Daily Archives: September 11, 2007

Item of the Day: Address and Recommendations to the States (1783)

Full Title: Address and Recommendations to the States, by the United States in Congress assembled. Philadelphia: Printed, 1783; Boston: Re-printed, By Order of the Hon. House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1783.

AN ADDRESS, &c.

THE prospect which has for some time existed, and which is now happily realized, of a successful termination of the war, together with the critical exigencies of public affairs, have made it the duty of Congress to review and provide for the debts which the war has left upon the United States, and to look forward to the means of obviating dangers which may interrupt the harmony and tranquility of the confederacy. The result of their mature and solemn deliberations on these great objects is contained in their several recommendations of the 18th instant, herewith transmitted. Although these recommendations speak themselves the principles on which they are founded, as well as the ends which they propose. It will not be improper to enter into a few explanations and remarks, in order to place in a stronger view the necessity of complying with them.

The first measure recommended is, effectual provision for the debts of the United States. The amount of these debts, as far as they can now be ascertained, is 42,000,375 dollars, as will appear by the schedule No. I. To discharge the principal of this aggregate debt at once, or in any short period, is evidently not within the compass of our resources; and even if it could be accomplished, the ease of the community would require that the debt itself should be less to a course of gradual extinguishment, and certain funds be provided for paying in the mean time the annual interest. The amount of it commuted to be 2,415,956 dollars. Funds, therefore, which will certainly and punctually produce this annual sum, at least, must be provided.

In devising these funds, Congress did not overlook the mode of supplying the common treasury, provided by the articles of confederation but, after the most respectful consideration of that mode, they were constrained to regard it as inadequate and inapplicable to the form into which the public debt must be thrown. The delays and uncertainties incident to a revenue to be established and collected from time to time by thirteen independent authorities, is at first view irreconcilable with the punctuality essential to the discharge of the interest of a national debt. Our own experience, after making every allowance for transient impediments, has been a sufficient illustration of this truth. Some departure, therefore in the recommendations of Congress, from the federal constitution was unavoidable; but it will be found to be as small as could be reconciled with the object in view, and to be supported besides by solid considerations of interest and sound policy. . . .

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Filed under 1780's, Congress, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Public Debt