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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From William Baylies
Baylies, William RTP
Sir, Dighton March 6th. 1777

I receiv’d your Letter of the third Instant; which, as expressive of your good Opinion and Friendship towards me, afforded me the greatest 356Pleasure. Your good Opinion I shall always value myself the more for; and a Perswasion that you are my Friend is at this Time peculiarly necessary as a Preservative from those uneasy Feelings, which are apt to arise from a View of Human nature as much deprav’d.

My Sentiments respecting the Regulating Act still remain the same; ’tho, I can’t say, I retain them with that Firmness as I did before I became acquainted with yours. I Shall be always diffident of myself when I differ from you. The Reasons which induced me to express myself as I did in the Saturday’s Conversation, I shall, without Reserve, lay before you: They may perhaps appear to you very weak ones; but I shall not hesitate to hazard even those, when they are to be examined, solely, by a candid Friend.

Many Arguments may be drawn from the nature of the Thing, as well as from our peculiar Circumstances, that the Regulating Act will not have its proper Effect. It is an old Observation, That the Scarcity of any Article enhances its Value, and its Plenty diminishes it: Whenever there is a Plenty of Money, the Commodities, altho’ remaining the same as to Quantity, cannot be procured but at a greater Price: But when the Disproportion between the Quantity of Money and Commodities becomes extremely great by a sudden Augmentation of the former and a great Scarcity of the latter, the Price of the Commodity will increase to an amazing Degree; in short, it will be, at least, as the Disproportion. Whatever Law counteracts this natural Tendency will be found very difficult to be carried into Execution; especially when it can be so easily evaded. Any person, who chooses to evade the Law, may by means of Privacy, Commissions, Gifts, and other Arts, steer clear of the Penalty, and that most People will have a Disposition thus to do I make not the least Doubt. It is true we may desire a fixed Price for what we want to purchase, but not for what we have to sell. The Person in Debt will care not to what Height the Prices of Goods increase as by that Means he will more easily clear himself; the Farmer who lives mostly within himself, or sells much more than he purchases will be against any Limitation, at least not trouble himself about it; and the Merchant will not comply. We have already seen the little Attention paid to this Act. At Boston it is not regarded. At Bedford the Tavern-Keepers are cutting down their Signs, and every Thing sold at a most exorbitant Price. Rum is sold at Providence at 12/ per Gallon by the Hogshead. Others who have a Disposition to comply, or are afraid to do otherwise, from observing these Transactions, choose not to part with any Article least it should injure their own Interest: and by this Means an artificial 357Scarcity with Respect to some Articles has taken Place. It is also probable when there is a real Scarcity of any Commodity it will be render’d still greater by having an established Price. The person who possesses it can use it, and ’tis possible he can do without it; a great Price would get it out of his Hands, but an established one will not. In Order that this Act should take Effect, it is requisite that there should be great Virtue in the People; or great Strength in Government to enforce Submission: But Virtue is wanting; Government is weak; and Submission—is among the Virtues. It may be further observed, That an Embargo on our Goods is necessary connected with the Regulating Act; This will make our Southern Friends very uneasy; they are already clamorous against it. And likewise the fixing a Price to any Manufacture the Materials whereof are imported into the State will operate as a Prohibition to such Manufactory. These Reasons induced a Doubt, and still make me hesitate, whether the Act will be carried into Execution. Neither can I yet perswade myself, That the Execution of this Act is the Conditio sine qua non of a successful Opposition to the hostile Efforts of Great-Britain. Those People who are to compose our Armies are, at this Day, fully apprized of their own Importance. They know we must have them; and from the same Spirit which actuates the Trader and other Monopolizers, they are resolved their Service shall be purchased at as high a Rate as possible. Altho’ they may assign the high Prices of Goods as a Reason for their Backwardness to enter into the Army, yet I much doubt whether a Certainty of their having Things at a reasonable Rate would much accelerate their engaging. The Cry is, you that have Estates shall pay us well for defending them. These Observations might be confirmed by descending minutely into the Characters of those who are likely to commence Soldiers; I mean the Privates. Such a Survey, had I Time to take it, would lead to many decisive Truths respecting this matter. They know that if we are successful our paper Currency will be good; that is, answer all the purposes of money. They know that any Article which is very plenty, or not in great Demand, may be got at a cheap Rate; and if the Price is exorbitant they can do without it. I dare say, That after they have tried their Utmost to bleed the Rich as they call it, the only Question will be whether they can get more by Going than Staying; and this Question will not be asked by more than a Third. After all if high Prices are the only Objection to their entering into the Service, this may be easily obviated by a gradual Increase of their Wages proportional to the Rise of other Things.


A Depreciating Currency is undoubtedly to be dreaded: But I never could assure myself that this was absolutely the Case. We cannot measure a Depreciation by any other Standard than that of Silver: And if any thing like this has taken Place it must be in Consequence of an apprehended Failure in our present Endeavors to support American Liberty. If we fall, it is probable Paper Currency will fall with us; and this perhaps has induced some to prefer Silver to Paper. But in proportion as we are successful this Cause, this only Cause of a Depreciation, will cease of Course. ’Tis true when our Ports are open, another Cause may occur, owing to foreign Trade; but when that happens a Remedy may be applied.

However, notwithstanding all I have said, I am a warm Advocate for the Establishment of Prices. Their sudden Fluctuation brings on Fears respecting Property, and many other attendant Evils; its Good is evident. I am by Constitution capable of no greater Happiness than what arises from viewing it in others; and as I am convinced that a universal Conformity to this Act will contribute to the Publick Happiness, I shall, whatever my Opinion may be concerning its Fate, exert myself to the utmost in Support of it. But if all our Endeavors fail I shall still think the Common Cause is by no means to be given up; & go on, in the small Sphere I have prescribed myself, to defend it with the same Firmness, Hope, & Resolution as ever.

I am with great Respect Your Hb. Sert. William Baylies

RC ; addressed: “To The Honble. Robert T. Paine Esqr. of Taunton”; endorsed.