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Volume XIX. 1781

January 1 -April 23







605, 608



Prefatory note .

Regulations for Clothing Department
Treaty with Holland ....
Treatment of prisoners . . -27, 147, 195,
Peace negotiations ....

Instructions to Commissioners
Department of Foreign Affairs
Pay of officers
Affairs of the Treasury
Circular letter to States
Medical Department
Disturbances in Pennsylvania
Five per cent duty on imports .
Civil Executive Departments
Articles of Confederation .
Powers of Congress under
Exposition of

Debts of the United States

Treaty with Spain

Commendation of John Paul Jones
Medal for

Case of Henry Laurens

Rank: in Army

Commercial intercourse with Great Britain

Fast-day proclamation ....

Robert Morris ...-••

French Alliance 308

Financial and military aid



. 11, 662


229, 299, 529




. 49, 237



68, 292, 1093


12, 124, 295, 421

126, 155

138, 192, 208, 214




200. 390

386. 391

242, 540


. 284



Principal Contents

Ordinance fob capture and condemnation of prizes
superintendant of finance duties

Powers .....
Thanks to French officers
Loan-office certificates

Destruction of
Courts for piracies

Of appeal in cases of capture .

Ordinance ....

Instructions for privateers
Conference with French minister 371, 562, 669, 975
Scheme of finance ....
Public debts and statement of finances

Liquidation of debts
Public credit, ordinance for
Rules for Congress ....
Expenses of coming campaign
Plan for national bank .
Arthur Lee's accounts ....
Retaliation report . . 582, 620, 779

Depreciation report ....
Report on land cessions .
Treaty of commerce with Great Britain
Navy affairs


Consul in France

Consular convention with France

Vermont question

Captures on water, ordinance

Execution of Isaac Hayne

Ordinance for regulating Treasury

Virginia and the land companies

Thanksgiving proclamation .





. 432

376, 495

986, 998

501, 523

973, 977

713, 746
, 836, 887
152, 1153

917, 927

. 1074

Principal Contents v

Surrender at Yorktown ...... 1080

Funds from the States ...... 1090

Controversy between Pennsylvania and Connecticut 1116
General Washington attends . . . . .1143

Letter to the King of France 1145

Bank of North America ordinance . . . .1187

Standing committees . . . . . . . 1193

Bibliographical notes 1197


In the history of the Continental Congress the year 1781
is of great importance, because it shows the development
of the idea that a stronger Federal Government than that
which had existed up to that time was necessary.

On March 1 the Maryland delegates signed the Articles
of Confederation, thus completing that instrument and mak-
ing it effective, and at length the United States had a con-
stitution; but, on March 6, Varnum, of Rhode Island,
offered a resolution, "that a committee be appointed to
digest such additional articles to the Act of Confederation
to be exercised during the war as shall be deemed necessary
to be proposed to the respective States for their ratification,"
and, on the same day, Varnum, Duane, and Madison were
appointed a committee "to prepare a plan to invest the
United States in Congress assembled with full and explicit
powers for effectually carrying into execution in the several
States all acts or resolutions passed agreeably to the Articles
of Confederation." The committee's report was considered
on May 2. It proposed that the States be asked for an addi-
tional article to the Articles of Confederation, which should
confer upon Congress the right to employ the forces of the
United States, by land or sea, to compel any delinquent
State to fulfil its Federal engagements. The additional
article was to be binding when enacted by all the States not
in the possession of the enemy. The recommendation was
referred to a grand committee, consisting of a member from
each State.

vin Prefatory Note

On the same day John Mathews, of South Carolina, offered
a motion, declaring that, during the war, the Congress ought
to have authority to make and execute such laws and ordi-
nances as it should deem necessary for prosecuting the war
efficiently, but the motion was postponed. On July 20 the
grand committee reported a recommendation that the States
be asked to grant the power of laying an embargo in time of
war, and to give Congress control of quotas of money, as
well as authority to collect the money through its own
agents. Randolph, Ellsworth, and Varnum were appointed
a committee to consider this motion, and, on August 22,
they made numerous recommendations concerning the man-
ner of executing the Articles of Confederation. Among other
things, they urged that a general council be provided for;
that the power to lay embargoes in time of war be granted;
that Federal collectors be empowered to collect Federal
requisitions; that Congress be given power to issue letters
of marque, coin money, emit bills of credit, and borrow
money. On November 2 Congress recommended that each
State lay a tax, entirely separate from the levies for State
expenses, for the purpose of raising its share of the $8,000,000
required for Federal expenses, and that it be paid to agents
of the Superintendent of Finance. In other words, it
was to be a Federal levy, paid to Federal officers.

