COLLECTION GUIDES

United States Revolutionary War Debt Certificates

FIND Keywords

1779-1821

Guide to the Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

Revolutionary War debt certificates issued by the Continental Congress and the U.S. Treasury Department to fund interest payments on foreign debts.

Historical Sketch

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, one of the initial issues facing the second Continental Congress was how to gather the funds necessary to prosecute the war. In addition to printing bills of credit and indents, Congress looked to domestic and foreign loans to keep the federal government in business. Prior to 1778, France had secretly advanced 2 million Livres Tournois to Congress to be used for paying the interest due on Loan-Office certificates by means of bills of exchange drawn on the American credit in France. Since these bills featured an exchange rate lower than the going commercial rate, a 30-day waiting period “from sight” of the bill for payment, and a discount of up to 33% if the creditor chose to sell his bill instead, there was little inducement to subscribe to the loan. By March 1778, only 7 million Spanish Dollars in loan office certificates had been sold to public creditors. Congress also tried unsuccessfully to raise funds by selling bills of exchange on American funds in Europe through agents in Spain and Amsterdam. Once her alliance with the United States became public, France continued to lend generously. Most of these loans were used to pay the interest on our domestic debt, but Congress would sometimes draw on her European funds to pay foreign debts and raise specie for domestic use by selling bills of exchange to merchants, bankers, and Americans willing to risk investing in them on patriotic grounds.

Collection Description

This collection primarily consists of Bills of Exchange issued by the Continental Loan Office and United States Treasury between 1779 and 1782. The collection also contains a sight draft signed by Robert Morris (known as a “Short Bob”) and United States Loan Office certificates issued between 1790 and 1821. Included are debt certificates issued to Abigail Adams, Jonathan Trumbull, and Benjamin Lincoln,

William G. Anderson assigned each note a reference number when he assembled his catalog of Revolutionary debt certificates.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $12/60 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 1US 94 type 5A
Three Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1267 H, OQ, & KL, issued to Moses Little on 5 May 1780.
Box 1Folder 2US 94 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 2838 KL, issued to Herman Brimmer on 22 November 1780.
Box 1Folder 3US 94 type 8B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 2381 KL, issued to Catharine and Rachel [Dowse] on 10 September 1781.
Box 1Folder 3US 94 type 8B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 2511 KL, issued to [Killian] Van Renselear on 18 October 1781.

II. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $18/90 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 4US 95 type 1A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 5611 QS, LN, issued to Stephen Payne, Jr. on 6 August 1779.
Box 1Folder 5US 95 type 5B
Three Bills of Exchange, serial no. 506 K, QS, LN, issued to Abigail Adams on 2 January 1782
Box 1Folder 5US 95 type 5B
Three Bills of Exchange, serial no. 507 K, QS, LN, issued to Abigail Adams on 2 January 1782
Box 1Folder 6US 95 type 1C
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1010 QS, LN, issued to Jared Hinkley on 28 March 1782.
Box 1Folder 6US 95 type 1C
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 1010 QS, LN, issued to Jared Hinkley on 28 March 1782. Partially torn.

III. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $24/150 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 7US 96 type 1B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 24 SV, issued to John Foot on 24 September 1781.
Box 1Folder 7US 96 type 1B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 25 SV, issued to John Foot on 24 September 1781
Box 1Folder 7US 96 type 1B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 53 NP, issued to George Griffin on 6 October 1781
Box 1Folder 7US 96 type 1B
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 91 NP, SV, issued to Simeon Smith on 31 October 1781.
Box 1Folder 8US 96 type 1C
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 803 NP, issued to David Lyman on 9 April 1782.
Box 1Folder 9US 96 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 200 NP, issued to Josiah [Sandmon] on 30 March 1779.
Box 1Folder 9US 96 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 206 SV, issued to Joseph Cummings on 5 April 1779.
Box 1Folder 9US 96 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 214 NP, issued to James Lamb on 15 April 1779.
Box 1Folder 9US 96 type 5A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1217 NP, SV, issued to John White on 14 October 1779.
Box 1Folder 9US 96 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 1222 NP, issued to James Lamb on 18 October 1779.
Box 1Folder 9US 96 type 5A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1232 NP, SV, issued to John May on 22 October 1779.
Box 1Folder 10US 96 type 5B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 538 NP, issued to Marlin Brimmer on 20 December 1781.
Box 1Folder 10US 96 type 5B
Three Bills of Exchange, serial no. 582 K, QS, LN, issued to William Choate on 15 January 1782.
Box 1Folder 10US 96 type 5B
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 454 LN, QS, issued to Francis Bridge on 22 December 1781.

