CHAPTER IX.

THE FUNDING BILL.

June 16th. — I early called this morning at Colonel Hartley's lodgings in order to give him a sketch of what I thought might be well enough for us to sign. He was gone, but I fell in with him at the Hall and delivered it to him.

I sauntered about till Congress formed, and now we got at the Funding bill. Here we had all the stuff over again of public credit, etc. The great question was whether the report of the committee for four per cent should be adopted. I soon committed myself in such sort that I must expect all the public creditors to be my enemies. The great ground that I took was, that I did not believe we could impose any direct taxes on our constituents for a purpose which they knew as well as I did; that the holders of certificates in Pennsylvania had them funded when they were but 2s. 6d. on the pound; that 100 purchased 800; that they had drawn interest on the nominal amount for four years, equal to 192. Justice and law allowed them but 124; hence they had 68 clear already, and the certificates into the bargain, etc.

I was up a long time. Mr. Morris rose against the report. His collar fairly choked him. He apologized to the House that his agitation had deprived him of his recollection on the subject, and he sat down. He rose again some little time before the Senate adjourned, mentioned his late confusion, but declared it did not arise from the personal interest he had in public securities; that, although he was possessed of some, he was no speculator, etc. I wish he had not made this last apology, for I fear it fixed the matter deeper on him.

We spent until past three o'clock, but took no question; {297} and, indeed, it seemed almost agreed that we would not proceed without the other bill.

June 17th. — Spent this morning, before the meeting of the Senate, in calling on Mr. Coxe for the papers in the case of McCord, and at the office of the Secretary of State on Mr. Bailey's affair.

The Senate met, and until near two o'clock we were engaged on the subject of consuls and vice-consuls. The grand question was, whether foreigners were eligible to those offices. It was admitted that they were, and a number accordingly appointed. When I came home to dinner, the Speaker told me that a bill was proposed in the House of Representatives for giving them salaries. Thus it is that we are led on, little by little, to increase the civil list; to increase the mass of public debt, and, of course, the taxes of the public. This, however, is all of a piece with former management from the offices.

The Funding bill was now called for. Butler repeated the same things he had said yesterday. But now up rose Patterson with a load of notes before him. To follow him would be to write a pamphlet, for he was up near an hour. Near the beginning he put a question: "What principle shall we adopt to settle this business? If we follow Justice, she says three per cent or even two is as much as the holders of certificates can demand. But what says law? — six per cent," and he was a summum jus man to the end of the chapter. It was near three when he had done.

I felt an impatience to attack him, and up I got. At first exploded a doctrine which he had stated of Congress being a party and the claimants another. I stated the people at large as being the debtors and the holders the creditors, and Congress the umpire — the Legislature between them. I then stated his two principles of justice and law; declared myself an adherent of the former. Law was the rule for courts and magistrates in the execution of their offices, but justice was our guide, and had been the guide of all just legislation from the Jewish jubilee to the present day; that even in law it was a maxim that rigid law was rigid injustice. Hence the necessity of courts of chancery expressly for mitigating the severity of unjust contracts. I repeated his own words of "three per {298} cent — perhaps two per cent" being the voice of Justice. If, then, the point of justice stands at three per cent, or if at two per cent, all beyond that point is injustice to whom? To the very people whose interests it is our bounden duty to support and protect. I reprobated his position even with acrimony as the Shylock doctrine of "my bond, my bond."

June 18th. — We went early to the Hall, as I was on two committees this morning — the one the case of one Twining, the other McCord's. We spent a considerable space of time on Twining's affair, which to me did not seem a just subject of legislation. I then joined the committee on McCord's case.

This was truly one in which Compassion mingled herself with Justice. The generals, Thomson, Irvine, and others, had received effects from him in Canada in the year 1776. They gave him a bill which was never paid. The Auditor and Comptroller settled the sum due on this bill, $809.71. He had suffered greatly in Canada: had his house burned; took our Continental money to a considerable amount as specie, which he produced to us to the amount of $1,200 or $1,300; advanced money and goods to many people who now refuse to pay him, and many of them he can not find. All these things are indubitable. I had no difficulty in allowing him the $809.71 in ready money, in lieu of a certificate, but anything more I seemed to feel a difficulty in. Lands had been set apart by the old Congress to make compensation for Canadian sufferers. We reported the $809.71, and left a blank for the value of his lands. The Senate filled the blank with $500. My heart would not let me rise against the motion. Though it is a trifle to his sufferings, yet how many hundreds of our own people suffer equal distress!

