Deficiencies of the Confederation
CHAPTER 5|Document 3
Robert Morris, Circular to the Governors of the States25 July 1781Papers 1:380--83
I had the honor to write you the 16th Instant enclosing A certified copy of the account of your State as it stands in the Treasury Books of the United States; I now pray leave to recall your attention to it. It gives me very great pain to learn that there is A pernicious Idea prevalent among some of the States that their accounts are not to be adjusted with the Continent; such an Idea cannot fail to spread A listless languor over all our operations. To suppose this expensive War can be carryed on without joint and strenuous efforts is beneath the wisdom of those who are called to the high Offices of Legislation. Those who inculcate maxims which tend to relax these efforts, most certainly injure the comon cause whatever may be the motives which inspire their conduct. If once an opinion is admitted that those States who do least and charge most will derive the greatest benefit and endure the smallest Evils, Your Excellency must perceive that shameless inactivity must take place of that noble emulation which ought to pervade and animate the whole Union. It is my particular Duty Sir while I remind my fellow Citizens of those tasks which it is incumbent on them to perform to remove if I can every impediment which lies in the way or which may have been raised by disaffection, Self Interest, or mistake. I take therefore this early opportunity to assure you that all the accounts of the United States shall be speedily liquidated If I can possibly effect it and my efforts for that purpose shall be unceasing. I make this assurance in the most solemn manner and I entreat the consequences of A contrary assertion may be most seriously weighed and considered before it is made or beleived. These accounts naturally divide themselves into two considerable branches vizt. Those which are previous and those which are subsequent to the resolutions of Congress of the 18th March 1780. The former must be adjusted as soon as proper Officers can be found and appointed for the purpose and proper principles established so as that they may be liquidated in an equitable manner for I am determined Justice shall be the rule of my conduct as farr as the measure of abilities which the Almighty has been pleased to bestow shall enable me to distinguish between right and wrong. I shall never permit A doubt that the States will do what is right; neither will I ever believe that any one of them can expect to derive any advantage from doing what is wrong. It is by being just to Individuals, to each other, to the Union, to all; by generous grants of solid Revenue, and by adopting energetic measures to collect that Revenue; and not by complainings, vauntings, or recriminations that these States must expect to establish their Independance and rise into Power, Consequence, and Grandeur. I speak to your Excellency with freedom because it is my duty so to speak and because I am convinced that the language of plain sincerity is the only proper language to the first Magistrate of A free Community. The accounts I have mentioned as subsequent to the Resolutions of the 18th March 1780 admit of an imediate settlement; the several States have all the necessary materials; One side of the account consists of demands made by the Resolutions of Congress long since forwarded. The other must consist of compliances with those demands; this latter part I am not in capacity to state and for that reason I am to request the earliest information which the nature of things will permit of the Moneys, Supplies, Transportation &ca which have been paid, advanced, or furnished by your State in order that I may know what remains due; the sooner full information can be obtained the sooner shall we know what to rely on and how to do equal Justice to those who have contributed and those who have not, to those who have contributed at one period and to those who have contributed at another.
I enclose you an account of the specific supplies demanded of your State as extracted from the Journals of Congress tho without any mention of what has been done in consequence of those Resolutions because as I have already observed your Excellcy. will be able to discern the Ballance much better than I can. I am further to entreat Sir that I may be favored with copies of the several acts passed in your State since the 18th March 1780 for the collection of Taxes and furnishing supplies or other aids to the United States, the manner in which such acts have been executed, the time which may have been necessary for them to operate, and the consequences of their operation. I must also pray to be informed of so much of the internal Police of your State as relates to the laying, Assessing, Levying and collecting of Taxes. I beg leave to assure your Excellency that I am not prompted by an idle curiosity or by any wish to discover what prudence wou'd dictate to conceal. It is necessary I shou'd be informed of these things and I take the plain, open, candid method of acquiring information. To paliate or conceal any evils or disorders in our situation can answer no good purpose; they must be known before they can be cured; we must also know what resources can be brought forth that we may proportion our efforts to our means and our demands to both. It is necessary we shoud be in A condition to carry on the War with ease before we can expect to lay down our Arms with security, before we can treat of peace honorably, and before we can conclude it to advantage. I feel myself fettered at every moment and embarassed in every operation from my ignorance of our actual state and what is reasonably to be asked or expected, yet when I consider our real wealth and numbers and when I compare them with other Countrys I feel A thorough conviction that we may do much more than we have yet done and with more ease to ourselves than we have yet felt provided we adopt the proper mode of Revenue and Expenditure. Your Excellencys good sense will anticipate my observation on the necessity of being informed what Moneys are in your Treasury and what sums you expect to have there as also of the times they must probably be brought in. In addition to this, I must pray you to communicate the several appropriations.
A misfortune peculiar to America requires that I entreat your Excellency to undertake one more task which perhaps is farr from being the least difficult. It is Sir that you write very fully as to the amount of the several paper Currencys now circulating in your State, the probable Increase or decrease of each and the respective rates of depreciation; having now stated the several communications which are most indispensable let me entreat of your Excellencys goodness that they may be made as speedily as possible to the end I may be early prepared with those propositions which from A view of all circumstances may be most likely to extricate us from our present difficultys. I am also to entreat that you will inform me when your Legislature is to meet; my reason for making this request is that any proposals to be made to them may arrive in season for their attentive deliberation.
I know that I give you A great deal of trouble but I also know it will be pleasing to you because the time and the labour will be expended in the service of your Country. If Sir my feeble but honest efforts shou'd open to us the prospect of American glory, if we shou'd be able to look forward to A period when supported by solid Revenue and Resource, this War shou'd have no other duration or extent than the wisdom of Congress might allow when its object shoud be the honor not the Independance of our Country, If with these fair views the States shou'd be rouzed, excited, animated in the pursuit and unitedly determining to be in that happy situation find themselves placed there by the very determination.
If Sir these things should happen soon the reflection that your Industry has principally contributed to effect them woud be the rich reward of your Toils and give to your best feelings their amplest gratification. I have the honor to be Your Excellency's Most Obedient and humble servant.
The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781--1784. Edited by E. James Ferguson et al. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973--.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago