those fleets and armies, to enforce the requisitions of the
Union ? All methods short of coercion, have repeatedly been
tried in vain.
Let us now proceed to another most important inquiry. How
^T.30.] NEW-YORK LEGISLATURE. 367
are we to pay our foreign debt? This, I think, is estimated at
about 7,000,000 of dollars, which will every year increase with
the accumulations of interest. If we pay neither principal nor
interest, we not only abandon all pretensions to character as a
nation, but we endanger the public peace. However it may be
in our power to evade the just demands of our domestic creditors,
our foreign creditors must and will be paid.
They have power to enforce their demands, and sooner or
later they may be expected to do it. It is not my intention to
endeavor to excite the apprehensions of the committee, but I
would appeal to their prudence. A discreet attention to the con
sequences of national measures is no impeachment of our firmness.
The foreign debt, I say, must sooner or later be paid, and the
longer provision is delayed the heavier it must fall at last.
We require about 1,600,000 dollars to discharge the interest
and instalments of the present year, about a million annually
upon an average, for ten years more, and about 300,000 dollars
for another ten years.
The product of the impost may be computed at about a mil
lion of dollars annually. It is an increasing fund. This fund
would not only suffice for the discharge of the foreign debt, but
important operations might be ingrafted upon it towards the
extinguishment of the domestic debt.
Is it possible to hesitate about the propriety of adopting a
resource so easy, in itself, and so extensive in its effects ?
Here I expect I may be told there is no objection to employ
ing this resource. The act of the last session does it. The only
dispute is about the mode. We are willing to grant the money,
but not the power required from us. Money will pay our debts ;
power may destroy our liberties.
It has been insinuated that nothing but a lust of power would
have prevented Congress from accepting the grant in the shape
it has already passed the legislature. This is a severe charge.
If true, it ought undoubtedly to prevent our going a step further.
But it is easy to show that Congress could not have accepted our
grant without removing themselves further from the object than
they now are. To gain one State they must have lost all the
368 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [Mf. 30.
others. The grants of every State are accompanied with a con
dition that similar grants be made by the other States. It is not
denied that our act is essentially different from theirs. Their
acts give the United States the power of collecting the duty ;
ours reserves it to the State, and makes it receivable in paper
The immediate consequences of accepting our grant would be
a relinquishment of the grants of other States. They must take
the matter up anew, and do the work over again to accommodate
it to our standard. In order to anchor one State, would it have
been wise to set twelve, or at least eleven others, afloat ?
It is said, that the States which have granted more would
certainly be willing to grant less. They would easily accommo
date their acts to that of New- York, as more favorable to their
own power and security.
But would Massachusetts and Virginia, which have no paper
money of their own, accede to a plan that permitted other States
to pay in paper while they paid in specie ? Would they consent
that their citizens should pay twenty shillings in the pound, while
the citizens of Ehode Island paid only four, the citizens of North
Carolina ten, and of other States in different degrees of inequality,
in proportion to the relative depreciation of their paper ? Is it
wise, in this State, to cherish a plan that gives such an advantage
to the citizens of other States over its own ?
The paper money of the State of New- York,, in most transac
tions, is equal to gold and silver ; that of Ehode Island is depre
ciated to five for one ; that of North Carolina to two for one ;
that of South Carolina may perhaps be worth fifteen shillings in
If the States pay the duties in paper, is it not evident that
for every pound of that duty consumed by the citizen of New-
York, he would pay twenty shillings, while the citizen of South
Carolina would pay fifteen shillings; of North Carolina, ten
shillings ; and Khode Island, only four !
This consideration alone is sufficient to condemn the plan of
our grant of last session, and to prove incontestably that the
States which are averse to emitting a paper currency, or have it
jET.30.] NEW-YORK LEGISLATURE. 369
in their power to support one when emitted, would never come
Again, would those States which by their public acts de
monstrate a conviction that the powers of the UNION require
augmentation ; which are conscious of energy in their own ad
ministration would they be willing to concur in a plan which
left the collection of the duties in the hands of each State ; and
of course subject to all the inequalities which a more or less
vigorous system of collection would produce ?
This too is an idea which ought to have great weight with us.
We have better habits of government than are to be found in
some of the States ; and our Constitution admits of more energy
than the Constitution of most of the other States. The duties,
therefore, would be more effectually collected with us than in
such States, and this would have a similar effect to the deprecia
tion of the money, in imposing a greater burthen on the citizens
of this State.
If any State should incline to evade the payment of the du
ties, having the collection in its own hands, nothing would be
easier than to effect it, and. without materially sacrificing appear
It is manifest, from this view of the subject, that we have the
strongest reasons, as a State, to depart from our own act; and
that it would have been highly injudicious in Congress to have
If there even had been a prospect of the concurrence of the
other States in the plan, how inadequate would it have been to
the public exigencies, fettered with the embarrassments of a de
preciating paper !