On January 24, 1781, before the Articles of Confederation
had been ratified, acting in Committee of the Whole, Con-
gress took the most important action that had been attempted
up to that time, in the direction of obtaining Federal funds,
when it asked the States to levy an impost duty of 5 per cent
on the value of all foreign merchandise imported, and to
allow the funds thus collected to be paid into the hands of the
agents of Congress. On February 3 it asked the States to
vest the power to levy the tax in Congress itself.

Prefatory Note ix

On February 7 a plan for executive departments was
agreed to — a Superintendent of Finance, Secretary at War,
and Secretary of Marine. Already, on January 10, the
Department of Foreign Affairs had been established, and,
on February 16, the committee to whom the papers of the
convention at Hartford had been referred reported that
there ought to be an Attorney General of the United States
and a court of judicature for trial of all causes relating to
offences against the United States. On April 5 the ordinance
establishing the Federal courts for trial of piracies was
agreed to, the court of appeals in cases of capture being
established by the ordinance of July 18. Here, then, were
serious efforts to provide executive machinery, to increase
the direct power of Congress, and to erect a Federal judiciary.

The great cause of these efforts was the manifest impos-
sibility, under the existing system, of obtaining the money
with which to support the military and civil establishments.
The circular letter to the States, of January 15, called atten-
tion to the failure of previous requisitions and the imme-
diate necessities of the Army, its pay being far in arrears.
On February 19 a full statement was made of the debts of the
United States, and an estimate of the funds necessary to
carry on the Government for a year. On April 18 a further
statement of the money borrowed was laid before Congress.
The country, it said, had drawn an Army before any cur-
rency was provided for maintaining it. Congress had no
resources whence to derive funds, except by emitting bills
of credit redeemable at a future day. Accordingly, bills
of credit had been emitted time after time; then loans and a
lottery were resorted to. Recommendations to the States to
resort to taxation failed. Money was raised by drafts on
our ministers abroad. The Treasurer was ordered to draw
upon the treasurers of the States, at 30 days' sight, for their
quotas. The request for the 5 per cent impost, to obtain

x Prefatory Note

Federal funds, raised hopes, which were disappointed by
the refusal of Rhode Island to agree to the tax. The wel-
come intelligence was conveyed, on May 28, that the King
of France had granted a subsidy of 6,000,000 livres tournois,
and had taken steps to enable Franklin to borrow 4,000,000
more. What appeared to be inevitable bankruptcy was
thus averted. Fortunately, also, there was a Superintend-
ent of Finance, and, on May 26, the Bank of North America
was established.

The evident fact that the war was drawing to a close
served to show all the more clearly how feeble the Govern-
ment would be, when its energies should be relaxed in peace.

On January 17 the battle of the Cowpens was won by
Daniel Morgan; other fighting in the Southern Department,
during the year, was, in the main, successful to the American
forces; the juncture was effected with the French fleet under
De Grasse; Cornwalhs surrendered October 19.

The peace negotiations became active. On June 11 the
mission to France was made a commission, with Franklin,
Jay, Adams, Henry Laurens, and Jefferson as members; but
Laurens and Jefferson did not serve. The commissioners
were instructed, June 15, to require recognition of the inde-
pendence of the United States by Great Britain, as a condi-
tion of any treaty of peace.

These volumes have been belated in coming from the press.
They should have appeared last summer; but, although the
copy was in the printer's hands in due season, twice the con-
dition of the Library's allotment for printing required the
postponement of the publication. The delay has been
productive of some benefit, however, since it has encour-
aged a further revision of the copy, and the proper placing
of a few reports which had, at first, eluded identification.

