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The executive council of Pennsylvania, in a letter to congress, stated the hardships to which the citizens of that state might be subjected by the article in the treaty relating to the recovery of debts, if taken strictly. This subject was considered by congress in May, 1782, and their commissioners were instructed to represent to the British negociators, the situation in which the citizens of the United States would be placed by an immediate collection of debts contracted before the war; and to procure (if possible) an article, that no execution should issue, for any such debts, in less than three years after signing of the definite treaty. Congress, at the same time, declared that all demands for interest accruing during the war, would be highly inequitable and unjust; and directed their negociators to procure a precise definition of the article relating to debts, expressly excluding all demand for interest, in order to prevent future disputes on that subject.
In April, 1783, after the formation of the new administration, David Hartley was sent to Paris, to complete the negociations between Great Britain and the United States. The negociators, however, were unable to agree on any alterations in the former articles; nor were they able to agree on arrangements, for the future commercial intercourse between the two countries. On the 3d of September, 1783, a definitive treaty was signed, containing only the articles that were embraced in the provis ional treaty of the preceding November. The definitive treaties, between Great Britain, France and Spain, were signed at the same time: and that between Great Britain and Holland, the day preceding.
The American definitive treaty was ratified by congress on the 14th of January, 1784, and on the same day a proclamation was issued, requiring all persons to carry the same into effect with good faith; and it was also earnestly recommended to the legis latures of the respective states, to provide for the restoration of the property of the loyalists, agreably to the fifth article.
The revolution not effected without great sacrifices and sufferings on the part of the Americans-Paper money issued-Depreciates-Taxes not called for by congress until November, 1777-Paper money made a tender in payment of debts-Prices of articles fixed by law-Congress attempt to call in the paper, but without success— States neglect to comply with the requisitions-Congress present an address to the states-Paper ceases to circulate in 1780-Distresses of the Americans for want of funds-Apply to France for aid-Special minister sent to the French court-King of France furnishes money-Loans obtained in Holland-New arrangements in the civil departments-Sufferings of the army-General Washington's letters on this subject-Revolt of the Pennsylvania line---Americans suffer from the burning of their towns--Discontents among the officers of the army---Half pay recommended by general Washington---Finally granted-Is unpopular in some of the states---Officers petition congress on this subject, and for a settlement of their accounts--Congress delay acting on their memorial---This creates great uneasiness among the officers---A meeting called by an anonymous notification to obtain redress---Prevented by general Washington---Congress grant five years full pay in lieu of the half pay for life---News of peace arrives---Arrangements made for disbanding the army---General Washington sends a circular letter to the states---Definitive treaty of peace arrives---Army finally disbanded---General Washington addresses the army for the last time---Takes leaves of his officers---Resigns his commission to congress.
AFTER a conflict of eight years, Great Britain was compelled to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and a complete separation took place between the two countries. This political revolution was not effected without immense sacrifices and sufferings on the part of the Americans.
Destitute of arms and ammunition, without a single ship of war, and without the means of procuring them, no resource was left, to enable them to resist the mighty force brought against them, but a paper medium.
During the year 1775, as we have before stated, bills of credit to the amount of three millions of dollars, were issued by congress, in addition to those issued by some of the individual states. By new emissions, at different times, this sum was increased at the close of the year 1778, to more than one hundred millions.
POLITICAL AND CIVIL HISTORY, &c.
From the peculiar situation of the United States, without commerce, the union incomplete, the state governments imperfectly organized, congress deemed it imprudent to call for taxes, until November, 1777. At this time, they recommended to the seve ral states, to raise by taxes, the sum of five millions of dollars, for the succeeding year. This sum was apportioned among the states, having reference generally, to the supposed number of inhabitants in each.* The sums so apportioned, however, were not to be considered as the final quota of any state; but the amount paid by each, was to be placed to its credit, bearing an interest of six per cent. from the time of payment, until the quotas should be finally adjusted, agreeably to the confederation, to be adopted and ratified by the states. If, on such adjustment, any state had paid more than its quota, it was to receive interest on the surplus; if less, then to pay interest on the deficiency, until, by a future tax, such surplus or deficiency should be adjusted. Depreciation of this paper was the natural consequence of such large emissions. This was seriously felt, in the beginning of 1777; and to provide a remedy, congress in January of that year, made it a tender in payment of all public and private debts; and a refusal to receive it, was declared to be an extinguishment of the debt itself. And they thought proper to declare, that whoever should refuse to receive it, in exchange for any property, as gold and silver, should be deemed an enemy to his country. They, at the same time, resorted to the extraordinary expedient of regulating the prices of all articles necessary for the army; and if any persons refused to sell the surplus of what was wanted for the annual support of their families, the purchasing commissaries were authorized to take such surplus at the prices so fixed.