It is to no purpose to say, that the faith of the State was
pledged by the act to make the paper equal to gold and silver ;
and that the other States would be obliged to do the same.
What greater dependence can be had on the faith of the States
pledged to this measure, than on the faith they pledged in the Con
federation sanctioned by a solemn appeal to heaven ? If the obli
gation of faith in one case has had so little influence upon their
conduct in respect to the requisitions of Congress, what hope
3*70 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JET. 30.
can there be that they would have greater influences in respect to
the deficiencies of the paper money ?
There yet remains an important light in which to consider
the subject in the way of revenue. It is a clear point that we
cannot carry the duties upon imports to the same extent by sepa
rate arrangements as by a general plan we must regulate our
selves by what we find done in the neighboring States : while
Pennsylvania has only two and a half per cent, on her importa
tions, we cannot greatly exceed her. To go much beyond it
would injure our commerce in a variety of ways, and would de
feat itself. While the ports of Connecticut and Jersey are open
to the introduction of goods free from duty, and the conveyance
from them to us is so easy while they consider our imposts as
an ungenerous advantage taken of them, which it would be laud
able to elude, the duties must be light or they would be evaded.
The facility to do it, and the temptation of doing it, would be
both so great, that we should collect perhaps less by an increase
of the rates than we do now. Already we experience the effects
of this situation. But if the duties were to be levied under a
common direction, with the same precautions every where to
guard against smuggling, they might be carried without prejudice
to trade to a much more considerable height.
As things now are, we must adhere to the present standard of
duties, without any material alterations. Suppose this to pro
duce fifty thousand pounds a year. The duties to be granted
to Congress ought, in proportion, to produce double that sum.
To this it appears, by a scheme now before us, that additional
duties might be imposed for the use of the State, on certain enu
merated articles, to the amount of thirty thousand pounds. This
would be an augmentation of our national revenue by in
direct taxation to the extent of eighty thousand pounds a year,
an immense object in a single State, and which alone demon
strates the good policy of the measure.
It is no objection to say that a great part of this fund will be
dedicated to the use of the United States. Their exigencies
must be supplied in some way or other. The more is done to
wards it by means of the impost, the less will be to be done in
jEi. 30.] NEW. YORK LEGISLATURE.
other modes. If we do not employ that resource to the best
account, we must find others in direct taxation. And to this are
opposed all the habits and prejudices of the communitj. There
is not a farmer in the State who would not pay a shilling in the
voluntary consumption of articles on which a duty is paid,
rather than a penny imposed immediately on his house and land.
There is but one objection to the measure under consideration
that has come to my knowledge, which yet remains to be discuss
ed. I mean the effect it is supposed to have upon our paper
currency. It is said the diversion of this fund would leave the
credit of the paper without any effectual support.
Though I should not be disposed to put a consideration of
this kind in competition with the safety of the UNION ; yet I
should be extremely cautious about doing any thing that might
affect the credit of our currency. The legislature having thought
an emission of paper advisable, I consider it my duty as a repre
sentative of the people to take care of its credit. The farmers
appeared willing to exchange their produce for it ; the merchants
on the other hand had large debts outstanding. They supposed
that giving a free circulation to the paper would enable their
customers in the country to pay, and as they perceived that
they would have it in their power to convert the money into pro
duce, they naturally resolved to give it their support.
These causes combined to introduce the money into general
circulation, and having once obtained credit, it will now be able
to support itself.
The chief difficulty to have been apprehended in respect to
the paper, was to overcome the diffidence which the still recent
experience of depreciating paper had instilled into men's minds.
This, it was to have been feared, would have shaken its credit at
its outset, and if it had once began to sink, it would be no easy
matter to prevent its total decline.
The event has, however, turned out otherwise, and the money
has been fortunate enough to conciliate the general confidence.
This point gained, there need be no apprehensions of its future
fate, unless the government should do something to destroy that
372 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [&T. 30.
The causes that first gave it credit still operate, and will in
all probability continue so to do. The demand for money has
not lessened, and the merchant has still the same inducement to
countenance the circulation of the paper.
I shall not deny that the outlet which the payment of duties
furnished to the merchant, was an additional motive to the re
ception of the paper. Nor is it proposed to take away this mo
tive. There is now before the House a bill, one object of which
is the establishment of a State impost on certain enumerated arti
cles, in addition to that to be granted to the United States. It
is computed on very good grounds, that the additional duties
would amount to about 30,000, and as they would be payable
in paper currency, they would create a sufficient demand upon
the merchant to leave him, in this respect, substantially the same
inducement which he had before. Indeed, independent of this,
the readiness of the trading people to take the money can never
be doubted, while it will freely command the commodities of the
country ; for this, to them, is the most important use they can
make of it.
