Morris, Robert (1734-1806) to Elbridge Gerry
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04826
Author/Creator: Morris, Robert (1734-1806)
Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type: Autograph letter signed
Date: 25 June 1780-11 July 1780
Pagination: 11 p. : address : docket ; 23.5 x 19.4 cm.
Summary of Content: Very detailed and highly critical discussion of the Continental Congress’s new financial plans passed 18 March 1780. Comments on payments, currency, taxation, and banking. Also comments on military aid from the French. Docketed by Gerry.
Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783
Full Transcript: Elbridge Gerry Esqr Philada. June 25th. 1780, Dear Sir, Your letter of the 11th. Just from Morris-Town has been with me some time and I am bound to return your thanks for those obliging Sentiments and expressions which particularly relate to my self, Your well-proved attachment to the Cause of America & Zeal in promoting its interests, will ever be a sufficient apology for pressing my attention to those interests, and I trust such applications will ever be answered by suitable exertions on my part. My Sentiments on the Resolutions of the 18th March are no Secret, I cannot help reprobating them because they violate that Public Faith, which ought to have been preserved inviolate as the most solid & sure Treasure of these States which wou’d have rescued them from destruction in the hour of danger, and proved the most solid Coin of the Country when every other had been exhausted but instead of that, those two fatal steps of calling in two Emissions on slight pretences keeping Individuals six months out of their Money & then paying them with one half the value, and lastly this of sinking 39 parts out of 40 of the value of that Money  which on its face carries the promise of honest redemption with Gold & Silver and which but six months before, after its depreciated State was fully known & understood Congress had most solemnly & seriously promised to redeem fairly by regular Taxation. I say these two Fatal steps have totally destroyed that faith & Confidence in Individual which every rank of men ought to have in their Rulers to induce them to Trust in paper, It is totally lost and I do not believe there is a State in the Union that can utter and circulate currently Paper Money at the value of Specie, be the Security what it may, unless as you propose the leading Individuals who have most to do with money transactions step forward, from true Patriotic Zeal and altho sensible of the risque they run, determine at all hazards to place confidence where they are sensible it is not due and knowing also, that shou’d their Fortunes be ruined in the attempt, they will neither obtain the thanks or pity of those they endeavour to support & serve. In this situation now stands the merchants of America more particularly than any other class of men. They have been abused, Traduced & Vilified throughout the Continent, nay some of the States to their eternal disgrace have passed Laws depriving merchants so far of their common rights as to prohibit their enjoying a Seat in Congress. It is now evident that the want of Men of business & mercantile knowledge in Congress has brought America to her  present State of distress, and it is equally evident that the merchants, the abused, Traduced, unworthy Merchts. must extricate her from it. The Question then is how is this to be done. The Army cannot be fed in its present feeble State without money or credit and Congress have Neither the Governments of the several States have not much of either. Taxes tho’ the only sure remedy, are so slow in their operation and applied with such weakness and Wickedness that we perish before their operation comes to our relief, ? What then is to be done, shall we wait untill the resolutions of the 18th March take full Effect that is impossible for some of the States have rejected them, and those must either reconsider the matter & adopt or else all must reject them-Thus for my Dr. Sir I had gone in writing to you on the 25th June last, but being then interrupted I laid your letter aside and have not been able to take it up again untill now the 22d July, Such have my engagements been as to find full & constant employment for my time, indeed I might have replied sooner had I made a point of it, but as I was constantly doing what you wished me to do, I thought it immaterial whether you knew it directly or not. You will observe by what I said on the 25 June any intention was then to go pretty  deeply into the consideration of our distresses, their causes & the remedies to be applied, but as both you & myself are pretty well informed as to the first & second points I will confine my self to the last on which I shall also be very brief. It has been the greatest misfortune to this country that most of the public measures since the Commencement of the War have been merely temporary, and because they have been so, it seems to me they must of necessity continue so untill Congress by some great Effort will shake themselves clear of all Executive business & by confining themselves meerly to the Deliberative, [illegible] capable of adjournment from Season to Season, I consider the resolutions of the 18th March as [struck: illegible] [struck: temporary] having totally annihilated that faith of Confidence which a people ought to have in their Rulers to induce them to trust their property in the hands of Government in exchange for Paper money, and I adduce as Proof the money (only £100,000) Issued by our State upon a Landed Security, more than equal to the Sum emitted, this money altho emitted by Act of Assembly, [struck: illegible] good & ample Security pledged for its redemption, backed by public declarations  of the Officers of Government & of the merchants, that they will freely receive it in all payments as Gold or Silver, cannot, does not, obtain free Circulation, it seldom passes more than three or four hands before it finds its way back into the Public Treasury either in payment of Taxes or Forfeited Estates, and should they offer to emit another shilling, it will not pass an hour afterwards and this is entirely oweing to those resolutions of Congress