Prefatory Note xi

As the work progresses the editorial difficulties do not
decrease. The Journal itself becomes meager for the latter
part of the year 1781; for some days there are only a few
lines of entry; but the collateral papers for these dates are
numerous, and their identification requires much pains-
taking comparison and extensive research. The result,
however, is of such unquestionable historic value that it
fully repays the time and labor which are expended upon it.

Gaillakd Hunt
Chief of Division of Manuscripts, Editor
Heebeet Putnam

Librarian of Congress, July, 1912





A letter, of December 20, from General Washington, was
read : '

Ordered, That it be referred to a committee of three:

The members, Mr. [John] Sullivan, Mr. [James Mitchell]
Varnum, Mr. [Theodorick] Bland.

The delegates for Virginia laid before Congress a letter, of
28, from Colonels Mathews and Febiger, which was read;
Whereupon, 2

On motion of Mr. [James] Madison, seconded by Mr. [John]

Resolved, That in the new arrangement of the army it is
the sense of Congress, that the officers of the continental
lines, who have been exchanged since the said arrangement,
or are now in captivity, ought to be considered and arranged
according to their respective ranks, in the same manner with
those who have not been prisoners. 3

A letter, of 23 December, from the Board of War, was
read: 4

Ordered, That it be referred back to the Board of War.

A letter, of 27 December, from General Washington, and
a letter of from the president of the State of New-

hampshire, were read. 5

1 This letter is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 152, IX, folio 405.
It is printed in The Writings of Washington (Ford), IX, 68.

2 This letter is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 78, XVI, folio 109.

3 A copy of this resolution, as an extract from the minutes, is in the Papers of the
Continental Congress, No. 41, II, folio 174.

4 This letter is in the Papers of the Continental Congess,r No. 148, I, folio 265.

6 Washington's letter is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 152, IX,
folio 421; the New Hampshire letter, dated December 19, 1780, is in No. 64, folio 162.
86382°-VOL 19-12 1

2 Journals of Congress

The report of the committee on Mr. J. Adams' letter of 23
August, was called for, and, after debate,

Ordered, That it be recommitted.

A motion was then made by Mr. [James] Madison, sec-
onded by Mr. [Thomas] Bee,

That so much of the letter from Mr. Adams as relates to
the probable operations of the enemy against the southern
states be transmitted to the Commander in Chief; and that
he be informed that it is the desire of Congress that he should
immediately make such a distribution of the forces under
his command, including those of our allies under the Count
de Rochambeau as will most effectually counteract the views
of the enemy and support the southern states.

A motion was made by Mr. [William] Sharpe, seconded by
Mr. [James Mitchell] Varnum, to strike out the latter clause
from the word "chief" to the end, and on the question, shall
those words stand, the yeas and nays being required by Mr.
[Richard] Howly,

New Hampshire,


Mr. Sullivan,

no } no

Mr. Madison,

& y i ™

Massachusetts Bay,


i ay

ay J -

Mr. Ward,

no } *

North Carolina,

[Rhode Island]

Mr. Burke,

no l

Mr. Varnum,

no } no


no [no



no J

Mr. Huntington


South Carolina,


no | no

Mr. Mathews,

no j


no 1


ay fay

New York,


ay )

Mr. Floyd,

no } no



Mr. Walton,

ay j

Mr. Montgomery,

no i

no J


no | ay



ay ]

So it passed in the negative, arid the words were struck out.

It was then moved by Mr. [Thomas] Burke, seconded by Mr.

[William] Sharpe, to insert, in lieu of the words struck out;

January, 1781


' 'And that he be desired to give his opinion to Congress on the
expediency of ordering the forces of his Most Christian Majesty,
now at Newport in Rhode Island, to take post in Virginia."

