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Letter from Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
December 20, 1778
Volume 13, Pages 328-329

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DR. THOS. BURKE TO GOV. CASWELL.
[From Executive Letter Book.]

Philadelphia Dec. 20th 1778.

Dr Sir:

On our arrival here which was on the 9th of this month, we found the City much engaged by a publication which you will find enclosed, and in which Mr. Deane has made some very home accusations. We found it occasioned some little ferment in Congress, and that Mr. Laurens resigned the Chair, because they would not take notice of it, as an affront to their dignity, we though it but prudent to decline going in, for a few days until this little fracas was over, leaving those to decide on punctilios who had been best acquainted with public characters. On our going into Congress we found them engaged principally on finance, and that they had spent much time in maturing something which we totally disapprove. I will endeavour to give you the General outlines as perfectly as they are yet to come to our knowledge.

Two Emissions are to be called out of circulation, viz.: 20th May 1777, 11th April 1778 on pretence of their being much counterfeited. They are by Authority of Congress to be called in by the 1st of June next, and not afterwards to be redeemed. They are to be replaced to the proprietors by Loan certificates or New Bills. Our objections are that Congress by its own authority cannot prevent the currency of money which our Laws made a legal tender, because that implies a power to suspend or repeal our Laws. That the time is too short for our people so dispersed as they are and so circumstanced as not to be able to receive notice in time sufficient to enable them to bring in their money. That it is not in the power of Congress to declare any Emission of money irredeemable at any certain time because it implies a power to destroy at pleasure the security which the people have in all the property vested in paper money. That all that should be done is to deny its currency and leave it to the States to enact Laws and fix the times of their operation for that purpose. We were however overruled, and we find that our Country will be subjected to the payment of a heavy debt, borrowed at an exchange of ten for one and which we must discharge at par, with six per cent. interest.

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This debt too is incurred to Commercial Individuals who alone have money to lend and who have acquired it by engrossing and extortion. Thus shall we realize fortunes for Individuals and subject our Country to a debt, which were it not for loans, a little industry would pay off, but which Loans make heavier than if all we have borrowed had been gold or silver. I believe this mischief is inevitable, and having long since foreseen it, I always was averse to giving the powers of borrowing and emitting to Congress by the Confederation, a power which I am persuaded will always be used for purposes partial, and unjust, and either to serve particular States, or Individuals to the prejudice of the whole community. Besides what I have mentioned, a vote is passed for raising by Tax fifteen Millions of dollars, a sum which I am persuaded is not equal to our abilities, but this simple and unexceptionable mode for sinking the excess of paper Currency, is not so much favored in Congress as the intricate, injurious and ineffectual mode of Loans, and the reason is obvious enough. Loans give advantage to the States who have furnished supplies at extravagant prices, and therefore abound with money, by giving them an opportunity of lending at a high interest when money is depreciated ten for one, to be paid hereafter, when it will be restored to its original value.

As you will see Mr. Harnett, I will not be more particular at present; he can give you a just idea of our expenses. Mr. Hill and myself have paid our Bill for the first two days we were in Town, amounting to forty pounds, and the prices were extravagant, I assure you the articles were few and moderate. The City is a scene of gaiety and Dissipation, public Assemblies every fortnight and private Balls every night. In all such business as this we propose that Mr. Penn shall represent the whole State. We will give you our thoughts and some things to be laid before the Assembly in a separate letter. Mr. Hill desires me to present his compliments to you. He will write to you a private letter by the next opportunity. I am Dr. Sir with sincere regard and esteem

Your obdt. Servt.
THOS. BURKE.