fixing 40 for 1, the argument being in every mans mouth, that if [ struck: illegible] Congress [inserted: at one time] can break the engagements of preceding times so One assembly under pretence of Public Good will repeal the acts & break the engagements of those that went before them-As I said before What then is to be done, Taxes the only radical cure now left, do not come in, Expenses are going on & Debts contracted under the disadvantages of the present situation of Congress are encreased beyond measure by their want of Credits-As to the 40 for 1. Money I am very apprehensive that it will work heavily, our People in this State seem much more inclined to keep  the Continental Money they have, than to exchange it for a new Sort, they say the present is so bad that they cannot loose much more by its depreciation but if they give 40 of the present Dollrs. for one new one & afterwards are to be paid those new ones at the rate of, one other newer for forty, they may as well give up their property at once, as to be cheated out of it with their eyes open., In order to give time for Congress to make new arrangements of their Commissary departmt. so as to reduce expences & examine into Expenditures which is as essentially necessary as Taxation, The Citizens of Philada. have established a Bank in order to purchase 3,000,000 of Rations & 300 [hteds] Rum for the Army, it is now in Actual Execution and I believe will be extended to still more valuable purposes because if its success shou’d equal my wishes & expectations it will give the States & Congress time to organize  their money, Taxation’s & Matters of Finance so as to put them on a permanent Footing, if they are capable of doing so. I have always made it a point to give every support in my power to the measure of Congress after once determined on even those I disliked as well as those that had my approbation and altho I reprobate exceedingly the calling in of two Emissions & fixing 40 for 1, yet I have submitted to both one & the other most chearfully as an individual affected by their operation and so I wou’d if they [inserted: had] damned the money totally, for it is not any interested considerations that induces one sentiment of mine on the occasion. It is the violation of public faith that I regret & that only - but this being done & Congress resting itself on the measure. You may depend that I will give every support to their views that I possibly can because it is absolutely necessary to our political salvation that the measures of our Rulers shou’d be supported & carried into effect even if they are not the best that might have been devised  but I have asked what is to be done in the mean time untill those Resolutions of Congress do produce their Effect, and I think I have answered the Question by telling you what we are doing in this quarter, The merchants of this City are Feeding your army at present, they are buying Tents to cover them & they are devising ways & means to continue these services upon the their own Strength & Credit untill Congress shall be able to command money from Taxes, & in hopes that they will also make such arrangements as will secure to the public the articles wanted, on proper terms and enable them to examine minutely into the Public Expenditures so that Delinquents if any there be may be brought to account and to punishment. These things done all will go well, & untill they are done, it is not possible that any thing can go on right. , The Officers of the Bank will make their purchases on the best terms that [text loss] supported with ready money or good Credit will enable and Congress may judge by their transaction whether  whether they have well or ill served by others, This affair of the Bank deserves the attention & support of every man in the United States as its utility may be extended to the most valuable political purposes as well as to the greatest commercial advantages. The plan is simple and plain & confined at present to this place because it was meerly a child of public necessity but when that necessity is over, I intend to promote the continuance & extention of it and if the Bank notes in the mean time gain a credit on every part of the Continent, so as to pass Conveniently in payments from hand to hand, the business will be half done, The Security is most undoubtedly good as any Security can be, and as all Individuals concerned in money transactions will find Convenience in giving them circulation I cannot doubt but they will have credit every where, I hope in Boston they will meet with all necessary encouragement; particularly  I have already said, that the 40 for 1 plan shall as usual receive every support I can give it, but we can do nothing here in that respect untill our Assembly meets., I congratulate you on the arrival of the French Fleet & Army but hope they will before long be joined by sufficient reinforcements, and untill that happens we cannot expect much successful operations here, but I think we may reasonably look for good things from the West Indies. And upon the whole I promise my self this Campaigne will close with honour & advantage to the Allied Powers, in that case we may look forward to Peace, but shoud the exertions of Britain prevail this Season we must expect a tedious continuance of the War. Under these Ideas you may be sure I shall strain every Nerve to promote that success so likely to bring about Peace. Mrs. Morris presents her Compts and  desires me to thank you for the information you gave respecting Miss Livingston &c poor Girl she suffered a good deal after you left camp. I beg my respectfull Compliments to my Worthy Friend Mr Hancock and remain Dr Sir, Your sincere Friend, & Obedient hbl Servt, Robt Morris, , , , The, Honble Elbridge Gerry. Esqr, Boston, , [address leaf], , To, Elbridge Gerry Esqr, Boston, , [docket], Philad Letter, Honb Mr R Morris, 25 June & 23d, July 1780 & , Copy of [illegible], 23rd [illegible] follows
Keywords/Subjects: Revolutionary War;, Finance;, Economics;, Continental Congress;, Congress;, Taxes or Taxation;, Coins and Currency;, Banking;, Military History;, Continental Army;, France;
Sub Era: The War for Independence
Background: Signer of the U.S. Constitution.Order Image