Up now came the Funding bill. Butler railed at Elsworth. Elsworth talked back. There really was no entertainment. No man ever rambled or talked more at random than Butler. He is ever quoting authors on trade, finance, etc., ever repeating what he has seen in Europe. This day he asserted that the circulating coin of Great Britain was three hundred millions. Authors (if I remember right) place it at about sixteen. There really was nothing new. Some were pressing for the question, but it was postponed generally.

{299}

I received a letter from Dr. Rush and a newspaper containing a mutilated publication of the piece which I had sent to him on the subject of Federal residence. He has left out many of what I consider as the best arguments, and very improperly reduced the arguments drawn from the mileage one half by his miscalculations. But I really never was served otherwise.

This evening Mr. Morris and Mr. Fitzsimons called on us. Hamilton had been with them again. Never had a man a greater propensity for bargaining than Mr. Morris. Hamilton knows this, and is laboring to make a tool of him. He affects to tell Mr. Morris that the New England men will bargain to fix the permanent seat at the Potomac or at Baltimore. Mr. Fitzsimons counted all the members who it was likely would vote for such a measure, and the conclusion was that no such measure could be carried by them.

June 19th. — Attended at ten o'clock at the Hall on Mr. Twining's bill. The committee heard all the witnesses produced.

We then walked to view the demolitions of Fort George; the leaden coffins and remains of Lady and Lord Bellamont, now exposed to the sun after an interment of about ninety years. They and many more had been deposited in vaults in a chapel which once stood in the fort. The chapel was burned down about fifty years ago and never rebuilt. The leveling of the fort and digging away the foundations have uncovered the vaults.

The talk of the day is the death of one Tilfair, from Georgia, who this morning cut his throat with a razor. A negro boy who waited on him has manifested marks of astonishing attachment. 'Tis said he was separated from the dead body by force, and restrained with difficulty from committing violence on himself.

June 20th, Sunday. — I spent the most of this day at home, finishing some letters; read occasionally. In the evening I went to see Mrs. Bell. She proposed to walk, and offered to come and see Mrs. Muhlenberg. I set out with her, but she knew almost everybody we met. A Mrs. Somebody joined us and made us gad over almost the whole town to visit somebody {300} body else. We, however, parted with our adventitious comrade and performed our first tour. This does not deserve notice only for what Mrs. Bell mentioned, as the subject of the removal of Congress from this place was her constant theme. She took occasion to tell me that Mr. Morris was not sincerely attached to the Pennsylvania interest on that subject; that his commercial arrangements were calculated for this place [New York]; that the Yorkers depended on him, but were lately staggered by an oath which it was said he had sworn that he would have Congress away. I endeavored to persuade myself that Mr. Morris was now in earnest, and the Yorkers would find him so, etc. Yet I had my own thoughts on the subject. Mrs. Bell replied that he may have good reasons now to wish for popularity in Pennsylvania.

June 21st. — Attended at the Hall early on the bill for remitting certain penalties to one N. Twining. The Senate met. I observed a strangeness of disposition in the House the moment, or rather a few moments, after the minutes were read. Patterson moved to adjourn. Schuyler seconded. This was lost. It was now moved to take up the vote of the House of Representatives for fixing the time of adjournment. This was agreed to, and King, Bassett, and Walker appointed on our part to confer. Izard now rose; said there was something to put on the minutes, and renewed the motion for adjournment. Seconded by Patterson. This was lost.

