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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

Draft Address of the Massachusetts General Court to the People
Dec. 12–15, 1777

Voted That leave be given for the payment of this State’s Money in taxes, till the 15th. day of Jany.

Voted that 150,000 be taxed on the Inhabitants to be paid the 1st: of June next.

It is with Concern & attention that the house of Rep. find that an Act intitled &c. passed the last Sessions has given uneasiness to any of the good People of this State. A No. of Towns have presented their Petitions Stating such Greivances as they apprehend will arise from the Execution of that Act & pray relief: the Knowledge which the good People have of the dispositions of their Representatives must satisfye induce them to believe (what most of the Petitions express) that the Legislative Body in passing that Law & in any of these measures all their Conduct have it Sincerely in view to promote the Welfare of this State by the best those measures which upon full Advisement & Consideration of all Circumstances & Exigencies appear best adapted for that essential purpose & in persuance of that disposition the house of Rep. have proceeded to a subtantial Consideration of the important Substantial parts of the Petitions & to explain to their Constituents the Reasons upon which the said Act was established enacted. The represents facts so well known as to need no enlarged discription It is well known that the present cruel necessary & expensive War in which we are involved for the preservation of every valuable was first enkindled in this State & in so Sudden a manner that without resources or finances we were obliged instantly to 425raise pay & support a large Army by our own Efforts before the American Congress could take measures to relieve us, this Occasioned the emission of large & repeated quantities of money, the unsettled State of Government & the disinclination of many of the Inhabitants to call in any of the bills of Credit or prevent the emission of more by taxation reduced the Legislative body to this alternative either to see Goverment be dissolved suffer our Liberties to be distroyed for want of support & defence or else to continue the emissions of money till the depreciation of what was then current, the same Scituation of Goverment & disposition & for disinclination taxation took taking place also in the other States & occasioned large & repeated emissions of money; & from all this it is obvious that the American Congress being the collected Power & desire Will of all the united States could do no otherwise than repeat their Emissions of Continental Currency as the General Good of the whole required; expecting & desiring when the Goverments of the several States should be so established as that taxation should releive us from the great Evil of repeated emission of paper currency. in addition to all this It is also notorious that No: of our internal Enemies have Conterfeited large quantity of the paper Currency of this State & the neighbouring State, by means of all this the quantiy of circulating medium has long since encreased vastly beyond all pretensions of usefullness & manifestly to the enchancing the prices demand for all Comodities to an extravagant price. it is needless This alarming scituation of our Currency & Commerce induced the Genl. Assembly of last Year to meet by their Deligates in Convention at Providence & on their Report the monopoly bill was Enacted, but being unaccompanied with Taxation Loaning or any other method to reduce the overgrown quantity of paper Currency, it failed of answering the valuable purposes for wch. it was designed, the Suppressing the prices of Comodities at a time when the quantity of Currency was vastly too great & still encreasing, inevitably threw the bulk of the money out of Circulation & use & of course sunk its comparative value inclined the holders of such useless quantities of money to give a much larger price for Comodities than the monopoly bill allowed, & when the buyer is willing what can restrain the seller. This growing Evil not being redressed by this monopoly Bill, the present General Court, in the begginning of their Session appointed a Cmttee. to meet in Convention at Springfield the Cmttees. of the five Northern States to Conferr upon the best method of releiving these difficulties, tho accounts of whose 426report was that the only method of Curing these Evils was the reducing the quantity of Currency.

Your Representatives therefore taking into Consideration the quanties of the paper Curency of this State the quantitys of it that is counterfiet the difficulties that arise from the numerous Sorts of it of knowing the good from the bad, the great advantages of having but one Species of Currency, vizt. the Continental, the exceeding quantities of that sort which will remain when all the States money are distroyed found themselves under a necessity of Stopping the Coming of the bills of any Single State & calling in our own in the Speediest manner. Your Repr. being desirous to give full Satisfaction to their Constituents upon the Subject of their Petitions think it the rediest way to state the Objections contained in the whole of them & to Obviate the seeming difficulties.

