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Report by Abishai Thomas concerning the settlement of public accounts
Thomas, Abishai
November 22, 1791
Volume 22, Pages 803-811

REPORT OF A. THOMAS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina:—

The agent of said State for settling the accounts thereof with the United States, respectfully represents—

That from the present face of the business to him committed, it is impracticable to report particularly the situation in which it stands. The re-statement of the accounts has been some time completed, and they are deposited with the Board of Commissioners, who have them now under examination. To explain ambiguities, obviate objections where they accur, to arrange, state, and produce such documents as he has collected, to make arrangements for collecting such as are wanting to establish the claims which want such support, are the objects to which the agent has now to attend; and although he cannot enter into the detail of the minutia of this complicated business, yet some things have occurred which he considers as proper and necessary to be laid before the General Assembly, as well for their information as for their countenance and support in some of the objects he has in view, if the steps he has taken shall be approved. The first article which presents itself under this head has arisen out of the debits on the books of the treasury against the State for monies, etc., advanced. Having learned that the Commissioners did not call for the original vouchers in support of such debits, but that they considered the accounts certified by the proper officers of the treasury department as sufficient to establish them, the agent conceived it his

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duty to advert to the treasury books, and to the original vouchers, before he admitted such charges as proper against the State. He has therefore transcribed the debits from the original entries; in doing which he has found several charges which he deems irregular, improper and inadmissible, and others which from the plenary power vested in the Commissioners, he has submitted to them whether they ought not to be remitted. Copy of his objections, etc., as presented to the Commissioners are herewith per paper marked A.

Second. On the settlement of the accounts of Major Robert Fenner, as agent of the late North Carolina line, it appeared that he had on hand $6,172 final settlement certificates, $3,172 of which had been issued for the commutation of the late Colonel Giden Lamb, and $3,000 for the commutation of the late Lieutenant-Colonel William Davidson, in lieu of which the representatives of those officers had respectively received from the State of North Carolina seven year half-pay. The agent conceiving, therefore, that the property in the certificates was virtually ceded to the State, demanded them; first, verbally of Major Fenner, who would not surrender them, because the agent could not give him a voucher which would be valid in passing his accounts. The agent them demanded them officially, and in writing, of the treasury department, with like effect, as will appear by the correspondence on that subject, per papers herewith marked B.

Three considerations presented themselves to the agent to induce him to this step; the first is already adduced, the second is that the certificates would be of more value to the State than a credit for the monies paid would be in the settlement of our old accounts, even if such credit could be obtained; and, thirdly, that there was not the smallest probability such credit could be obtained, because the United States, having already issue their certificates in full payment of what the parties were entitled to, would not give a credit to the State for paying what they were not entitled to. This interference of the agent, he is induced to believe, will operate to prevent the certificates being delivered to the original claimants until the pleasure of the General Assembly shall be known; he therefore takes the liberty very respectfully to solicit that whether the Legislature shall take order for obtaining assignments whereby the State may be put in possession of the certificates, or agree to surrender them to the representatives of the deceased, they repaying to the treasury the sums drawn for account of half pay, as aforesaid. He may, as early as

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convenient, be furnished with the proceeding, in order that he may withdraw his demand, or continue it, as the case may be. An account of the payments made by the State, agreeably to the respective dates, is herewith marked C, which will enable the General Assembly to ascertain the precise sums to be reclaimed of the parties, if that mode should be adopted.

Along with the foregoing, another case occurred, which required the interference of the agent. Major Fenner, in the execution of the business of his department, had drawn three hundred pounds from the State, on account.This money was charged to the United States, and the agent observed to Major Fenner that this would operate as a set-off against so much of his claim. He replied that he did not purpose to bring this into view; that if the United States would give him a certificate for his whole demand, he would refund to the State the money drawn from its treasury. A question here presented itself to the agent, whether it would be most for the interest of the State to obtain a credit among her old accounts with the United States, or to receive the money into her treasury. The latter prevailed, the claim was withdrawn and the resolution of the General Assembly on which it was founded is herewith marked D. Major Fenner is therefore reported as indebted to the State of North Carolina in that amount, with interest from the 1st January, 1787.

