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actly agreeable to their idea of this matter, as to the quantum, but it is to be collected by our own officers, and paid by them to the Congressional receiver, who is to give a receipt for it, to be carried to our account and credited to this State upon a future settlement, and this is to continue till the whole debt is discharged. But this act is not to be applied to this purpose until the other States have passed laws similar to it. This fund it is calculated will amount to forty-thousand pounds, and we have added to it our whole land tax, which amounts at this time to ninety-five thousand pounds annually, and will be an increasing fund as our back lands are rapidly settling. This tax is to be paid by the sheriffs to our treasurer and by him paid to the Continental receiver, who is to give a receipt for the same, and carry it to our credit on a future settlement; and if these funds should fall short, the deficiency is to be made good out of the slave tax, which amounts to one hundred and twenty thousand pounds annually, but as we do not expect that this last fund will ever be called on, in aid of the others, we have ventured to appropriate part of the slave tax to other purposes. That I may be perfectly understood upon this subject, the duties upon imposts and the land tax are appropriated to Congress till the whole of the Continental debt is discharged, without having any other regard to this State's particular quota of that debt than to have credit at a future settlement of what we may pay more than our quota amounts to.

Without regard to our internal police of revenue we have passed a law to establish a fund for paying the annual interest of the certificates granted our officers and soldiers, and the principal at eight annual payments, the first payment to be made the first day of January, 1786. To do this we have laid an additional tax of id. per bushel upon salt, #2 / per ct. on imported hemp, 1 / per ct. on imported cordage, 1 t per lb. on imported snuff, 4d. per gallon on imported spirits, 6 per gallon upon wine, a duty upon tea, sugar and some other articles which I do not recollect, and 5/ per hogshead on tobacco.# [Mr. Mason makes this marginal note : “ N. B. I think the articles marked thus # ought not to have been taxed, because the first being a necessary of life will fall heavy upon the poor especially in the back parts where it will raise the price of salt even in Loudon to 7 or 8 / and in coun

VIRGINIA'S FUNDS AND LIABILITIES.

61

ties further back to double that sum, and tobacco is an export."] This it is thought will amount to thirty thousand pounds. The deficiency is to be made good by the slave tax. It is presumed that a fund of seventy thousand pounds will answer the ends proposed by this law.

For my own part I think this law an unwise one, because no new tax ought ever to be appropriated to any purpose but to the contingent charges of government, till experience has evinced that the commodity taxed will bear it with convenience, and some certain estimate can be made of what it will produce, as when it is once appropriated to a permanent fund it cannot afterwards be discontinued, however inconvenient, without a breach of public faith. I should therefore have been better pleased that the whole seventy thousand pounds had been drawn from the State tax, and these duties appropriated to the contingent charges of government, and then they might have been altered hereafter as experience might have convinced us was necessary. Besides there not being a particular portion of the slave tax fund set apart for this use, and the civil list, the deficiencies to Congress and the deficiency to the officers and soldiers, all being quartered upon that fund, without pointing out what proportion of it shall be applied to each, will introduce confusion ; some creditors will get all, some none, and our credit be thereby impaired, for I am convinced our funds are amply sufficient, but from want of system and method in that department alone, all our distresses arrive. To illustrate this I will state the true situation of our debts and funds as nearly as I can from memory, which though not strictly right will be nearly so. Annual land tax

£ 95,000 increasing rapidly. Impost

40,000

[blocks in formation]

£150,000 to be paid to Congress. £70,000

Annual balance of slave tax
Additional imposts
Poll tax upon whites, rapidly increasing
Upon horses, cattle and wheel carriages .
Upon ordinary and marriage licences

£105,000

30,000 50,000 40,000 5,000

£230,000

30,000 15,000

Officers' and soldiers' certificates
Civil list expenditures, including the executive, judiciary and legis-

lative and members to Congress
Loan Office certificates, 250,000, is
British debts paid into the treasury when settled a depreciation

50,000 Foreign and domestic debt 150,000 Contingent charges of government .