But besides the State impost, there must be other taxes : and
these will all contribute to create a demand for the money ;
which is all we now mean when we talk of funds for its support ;
for there are none appropriated for the redemption of the paper.
Upon the whole, the additional duties will be a competent
substitute for those now in existence ; and the general good will
of the community towards the paper, will be the best security
for its credit.
Having now shown, Mr. Chairman, that there is no constitu
tional impediment to the adoption of the bill ; that there is no^
danger to be apprehended to the public liberty from giving the
power in question to the United States; that in the view of revenue
the measure under consideration is not only expedient but neces
sary let us turn our attention to the other side of this impor
tant subject. Let us ask ourselves, what will be the consequence
of rej ecting the bill ? What will be the situation of our national
affairs if they are left much longer to float in the chaos in which
they are now involved ?
JET. 30.] NEW-YORK LEGISLATURE. 373
Can our NATIONAL CHARACTER be preserved without paying
our debts ? Can the UNION subsist without revenue ? Have we
realized the consequences which would attend its dissolution ?
If these States are not united under a FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
they will infallibly have wars with each other ; and their divi
sions will subject them to all the mischiefs of foreign influence
and intrigue. The human passions will never want objects of
hostility. The Western Territory is an obvious and fruitful
source of contest. Let us also cast our eye upon the map of this
State, intersected from one extremity to the other by a large
navigable river. In the event of a rupture with them, what is to
hinder our metropolis from becoming a prey to our neighbors ?
Is it even supposable that they would suffer it to remain the nur
sery of wealth to a distinct community ?
These subjects are delicate, but it is necessary to contemplate
them, to teach us to form a true estimate of our situation.
Wars with each other would beget standing armies a source
of more real danger to our liberties than all the powers that
could be conferred upon the representatives of the Union. And
wars with each other would lead to opposite alliances with
foreign powers, and plunge us into all the labyrinths of European
The Romans, in their progress to universal dominion, when
they conceived the project of subduing the refractory spirit of
the Grecian republics, which composed the famous Achaian
League, began by sowing dissensions among them, and instilling
jealousies of each other, and of the common head, and finished
by making them a province of the Roman empire.
The application is easy : if there are any foreign enemies, if
there are any domestic foes to this country, all their arts and ar
tifices will be employed to effect a dissolution of the Union.
This cannot be better done than by sowing jealousies of the Fed
eral head, and cultivating in each State an undue attachment to
its own power.
374 HAMILTON'S WORKS. -ffii. 30.
INDEPENDENCE OF VEKMONT.
An act to empower and direct the delegates of this State in Congress,
to accede to, ratify, and confirm the sovereignty and independence
of the people of the territory commonly calkd and known by the
name of the State of Vermont. 1787.
Be it enacted by the people of the State of New- York, represented
in Senate and Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of
the same, That the delegates of this State in the Congress of the
United States of America, or any two of them, shall be, and
hereby are fully authorized, empowered, and required, wholly,
entirely, and absolutely, for and in behalf of the people of this
State, and in such manner, and with such formalities as shall be
determined in Congress, to accede to, recognize, ratify, approve
and confirm the independence and sovereignty of the people in
habiting the Territory commonly called and known by the name
of the State of Yermont :
Provided, always, that it be, and it hereby is declared to be,
an indispensable preliminary to such act of accession to and re
cognition of the independence and sovereignty of the said people,
that they explicitly relinquish and renounce all claims and pre
tensions to any lands, territory, or jurisdiction, on the east side
of the west bank of Connecticut river, and on the west side of a
line beginning at a point in the north bounds of the State or
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay, at the distance of twenty
miles on a direct line from Hudson's river, thence running
twenty miles east of Hudson's river, so far as the said river runs
north-easterly in its general course ; then by the west bounds of
the townships granted by the late government of New Hamp
shire, to the river running from South Bay to Lake Champlain ;
thence, along said river to Lake Champlain ; thence along the east
side of the Lake Champlain to the latitude of forty -five degrees
north ; excepting only a neck of land between Missiskoy Bay
and the waters of Lake Champlain :
Provided, also, that such act of accession to and recognition
of the independence and sovereignty of the said people, shall be
jET.30.] NEW-YORK LEGISLATURE. 375
upon this express condition, that the said people shall thereupon
immediately accede, to be received into, and become a member of
the Confederacy of the United States of America, to all intents
and purposes whatsoever.
