongst the western, and southern Indians, which threatened hostilities to the western frontiers of the United States. To obviate this calamity, a Col. Willet was dispatched on an embassy to the Creek nation, with overtures of peace, which so far succeeded as to cause Mc

[blocks in formation]

Gillivray, with several of his chiefs, to repair to New-York, and there settle a peace on the 7th of August, 1790.

Spain not only attempted by her agents, to counteract this treaty at New York; but at the same time continued to embarrass the western section of the United States, by her restrictions upon the navigation of the Mississippi. Great Britain also continued to hold the western posts, and through their influence, to excite the savages in their vicinity to acts of hostility with the United States. This evil had increased since the failure of Mr. Adams, at the court of London, to establish a commercial treaty; and more particularly so, since his return to America.

[ocr errors]

After the return of Mr. Adams, the president, in October, 1789, impowered Mr. Governeur Morris, (then in Europe,) to effect a general negociation with the British cabinet, upon the points in controversy; but it again failed, and the savages upon the western frontiers continued their murders, and depredations,

A war between Great Britain and Spain was at this time seriously talked of, and the president thought it advisable to withdraw the powers of Mr. Morris, and leave the British nation free to pursue their own views upon the subject.

At this time the controversy between Great Britain and Spain was amicably adjusted, through the intervention of France, and all threatened hostilities subsided.

Things being thus generally arranged, the president improved this recess of Congress, to visit his beloved seat at Mount-Vernon, and give a spring to his health, by relaxing his mind from the cares of public life.

Rhode-Island had not yet adopted the constitution, and become one of the United States under the new federal government, and of course had not been visited by the president on his former tour: but to conciliate the passions, and affections of this state, the president now made an excursion into Rhode-Island, previous to his departure

for his seat in Virginia; where he was received with all those expressions of grateful affection and respect, he had experienced in the other states, on his former tour.

On the first Monday in December, the president met the third session of the first Congress, at Philadelphia, agreeable to their adjournment, by a customary speech; in which he took particular occasion to notice the pleasure he derived from the flattering prospects of public credit, and a productive revenue; as being not only a pledge of the fertility of the national resources; but an honourable testimony of the patriotic integrity of the mercantile part of the community.

The convulsions which had already been produced by the French revolution, and the still greater distresses with which it threatened to involve the powers of Europe, led the president to caution Congress against the evils that might threaten us from the same source, and thus led him to recommend such encouragement to the national com merce, as might render both the agriculture, and commerce of the United States, independent of foreign bottoms. After recommending to their consideration a further attention to the principal, and interest of the public debt, he thus concludes.

"In pursuing the various and weighty business of the present session, I indulge the fullest persuasion, that your consultations will be marked with wisdom, and animated by a love of country. In whatever belongs to my duty, you shall have all the co-operation, which an undiminished zeal for its welfare can inspire. It will be happy for us both, if by our successful administration, we can make the established government more and more instrumental in promoting the good of our fellow citizens, and more and more the object of their attachment, and confidence."

« PreviousContinue »