3,000 15,000 20,000

£153,000 £77,000

Balance to be applied towards paying the principal

We yesterday received the report from a committee to whom was referred Mr. Simon Nathan's claim to a large quantity of tobacco, under an award given by some gentlemen in Philadelphia to whom it was submitted by our delegates in Congress at the request of the governor. The committee had voted it reasonable, upon a supposition that the State was bound by the acceptance of the bills by the governor, and the award in Philadelphia ; but it appearing manifestly that the bills were drawn for paper currency at a depreciated value, only equal to £ 1500, though the bills were for £ 13,000, and that the governor had actually paid 200,000 tobacco at 25 per ct., a large majority refused to pay more, upon this principle, that the governor being deceived or even mistaken at the time of his acceptance, that acceptance was not binding for more than was actually due ; and it appearing upon the face of the award, that the arbitrators were mistaken in the matter of fact, viz. that they were drawn for specie value the State was not bound by it, since that would be a sufficient foundation for setting aside an award in any court of judicature. The matter is again to be referred to arbitrators in Maryland.

Thus I have now given you a particular account of all our public affairs worth mentioning. And now let me ask my young friend if none of the young ladies of Philadelphia have had influence enough with you to resign the name given you by some ladies in Prince William ? I presume you have heard that your acquaintance my son Stephens was married the first of May. He and his

Compare the letter of Edmund Randolph on this subject, Conway's “ Life of Randolph,” p. 51. Thomson Mason gives good reasons for the so-called “repudiation."

1

GENERAL GREENE IN ALEXANDRIA.

63

lady (formerly Miss Polly Armistead) who are both in town, present their compliments to you. Adieu my dear sir, and believe me to be

Your sincerely affectionate

THOMSON MASON.'

George Mason wrote from “Gunston Hall," the 27th of August to Messrs. Hunter, Allison, and Company, merchants in Alexandria, a letter of business relating to his tobacco sales, and in a postscript he gives the news he had lately received from Europe. “I have a letter," he writes, " from my son George, dated in Nantes, June 20th, where he has been waiting six or seven weeks for a passage in the Hannibal, Capt. Cunningham. He says the definitive treaty is proceeding slowly, on account of the difficulties of adjusting matters with the States-General. The court of London, have in the meantime made provision by proclamation, for a commercial intercourse with the United States of America. The Algerines have fitted out a small fleet on purpose to cruise against American vessels, notwithstanding the Emperor of Morocco's orders to his Admiral. I very much suspect this a British intrigue to discourage our trade in the Mediterranean.

General Greene, returning from the South in the fall of 1783, records in his diary the incidents of his journey. Near Dumfries his carriage was overturned, and he was much bruised. But he spent an agreeable evening there at Colonel Grayson's, and dined on the 13th of September at “Mount Vernon.” At Alexandria he was taken ill with fever, which prevented him from accepting the public dinner the citizens wished to give him. He writes from Alexandria :

“R. H. Lee and many others came to see me, but I was too unwell to enjoy company, and most part of the time to see any.

Colonel [name illegible) and his son William, an amiable youth, was to see me, and carried off Major Hyrnė on a visit to Mr. Mason's, where one of the young ladies made a great impression on his heart." I

1 MS. Letter.

This was probably Colonel Mason and his son William Mason.

At the meeting of the Assembly in October, General Nelson presented a bill to invest the United States with a power to lay certain duties for the use of the United States. This power of taxation was the one the States least liked to entrust to Congress, but an urgent public necessity eventually forced the measure from them. On the 26th of November, the speaker laid before the House a letter from Edmund Randolph, respecting the proceedings of the persons appointed to vindicate the title of Virginia to western territory, stating the progress made in that business. Rives, in his “Life of Madison," says of the work appointed the committee that it does not appear the task was ever executed. A defence, however, was prepared, as would appear from this letter of Edmund Randolph to the Speaker of the House. In it he speaks of the difficulty of getting the committee together, and adds:

“Mr. George Mason has already, however, perused and approved about a third of the composition. If the General Assembly will therefore permit the work to go into print under the correction of Mr. Mason and myself, we may probably be able soon to concert the measures necessary for its publication, as I shall see him on my way to Alexandria about the 24th of next month, whither I am going on business of Mr. Nathan.”

On the 8th of December the House resolved :

“ That the delegates of this State to the Congress of the United States be instructed and fully authorized to convey, by proper instrument, in writing on the part of this State to the Congress of the United States, all right, title and claim, which the said Commonwealth hath to the lands northward of the Ohio, upon

1“ Life of Genl. Nathaniel Greene," vol. ii., George Washington Greene, p. 508.

9 MS. Letter, State Library, Richmond.

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