Letter from Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
Volume 11, Pages 376-379
LETTER FROM THOS. BURKE TO GOV. CASWELL.
[From Executive Letter Book.]
Baltimore Feb'y. 10th. 1777.
Sir: my last to you was by Mr. Hooper, and I suppose you have received it long before this. I then announced my intention of troubling you every post, and I now sit down in order to perform, in some part, my promise.
Of the political principle of the respective States I am not yet able to speak very clearly, for they are kept as much as possible out of view. I conjecture, however, that all are under some apprehensions of combination in the Eastern States to derive to themselves every possible advantage from the present war, at the
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expense of the rest. I am not yet satisfied that there is any combination amongst them. I rather think that they only combine when they have one common interest, which is seldom the case, and I am sure this is not peculiar to them. On some late questions I observed they divided; one was relative to the interest to be paid on loans, another relative to the meeting of several States. In the sequel of this letter I mean to give you an abstract of the debates on these questions, and therefore shall say no more of them here. But, sir, I am more concerned to find that Pennsylvania, Maryland, Jersey and some others are exceedingly jealous of the states whose bounds to the westward are yet unascertained, and I am much mistaken if they do not upon all occasions endeavour to fix very extensive power in a mere majority of Congress in order to get resolutions unfavorable to the claims of such states entered into. To be more explicit, I believe they will endeavour by degrees to make the authority of Congress very extensive, and when it shall be fully established and acknowledged, to make such a party in it as will pass resolves injurious to the rights of those states who claim to the South Seas. You will see by some matters in the abstract of debate which I shall subjoin that this conjecture is not quite void of foundation. I am clearly of opinion at all events that those states who, like ours, have such claims should be explicit in declaring they will give no power to their Delegates to bind them in any thing that regards their Bounds. I am not yet able to be particular with respect to the measures intended to be pursued. We are endeavouring to forward, by every expedient, the recruiting service, and also the putting our Frigates to sea. Our greatest difficulty is in supplying the Treasury. This requires the nicest management. If we go on emitting money the quantity in circulation so enhances the prices of things that we shall only make money without being able to get for it more commodities, and it will, of course, destroy its own purpose. The Loan Office is at length considered as little better than new emissions, and a Tax seems the only adequate expedient. There is a plan under consideration for this purpose; when it shall be determined I will be more explicit. You will receive from the President a copy of some transactions in the New England Governments together with the Resolutions of Congress relative thereto. You will perceive that the intention of sending them
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to the different states is to suggest to them to fall on methods something similar if they see it proper and necessary. Tho' no States are more in need of such regulations than where the armies march through, yet they opposed it, under the pretence that regulating prices would be impracticable; but a majority of Congress were of opinion that it might be rendered so far effectual as to prevent engrossers & forestallers, and speculators, who purchased in hopes of a rising price, and thereby rendered necessary articles very scarce and difficult to be obtained. For my thoughts on the subject, I will refer you to the abstract of debates, that is so far as regards our own State. I indeed have no great opinion of an attempt to regulate prices in a country where the holders are under no necessity of selling; but knowing our own State was not much interested in this business I voted for it, in order to damp the practice of speculative monopoly which prevails in all the Northern States. You will see in the abstract my reasons for not approving it in ours. I really feel myself much displeased at the disregard Virginia showed to our interest in the matter, and I believe, were I a member of your Assembly I should move that she might be desired to avow or disavow the conduct of her Delegates in Congress. But this I need not urge to you who are so good a judge of her interest, so jealous of her honour, and so careful to maintain her rights.
We have just received some very agreeable intelligence from the army, but I expect it will be in the paper before I can close this letter. If not I will procure abstracts and enclose them to you. There are some Tory disturbances on the Eastern shore of this State, and the Civil Power do not seem to proceed with sufficient vigour against them. There some Troops however sent against them, and I suppose my next will contain something final relative to them, I take abstracts of all the important debates in Congress, principally with a view of transmitting to you. I think it right that my country should know how I give her voice, and upon what principles I determine for her. If I am right her approbation will not only determine me, but others also, to proceed with firmness. If I am mistaken she, only, can correct me, and by correcting me inform others more fully of their duty. I doubt not the candor of my countrymen, they will believe I act for them to the best of my judgment, and when that judgment errs I am desirous it should be
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better instructed by them, or if they find it defective, and unfit for their service, 'tis surely right they should have an opportunity of substituting a better in so important a trust. The intelligence above mentioned is in the paper; it is that under the Philadelphia head, February the 15th
, but I am sorry to tell you it is contradicted by later accounts. We have received authentic intelligence from London that Chesapeake Bay is next campaign to be the seat of war, and the enemy mean to land first on the Eastern Shore. The Tories in Somerset and Worcester are broken, and the persons who chiefly excited them are taken prisoners. The Congress have resolved to adjourn on Tuesday from this town to Philadelphia, to sit there on the Tuesday following.
I have the honour to be yout Excellency's most obe'd. serv't.
His Excellency Gov. Caswell.