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Letter from Robert Morris to John Hanson
Morris, Robert, 1734-1806
July 30, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 381-383

[From Executive Letter Book]

Office of Finance,
30th July, 1782.


I do myself the honor to enclose for the inspection of Congress estimates for the Service of the year, 1783, amounting in the whole to eleven Millions. I should be strictly justified in praying a requisition of the United States for that sum, but I conceive that the demands made should be the lowest which our circumstances will possibly admit of. I am persuaded that if the United States in Congress will adopt those means of economy which are in their power we may save two millions; and, therefore, on a presumption that those means will be adopted I shall ask only nine Millions. Congress will observe that the estimates for the Marine Department amount to two Millons and a half, whereas there was no estimate made for that service in the last year any more than for the Civil List. There can be no doubt that the Enemy have changed their mode of Warfare, and will make their principal exertions in the Naval Line.

It becomes us, therefore, to make like exertions, and that for the

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plainest reasons. Experience has shown that the efforts to obtain a large Army have for many years proved utterly fruitless. The only effect of these efforts has been to enhance the price of such Men as were obtained, and thereby to disable the States who exerted themselves to raise recruits, from pouring supplies into the public Treasury.

Thus we have not only been unable to get more men but also to pay and support those which we had gotten. Admitting, however, that the required number were obtained and supported as an army, these things are clear: First, that without Naval aid we would not make an impression on the Enemies ports; secondly, that they would be able to harrass and distress us in every Quarter by predatory incursions; thirdly, that they would prevent us from receiving those supplies which are necessary alike to the operation and existence of our Army; and fourthly, that their Inroads on our Commerce would produce such distress to the Country as to render our Revenues utterly unproductive & finally bring our affairs to destruction.

An Army, therefore, without a Navy would be burthensome without being able to giving essential aid, supposing the Enemy to have changed their system of carrying on the War, but if we had a Navy we should be able, first, to prevent the Enemy from makng predatory incursions; secondly, we should at least keep the ships they have on our Coast together, which will prevent them from injuring our Commerce or obstructing our supplies; thirdly, if they keep in this Country an equal or superior force, we should by that means have made a powerful diversion in favor of our Allies and contributed to give them a Naval superiority elsewhere; fourthly, if our enemy did not keep an equal or superior force in this Country we should be able by cruising to protect our own Commerce, annoy theirs and cut off the supplies directed to their posts so as to distress their finances and relieve our own; fifthly, by economizing our funds and constructing six ships annually we should advance so rapidly to Maritime importance that our enemy would be convinced, not only of the impossibility of subduing us, but also of the certainty that his force in this Country must eventually be lost without being able to produce him any possible advantage; and sixthly, we should (in this mode) recover the full possession of our

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Country, without the expence of Blood or Treasure, which must attend any other mode of operations, and while we are pursuing those steps which lead to the possession of our natural strength and defence, I trust, Sir, that the influence of these considerations will not only lead the Counsels of America to adopt the measures necessary for establishing, but that by economizing as much as possible we may be able (from the sums now to be asked for) to do more in that line than is contained in the estimate; but as this must depend on Circumstances which we cannot command, so it is not prudent or proper to rely on it. Having already stated the lowest necessary sum at nine Millions, I proceed, Sir, to propose that four Millions be borrowed, which will reduce the quotas to five Millions.

I make this proposition under the idea that the plans contained in my Letter of yesterday’s date be adopted. The quotas then being five Millions and the Revenues for funding our debts (which are proposed in that Letter) being two Millions, the sum total of what will be taken from the people will amount only to seven Millions, and of that full twelve hundred thousand will be paid back as the Interest of our Domestic Debt so as not to be in fact any burthen on the whole people, tho’ a necessary relief to a considerable part of them. On this plain Statement I shall make no comment. I shall only pray that as much expedition may attend the deliberations on these objects as the importance of them will permit, so that the States may be in a situation to make speedy decisions, and this is the more necessary, as the negotiations for a Loan must be opened in Europe early next Winter.

I have the Honor to be, &c.,