Report by Thomas Burke concerning the debates in the Continental Congress
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
Volume 11, Pages 389-392
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ABSTRACT OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
[From Executive Letter Book.]
1777 Feb. 8th
Motion for offering 6 per ct. in the Loan Office.
For it,—was agreed the necessity of money for carrying on the war, which four per cent had not yet procured, the expediency of borrowing on this interest to prevent further emissions, and of alluring moneyed men to embark in our interest. Against it.—that the public, being the only borrower, must get the money at the interest already offered, if there was any to be lent; that those who withheld money, only did it in hopes our necessity would compel us to give a higher interest, and that they would withhold it as long as they had any prospect of forcing us to offer higher interest; that the interest would be a heavy and unequal burthen on the State, because those who now possess the money would lay the rest under a heavy tax under the name of interest; that there was little money to be borrowed, because men speculated and found they could lay it out to better advantage; that the necessity for money made it more expedient to seek a more certain resource. The delegate of North Carolina could not be satisfied that Loan Office certificates, and bills of credit, where both had the same security for their redemption, were not in effect the same thing: he therefore thought Loan certificates another emission in bills of another denomination, with this unjust inequality, that one part of the community would thereby be taxed for the others. He also thought that much money would not be borrowed on them at any interest, unless it was for the more convenient purposes of exchange, and he thought it would give our enemies too convenient a machine for affecting our hopes and fears. He would vote against a Loan altogether if it were now the question, and the same reasons induced him to vote against the increase of interest. Question put, Aye 5, no 5. Aye,—New Hampshire, M. Bay, N. Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia. No.—Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina, Georgia, S. Carolina.
Feb'y. 12th—Maryland and Pennsylvania were very solicitous to procure a vote of Congress, approving a meeting lately held by committees appointed by the four New England Governments, to the
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end that this approbation might imply a right to disapprove. It occasioned very long and interesting debates. At length the general opinion was that Congress had necessarily a right to inquire into the cause of any meeting and to require to know what was transacted at any such meetings, and also to require an explanation of anything that was dubious, and satisfaction for anything that was alarming to the whole, or any one of the States; that this right necessarily existed in their power to take care each for his respective State that no injury happened to her from without. But that Congress had no right to prohibit meetings, or censure them if the transactions in them were not injurious to others. The delegate of North Carolina refuse to say what his State could not do, declaring he thought she could do every thing which she had not precluded herself from by plain and express declaration: to yield up any of her rights was not in his power, and very far from his inclination: that by the Law of Nations she had a right to demand a satisfactory account and explanation of any transaction of one or more States, and she had appointed him to watch lest any injury should come to her from without. In this he would use his best endeavours. The question put, the approbation was denied, many voting against it lest its ambiguity should create further disputes; of this number was North Carolina.
Feb. 15th. Yesterday was consumed in desultory debates upon a report of a special committee upon the proceedings of the four New England Governments above mentioned, and it was recommitted. This day it was brought in under a form agreeable to what was the sense of the House on what was yesterday considered. At first it expressed the opinion of Congress, that the proceedings were founded in justice, policy and necessity, and merited the warmest approbation. The second declared neither approbation or opinion—except particularly relating to the New England Governments, because of their peculiar circumstances, but proposed laying it before the other States for their imitation if they thought proper, avoiding as much as possible any expression that might suggest to the States that Congress approved or disapproved. In this form it passed without a negative, and it was voted that several States should be advised to confer with each other on this subject: viz: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia: North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Nothing
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very remarkable happened in his debate except that Virginia insisted on being connected with Maryland, and refused to be connected with the Southern States. The delegates present from Virginia were Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee and Man. Page, all residing on Rapahanock and Potomack rivers. The Delegates from North Carolina represented that great part of the exportation of North Carolina was through Virginia, that her market was therefore in that State, and that she ought undoubtedly to be consulted in regulating the prices since she was so much interested therein that it was unjust and ungenerous in Virginia to endeavour to regulate them without her, and evidently shewed she was willing to do what would affect the interest of North Carolina without her knowledge or consent. Virginia persisted, and the vote passed for her conferring with Maryland &c. The question was now proposed for the conference of the Southern States; the Delegates opposed it, alledging that their articles of exportation would be always very low, by reason of the danger and difficulty of exporting: that none had provisions to spare but North Carolina, and her market for them being chiefly to Virginia she was precluded from regulation in that article by the regulation made in Virginia, of which as she would have no notice she could not accomodate herself thereto, and her Delegate declared she had too much vigilance and sagacity to make regulation since it might preclude her from taking advantage of circumstances to defend herself from the injustice of her neighbor Virginia: that since Virginia chose to confer with other States in making regulations which might affect North Carolina, and refused to confer with her where her interest was so nearly concerned, Virginia was entitled to no attention from North Carolina, and she ought to have itt in the power of her citizens to avail themselves of all advantages which circumstances might throw in their way. The question put—all voted for the conference of the Southern States except their own Delegates. R. H. Lee privately told the Delegate from North Carolina that he need not be disturbed on this occasion, because Virginia could make no regulation but what must affect herself. The Delegate replied that it was arrogantly assuming to judge of her affairs, and affect them without her consent: it was taking advantage of her situation to be arbiter of the commerce of North Carolina, and it was shewing an entire disregard to her interest
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and circumstances, and having them entirely to depend on the decisions of the Northern States, without even being consulted. The Delegate declared he thought this such an instance of contempt and disregard in Virginia, that he could not but receive it with indignation.