And now the Funding bill was taken up. We had a great deal of the old ground gone over again. King received a note; rose and moved that the Funding bill should be postponed, as the House of Representatives had negatived the bill for the ways and means. He was seconded by Schuyler. We had now a long, desultory kind of debate whether the bill should be postponed. It was not postponed. Now the debates on the merits of the bill. The question was whether all the alternatives should be struck out and a fund of four per cent adopted. Adopted; thirteen for, ten against. Now the question on the striking out of the indents. Elsworth and the New England men knew that Pennsylvania tins a number of indents, and the invention of all of them is at work to turn it to her disadvantage. The vote was, however, carried to keep the {301} indents, since the other back interest was to be funded. I bore my testimony in the strongest terms against funding any interest, and proposed to open a land-office as a sinking fund for the whole of the back interest, including the indents, but I found no second. The interest of the whole was placed on one footing, almost without a division. How a long debate ensued about the Jersey payments and a proviso which had been inserted to favor them. No other question was, however, taken, and the House adjourned a quarter after three.

This was mess or club day* I went and stayed till file fumigation began, alias smoking of cigars, a thing I never could bear. Elsworth made a long speech, amounting to this: that since a general system of funding could not be obtained, gentlemen would be against all funding whatever. I placed his speech in as strong colors as I could; that since a party in Congress could not build as they pleased, they would turn and pull all down. There was a majority against the assumption of the State debts and file minority, indignant at being controlled, since they could not rule, would join the discontented part of Congress and stop all business.

[* Meaning the day set aside by the Pennsylvania delegation for dining together.]

Adams affects to treat me with all the neglect he can while I am speaking, by turning his head a different way, looking sidewise, etc. But I care not. I will endeavor to bear it.

June 22d. — I called this morning on General Irwin, who is one of the commissioners for settling accounts between the United States and rite individual States, for the amount of the Jersey claims for interest paid by that State on the Continental certificates. Found it to be about half a million. Now attended the committee on Twining's case. Mr. Morris called me aside. (I had yesterday expressed my indignation of the New England land attempt upon Pennsylvania, in excluding, or trying to exclude, those indents, which would pass into her hands in consequence of the late funding law, from being funded; had endeavored to possess him of the facts to obtain his assistance, and indeed expressed unguarded solicitude on that subject.)

He told me this is an important affair respecting the indents {302} to Pennsylvania. "I would have you think well of it. The New England men are determined to carry it against us. The assumption is the only way we can rid ourselves of this thing. I would have you think of it — think of it."

I had to say I will think of it. I felt a little disturbed: not if I knew my own mind with regard to the part I should act, but to think that everything should be set to sale, and that even just measures could not be pursued but by contract, and that men should be hunted into measures. I have often thought myself deficient in readiness of judgment or quickness of determination. Perhaps any man can think more and better too at twice than at once. I, however, in a few minutes took my seat beside Mr. Morris; told him that I considered the assumption so politically wrong and productive of so much injustice, that no offer could be made which would induce me to change my mind. I had, however, means of another nature. I could depend nothing on the promises of the New England men; but, further, had calculated that the State of New York was circumstanced nearly in the same way as Pennsylvania with respect to the indents; and I consider this as the sure pledge that we should not be pushed to extremities on that ground. The result showed that I was right; for, after a great deal of debate in the House, affairs settled as I would have them.

There is a lesson in the matter, and I must be on my guard with respect to my colleague. Hamilton unhappily has him in his power with respect to these old accounts, which are still before the Treasury. The bill for establishing the post-office was read the first time. We adjourned early.

Mr. Fitzsimons called this afternoon. We had much loose conversation on the subject of adjournment. I expressed a wish, the sooner the better. Fitzsimons said it never would do to go away without funding the debt. Pennsylvania was too deeply interested. She would draw three millions of dollars annually from the funds. I stared, as well I might, for at four per cent she must possess more than the whole of the Continental debt to do it, viz., seventy-five millions. He corrected himself, and said above fifteen millions would belong to her and her citizens. I said this might be. He now got on {303} the subject of Pennsylvania paying her civil list, etc., with Continental revenue. In fact, this man has no rule of conduct but convenience, and he shifts opinions and sentiments to answer occasions.

The Speaker walked away with Mr. Fitzsimons. When he returned, I asked him to repeat what Mr. Fitzsimons had said. He [the Speaker] said Mr. Fitzsimons had explained himself in their walk, that the State of Pennsylvania possessed three millions on which she would draw interest, and that the citizens of the State possessed fifteen millions on which they would draw interest. There are more turners than dish-makers; but in fact none of these things deserve noting down.


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