صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

as, by the blessing of Divine Providence on our cause and our arms the glorious period is arrived when our national independence and sovereignty are established, and we enjoy the prospect of a permanent and honorable peace: We, therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, thus impressed with a lively sense of the distinguished merit and good conduct of the said armies, do give them the thanks of their country, for their long, eminent, and faithful services."

Your Committee were, therefore, fully satisfied, that this Congress ought to entertain, and do, and will entertain, the same opinion of the exalted character of that army, which was entertained by the Continental Congress of 1783.

The nature of their services was considered. This was in a contest, where success alone could, in the annals of the nation, give it the name of honorable warfare. Defeat would have marked this glorious controversy of arms with the name of rebellion. The benefits of success, we know, have been equally shared by the whole People; but the evils of defeat would have fallen, with discriminating severity, on this army. Some few others, doubtless, would have been made to drink with them the overflowing wrath of incensed majesty. He who advised and supported, and he who dictated, the Declaration of Independence, would, in this imperial sacrifice, have been mingled with those who marched out into the field in defence of it.

With a few such exceptions, peaceable people would, though pillaged by confiscation, have been left alive; but those taken in arms, from the boy who blew a fife, to him" who was first in war," would have been led out to slaughter. It has been said, that our merciful enemy would have only decimated the soldiers; and been satisfied with dealing death to every tenth man. The officers could look for no such mercy; they had nothing but death to expect. Indeed, that rebellion, which then blazed over all the colonies, must have been extinguished; and it would have been extinguished in the blood of this army. These perils were peculiar to this service; and distinguished it from that of all other armies. The nature of this service had other peculiarities. No soldier, when he entered the army, feared that he would ever, in camp, want food; but we find, so great was the pressure of real famine, that Congress were compelled to place large districts of country under military exac

tion. The army were often without bread; often without meat; sometimes without either. In what other service have officers been compelled to keep their quarters, by mere want of clothes to appear with decency, on parade? This fact, the Commander-in-Chief announced to Congress, August 20, 1780.

Other armies, we know, have made winter campaigns; but did they, like this, perform their marches, when, on the frost, or ice, or snow they left the length and breadth of the bare foot, marked in blood?

It is, therefore, considered that the actual sufferings, privations, and perils of this service, did mark it with a peculiar character; and have, and will, hereafter, in all history, eminently entitle those who sustained it, to the distinguishing name of " A Patriot Army.”

The compensation made to this Army, for these services, requires more particular consideration.

It will be recollected, that, at the commencement of the war, the gold and silver medium of circulation was, in quantity, unequal to the trade of the colonies. Several of them had then, already, attempted to relieve the scarcity of currency, by emissions of paper money. This soon depreciated in value; because the holders of it could not, at their pleasure, exchange it for gold and silver. This depreciation brought back the scarcity; and new emissions only renewed the evil. The trade of the country was, as it related to Great Britain, colonial; and, being confined to the mother country, brought back to the colonies very little of the precious metals. When an Army of thirty thousand men was raised, and to be clothed, armed, fed, and paid, these things, together with all other auxiliary articles of expenditure, called at once for an additional circulating medium. In a country without mines, comparatively without commerce, without banks, or the means of sustaining such institutions, the Government had no resource but in paper money. Accordingly, we find that Congress immediately resorted to this expedient. On the 22d of June, 1775, they resolved on the emission of two millions of dollars, in bills of credit-November 29th, 1775, they resolved to emit three millions of dollars-February 21st, 1776, they made four millions of dollars-May 22d, five millions of dollars; and, on the same day, five millions of dollars more-August 13th, five millions of dollars-December 28th, five millions of dollars-February 26th, 1777, five millions of dollars-May 20th,

five millions of dollars-August 1st, one million of dollars-November 17th, one million of dollars-December 3d, one million of dollars-February 17th, 1778, two millions of dollars-March 5th, two millions of dollars-April 4th, one million of dollars-April 11th, five millions of dollars-April 20th, five millions of dollarsMay 22d, five millions of dollars-June 20th, five millions of dollars -July 30th, five millions of dollars-September 5th, five millions of dollars-September 27th, ten millions of dollars-November 4th, ten millions of dollars-January 14th, 1779, fifty millions of dollars, ten millions of which were to redeem, and take out of circulation, the two emissions, of May 20th, 1777, and April 11th, 1778, for five millions of dollars each-February 3d, were ordered five millions of dollars-April 2d, five millions, one hundred and sixty thousand dollars-May 5th, ten millions of dollars—June 4th, ten millions of dollars-July 17th, fifteen millions, two hundred and eighty thousand dollars-September 19th, fifteen millions, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars-October 16th, five millions of dollars-November 17th, ten millions, fifty thousand, five hundred dollars-November 29th, ter millions, one hundred and forty thousand dollars—making more than two hundred millions of dollars.

