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The New Haven Convention of 1778.
The Ecclesiastical Constitution of Yale College.
THREE HISTORICAL PAPERS
READ BEFORE THE NEW HAVEN COLONY HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
SIMEON E. BALDWIN.
(FROM THE ADVANCE SHEETS OF VOL. III OF THE TRANSACTIONS OF
THE NEW HAVEN CONVENTION OF 1778.
BY PROFESSOR SIMEON E. BALDWIN.
[Read Jan. 29, 1877.]
In the elaborate paper by Dr. Bronson, upon Connecticut Currency, Continental Money, and the Finances of the Revolution, which is contained in the first volume of the transactions of this Society, a full statement is given of the various issues of paper money by the United States and by this State, during the progress of the Revolutionary War. From June 22d, 1775, to November 29th, 1779, the Continental Congress authorized the emission of circulating currency of various kinds to the amount in all of over $240,000,000. Some of it was receivable for taxes; some bore interest; some was made convertible into government bonds, or, as they were then called, “loan-office certificates.” The different States were, at the same time, issuing paper money of their own; though with a less lavish hand. That of Connecticut, during this period, amounted to but about one per cent. of the aggregate emissions of Continental bills.
It would have been strange indeed if these bills, issued by a Congress of delegates from a number of different Colonies, never before united in any other way than as common dependencies of the British Crown, and not yet venturing to declare their independence, had succeeded in establishing themselves in the confidence of the public. So early as January, 1776, Congress found it necessary to recommend the punishment, as public enemies, of all who refused to receive its paper in payment of debts, * and the laws which, at its solicitation, the States were induced to pass, making the Continental currency a legal tender, while ruinous to existing creditors, only tended to depreciate it still further, as regarded future transactions. Nothing could now be bought, except at prices entirely disproportioned to the actual specie value of the article. Congress, representing the United Colonies, was the largest purchaser, and had nothing to sell. It, therefore, felt most keenly this fall in the purchasing power of its promises to pay.
On October 2d, 1776, Congress voted 6That it be recommended to the several States to make legal provision to compel the furnishing of necessary supplies and assistance to the quartermaster general of the Continental army, on reasonable terms, for the public use.” |
A few days later, on Oct. 31st, 1776, this resolution was passed :
" Whereas it has been represented to Congress, that sundry inhabitants of these United States, to keep supplies from the army, or promote their own interest, have purchased considerable quantities of clothing, and refuse to dispose of the same, unless upon extravagant or unreasonable terms;
Resolved, That it be recommended to the assemblies, conventions, councils or committees of safety of the several States, forthwith to take suitable measures for the obtaining for the use of the army, such necessary articles, as being thus engrossed in their respective States, cannot be otherwise immediately procured, allowing to the owners reasonable prices for the same; and that laws be provided in each of the States, for effectually preventing monopolies of necessaries for the army, or inhabitants of the same."
The attempt to limit the prices of commodities in any particular town or State naturally had the effect of driving away from it all trade, which was susceptible of a transfer. Congress did not venture, itself, to attempt to legislate for the whole country as to the regulation of prices; but it did the next thing. It began, early in 1777, to urge upon the States, the necessity of concerted action in this matter.
* Journals of Congress, ii, p. 21. + Journals of Congress, ii, 396. # Journals of Congress, ii, 439.
On Jan. 9th, 1777, Congress “ earnestly recommended to the executive powers of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland” the purchase of provisions for the army, and also that they should “limit the prices of the said articles," and should “confer together by epistolary correspondence, or such other manner as they may think best, in order to pursue some general and beneficial plan, in which they may be mutually useful to each other."*
The sessions of Congress during the next few days were principally spent in discussing “ the means of supporting the credit of the Continental currency;" and on Jan. 14th, the result of their deliberations took the shape of a preamble, denouncing “the pernicious artifices of the enemies of American liberty to impair the credit of the said bills by raising the nominal value of gold and silver;" and a resolution, asking the several States to inflict upon all who offered, asked or received, upon any sale, or negotiation for a sale, more in bills, than they would offer, ask, or receive in gold, such penalties and forfeitures as would "prevent such pernicious practices;" to make Continental money a legal tender; to provide sinking funds for redeeming their respective proportions of the whole issue; and to lay taxes for the future large enough to meet their share of the annual public expenditures.”+
On Christmas day, 1776, a meeting of three delegates from each of the four New England States had been held at Providence, to consult as to what measures could be taken to uphold the credit of those States, and provide for their defence from invasion.
This body sat until January 2d, 1777, and one of the principal results of their deliberations was a recommendation to the
* Journals of Congress, iii, 15. + Journals of Congress, iii, 20. 1 2 Arnold's Hist. of R. I., 390.