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National Debt - part 2

Impressed with a sense of the sacred trust committed to them, and with an anxious and affectionate concern for the interest, honor and safety of their constituents, the United States in Congress assembled, have on various occasions, pointed out the dangerous situation of this nation ...

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IMPRESSED with a sense of the sacred trust committed to them, and with an anxious and affectionate concern for the interest, honor and safety of their constituents, The United States in Congress assembled, have on various occasions, pointed out the dangerous situation of this nation, for want of funds to discharge the engagements which have been constitutionally made for the common benefit of the union, and have urged the adoption of such measures, as inevitably flow from a breach of public faith, and a violation of the principles of justice. It is painful to compare a situation of present distress, with what might have been the direct reverse, had those measures been adopted. But as it is only by a serious examination of past errors, that experi- ence is gained, and better systems adopted in the management of public affairs, and that nothing may be concealed which may induce the several legislatures to investigate, and pursue in future their essential interests, we have ordered the board of treasury, to lay before them a state of the receipts and expen- ditures up to the 30th June last, and of the balances then due, together with an estimate of the accumu- lation of the public debt, by a failure in complying with the requisition of Congress, and particularly for want of an early and general adoption of the resolves of the 18th April 1783.

The states will observe, that in the present requisition, no less than 1,723,626 47-90 ought to be forthwith raised for the express purpose of paying the interest and certain installments of the principal of the foreign debt, which will become due in the present and in the course of the next year.

Under this heavy accumulation of the foreign debt, it becomes incumbent on the several states, un- til a general impost or some other system of revenue, adequate to the establishment of national credit and safety can be adopted, to exert themselves to fulfil that duty, which they owe to their own character and the welfare of the confederacy, by enacting laws more efficacious than those heretofore passed, for bringing into the general treasury their respective quotas of the present requisition.


To effect this great and desirable object, the wisdom of the respective legislatures will undoubtedly discover, that the following general principles are essentially necessary:

  • 1st. That the taxes intended for the purposes of the union should be permanent and distinct from those which are appropriated to the service of the state.
  • 2d. That they should (as far as is practicable) be simple in their nature, and easy in the collection.
  • 3d. That the sums levied on the individuals should be paid in like manner as the quotas are receivable from the several states, that is to say, that the proportion of specie pointed out by the requisition should keep pace with the payment of the discounts of interest.

An attention to these principles would undoubtedly promote in a great degree the collection of the revenue, and the arrangement of the federal finances.

That a brave and enlightened people who encountered every hardship and distress in opposing a sys- tem of government which they deemed adverse to their welfare and liberty, before they had even expe- rienced the mischiefs which they foresaw from its establishment, should (whilst the memory of their former principles and heroism is still fresh in their recollection) become inattentive to their own interest, their own happiness and their own honor, is a circumstance too disgraceful to admit of belief.

By the union of the several states they have rescued themselves from the tyranny of a powerful na- tion, and established constitutions on the free consent of the people, which are the admiration of the in- telligent and virtuous part of mankind, and the firm support of the civil and religious rights of all who live under the shadow of their influence. But these constitutions cannot long outlive the fate of the general union; and this union cannot exist without adequate funds to defray the expences of the go- vernment, and to discharge those engagements which have been entered into with the concurrence of the citizens of all these states, for their common benefit.

An appeal is now again made to the reason, the justice, and the interest of the several states. Whate- ver may be the fate of the measures submitted to their consideration, for giving strength and reputation to the union, the United States in Congress by virtue of the powers of the confederation, call upon the differ- ent members to pay into the general treasury at the time stipulated, the quotas laid on them respective- ly by the present requisition for the support of the general government.

The purposes for which the monies are to be appropriated are fairly stated, and the evils pointed out which will attend a non compliance. The delinquent states (if such there can possibly be) must take upon themselves the responsibility for all those calamities, which will most assuredly flow from a disre- gard to the political ties which unite them with the other members of the confederacy, and to those prin- ciples of justice and good faith, which can alone support the existence of a free government.