One prevailing Objn. against Loaning is that it will distress us by encreasing debts arising from the Interest money: that the Interest of a Sum added to the principle makes a larger Sum than the Principle is undoubted certain, but that the Debt will be encreased is will not Appear upon explanation, for the loaning these Bills (the quanty being lessened) has a natural tendency to prevent the high prices which arise from a Surplusage of money & the comparative depreciation of our money wch. alone in a short time will amount to a saving of more than the whole principle; the reducing the quantity of the money is certainly the regular method of curing the evils which arise from Such undue quantity, when therefore such evils appear the regular remedy should be applied in the Spediest manner possible i.e the States money being particularly instrumental of producing these Evils must be Sunk as speedily as possible: & the perticular Exigencies that made it appear necessary to sink it by Loan rather than taxation are these, the War still presses us, the Expences are encreased by the encreased Prices of necessaries, the treasury of course must be kept Supplied with larger Sums, this can only be done, by Emission, Taxation or borrowing or loaning. Of the first too much has been done already & a calculation between the advanced prices of Goods & the Interest of money must Satisfye any unprejudiced person, that had we been able to hire the moneys necessary for expediture instead of emitting it, above 1/2 the whole expences would have been Saved, i:e 8 times the Interest, the emission of more will render of less value what is already current, i:e will raise the price of Comodities & will encrease our 427Expences to a much greater amount than the Interest of such a Sum of money as would have prevented the emission. Taxation & borrowing on Loan only remain. The exengiences of affairs forbid the waiting risqing the slow uncertain method supplying the Treasury wholly by the latter method & made it necessary that all the Money that could be raised by taxation Should be paid by taxation Continental money for the Support of the War & of course no other method was left of sinking the States money than that the prescribed in the act of Drawing it in by loan, had the States Money been called in by taxation it would have Cost all the Tax that could be conveniently raised for the year 1777 & then there would have been no method left of supplying the Treasury but borrowing Continental money on Interest & if had in there is no odds with regard to the Objections upon wt. loan of money the Interest is paid: whence it appears that yr. Representatives were reduced to a choice of the following Cases either to call in the call in the States money be Taxation & pay it out again for current charges after it was known to be so Counterfeited as to deceive the good People, or to call it in by tax & distroy it, and then trust borrowing to borrowing mony for supplying the Treasury or by making more emissions of money, or by sinking it by loan as prescribed in the act, the latter was chosen as being the most beneficial of either. But it is Said, that this method will throw the Interest money into the hands of evil disposed monopolizers, who have occasioned the depreciating our Currency: whether those Persons called monopolizers have undervalued the money or whether the great surplusage of money has occasioned the monopolizing of Comodities are questions easily determined by Common apprehensions & whether the paying Interest for States money will benefit such persons more than payng Interest for Continental Money in the Continental Loan office when Drafts for Silver money in France is paid for Interest & whether it is possible to carry on this necessary War witht. borrowing large Sums over & above all our taxation & whether the taking the monies of perticular persons into the American Fund will not engage the abilities of Such persons to the American Interest & whether we can possibly punish those unworthy persons by suffering that Currency to grow useless in their hands of our Exec. witht. distressing the worthy part of the community are questions worthy consideration, & whether the taxing Such persons in proportion to their Interest will not be reducing their newly acquired Property to public benefit. But it is said by some there will not be Money enough left to 428 pay a large Tax after the States money is loaned,” & others that eno’ will not be left for a medium; Objections of this kind must immediately vanish upon a little enquiry; it is said that the time for executing it is too short & that distress is occasioned thereby: but it will be Considered that Circumstances of our Affairs required a Speedy remedy & the unwilling depreciation of our money was in some measure owing to an apprehension that it would not be called in by taxation loaning or otherwise. It is also objected that the method of loaning prescribed in the Act will not answer the purpose of pulling the money out of Circulation tho we pay Interest for it,” but doth not our Experience of those notes now on Interest prove the Contrary, the Continually encreasing value prevents their passing as Currency unless in Cases of great Occasion & then Bonds & Mortgages Ships yea houses & Land may be transferred. but It is with reluctance we find ourselves obliged to take notice of one objection wch. tho’ uxoriously expressed & in in Substance is this, that the said Act is unconstitutional, cruel & oppressive a violation of public Faith & contrary to the Promise made on the face of the bills; it is supposed the expression on the face of the Bill alluded to is, “Shall be received in all payments at the Treasury & all other payments” the Objectors are desired to Consider whether if the Act had been that every man who was possessed of States money Should bring it to the Treasurer & for it receive the amount in Silver & Gold, would this be a violation of public Faith & contrary to the promise made on the face of the bill? Can it be said that money so received at the Treasury is recd. in payment? If instead of paying in Silver & Gold it should be paid for in Continental money in a new emission of money would that be a violation of public faith & contrary &c.? Why then is redeeming them by large notes on Interest esteemed a Violation? Because they will not pass in common payments nor at the Treasury & a man is forced to loan his money whether he is willing or not. Is not this shifting the objection from the letter to the spirit? Suppose the Genl. Assembly had taken no steps measures to reduce the quantity of paper Currency & secure its value, would this be a violation of public Faith & public trust? Suppose they had undertaken to do this by drawing in the States money by taxes & then had not been able to supply the Treasury for necessary defence, would this be a violation of public Faith & oppressive? Is here not a real destructive violation of public Faith & trust put in opposition to a supposed violation of a promise on the face of the bill? Doth not the whole force of their Objection arise from the Objectors not being willing to lend their money for public use? If the good 429intention & effect of the Act was supported by a Spirit of Patriotism, would there by any complaining of being forced to loan a little money for public use? Has it not been the universal Sentiment since this War broke out, that this Generation must fight & the next pay? How can that be done without loaning the Debt? Do any think we must continue making paper money & leave the next Generation to redeem it? Is it not certainly known that paper money can’t be made beyond a certain quantity equal to the articles that are usually bought & sold & that beyond that only the nominal Sum is encreasd. & not the value, compared with things to be bought? & that this is the Case with Gold & Silver as well as paper Currency?

But it is said that the great plenty of paper money renders it more easy to redeem the State’s money by Tax now than it will be hereafter when money is scarce.” This is an undoubted reason why we should collect as much money by tax as we can bear & if the current expences will admit of it being applied to the redeeming the notes upon Interest it should be done, but whoever considers the unavoidable Expence of the present War including our share of the Continental Expence will hardly suppose our Taxes will be equal to it. It is not much to be wondered that the good People of this State should differ in their Sentiments respecting the best method of remedying the Evils we all complain of but as the System of money matters & Commerce is in its nature intricate & abstruse & perhaps not thoroughly generally understood not by few and it is with pleasure we observe that Jealosy for Liberty wch. has occasioned these objections but We should cautiously guard agt. the designs of our internal Enemies who omit no opportunity of fomenting divisions & Jealosies among us by wh. only they can hope to Subdue us & we shoud well consider whither there are more evils & inconviency attending arising from that hidden complaint of them always attend those great Operations wch. are necessary for our Public Safety but as there.

The only Objection that remains to be obviated is that there unavoidably be small sum remaining in the hands of poor people who may not be able to change it with their rich neighbors & witht. some provision will be in danger of loosing it. to prevent any Losses of this kind At the making the Law it was thought, that the more substantial part of the Inhabitants would have been so apprehensive of the necessity & usefullness of the Law as to have exerted themselves to carry it into Execution & relieved the poorer Sort by exchanging such small sums for them; but to prevent any Losses of that kind the house have made provision that 430persons possess’d of such small sums may have them exchanged by sending to the state Treasury, but it is hoped the good disposition of the Inhabitants will in a good measure render this Provision needless. Yr. Rep. are equally concerned in the matter with yr. selves & cannot possibly lay a burden on the Community in wch. they do not partake in proportion to their property as settled by the present Tax bill:


1. Large Sumes made a tender by former Acts wch. are now rendered of no value, wch. is unrighteous & oppressive & now Power has a right to compel us to part with our money without our Individual Consent.