These extraordinary measures tended to increase rather than diminish the evil. The bills still continued to depreciate rapidly, and some more effectual remedy, than tender and regulating laws, was necessary. In 1779, congress attempted to establish a fund for sinking the bills then in circulation, by calling on the states to pay their quotas of fifteen millions of dollars for that year, and six millions annually for the eighteen succeeding years.
These calls upon the states were made in vain; little was paid into the public treasury; and new bills were issued, which swelled the amount in September, 1779, to one hundred and sixty millions. At this time, congress thought it necessary, to declare that the issues, on no account, should exceed two hundred millions. Nor did they then despair of their ultimate redemption at par. In a circular address to their constituents, they with apparent sincerity and zeal, endeavored to prove, that the United States had the ability, as well as disposition eventually to redeem their bills. After stating the probable future resources of the country, from an increase of population, a vast increase of agricultural productions, the avails of the western lands, &c., they say, “whoever examines the force of these and similar observations, must smile at the ignorance of those, who doubt the ability of the United States, to redeem the bills." They indignantly repelled the idea of a violation of the plighted faith of the nation.
"The pride of America," they observed, “revolts at the idea; her citizens know for what purpose these emissions were made, and have repeatedly plighted their faith for the redemption of them; they are to be found in every man's possession, and every man is interested in their being redeemed; they must therefore entertain a high opinion of American credulity, who suppose the people capable of believing, on due reflection, that all America will, against the faith, the honor, and the interest of all America, be ever prevailed upon to countenance, support, or permit so ruinous, so disgraceful a measure."
While every one must applaud the spirit of these observations; few, we believe, will not regret to find in the same address, remarks on the supposed advantages of paper money, calcula
ed to make them doubt at least, whether congress were not trifling with the public, on so interesting and important a subject.
"Let it be remembered," they remarked, "that paper money is the only kind of money, which cannot 'make unto itself wings and fly away.' It remains with us, it will not forsake us, it is always ready and at hand for the purpose of commerce or taxes, and every industrious man can find it.”*
The continued failures of the states to comply with the requisitions made upon them, and the increasing wants of the country, increased the issues, (notwithstanding the resolution of congress to the contrary,) to more than three hundred millions; and the idea of redeeming the bills at their nominal value, was at length abandoned. In March, 1780, the states were required to bring them in at forty for one. The bills when brought in were to be cancelled, and new ones to issue in lieu of them, not exceeding one twentieth part of their nominal amount. The new bills were to be redeemable in six years, to bear an interest of five per cent., to be issued on the credit of the individual states, and their payment guarantied by the United States.
The new system of finance was equally unavailing. The old bills were not brought in, and of course few new ones issued. The general treasury was empty, the army without pay or clothing, and often without provisions. The states were called upon for supplies in specific articles. To keep the army together, congress were obliged to raise money, by drawing bills on their ministers in Europe, without any assurance of their payment.
The continental bills, at last, became of so little value, that they ceased to circulate; and in the course of the year 1780, quietly died in the hands of the possessors.
In addition to this, the campaign of 1780, was unfortunate for America. The cities of Charleston and Savannah were taken, and the states of South Carolina and Georgia, were in possession of the enemy. In this situation, congress had no other means of providing for the next campaign, but foreign loans. To obtain these, they, on the 22d of November, addressed a letter to their
* Journals of Congress, vol. 5, pp. 262, 266.