Which was agreed to, and on the question,

Ordered, That so much of the letter from Mr. Adams as
relates to the probable operations of the enemy against the
southern states be transmitted to the Commander in Chief,
and that he be desired to give his opinion to Congress on the
expediency of ordering theforcesof his Most Christian Majesty,
now at Newport in Rhode Island, to take post in Virginia. 1

A motion was made by Mr. [John] Sullivan, seconded by
Mr. [James Mitchell] Varnum,

That Lieutenant Colonel William Smith be continued as
sub-inspector with his present rank in the army of the United
States, to be employed as the Commander in Chief shall


On which, the

yeas and

nays being required by

[Theodorick] Bland

New Hampshire,


Mr. Sullivan,


Mr. Madison.

no J

Massachusetts Bay,


Mr. Adams,

no 1

no J

North Carolina,


Mr. Burke,


Rhode Island,



Mr. Varnum,





South Carolina,

Mr. Huntington,

no 1

Mr. Mathews,

ay J







New York,

Mr. Walton,


Mr. Floyd,







Mr. Montgomery,


ay J





So it was resolved in the affirmative.

1 All of the proceedings for this day on the letter of Mr. Adama were also entered in
the manuscript Secret (Domestic) Journal.

4 Journals of Congress

The committee on the Memorial of W. Peck, and

The Committee to whom the Memorial of Col William Peck was
referred, beg leave to Report, That there is a Balance due to the
said Peck of three thousand five hundred and thirty three dollars
and nineteen ninetieths of a dollar, in specie, being the balance for his
pay and subsistence while in the service of the United States. Your
Committee therefore submit the following Resolution, Viz. —

Resolved, that a warrant issue on Mr Wm Imlay Loan Officer in
the State of Connecticut, in favor of Col Wilham Peck for three
thousand five hundred and thirty three dollars and nineteen nine-
tieths of a dollar in bills of the new emission, or other Money equiva-
lent, in full for the balance of his Accounts. 1

The committee appointed to prepare a letter of credence for
the hon. J. A[dams] delivered in their several reports.

Adjourned to 10 o' Clock to Morrow.


The delegates for the State of Massachusetts Bay laid
before Congress their credentials, which are in the words
following :

State of Massachusetts Bay
In the House of Representatives OcV. 4, 1780

Whereas the Honble Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, James Lovell,
Samuel Holten, George Partridge, Artemas Ward and Timothy
Danielson, Esquires, are chosen and appointed to represent this State
in the American Congress for one Year, to commence the first day
of January next ensuing,

Resolved, That the above named Gentlemen, or any two of them,
or when more are present in Congress a Major part of them, be and
they hereby are fully impowered, with the Delegates who are or may
be appointed from the other American States, to Concert, Direct and
Order such further measures as appear to them best calculated for
the Establishment of the Rights, Liberty and Independence of the
United States of America, upon a Basis permanent and Secure
against the Power and Art of the Brittish Nation; for prosecuting

1 This report, in the writing of James Mitchell Varnum, is in the Papers of the Con-
tinental Congress, No. 19, V. 63. It was set aside January 8.

January, 1781 5

the present War, concluding Peace, Contracting Alliances, Estab-
lishing Commerce, and guarding against any future Encroachments
and Machinations of the Enemies of the United States; with Power
to adjourn to such times and places as shall appear most Conducive
to the Public Safety and advantage: — And it is hereby injoined, that
at least four of the said Gentlemen constantly attend on the business
of their Delegation.

Sent up for Concurrence

John Hancock Spk

In Council Oct? 4, 17S0

read and concurred

John Avery D Secy
Consented to by the Major] „ „

Part of the Council) ^rue Copy

Attest *

A report from the Board of Treasury was read; Where-

Ordered, That a warrant issue on Thomas Smith, commis-
sioner of the continental loan office in the State of Pennsyl-
vania, in favour of Mr. G[eorge] Walton, one of the delegates
for the State of Georgia, for twelve thousand dollars old
emissions, for which the said State of Georgia is to be ac-

That a warrant issue on the treasurer in favour of Colonel
William Malcolm, for thirteen thousand four hundred dollars
old emissions, to defray the expences of four men and five
horses in bringing money from Abraham Yates, the loan
officer of the State of New York, to the continental treasury,
to be destroyed, who employed the said Colonel Malcolm for
that purpose and with whom he is to account. 2

Treasury Office, December 21st, 1780.
The Board of Treasury having received a Letter from the Treas-
urer of Loans dated the 12th Instant mentioning that "as there are
only two remaining of the four Commissioners appointed to count