2. The public Distress will be increased by the paying Interest & encreas the Debt.


3. Public Faith violated by Legislaton. Individuals will be cautious of putting confidence in them in any imergency.


4. Calculated to promote the Interest of some Individuals at the expence of the public & many monopolizers &c.


5. They that have 10£ shall have nothing for what they have.


6. It will put none of the money out of Circulation

7. They will have Interest for their money at the same time they are trading on it.

8. Cruel that there Should be fine.

9. Not money enô to pay so large a Tax after loaning the State money.

10. A large Debt will arise from the Interest from wch. the Poor can receive no Benefit.


11. Average the two Extreams of Rich & Poor.

12. Can pay easier now than when money is scarcer.


13. We have no more money than enô to pay taxes & a Medium of Trade.

14. It seems strange we should be called to united with the other States & yet are forbid corresponding in bills of public Credit.



15. Being obliged to loan whether we have it to Spare or not.

16. Is unconstitutional.

17. Minds of the People ought to have been consulted.

Oakham, Monson.

18. Too short a time to be executed, striking it dead at once. Proposes a Tax annually till 1781.

Sutton &c.

19. Big with Cruelty Oppression & Injustice, violation of public Faith.


20. Interest will amount to 80,000.


21. Right to Remonstrate & Petition, not money enough.

22. Contrary to the promise on the face of the bills.

The obvious good Effects already

not proper to tax larger till new valuation

the requision from Congress

have made an Act to lengthen time to loan

and to enable Towns to tax

Mm. these Objections arise from a good dispute: financing is abstruse, guard agt. designing men, not more evils than must happen in all difficult measures, that are necessary.

1. It is a violation of the public Faith, being Contrary to the promise made on the face of the bills.

2. We shall be distressed by an encreasing Debt arising from the Interest money.

3. It will throw all the advantage of the Interest money into the hands of the monopolizers who have oppressed us so much.

4. It will not answer the purpose of putting the money out of Circulation.

5. There will not be money enough to pay the large Tax that is ordered if the State money be loaned.

6. If the State money be called in there will not be enough left for a medium.

7. Too short a time to be executed.

Dft. ; endorsed: “Draft of Address of the Genl. Court to the People—on the Act to restrain the Circulation of the State Currency.”

432 1.

“A Petition and Remonstrance from each of the following Towns, viz. Mansfield, Leicester, Taunton, Rutland, Oakham, Norton, Fitchburgh, Hardwick, Holden, Middleborough, Westborough, Westminster, Easton, Mendon and Leominster. Also a Remonstrance and Petition of the Committees of the several Towns of Sutton, Worcester, Uxbridge, Grafton, Douglas and Northbridge, all against the Act lately pass’d by this Court intituled ‘An Act for drawing in the Bills of Credit of the several Denominations not on Interest, which have at any Time been issued by this Government and are still outstanding, and for Prohibiting the Currency of said Bills and the Bills of any one of the United States after a certain Time’” (Journal of the House of Representatives, 53, pt. 2:124).

From Henry Laurens
Laurens, Henry RTP
Sir, York Town 15th Decm. 1777

For the satisfaction of the good People of these United States & for the honour of the American Arms, Congress have judged it necessary that a proper & full enquiry be made into the cause of the failure of the late intended expedition against Rhode Island under the Command of General Spencer & into the conduct of the General Officers employed upon that occasion.

For effecting this necessary Examen. Congress have appointed five Commissioners & marked particular directions for their proceeding & from a confidence in your continued Zeal in the Public service have included your Name in the Commission.

For your further information please to be referred to a Certified Copy of the Act of Congress dated the 12th Inst: which, in company with this, I have now the honour of transmitting. I am with great Regard Sir Your obedient & Most humble Servant

Henry Laurens1 President of Congress

RC ; addressed: “The Honble. R. T. Paine Esquire Boston On public service Henry Laurens”; endorsed.


Henry Laurens (1724–1792), a successful merchant from Charleston, S.C., was elected to that colony’s First Provincial Congress in 1775 and became president of both that body and the Council of Safety. In 1777 he went to the Continental Congress as one of South Carolina’s delegates, and on Nov. 1 succeeded John Hancock as president, retaining that post until Dec. 9, 1778. Laurens continued in Congress until November 1779. After that he was appointed a commissioner to negotiate a loan and treaty with the Dutch but en route was captured by the British who held him prisoner from October 1780 until April 1782, when he was exchanged for Lord Cornwallis. Laurens later became one of the peace commissioners in 1782 ( ANB ).