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Letter from Robert Morris to Elias Boudinot, including cover letter from Morris to the state governors
Morris, Robert, 1734-1806
March 17, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 760-764

[From Executive Letter Book.]


Office of Finance, 25th March, 1783.


I do myself the honor to enclose for your Excellency’s perusal the Copy of a Letter of the seventeenth Instant to Congress and of its enclosures as also of a Letter of the 23rd of September from Mr. Franklin which is referred to in it.

I have the honor to be, &c.,

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Office of Finance, 17th March, 1783.


I do myself the honor to enclose the Copy of a Letter of the 14th

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of December last from Mr. Franklin, and the Translation of a Letter of the 15th Instant from the Chevalier de la Luzerne. These together with the Letter of the 23d of December from Mr. Franklin, of which I have already submitted a Copy, will I trust claim the attention of the United States.

Monsieur de la Luzerne did me the honor to make verbal communication of the Count de Vergennes Letters from which as well as from those of Mr. Franklin and from other circumstances I consider it as certain that we are to expect no further pecuniary aid from Europe. So late as the 9th of December last the loan in Holland had not amounted to eighteen hundred thousand Florins and after the deduction of the charges on it, there were not above seventeen hundred thousand at my Disposal. From the Month of June to the 9th of December this loan had not increased half a million of Florins, so that the most sanguine expectation will not carry it beyond two millions out of the five for which it was opened. Congress will recollect that on the fourteenth of September last they ordered a loan of four millions of Dollars in Europe for the service of 1783 in addition to this loan which Mr. Adams had opened in Holland. They will also recollect that I had anticipated upon those resources about three and a half Million of Livers during the year 1782 and that this anticipation was over and above the sum of a million and a half of Florines which we then knew to have been borrowed in Holland. Allowing therefore for the supposed increase of half million Florins or a million of livers there will still remain of anticipation two and a half million of Livers, so that of the Sum lent for this year by his most Christian Majesty, there will remain but three Millions and a half of Livers. According to the common course of exchange this sum cannot be expected to yield more than six hundred thousand Dollars. Six hundred thousand dollars therefore with what the States will yield in Taxes forms the whole of our expenditures for the current year. From this is to be deducted one month’s pay already promised to the army, amounting by estimate to upwards of two hundred and fifty thousand Dollars. To judge of our prospects for what remains Congress will be pleased to observe that the subsistence of our Officers is near Twenty Thousand Dollars, that the rations issued in New York and New Jersey

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are about fifty thousand Dollars, & that the rations of the Southern Army will probably amount to upwards of twelve thousand Dollars. If to this be added the various detached corps it will be found that the articles of rations & subsistence, exclusive of the Prisoners, will form an object of about ninety thousand Dollars per month. My anticipations on the Taxes are so well known that it is not necessary to mention them any more than the other objects of forage, &c., which are indispensable. I have gone into these few details merely to elucidate on position, viz: that all the money now at our command and which we may expect from the States for this two months to come will not do more than satisfy the various engagements which will by that time have fallen due.

It is of importance that Congress should know their true situation & therefore I could wish that a Committee were appointed to confer with the Minister of Finance. My reasons for that wish is that every member of Congress may have the same convictions which I feel of one important fact. That there is no hope of any further pecuniary Aid from Europe. The conduct of the French Court on this subject has been decisive. Some Persons have flattered themselves that her positive Declarations were merely calculated to restrain our rashness and moderate our excess, but these ideas can no longer have place in any sound and discerning mind. Her conduct has been consistent with her declarations & if she had ever so much inclination to assist us with money it is not in her power. But whatever may be the ability of Nations or Individuals we can have no right to hope for much less to expect the aid of others while we show so much unwillingness to help ourselves. It can no longer be a doubt to Congress that our public credit is gone. It was very easy to see that this would be the case & it was my particular duty to predict it. This has been done repeatedly. I claim no merit for the Prediction because a man must be naturally or wilfully blind who could not see that credit cannot long be supported without funds.

From what has already been said Congress will clearly perceive the necessity of farther resources. What means they shall adopt it is in their wisdom to consider. They cannot borrow and the States will not pay. The thing has happened which was expected. I cannot presume to advise. Congress well know that I never pretended to any extraordinary knowledge of finance and that my deficiencies

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on this subject were a principal reason for declining the office. I have since had reason to be still more convinced of my incompetency because the plans which I did suggest have not met with approbation. I hope therefore that some other abler mind will point the means to save our Country from ruin.

I do assure you Sir, that it is extremely painful to me to be obliged to address Congress on this subject. I wish most sincerely that I could look at our future prospects with the same indifference that others have brought themselves to. Perhaps I am not sufficiently sanguine. It is common for age to listen more to the voice of experience than Youth is inclined to. The voice of experience foretold these evils long since. There was a time when we might have obviated them but I fear that precious moment is passed.

Before I conclude this Letter I must observe on the misconstructions which men totally ignorant of our affairs have put on that conduct which severe necessity compelled me to pursue. Such men affecting an intimate knowledge of things have charged the destruction of the Public Credit to me & Interpreted the terms of my resignation into refiections upon Congress. I hope Sir, that so long as I have the honor to serve the United States I shall feel a proper contempt for all such Scurrility. I shall confidently repose myself in the candor of Congress. It is theirs to judge of my conduct in full & intimate knowledge. Writers of a newspaper may indeed thro’ the medium of a misrepresentation pervert the public opinion but the Official Conduct of your Servants is not amenable to that tribunal. I hope however to be excused for observing that on the day in which I was publicly charged with ruining your credit those dispatches arrived from Europe which tell you it was already at an end. The circumstances which I alluded to in my Letter of resignatlon were not yet known in Europe. It was not known that Rhode Island had unanimously refused to pass the Impost Law & that Virginia had repealed it. The very delays which the measures of Congress had met with were sufficient to sap the foundations of their credit. And we now know that they have had that effect. When those circumstances therefore shall be known it must be overturned. I saw this clearly & I knew that until some plain & rational system should be adopted & acceded to, the business of this Office would be a business of expedient & chicane. I

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have neither the Talents nor the disposition to engage in such business & therefore I prayed to be dismissed. I beg pardon Sir, for this slight digression. I shall trespass no longer on your patience than to assure you of the veneration and respect, with which

I have the honor to be,