IV. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $30/150 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 11US 97 type 1A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 491 PR, issued to Elizur Hale on 18 January 1779.
Box 1Folder 11US 97 type 1A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 506 PR, issued to William Ellery on 8 February 1779.
Box 1Folder 11US 97 type 1A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 605 VX, PR, issued to Nathaniel Sherman on 29 April 1779.
Box 1Folder 11US 97 type 1A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 606 VX, PR, issued to Nathaniel Sherman on 29 April 1779.
Box 1Folder 11US 97 type 1A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 607 VX, PR, issued to Nathaniel Sherman on 29 April 1779.
Box 1Folder 11US 97 type 1A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 608 VX, PR, issued to Nathaniel Sherman on 29 April 1779.
Box 1Folder 12US 97 type 5A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 37 VX, PR, issued to George Thurston on 14 October 1778.
Box 1Folder 12US 97 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 82 PR, issued to Samuel Bowers on 17 November 1778.
Box 1Folder 12US 97 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 91 PR, issued to Henry Atkins on 3 December 1778.

V. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $36/180 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 13US 98 type 1A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 482 RT, issued to Daniel Hinsdale on 27 January 1779.
Box 1Folder 14US 98 type 1B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 714 RT, issued to John Morgan on 2 June 1781.
Box 1Folder 15US 98 type 1C
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 1522 XZ, issued to Stephen Gunn on 4 May 1782.
Box 1Folder 15US 98 type 1C
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 1524 RT, issued to John Gibbs on 15 May 1782.
Box 1Folder 16US 98 type 5A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1388 RT, XZ, issued to Thomas Mumford on 12 November 1779.
Box 1Folder 17US 98 type 5B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 1624 P, issued to Joshua Bracket on 29 April 1782.
Box 1Folder 18US 98 type 6A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 2925 RT, issued to Elias Hasket Derby on 12 June 1780.
Box 1Folder 19US 98 type 10B
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1028 RT, XZ, issued to Richard Gibbs on 4 June 1782.
Box 1Folder 20US 98 type 11B
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1456 RT, XZ, issued to Matthew Griswold on 4 January 1782.
Box 1Folder 20US 98 type 11B
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 1457 RT, XZ, issued to Matthew Griswold on 4 January 1782.

VI. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $60/300 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 21US 99 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 108 TW, issued to Isaac Foster on 19 January 1779.
Box 1Folder 22US 99 type 6A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 504 ZB, issued to George Atkinson on 21 August 1781.
Box 1Folder 23US 99 type 8B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 525 TW, issued to Jacob Van Schaick on 10 September 1781.

VII. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $120/600 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 24US 100 type 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 98 WY, issued to Henry Atkins on 3 December 1778.
Box 1Folder 25US 100 type 5B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 706 WY, issued to John Young on 19 December 1781.
Box 1Folder 25US 100 type 5B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 707 WY, issued to John Young on 19 December 1781.
Box 1Folder 26US 100 type 6B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 516 WY, issued to Elizabeth Sparhawk on 4 January 1782.

VIII. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $300/1500 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 27US 101 5B
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 300 YU, issued to Edward Phippet on 11 February 1782.

IX. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange "for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States" $600/3000 livres Tournois

Box 1Folder 28US 102 5A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 181 UM, issued to Elisha Doane on 27 March 1780.

X. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange, payable at Madrid $225

Box 1Folder 29US 105 10A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 412 N, A, issued to Joseph Carleton on 6 July 1780.
Box 1Folder 29US 105 10A
Two Bills of Exchange, serial no. 414 N, A, issued to Joseph Carleton on 6 July 1780.
Box 1Folder 30US 105 15A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 189 N, issued to Joseph Hurd on 3 July 1780.
Box 1Folder 30US 105 15A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 303 A, issued to John Appleton on 12 July 1780.
Box 1Folder 30US 105 15A
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 304 N, issued to John Appleton on 12 July 1780.