3. The next thing which presents iself as necessary to be laid before the General Assembly is the correspondence of the agent with the treasury department relative to a certificate or receipt of James Green, Jr., Treasurer, of loans which were subscribed on the part of the State to be funded. Copies of the letters of the agent, Secretary and Comptroller of the Treasury are herewith marked E, and will give you a concise history of the business. The letter F, although written immediately on receipt of the Secretary’s answer, was not transmitted; the agent, on reconsidering the matter, thought it advisable to withhold it until proper means were employed to ascertain whether the certificates in question might not yet remain uncancelled among the documents of the deceased Mr. Green, or, if cancelled, the documents might have been preserved, which would ascertain the fact—or, if the State had again reclaimed and got possession of the certificates deposited, according to the right reserved, something might there be found to establish that position. The papers transmitted to the treasury department by the representative of Mr. Green for the settlement of his accounts as loan officer have been resorted

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to. Nothing appears in them to throw any light on the transaction, and if document cannot be procured by the interference of the Legislature to place it in a proper point of view, the agent is not without serious apprehensions that this sum will be lost to the State. The idea suggested by the Comptroller of the Treasury of submitting it to the decision of the Commissioners among our old claims, is incompatible with the opinion of the agent, whilst any other hope remains, and the honorable the General Assembly may be assured that nothing within his power shall be wanting to establish it on the ground he now holds.

4. On the subject of the payments of arrearages to widows and orphans of deceased officers of the late North Carolina line for account of the seven years’ half pay granted by Congress, the agent has found it indispensable to interfere and he considers it his duty to submit a statement of his proceedings to the General Assembly. By act of Congress of 23rd March, 1792, claims of that description, which had been barred by the limitations of former acts of Congress, were admitted to be brought forward and settled within the term of two years. And the agent having seen a copy of a return from the war office to the treasury department, on which such settlements were to be founded in respect to the claimants of the line of North Carolina and finding said return to be very erroneous as well with regard to the payments made by the State as to the balances due; he opened a correspondence with the Comptroller of the Treasury. This produced the end contemplated, which was to arrest the progress of all settlements and payments under that head, until it could be ascertained with precision the actual disbursements by the State for the same. Copies of the correspondence, the abstract furnished by the agent, and that furnished by the war office, are herewith, marked G1, G2, G3, G4, G5, G6. An abstract similar to that furnished the Comptroller was also furnished the Secretary of War (which brought on an explanation as to the ground on which the Secretary made out his report), and here it may be proper, perhaps necessary, to explain to the General Assembly the motives which induced the agent to interfere in the business, because it may be alleged that such interference precludes individuals from obtaining their just rights, the debt of honor and the debt of gratitude;than which, nothing could be further from his intention. But as the report of the Secretary of War was founded on an official return from the proper officer in the State of North Carolina, a question presented itself whether the

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State would not lose all the payments she had made which were not included in that return, provided the United States should pay the same conformably thereto. In justice to the late Comptroller of the State, the agent begs leave to observe that his return to the war office bears date prior to many of the payments made, and that the Secretary of War conceiving the operations of the Federal government would supercede the necessity of individual States making further advances on that head, did not require a subsequent return, or consider such necessary. The propriety of the interference of the agent, he trusts, will be fully evinced to the Legislature, and the individuals whose claims are suspended in consequence, he hopes, will also admit the position that he has only complied with the strict line of his duty.

5. A general abstract or statement of the claims of the State against the Union having been presented to the General Assembly on the last year, the agent does not conceive it necessary to send a duplicate, as no new claims could be exhibited since the 1st of July, 1791. The general face of that abstract has not been altered, and it is not necessary it should be, until the end of the examination of our claims by the Commissioners, when the notes of errors and omissions will be collected, and the alterations necessary properly ascertained, and a new abstract must be made out, which he considers will differ materially from the original, because many of the charges contained therein were suppositions as to the amount, proofs to support part of which have since been adduced, and others remain still unsupported. For instance, the claim for bounties paid by individuals and classes, to men raised for the Continental army, under which head the agents had charged for the full number of men contemplated to be raised by the acts of Assembly passed for that purpose. Many documents have come forward, but they are so dissimilar and incompetent to the object that the agent has it in contemplation to change his ground, and insist that the Commissioners ought to expunge every claim of every State on this head. This he conceives would be doing equal justice and perhaps operate more in favor of the State he has the honor to represent than by admitting them; for when it is considered that neither the State of North Carolina nor the citizens thereof did contemplate that such disbursements could ever be brought as a charge against the Union, vouchers were not preserved, or even taken, in most instances; consequently at this period it is impracticable to collect the whole, or even perhaps one

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moiety of the whole. However, in this we must be governed by circumstances. Enough is produced to evince that the citizens of North Carolina have been indirectly taxed for this account perhaps equal to the citiezns of other States, who have been so careful as to preserve vouchers. It is therefore his opinion that if charges of this nature are admitted by the Commissioners a liberal allowance for the deficit of vouchers on the part of North Carolina must and will be made; the power of the Commissioners is ample to the purpose and the agent will not fail to urge it. For the information of the General Assembly, an abstract statement of the amount of all the vouchers received from the State is herewith, marked H, by which it may be perceived that most of the counties, perhaps all, are deficient in part, and some of them in the whole, and when it is considered that the attempts of the Legislature and of the Executive for two successive years have produced only what we see, it is hardly probable that any exertions which can now be made will command the residue within the period limited for closing the accounts. Nevertheless, he would not wish to be understood to advance an opinion that further exertions are unnecessary; directly the reverse is the fact, and with due deference to the Honorable the General Assembly he begs leave to suggest that all practicable means to stimulate the delinquents to send forward their documents ought to be adopted. They may do good; they cannot do harm.

6. Among the communications heretofore made to the General Assembly it was mentioned that a probability existed that a re-statement of the State’s claims for specifics furnished on requisitions of Congress must be made, and that a proposition had been made to the Commissioners by the agent to evade the necessity of such re-statement by taking a mean date or dates for the computation of interest. Copy of the letter of the agents to the Commissioners on that subject, with the Commissioners’ answer, were of the communications adverted to, since which an attempt has been hazarded by the agent to effect a commutation on the principles suggested in the said letter of the agents. Copy of his letter to the Commissioners, an abstract statement of the amount of our claims for specifics, with the computation of interest annexed on the principles contained in said letter are herewith transmitted, marked I, for the information, and he hopes, the approbation of the Legislature. The Commissioners have not been decisive on the proposition, but the agent has reason to conclude that upon the examination of the documents the reasonableness

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of it will appear and the general principles thereof be accepted.

7. On the subject of the tobacco contract between the State of North Carolina and Constable, Rucker & Co., and with Royal Flint, the accompanying papers, marked K, will show the situation in which the accounts stand, and the credits which exist to the State thereon. With respect to the first, on investigation, the agent found that the State was short-credited, of which he gave information to his Excellency Governor Martin, by whose orders the original vouchers were immediately forwarded, which at once established the fact, and saves to the State $8,400, the credit as it originally stood being for $28,486.78-90 only. The other account, the agent conceives, may be right, as it corresponds exactly with the documents forwarded him by the Comptroller; however, he takes the liberty to suggest that it is proper a further search among the documents of the Comptroller’s office should be made, because there is a possibility, notwithstanding the said correspondency, that all may not be right, for among the papers in the hands of the agent is the message of the Governor to the General Assembly at Fayetteville, November, 1789, which states that exclusive of the tobacco which had been delivered to the agent of Royal Flint, there were on hand at Fayetteville “between one hundred and forty and one hundred and fifty hogsheads which Mr. Flint is bound to receive at Wilmington, as soon as it can be sent down and re-inspected.”After which the delivery to Mr. Flint appears to be only 56,000 weight by the account, and by a receipt from the agent of Mr. Flint, bearing date the 15th April, 1790. Besides, the receipts for the deliveries by Mr. Haywood to amount of 283,584 weight, and Mr. Philips to amount of 332,783 pounds, have never come to hand, and it is necessary they should be found and forwarded, for, notwithstanding the State has received a credit for these deliveries, yet, as Mr. Flint appears to be debtor to the United States for a large portion of his purchase, a prosecution may ensue, in which it may become indispensable that the State or the United States prove all the deliveries.

