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of government have been employed in all ages to regulate
the price of necessaries to no purpose. It was attempted
in Eng*^ in the reign of Edward II by the English parlia-
ment, but without effect. The laws for limiting the price
of every thing were repealed, and M' Hume, who mentions
this fact, records even the very attempt as a monument of
liuman folly. The Congress with all its authority have
faiU-d in a former instance of regulating the price of goods.
You have limited Bohea tea to | of a dollar, and yet it
is daily sold before your eyes for 30/. The committee of
Philad* limited the price of West India goods about a year
ago — But what was the consequence ? The merchants it is
true sold their rum, sugar & molasses at the price limited
by the committee, but they charged a heaNy profit upon the
liarrel or the paper which contained the rum or the sugar.
Consider, Sir, the danger of failing in this ex],^eriment.
Tiie Salvation of this continent depends upon the authority
of tliis Congress being held as sacred as the cause of liberty
itself. Suppose we should fail of producing the elTects we
wish for by the resolution before you. Have we any char-
acter to spare ? Have we committed no mistakes in the
management of the public affairs of America ? We have,
sir I It becomes us therefore, to be careful of the remains
of our Authority & character. It is a common thing to cry
aloud of the rapacity & extortion in every branch of busi-
ness & among every class of men. This has led some
people to decry the pubUc virtue of this country. True Sir,
there is not so much of it as we could wish, but there is
much more that is sometimes allowed on this floor. We
estimate our virtue by a false barometer, when we measure
U by the price of goods. The extortion we complain off
arises only from the excessive quantity' of our money. Now,



186 JlistoTical Notes of Dr. Benjamin Jhish, 1777.

Sir, a failure in this attempt to regulate the price of goods
v.'ill encrease the clamors against the rapacity of dealers,
and thus depreciate our public virtue. Consider, Sir, the
consequence of measuring our virtue by this talse standard.
You will add weight to the arguments used at St. James's
to ex]>lode patriotism altogether, i<c by denying its existence
in this country, destroy it forever. Persuade a woman that
there is no such thing as chastity, & if there is that, she does
not possess it, and she may be easily seduced if slie was as
chaste as Diana. Sir, The price of goods maybe compared
t-o a number of light substances in a bason of water. The
hand may keep them down for a while, but nothing can
detain them on the bottom of the bason but an abstraction
of the water. The continent labours under a universal
malady. From the crown of her head to the Soal of her
feet she is full of disorders. She recpiires the most powerful
tonic medicines. The resolution before you is nothing but
an opiate. It may compose the continent for a night, but
she will soon awaken again to a fresh sense of her pain &
misery.

Chi : Bick^ Heiiry Lee, (in the affirmative) ^i' President :
The learned Doctor has mistook the disorder of the conti-
nent. He labours under a spasm, and Spasms he knows
require palliatice medicines. I look upon the resolution
before you only as a temporary remed^^ But it is abso-
lutely necessary. It is true the regulations formerly rec-
ommended by Congress were not faithfully carried into
execution. But this was owing to the want of regular
govermeuts. New & regular goverments have been insti-
tuted in every part of America, and these will enable all
classes of people to carry the resolutions into execution.

J/'- Sam^ Cho.se, (in the affirmative). M"^ President: This
is a necessary resolution. It is true it failed formerly in
Philad* because it abounded Avith tories. But it succeeded
in Maryland. It must be done. The mines of Peru would
not support a war at the present high price of the neces-
saries of life. Your soldiers cannot live on thier pay. It



JIhtoricai Kods of Br. Bcnjam'm Bush, 1777. 137

riinst bo raised, unless we limit the price of the elonthing &
oilier articles necessary for tliem.

J/'' Scargant — (negative). The price of goods cannot be
regv.lated while the quantity of our money and the articles
(A life are allowed to fluctuate. This is k must be the case
with us, therefore we cannot regulate the price of anything.

