869. Plain Dealer
Independent Chronicle, 15 May 1788

Mess’rs. ADAMS and NOURSE, By publishing the following in your next paper, you will oblige one of your constant Readers.

When I hear or read of a base unworthy action done by any of the States in the Union (Rhode-Island excepted) it mortifies me exceedingly, and gives me pain for the injury and dishonor brought upon the nation; but when I find such action injurious to me in particular, that it unjustly strips me of my property, my support in life, I am not only mortified, but provoked to resentment and indignation.

Such then were my feelings the other day, on reading the speach made in the late Convention, by the Hon. Mr. King. That worthy gentleman, after speaking of the shameful perfidious behaviour, of several of the united provinces, of the Netherlands towards each other, in their war with Spain, by refusing to pay their quotas of the public charge, goes on to say, “The history of our own country, is a melancholy proof of a similar truth. Massachusetts has paid, while other States have been delinquent. How was the war carried on with the paper money? Requisitions on the States were made. Who paid them? Massachusetts and a few others. A requisition of 29 millions of dollars was quotaed on Massachusetts, and it was paid: This State has paid in, her proportion of the old money. How comes it then, that gentlemen have any of this money by them? Because the other States have shamefully neglected, to pay in their quotas. Do you ask for redress? You are scoffed at. The next requisition was for a 11 millions of dollars, 6 millions of which were to be paid in facilities, the rest in silver money, for discharging the interest of the national debt. If the Legislatures found a difficulty in paying the hard money, why did they not pay the paper? But 1,200,000 dollars have been paid. And six States have not paid a farthing of it.” After mentioning another requisition equally disregarded, Mr. K. said, “Two States have not paid a single farthing from the moment they signed the confederation to this day.”

What an astonishing account is this of American dishonesty, ingratitude, and perfidy! not towards their enemies, but their own countrymen, yea, some of their best friends, whose generous exertions have been the means of preserving them from slavery. Yes, be it known to them, that however highly they may value themselves, upon their freedom, and independence, yet, had it not been for those noble exertions of their creditors, they would have been at this moment, in as abject a state of slavery, as the inhabitants of Bengal. I would ask, where does the fault lye? In the people, or in their Representatives, or both? In a free country like this, people generally choose for their Representatives, those whom they know, and whose political characters they are acquainted with, and therefore choose men after their own image and likeness. If then we find an ignorant, obstinate or knavish house of Representatives in these States, and the people are easy and contented with their behaviour, may we not fairly conclude, that the people are like unto them? I think we may.

Pray did not those delinquent States at the beginning of the war, join the others, in their opposition to Great-Britain? Certainly they did. And what lamentable out-cries did they raise—making heaven and earth ring with their complaints of British tyranny and oppression? One would have thought then, that if they had any real virtue in them, they would have at the end of the war, immediately set about paying their public debts, as far as they were able, like honest men, when they knew a great part of their creditors were needy. But far was that from the inclination or intention of many of them, on the contrary, they took the money which ought to have been appropriated to that use, and sent it into all parts of the world for finery & articles of luxury; & to appearance, paid no more regard to the sufferings of their creditors, than a horse does for his father.

I am very sensible we cannot pay off the public debts but by small degrees, and that it requires length of time to do it in; but surely no one will deny, that every State in the union is able to pay its quota of the interest annually. And if they would do that, it would raise the credit of the securities immediately, and thereby give great relief to such as may be obliged to sell out.

We read in old time, when Gideon was judge in Israel, and commander of their army, that he defeated the numerous host of the Midianites who had invaded the country, and being in pursuit of the enemy, he came to the cities of Succoth and Penuel, and requested them very civilly to give bread to his little army (being 300 men) who were faint. But the princes, the elders and people of those cities huffed him, and refused to bear any part of the charges of the war, though it was for their common deliverance. This illiberal behaviour, the general resented highly, as well he might: Therefore when he returned victorious, he summoned before him those princes and elders, and after charging them with their crime, he took thorns of the wilderness and briars, and with them he taught the men of Succoth, that is no doubt, he gave them a hearty whipping.

Methinks the behaviour of the two States whom Mr. King says, “have not paid a single farthing from the moment they signed the confederation to this day,” is pretty much like that of those two cities. But whether their rulers ought to be corporally punished for their iniquitous behaviour, is not for me to say. If that wise and good judge Gideon were here, I believe he would condemn them to some sort of punishment, and not suffer such behaviour even in princes and elders to pass with impunity.

It would surely be a curious sight, to see the rulers of a people gravely setting themselves about making laws for the punishment of little rogues, and condemning them to corporal punishment, for stealing a joint of meet, or a loaf of bread, while at the same time, they themselves are committing gross acts of injustice, and are guilty of perfidious breaches of public covenants and contracts; which are a greater damage than the loss of ten thousand joints of meet.

By the articles of confederation, Congress is impowered in the name of the United States to contract as many debts, and borrow as much money from time to time, as they shall judge necessary for the public service, and to assess each State its quota of the same, and demand payment. And every State in the union, voluntarily covenanted and bound themselves to pay those assessments according to constitutional requisitions. But it seems some State assemblies, have since, claimed the right of judging whether it is for their interests to comply with those requisitions, and when they have thought it not, they have neglected or refused to obey the calls of Congress. And this pretended right of neglecting or refusing to pay our debts, or to pay them when, and how, and with what stuff we please, some of our zealous antifederalists look upon to be our greatest security, and the essence of liberty. For this reason they have most zealously opposed the new Constitution, which impowers Congress to lay duties and taxes throughout the States, and to enforce the payment of them. They are perhaps afraid, that by this means the domestic debts will be paid sometime or other, which they had flattered themselves never would, but hoped they would die away in the same scandalous manner as the old paper money has. They pretend, if we give Congress, “the pursestrings,” (though we have already agreed to that in the confederation) we shall soon be an undone people; and it will be in their power to enslave us with our own money. But for my part, I think, that by keeping and managing “the pursestrings,” in that unjust, in[i]quitous manner as some States have done for years past, we shall be in much more danger of being outwitted, and enslaved by the devil, for he that committeth sin, is the servant of sin. Again he that committeth sin is of the devil, whether it be done by a king or a beggar, by rulers or people. By means of this breach of contract and covenant, Hardy’s certificates which are a tender at the loan-offices for the payment of the interest due to the continental creditors, now sell currently for 2/6 and 2/8 the pound. These facilities so called, are a full match for the wretched paper trash of Rhode-Island. What honest man can hear of this, without blushing for his country!

Perhaps some may charge me with audacity, for judging and complaining of the conduct of delinquent States: If so, I answer, that being one of the original suffering creditors, of the United States, I have a right to judge, as a contracting party, whether I am wronged and abused, and if it appears to me that I am wronged, and that by an improper, and unjust behaviour of the other contracting party, or any of them, I have a right to complain of it, and to demand satisfaction.