8. The credit existing for the tobacco sold to Mr. William Littlejohn appears proper, and the voucher for the delivery is in the agent’s possession.

9. Along with the other credits on the treasury books is one for four hundred thousand dollars, under date the 14th December, 1779. This is in virtue of a warrant of the President of Congress,

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drawn on the Governor of the State, in favor of Shaloner & White, agents of Jeremiah Wadsworth, Commissary-General of Purchases. The agent has not received the Warrant drawn by the President, the Governor’s warrant or warrants on the treasury in discharge thereof, or any proof of payment whatever, and it is absolutely necessary he should be furnished with such proof; otherwise, when the Commissioners come to the examination of this part of the business, he is apprehensive the want of it will operate to the loss of the State to that amount. He knowsthe proof will be required, and he truststhe General Assembly will direct the proper steps to be taken to procure it.

10. There is a charge on the books of the treasury against the State to the amount of $30,000, which is not adverted to in the paper herewith, marked A, because it has not been officially objected to, and because it remains in suspense until the agent receives the best possible information on the subject from the State, whether he shall object to it. This charge is founded on a warrant drawn by the President of Congress on James Green, Jr., commissioner of the Continental loan office in North Carolina under date of the 18th March, 1778. It appears that the State was debited and Mr. Green credited on the instant of the warrant being drawn; whether it was ever paid remains to be investigated. The voucher is not produced, but it is charged in the accounts of Mr. Green against the United States, and from this circumstance the agent is of opinion it was paid; however, the charge in that account does not appear to be in the hand-writing of the deceased Mr. Green, and as the accounts of his transactions as loan officer have been rendered since his demise, it is probable that among the documents in the hands of his representatives something may be found to establish the fact, or to elucidate the transaction so as to enable the agent to take proper ground for objecting to or omitting the charge.

11. The vouchers and documents of the proceedings of the Commissioners for revising and correcting the Warrenton settlements are wanting.It appears that it will be on this revision of the claims and this only, the State will receive any credit for that account. The Commissioners have said that, as the State disclaimed and rendered void all the settlements made at Warrenton, she had no right to expect any allowance by the United States for that account. It was urged by the agent that, as the State had opend an office where all just claimants might obtain their demands on the same principle

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as obtained at the settlements at Halifax, so the Commissioners ought to examine and decide on the Warrenton settlements by the same rule; to which it was replied that when the agent shewed what the State admitted on the revision of those accounts, then, and not until then, should they be able to decide of the propriety of the State’s claim; and, in short, that they considered the Warrenton settlements as amounting to nothing, and put a stop to the examination of them, which had been made some progress in.With respect to settlements which may have been made by the Commissioners at Hillsborough on new claims, by which it meant such as had not been previously settled at Halifax or Warrenton, the agent is of opinion that they ought also to be sent forward, for, notwithstanding the individual State are precluded by the act for settling the accounts of the Union from exhibiting any additional claims after the 1st day of July, 1791, yet as Congress opened the door for settling such claims, as well as the State, and as all the settlements made by the State will preclude the respective claimants from receiving again their demands of the United States, it is but just and equitable that the State should be reimbursed, in one way or another. Therefore, if he should fail to succeed with the Commissioners, he should, with the approbation of the Legislature, appeal directly to Congress for an order to the treasury department to settle these claims for the State as assignee of the individual.

All which is respectfully submitted by the Honorable the General Assembly’s most obedient and very humble servant,

A THOMAS.

Philadelphia, 22nd November, 1791.