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Circular letter from Robert Morris to the state governors
Morris, Robert, 1734-1806
May 09, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 322-324

TO GOV. MARTIN FROM HON. ROBT. MORRIS.


Office of Finance,
May 1st, 1782.

(Circular.)

Sir:

I do myself the honor to enclose you Copies of three Accounts which I have this day received from the Comptroller of the Treasury of the United States. Each State will from these accounts perceive what still remains for them to do in consequence of the Resolutions of Congress of the 18th of March, 1780. As this is a Circular Letter the observations I make shall be general and such as result from a general view of the object. The particular application of them dependent upon local circumstances will be made by those to whom such circumstances apply.

The Resolutions of the 18th of March, 1780, were in part directed towards the redemption of the old Continental Money and the opinions which may have been formed as to the issuing of a new paper Medium, the paying of interest upon it and the connection with and relation to the old are immaterial under the present point of view.

Nothing can be more clear and simple than this, that the Bills issued by Congress for the support of the War should be redeemed by Taxes. This was one Capital object of the Resolutions, and as to the apportionment I am to presume it was as perfect as the fluctuating

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nature of human affairs will permit and more especially so when the few Lights that could be obtained and the varying circumstances of the several States are compared with the very variable object of depreciated paper which was then in contemplation.

But admitting for argument’s sake that the apportionment was not strictly right, this must also be admitted, that to redeem the paper was called for by principles, both of reason and Justice. It was, therefore, a duty of the several States to comply with the requisitions of their Sovereign Representatives, for any irregularities either actually existing, or which a subsequent change of circumstances might produce, would admit of remedy, but a neglect of Resolutions had the inevitable consequence of injuring the public Credit, weakening the public operations and risqueing our very existence as a people.

But however strong the motives which would have prompted a complyance, it will not be disputed that some of the States may have been in circumstances not to admit of the exertion and whether this incapacity hath risen from exterior violences or the defects of internal policy or both, is in one sense immaterial because the eventual consequence is the same.

Yet, tho’ for a time, Charity may over-look these defects, it becomes the duty of each State to apply a remedy if the evil be in its nature remediable, and should they neglect what is in their power they must expect complaint from Congress, reproach from the other States and from their own Bosoms the admonitions of Conscience which will become more poignant from every moment’s delay.

A general view of the accounts now transmitted will show at a single glance that large sums of the old Paper still remain to be provided for, and it might perhaps have been right in Congress to have fixed an ultimate day of redemption for the whole and charged what remained due after that day at forty for one in Specie to every deficient State.

This I say might perhaps have been right if the ravages of War and other local circumstances had not required attention and forbearance as to some if not to all. But it cannot be denied that many are now in Capacity to call in by Taxes their Quota of this Paper, and those who are should consider what must be the feelings of men who hold it on the faith of so many promises, such repeated

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requisitions and such Sacred Bonds of National faith and honor. What must be their feelings to find those promises violated, those requisitions neglected and that faith disregarded? Can it be expected that while such flagrant instances of National neglect, to call it by no harsher name, are in view of almost every Citizen that we can possibly establish the fair reputation so essential to the public credit.

The plea of inability is not to be admitted excepting as I have already observed in some very particular Circumstances. Considering our Country in a general point of view, this paper lying dead is already lost, and the only question is whether the loss shall be borne by the whole people or only a part of them. Those who parted with it have received the value and it would be a flagrant injustice that the whole Tax for redeeming it should fall on those who have received it.

Neither can it be supposed that if any were inclined to promote such injustice it would be borne by the sufferers. And whether those sufferers are individuals or States, the suffering is the same, the sentiment therefore must be the same and so will be the conduct by which the Sentiment shall be directed.

With great respect,
I have the Honor to be, Sir,
Yours, &c.,
ROBT. MORRIS.



Additional Notes for Electronic Version: This letter in the Executive Letter Book is dated May 9, 1782.