1 The original is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, Massachusetts, Creden-
tials of Delegates.

2 This report is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 136, V, folio 1.

6 Journals of Congress

and destroy the Emissions taken out of circulation — He did not
think proper to receive the Money of those Emissions Mr. Brown
has brought" — beg leave to offer the following resolution:

Resolved, That John Shee and Andrew Doz, together with
the treasurer of loans, be competent to execute the duties
heretofore assigned them, in conjunction with Hugh Mont-
gomery and Samuel Downe; and that the said John Shee
and Andrew Doz, with the treasurer of loans, proceed to
destroy any bills which are or may be transmitted by the
commissioners of the loan offices to the treasurer of loans, of
the emissions of May 20th, 1777, and April 11th, 1778, called
out of circulation.

The Board having taken into consideration the Remonstrance of
Jonathan Sturges on the subject of damages done his Farm by the
Continental Troops (referred to them by Congress), beg leave to
Report —

Resolved, That the consideration of the damages, repre-
sented by Jonathan Sturges, to be done his farm by the con-
tinental troops, be deferred to the close of the present war,
then to be taken up, in common with others of a similar
nature, which have been postponed to that period.

The Board further report;

Ordered, That a warrant issue on Abraham Yates, com-
missioner of the continental loan office for the State of New
York, in favor of Edward Chinn, one of the late commis-
sioners of accounts at Albany, for five hundred dollars in the
bills of credit emitted pursuant to the act of Congress of the
18 of March last, advanced on account of his salary and to
enable him to pay the contingent expences of his present
office as an itinerant commissioner of the chambers, and for
which sum he is to be accountable.

Resolved, That loan office certificates of the following
denominations, bearing an interest of six per cent, per annum,
be struck under the direction of the Board of Treasury, to be

2 of 10,000 dollars.
10 of 5,000 do.

200 of 1,000 dollars.
1000 of 500 do. 1

January, 1781 7

issued to such fortunate adventurers in the third class as
may be entitled to and apply for the same; and that the said
certificates be dated at the time of finishing the drawing of
the said class, and made payable at the end of five years, viz.
1 of 30,000 dollars.

1 of 20,000 do.

2 of 15,000 do.

The Board of Treasury, to whom was referred the letter
from Resolve Smith, report, that, in the opinion of the
Board, it is not only inexpedient but highly improper, at
this juncture, to dispose of bills of exchange for the purposes
pointed out in his letter : 2

Resolved, That Congress agree to the said report.

Ordered, That on the application of John Pierce, deputy
paymaster general, for money to enable Captain Brown, of
Colonel Harrison's regiment of artillery, to join the southern
army, the following warrants be issued:

One on Thomas Smith, commissioner of the continental
loan office for the State of Pensylvania, for twelve thousand
three hundred and seventy-five dollars old emissions.

One on Thomas Harwood, commissioner of the continental
loan office for the State of Maryland for two thousand six
hundred and thirty-six dollars in the bills of credit emitted
pursuant to the act of Congress of the 18 of March last (part
of the bills aforesaid subject to the orders of Congress) for
which sum the said deputy paymaster general is to be
accountable. 3

Treasury office, December 19, 1780

From the letter from Joseph Clay to the Board of Treasury dated
Hillsborough the 20 th of November, 1780, the following facts are
collected :

That only 15,000 dollars of the 100,000 dollars sent in bills of
Exchange for the supply of the Southern Army had been sold, and

1 This report is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 136, IV, folio 775.

2 This report is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 136, IV, folio 767.

3 This report is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 136, IV, folio 781.

8 Journals of Congress

those at the rate of 60 for one only, and as it is to be understood from
the same letter, that no more will be sold for so high a price, that
the necessities of the army are such as will compel M r Clay to sell
the bills for any price he may be offered. Upon these facts the
Board of Treasury submit the following resolution

Ordered, That a warrant issue on Thomas Smith, commis-
sioner of the continental loan-office for the State of Pensyl-
vania, in favor of the paymaster to the Board of War and
Ordnance, for one million dollars, of the old emissions, to be