Thus, Sir, from June 22d, 1775, to November 29th, 1779, the short term of fifty-five months, two hundred millions of dollars were added to the circulating medium of a country, which had not funds to redeem a single dollar of it.

Miserable was the condition of the soldier, who contracted to render service, under such a state of public currency. This was continually depreciating; the value every moment lessening, like the handful of sand in the top of the hour-glass. The contract of the soldier continued, at the same monthly pay, for nine months, for one year, for two years, for three years, or for during the war. Other contractors might demand prompt pay; might refuse to fulfil; and leave the other party to look for damages in a common law tribunal. The soldier was chained down to the stake, by the iron rules of martial law, and compelled to fight out the whole course, to the last hour of his contract. Who, then, dares to hazard his character for soundness of mind, if he have any such character, by saying that the soldier who aided his country by service, and the citizen who aided her by capital, suffered equally by depreciation ?

Besides, those citizen-capitalists, who hovered about the Army and the Cabinet, for the purpose of dealing with those who were carrying on the war, had a very good knowledge of the course of depreciation, and could calculate the waning of a dollar with as much accuracy as Copernicus ever could that of the moon. They were never without their price-current-a kind of almanac of depreciation, showing all the phases of Continental money, and fitted to every day of the week, month, and year, while that singular phenomenon was above the commercial horizon. These men could, without prophecy, tell where it would appear, at the end of thirty, sixty, or ninety days; and, profiting of this knowledge, in making contracts, they were at all times an overmatch for the statesman or the soldier. These last, indeed, were utterly unimbued with this kind of science, and seemed neither to know or to care for any thing but to fight their country's battles, and to achieve her independence and glory.

It has been said that Congress, to the Army, made up this depreciation. This, though in some degree true, is, nevertheless, very far from being, in all respects, the fact. On the 10th of April, 1780, that body did resolve, that, so soon as possessed of sufficient documents, they would establish a general rule for making up depreciation; but they then, in express terms, excluded from the benefit of this Resolution all the Army, except such as had served three years, or were then in service, or should serve three years, or during the war, or were engaged so to serve. On the 28th of June, 1780, Congress resolved that Continental money had, on the 1st March, 1778, depreciated to one dollar and seventy-five for one dollar; on the 1st of September, 1778, to four dollars for one dollar; on the 1st of March, 1779, to ten dollars for one dollar; on the 1st of September, 1779, to eighteen dollars for one dollar; and on the 18th March, 1780, to forty dollars for one dollar. This scale was altogether arbitrary; not calculated by the price-current of actual depreciation, but graduated, from period to period, by the principles of geometrical proportion. It was, in practice, after the war, extended to the Army, and so extended as to cover all the exclusions created by the resolution of April 10th, 1780, excepting only the loss by depreciation sustained before six months prior to March, 1778. It is seen, that Congress resolved that Continental money was at that time nearly two for one. It did not fall to that point on

Indeed, it was very
How could it

that day. It had been gradually sinking to it. little less than four for one at that period of the war. be otherwise? Almost sixty millions of paper were then already thrown into circulation. Had that amount in gold and silver been spread over the Colonies, in the then present state of things, it must have depreciated to nearly one-fourth part of its value, unless it had been hoarded, or melted down, or sold out of the country. Neither of these accidents could have happened to this paper money. No man would hoard it for it was the lighted torch of the play, and pushed from hand to hand, because the last holder was in continual fear of being saddled with the loss. It could be used for nothing else. It was fit for nothing but money, and miserably unfit for that. It could not be sent out of the country; for a ne exeat regnum was printed on the face of it. In Paris, Dr. Franklin might have formed 'some sheets of it into paper kites, and thereby have lured fire from the clouds, but the whole two hundred millions would not, in a single city of Europe, have purchased for him a solitary match to light his candle.

Whatever that depreciation was, and it must have been great, it was all lost to the officers and soldiers of the Army; for no scale of depreciation was ever extended so far back as to cover this description of loss, sustained during this period of the war.

The movements of this depreciation, after March 18th, 1780, Congress did not attempt to measure. They did, indeed, on that day, take an observation on the sinking value of that currency, and then resolved that it was thirty-nine fortieths below par; or, in other words, that one Continental dollar was worth two and a half cents in hard money, and still, as they then say, was sinking. Sir, to this hour it might have been sinking, had it not fallen below the level of circulation; and been redeemed from that degraded condition, at one hundred for one, by the operations of the funding system. So that the whole two hundred millions actually cost the Government but two millions. By a Resolution of that same 18th of March, 1780, Congress made one attempt more to give some value to some portion of this currency, by buying up and burning other parts of it. This was to be effected by a new emission of paper bills, bearing interest at six per cent. redeemable in six years, in specie, made by the individual States, and endorsed by the United States. This emission was called, at the Treasury Board, indents;

« السابقةمتابعة »