XI. Continental loan office Bills of Exchange, payable in Holland, $333 Mexican Dollars/550 Guilders

Box 1Folder 31US 107
One Bill of Exchange, serial no. 61 L, issued to Joseph Carleton on 6 July 1780.

XII. Sight draft, signed by Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, known as "Short Bobs" (rare note)

Box 1Folder 32US 109
One Sight draft, serial no. 16, issued to John Swanwick of Philadelphia for twenty dollars.

XIII. Quarter Master General Department certificate

Box 1Folder 33US 126
One certificate, serial no. 139, issued to Jonathan Gross for forty-five pounds in services rendered.

XIV. Federal indent, $1 and [ ] ninetieths of a dollar, authorized September 27, 1785.

Box 1Folder 34US 165
One federal indent, serial no. 2014, issued to J. Hardy.

XV. United States loan office certificate, 3% interest. Authorized 4 August 1790 to fund Alexander Hamilton's financial program, these were the first securities traded on the NYSE when it was founded in 1792.

Box 1Folder 35US 195
One loan office certificate, serial no. 80, issued to Timothy Dexter on 21 October 1790.

XVI. United States loan office certificates, 3% interest with addition of "M.XXVIII." and blind stamped "ASSUMED DEBT".

Box 1Folder 36US 196
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1180, issued to Jonathan Trumbull on 13 August 1792.
Box 1Folder 36US 196
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1724, issued to Benjamin Lincoln on 10 December 1793.

XVII. United States loan office certificates, 6% interest due on the assumed Debt, 4 August 1790.

Box 1Folder 37US 197
One loan office certificate, serial no. 941, issued to David Rolseter on 22 February 1791.
Box 1Folder 37US 197
One loan office certificate, serial no. 2745, issued to Increase Sumner on 28 April 1792.
Box 1Folder 37US 197
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1936, issued to Francis Dana on 16 January 1793.

XVIII. United States loan office certificates, 6% interest with "M.XXVIII." and blind stamped "ASSUMED DEBT".

Box 1Folder 38US 198
One loan office certificate, serial no. 164, issued to Mary Payne on 10 December 1791.
Box 1Folder 38US 198
One loan office certificate, serial no. 165, issued to Sarah Payne on 10 December 1791

XIX. United States loan office certificates, 6% deferred interest beginning 1 January 1801.

Box 1Folder 39US 199
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1063, issued to Chistopher Gore on 28 February 1791.
Box 1Folder 39US 199
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1385, issued to Alexander Hodgdon on 13 May 1791.
Box 1Folder 39US 199
One loan office certificate, serial no. 2869, issued to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on 13 May 1793.

XX. United States loan office certificates, 6% deferred interest beginning 1 January 1801. With "M.XV" and blind stamped "ASSUMED DEBT".

Box 1Folder 40US 200
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1183, issued to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on 8 August 1792.
Box 1Folder 40US 200
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1479, issued to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on 10 January 1793.
Box 1Folder 40US 200
One loan office certificate, serial no. 1561, issued to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on 13 May 1793.

XXI. United States loan office certificates, 6% deffered interest beginning 1 January 1801. No seal or Roman numerals. (listed as "unknown").

Box 1Folder 41US 203
One loan office certificate, serial no. 23, issued to Mary L. Buckminster on 3 October 1821.

Preferred Citation

United States Revolutionary War debt certificates, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Adams, Abigail--1744-1818.
Appleton, Nathaniel--1731-1798.
Clarke, Joseph--1719-1792.
Finlay, William.
Gilman, Nicholas--1731-1783.
Lawrence, John--1719-1802.
Morris, Robert--1734-1806.
Smith, Thomas.
Yates, Abraham--1724-1796.

Organizations:

United States. Continental Congress.
United States. Continental Loan Office.
United States. Board of Treasury.

Subjects:

Debts, Public--United States.
Finance, Public--United States--History--1789-1801
United States--History--Revolutioin, 1775-1783--Finance.