Letter from Benjamin Hawkins and William Blount to Richard Caswell
Hawkins, Benjamin, 1754-1816; Blount, William, 1749-1800
Volume 20, Pages 644-646
CONTRACT AND COMMUNICATION RESPECTING PUBLIC TOBACCO.
(From Executive Letter Book.)
New York, the 19th March, 1787.
Immediately on the receipt of your Excellency’s favour of the 12th January, with the Extract of an Act for the disposal of the public Tobacco, Col. Blount turned his attention to that Important object but could not make any progress; and on the arrival of Mr. Hawkins we agreed to apply to the Board of Treasury for their advise and assistance and accordingly wrote them the Letter marked I, with the extract, at the same time Called on the Board and gave such an Explanation as would remove as far as practicable any Objections against the infœderal aspect of the Act “The United States in Congress Assembled having the Authority to ascertain the necessary sums of Money to be raised for the service of the United States and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public Expences.” The Board seemed much disposed to co-operate with us, and took upon them the part Assigned in our first quere. To their letter marked 2 we could give no other information than such as is detailed in the enclosed, which follow in order that letter.
We soon discovered that to sell the Tobacco & at a higher price was practicable, provided we would do it on Credit and at the risque of not being paid, or if paid, in paper money in our own State or
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some other State at par with the Specie Contract. The variety of Bankrupts in the large Commercial Cities has given such a shock to private faith, that Bills of exchange are deemed very uncertain remittance. The Act did not authorize us to Ship the Tobacco, or we should most assuredly have sent it to the Farmers General of France, having it previously insured in Europe, and under the Care of Mr. Jefferson our Minister pleni-potentiary at Paris. This mode it is generally agreed here, would have produced the most, and next to it the one we have adopted. This letter will produce us a Credit at twenty-six and eight pounds per hundred, on the receipt of the receipts of the Tobacco at the Treasury, and it will, more over, be paid according to the intentions of our Legislature in discharge of so much of the Interest which will be due on the Dutch Loans on on the 1st of June next. This payment from our State is at a very critical period, as while we pay our Interest on the Dutch Loans our Credit will be high in the United Netherlands, and the finances of the United States are utterly inadequate thereto without this aid from us. The Minister of the United Netherlands has been sufficiently impressed with the upright views and friendly intentions of North Carolina in this business, and assures us he will in return render us any Civilities in his power, particularly in endeavouring to establish an Extensive Commercial connection between the two Countries. We have assured Constable, Rucker & Co., that orders would be immediately given by your Excellency to the several Commissioners to have the Tobacco re-inspected, &c., according to the forms of the Agreement; and we have further to add that the Tobacco at Wilmington will be the first called for, a Ship now in Port here being ready to sail for that purpose; as the Credit is to be given on the receipt we request that duplicates May be taken and sent forward from time to time as the Tobacco is delivered. This much as to the transaction and now to our own feelings: we did deem it proper to wait for a short period the arrival of Colo. Ashe, because in all money Matters we well know that republics were invariable jealous, and not being able to trust themselves, would with extreme difficulty be brought to give that credit which should be paid to their faithful Servants, more especially when absent. The affair was urgent and payment of interest must be made at a given period, that period nearest at hand, the Resources of the U. States inadequate
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thereto, our National Credit at Stake, and all Bills of Exchange or credit transactions very dubious what was the best to be done; we trust your Excellency will say, and after you our constituents, that which our Delegates have done.
We have the honor to be, with great and sincere esteem,
Dear Sir, Your Excellency’s most Obedt. and humble Servts.,