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Letter from Charles Thomson to Richard Caswell
Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824
August 24, 1785
Volume 17, Pages 512-514

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[From Executive Letter Book.]

Office of Secretary of Congress,
August 24th, 1785.


I beg leave to remind your Excellency, that all the calls, which Congress have heretofore made on the States for money or supplies have been on this express condition, that the Sums or supplies assessed, should not be considered as the proportion of any State, but that being paid or furnished, they should be placed to their respective credits, bearing an interest of six per cent. per annum, until the quotas should be finally ascertained and adjusted by the Congress of the United States, agreeably to the Eighth of the Articles of Confederation, and if then it should appear, that any State had been assessed more than its just quota, it should continue to receive interest on the surplus, and if less, it should be charged interest on the deficiency, until by a future tax, such deficiency shall be properly adjusted.

From the progress that is made in settling the accounts, between the United States and Individual States, and private creditors within the same, and the measures taken to hasten and facilitate the progress of such settlement, there is reason to hope that this great work will soon be completed, and as almost every State seems to think its advances have exceeded its just proportion, it is therefore become necessary, and essential to the harmony of the Union that Congress should be furnished with the means of settling the proportion to be borne by each State as well of the general expenses of the war, and the requisitions made since the conclusion thereof, as the sums, which may from time to time be requisite for the common defence and general welfare. To this end I beg leave to call your attention to sundry acts of Congress, on this subject, which you will find enclosed, viz: one passed 20th Feby., 1782, which is founded on this consideration. That the States having been variously affected by the war, the rule of the Confederation strictly adhered to, might not produce that equal justice, which is desirable in this

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important object. One of the 17th Feby., 1783, which calls for a return of the quantity of Land in each State, granted to or surveyed for any person, the number of buildings thereon, distinguishing dwelling houses from other buildings, and the number of Inhabitants, distinguishing Black from White, and one of the 18th April, 1783, recommending an alteration of the Eighth of the Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and the adoption of a new rule of ascertaining the quotas of the States. This is comprehended in the Act, and is a part of the plan at that time recommended to the States for restoring and supporting public credit, for obtaining permanent and adequate funds to discharge the interest and principal of the debt contracted, and for providing for the future exigencies of the Union. The necessity of a rule to proportion the common expense, and the difficulties, delays and expence in the way of obtaining that pointed out, by the confederation, induced Congress to recommend this change, and rather as the number of inhabitants, at least of the white Inhabitants, is required for other purposes, of the Confederation. Besides it was conceived, that this rule would do more justice, and produce less discontents among the States, and, although not altogether free from objections, that it was liable to fewer than any other that could be devised; and that therefore the application of it to ascertain the quotas of the State would supercede the necessity, and save the expence and trouble of making a valuation of the Lands with the buildings and improvements thereon.

The favorable reception this recommendation has met with induces a belief, that this alteration will be finally adopted. By examining the files in this Office, I find that eight states have agreed to it, namely, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. And it is suggested, that other States have adopted it, although the returns are not lodged in this office, but if all the states had agreed to adopt it, still it would be necessary for them to proceed a step further, and to make returns of their respective numbers, before Congress can apply the rule. I must therefore request, that your Excellency would be pleased to bring this subject again under the views of the Legislature of your State, and earnestly recommend to them, as they have authorized their Delegates to subscribe and ratify

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the alteration recommended, to take speedy and effectual measures for numbering the Inhabitants, and make a return thereof to Congress.

With respect to the other part of the plan contained in the immediate object of this Letter, I shall only refer to the act, of the 18th of April, as it is not the address which accompanied it, and which you will find enclosed. And beg leave to add this single observation, that every day's delay increases the embarrassments of the Union, and experience evinces how well Congress were founded in the opinion they gave on the 12th of Feby., 1783.

“That the establishment of permanent and adequate funds on taxes or duties which shall operate generally and on the whole in just proportion throughout the United States, are indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice to the public creditors, and for restoring public credit.”

I will not at present detain you further than to request that your Excellency will be pleased to favor me with an answer, that I may be enabled to make report and discharge the duty required by the enclosed ordinance for regulating the office of the Secretary of Congress.

With the greatest respect, I have the honor to be your
Excellency's mo. ob. and humb, servt.,