Letter from John Penn, Whitmel Hill, and Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell
Penn, John, 1740 or 1-1788; Hill, Whitmel, 1743-1797; Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
Volume 22, Pages 987-989
PENN, HILL AND BURKE TO GOV. CASWELL.
Philadelphia, December 22nd, 1778.
We have been applied to to procure some necessary warm clothing for Colonel Hogan’s regiment, who are very deficient in that article, so necessary in a country cold and every way inclement
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in which they are to winter. We have applied to Congress for the articles, submitting that they should be charged to the State, if on future inquiry it shall be deemed just. On these terms we can be supplied with shoes and stockings, but not with blankets, and Colonel Hogan is to be accountable to the State for them. We deemed it incumbent on us to use every means to prevent the distress of our countrymen, who are here in obedience to the State, and in the public service, more especially as the time of their service puts them out of the common line, and leaves them without the ordinary provisions made for the Continental troops. We are told they are to be quartered in this city, in which case we purpose to engage as many of them as we can to enlist in the battalion for the war, or one year at least after their present term shall expire. This matter can go no farther than proposals through their officers, and learning the terms on which they can be procured, until we receive particular powers and instructions from the State. We wish, therefore, to have their sense as soon as possible.
We are sorry to inform you that Congress is about to take measures relative to our paper currency, which, we think, our duty obliges to oppose. ’Tis proposed by authority of Congress to call in two emissions, viz., amounting to forty-one millions of dollars, and to declare them irredeemable after the first of June next; also to exchange them for loan certificates or new bills, at the election of the owners. We urged against it that Congress could not, by their own authority, decry the currency of money which our laws have made a legal tender, because it implies a power to repeal or suspend our laws. That it was impolitic to throw any difficulties in the way of the currency, because people would become very suspicious of its quality and credit, and if they took it at all it must be at a value depreciated in proportion to the risk; that it was not in the power of Congress to declare money irredeemable for which the public faith had once been pledged, for it implied a power to destroy the people’s security in that part of their property at will, and even if they had the power, it is indiscreet to use it, because if the people ever considered it as subject to acts of arbitrary power they would consider the public credit as too precarious a security, and of course the whole currency must be very considerably affected. We also urged that the time would not admit of sufficient notice being given to people in States so extensive and remote as ours. But the objection of highest moment is that by borrowing when money is so highly depreciated as at
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present, to be paid hereafter when the war is over will be to charge our constituents with a debt which will take ten parts of future industry to pay for one part of the present, for loan certificates cannot be called in by taxes, but must be paid off by appreciated money, of which every one knows it will take a much greater quantity of industry to procure a given sum than when it is depreciated. We look on borrowing in this way to be ruinous, and realizing the debts as to make it equal to gold and silver, though in any use we can make of it, it has not above a tenth part of their value. We conceive it very urgent to subject the States, who have not acquired abundance of the money, to so unequal a charge to those who have, or to make the money pay a debt at so great a disadvantage to the few in whose hands may be accumulated and who in many cases have acquired it by extortion. We must lament that our opposition is likely to prove ineffectual, for the interest of the monied States is too powerful for our endeavors. We deem it, however, not improper to advise you, and through you the Assembly, a matter in which the property of our country is so deeply interested. Their wisdom may possibly fall on measures to avert the worst of the consequences. We have the honor to be, sir,
Your very obedient servants,
P. S. Fifteen millions are voted to be raised by a tax.