Provided, also, that such act of accession to, and recogni
tion of the said independence and sovereignty of the said peo
ple, shall be upon this further condition : that the rights, titles,
or claims, of any person or persons, to lands within the said ter
ritory of Yermont, by virtue of grants under the government of
the late Colony or Province of New- York, shall be and remain in
as full force as if this act had never passed, to be asserted, prose
cuted, maintained, and determined, agreeably to the mode speci
fied and prescribed in the 9th of the Articles of Confederation
and perpetual union for the determination of controversies con
cerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of
two or more States ; and
Provided, always, that nothing in this act contained, nor any
act, matter, or thing, to be done and transacted by the delegates
of this State in the Congress of the said United States of Ame
rica, in and concerning the premises, or any part thereof, shall
bind or oblige, or be construed, deemed, or taken to bind or
oblige the Government, Legislature, people, subjects, or inhabit
ants of this State, until not less than eight other of the said
United States of America, of which number the State of New
Hampshire to be one, shall accede to, recognize, ratify, approve,
and confirm the sovereignty and independence of the said people
of the said Territory of Vermont.
SPEECH ON ACCEDING TO THE INDEPENDENCE OF VERMONT.
The counsel for the petitioners has entered into a large field
of argument against the present bill. He has endeavored to show
that it is contrary to the Constitution, to the maxims of sound
policy, and to the rights of property. His observations have not
been destitute of weight. They appear to have the more force,
376 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JE<x. 30.
as they are to a certain degree founded in truth. But it is the
province of the committee to distinguish the just limits of. the
principles he has advanced ; how far they extend, and where
they terminate. To aid the committee in this inquiry shall be
my endeavor, and following the counsel for the petitioners
through the different heads of his argument, I hope to be able to
show, that neither of the objections he has urged stands in the
way of the measure proposed, and that the Constitution permits,
policy demands it, and justice acquiesces in its adoption.
The first objection is drawn from that great principle of the
social compact, that the chief object of government is to protect
the rights of individuals by the united strength of the com
munity. The justness of this principle is not to be disputed, but
its extent remains to be ascertained. It must be taken with this
limitation : The united strength of the community ought to be
exerted for the protection of individuals so far as there is a rational
prospect of success ; so far as is consistent with the safety and
well being of the whole. The duty of a nation is always limited
by these considerations : It is bound to make efforts and encoun"
ter hazards for the protection of its members, proportioned to its
abilities, warranted by a reasonable expectation of a favorable
issue, and compatible with its eventual security. But it is not
bound to enter in or prosecute enterprises of a manifest rashness
and folly ; or which, in the event of success, would be productive
of more mischief than good.
This qualification of the principle, can no more be denied
than the principle itself. The counsel for the petitioners indeed
admits it in substance, when he admits that a case of extreme
necessity is an exception to the rule : but he adds that this neces
sity should be apparent and unequivocal.
What constitutes a case of extreme necessity, admits of no
precise definition. It is always a question of fact, to be deter
mined by a consideration of the condition of the parties and the
particular circumstances of the case itself. A case of necessity
then exists, when every discerning unprejudiced man, well
acquainted with facts, must be convinced that a measure cannot be
undertaken or pursued with a probability of success. To determine
^ET.30.] NEW-YORK LEGISLATURE. 377
this an experiment is not always necessary : circumstances may
exist so decisive and palpable in their nature, as to render it the
extreme of temerity to begin as well as to continue an experiment.
The propriety of doing either the one or the other, must equally
be decided by a judicious estimate of the national situation.
The tendency of the principle contended for, on the applica
tion of it in argument, has been to prove that the State ought to
employ the common strength of the society to protect the rights
of its citizens, interested in the district of territory in question, by
reducing the revolted inhabitants of that district to an obedience
to its laws. The inquiry therefore is, Can this be done ? Is the
State in a situation to undertake it ? Is there a probability that
the object will be more attainable at a future day? Is there not
rather a probability that it will be every day more out of our
reach, and that leaving things in their present state, will be attend
ed with serious dangers and inconveniences ? Is it even desirable,
if practicable, to reduce the people in question under subjection
to this State ?
In pursuing this inquiry we ought to bear in mind, that a
nation is never to regulate its conduct by remote possibilities or
mere contingencies, but by such probability as may reasonably
be inferred from the existing state of things, and the usual course
of human affairs.
With this caution, no well informed mind can be at a loss in
what manner to answer the questions I have proposed. A con
cise review of the past, and a dispassionate consideration of the
present, will enable us to judge with accuracy of the obligations
and interests of the State.
The pretensions to independence of the district of territory
in question, began shortly after the commencement of the late
revolution. We were then engaged in a war for our existence
as a people, which required the utmost exertion of our resources
to give us a chance of success. To have diverted any part of
them from this object to that of subduing the inhabitants of
Vermont, to have involved a domestic quarrel which would have
compelled that hardy and numerous body of men to throw them
selves into the arms of the power with which we were then
378 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JET. 30.
contending, instead of joining their efforts to ours in the common
cause of American liberty, as they for a long time did, with great
advantage to it, would have been a species of frenzy, for which
there could have been no apology, and would have endangered