« PreviousContinue »
which impedes it may be immediately repealed. Those laws were, indeed, made with honest in. tentions, that the half-ruined debtor, not being too suddenly pressed by some, might have time to arrange and recover his affairs so as to do justice to all his creditors. But since the intention in making those acts has been misapprehended, and the acts wilfully inisconstrued into a design of defrauding them, and now made a matter of reproach to us, I think it will be right to repeal them all. Individual Americans may be ruined, but the coun. try will save by the operation ; since these unthinking merciless creditors must be contented with all that is to be bad, instead of all that may be due to them, and the accounts will be settled by insol. vency. When all have paid that can pay, I think tlie remaining British creditors who suffered by the inability of their ruined debtors have some right to call upon their own government, (which by its bad projects has ruined those debtors) for a compensa. tion. A sum given by parliament for this purpose would be more properly disposed than in rewarding pretended loyalists, who fomented the war: and the heavier the sum, the more tendency it might have to discourage such destructive projects hereafter.
Among the merchants of Britain, trading for. merly to America, there are, to my knowledge, many considerate and generous men, who never joined in this clamour, and who, on the return of peace, though by the treaty entitled to an immediate suit for their debts, were kindly disposed to give their debtors reasonable time for restoring their circum. stances, so as to be able to make payment conveniently. These deserve the most grateful acknowledgments. And indeed it was in their favour, and perhaps for their sakes, in favour of all other British creditors, that the law of Pennsylvania, though since much exclaimed against, was made, restraining the recovery of old debts during a certain time: for this restraint was general, respecting domestic as well as British debts; it being thought unfair, in cases where there was not sufficient for all, that the inhabitants, taking advantage of their nearer situation, should swallow the whole, excluding foreign creditors from any share. And in cases where the favourable part of the foreign creditors were disposed to give time, with the views abovementioned, if others less humane and considerate were allowed to bring immediate suits, and ruin the debtor, those views would be defeated. When this law expired in Sept. 1784, a new one was made, continuing for some time longer the restraint with respect to domestic debts, but expressly ta. king it away where the debt was due from citizens of the state to any of the subjects of Great Britain ;* which shows clearly the disposition of the assembly, and that the fair intentions above ascribed to them in making the former act, are not merely the imagination of the writer. Indeed, the clamour has been much augmented by numbers joining it who really had no claim on our country. · Every debtor in Britain, engaged in whatever trade, when he had no better excuse to give for delay of payment, ac. cused the want of returns from America; and the indignation thus excited against us, now appears so general among the English, that one would imagine their nation, which is so exact in expecting punctual payment from all the rest of the world, must be at home the model of justice, the very pattern of punctuality. Yet if one were disposed to recrimi. nate, it would not be difficult to find sufficient matter in several parts of their conduct. But this I for. bear: the two separate nations are now at peace, and there can be no use in mutual provocations to fresh enmity. If I have shown clearly that the present inability of many American merchants to discharge their debts contracted before the war, is not so much their fault, as the fault of the crediting na. tion, who, by making an unjust war on them, obstructing their commerce, plundering and devas. tating their country, were the cause of that inability, I have answered the purpose of writing this paper, How far the refusal of the British court to execute the treaty, in delivering up the frontier posts, may,
* Extract from an Act of General Assembly of Pennsylvania, intituled, " An Act for directing the mode of recovering debts contracted before the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven.”
Erception in favour of British Creditors. “ Sect. 7. And provided also, and be it farther enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that this Act, nor any thing therein contained, shall not extend, or be construed to extend, to debt or debts which were due before the fourth day of
July, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, by any of the citizens of the state to any of the subjects of Great Britain."
on account of that deficiency of payment, be justifi. able, is cheerfully submitted to the world's impartial judgment.
SPEECH IN THE CONVENTION ON THE
SUBJECT OF SALARIES.
It is with reluctance that I rise to express a disapprobation of any one article the plan for which we are so much obliged to the honourable gentleman who laid it before us. From its first reading, I have borne a good will to it, and in general wished it success. In this particular of salaries to the executive branch I happen to differ; and as my opinion may appear new and chimerical, it is only from a persuasion that it is right, and from a sense of duty, that I hazard it. The committee will judge of my reasons when they have heard them, and their judgment may possibly change mine. I think I see inconveniences in the appointment of salaries ; I see none in refusing them ; but, on the contrary, great advantages.
Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men: these are ant. bition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but wheu united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men a post of honour, that shall at the same time be a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places
it is that renders the British government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true source of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the nation, distracting its councils, hurrying it sometimes into fruitless wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonourable terms of peace.
And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust : it will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions, and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government, and be your rulers; and these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation ; for their vanquished competitors, of the same spirit, and from the same motive, wil perpetually be endeavouring to distress their ado ministration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.
Besides these evils, though we may set out in the 'beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations, and there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them : hence, as all history informs us, there has been, in every state and kingdom, a constant kind of warfare between the governing and the governed; the one striving to obtain more for