Col James Wilson — (negative). ^Ir President : I ditTcr
from the gentleman from Virginia about the possibility of
carrying the resolution before you into execution. No
modern governments, I am sure, have not half the vigilance
or authority that the conventions & committees formerly
had, and yet these failed in this business. Connecticut,
where the influence of good laws prevail greatly, adopted
tliis J 'Ian with dithdence. There are certain things, Sir,
which absolute power cannot do. The whole power of the
Koman Emperors could not add a single letter to the
Alphabet. Augustus could not compel old batchelors to
marry. He found out his error, and -wisely repealed his
edict, least he should bring his authority into contempt.
Let us recommend the resolution to the consideration of the
states only -without gising our opinion on it, that they may
discuss it with unbiassed minds. Foreign trade is abso-
lutely necessary to enable us to carry on the war. This
resolution will put an end to it, for it will hang as a dead
weight upon all the operations of external commerce. —

ly Wctherspoon — {Negatirc). Sir, It is a wise maxim to
avoid those things which our enemies wish us to practise.
Now I find that our enemies have published the act of the
A.tsembly of Connecticut for regulating the price of neces-
earies in the Xew York paper, in order to shew our distress
from that quarter. I believe the regulations would be just
if the quantity of money and the scarcity- of goods bore
an exact proportion to each other. But the price of goods
IS by no means proportioned to the quantity of money in
every thing. The encrease of price began 1" upon the
Luxuries; 2»^ IS^ecessaries ; 3"* Manufactories; & 4'^ Grain,
and other produce of the earth, ;^7ow the reason whv it



138 IliMorical Notes of Dr. Benjamin Bush, 1777.

bavs reached grain i^'c last, is owing to tliier qnantity beincr
plentiful & to an overproportion of money. Remember laws
are not almighty. It is beyond the power of despotic
princes to regulate the price of goods. Tea and salt are
higher in proportion than any other articles of trade, owing
eutiivly to thier price being limited. In Pensylvania salt
was limited to 15' but was sold for 60/ ^^ bushel, while at
the same time, it was sold in Virginia, where there was no
hmitation, for 10/ a bushel. I fear if we fail in this
measure, we shall weaken the authority of Congress — we
shall do mischief by teaching the continent to rest upon it.
If we limit one article — we must limit creinj thing — and thia
is impossible.

31^ John Adams — (Xegative). Perhaps I may here speak
ag'' the sense of my constituents, but I cannot help it. I
much doubt the justice, policy & necessity of the resolu-
tion. Its policy & necessity depend upon its practicability,
and if it is practicable, I believe it will be unjust. It
amounts to the same as raising the value of your money to
double its present value, k this experiment was tried in
vain, even in the absolute government of France. The
high price of many articles arises from thier scarcity. If
we regulate the price of imports we shall immediately put
to stop to them for ever.

D' Rush. Sir, It has been said that, the high price of
goods in Philad* arose from the monopolies, and extortion
of the tories. Here I must say the tories are blamed
's\-ithout cause. A similar spirit of speculation prevails
among the wliigs in Philad\ They are disposed to realise
thier money in lands, or goods. But this is not owing
to any timidity or disafiection among them. They fear
the further depreciation of your money by future emis-
sions. Stop your emissions of money, & you will stop
speculation, & fill your treasury from the loan offices. I
beg leave to inform Congress that the committee of
Philad^ was supported by the country people in thier
attempt to regulate the price of West India goods, but



Jlistorical Notes of Dr. Benjamin llush, 1777. 139

were notwithstanding unsiicce?sfu]. Xow, Sir, tlic country
j>copIe are equally concerned with the merchants in keeping'
up tlic price of every thing, and in chiding law.s for
reducing them. I am not apt to reply to U'ords^ much less
to ;>/rty upon them. The gentleman from Virginia lias mis-
called the malady of the continent. It is not a spasm, but
a dropsy. I beg leave to prescribe two remedies for it.
]., Raising the interest of the money ^ve borrow- to 6 ^^ cent;
this like a cold bath will give an immediate sprhv^ to our
ftll'airs, k 2., taxation; This hke tapping^ will diminish the quan-
tity of our money, and give a proper value to w^hat remains.
The resolution was amended. The plan of the 4 New
luigland states was referred only to the other states, to act
as they tho't proper.

Feb^ 19, 1777.
Upon the question for referring the appointment of three
major generals, to the general officers of the army, it was said
in the negative :

ly Rash. I have heard the Congress more than once
called a republic. I love to realise the idea, and I hope it
will inspire us with the virtuous principles of republican
governments. One of the most powerful & happy com-
monwealths in the w^orld, Rome, called her general officers
from the plough k paid no regard to rank, service or
seniority. We have of late been successful it is true, but I
despair of our country being saved till the instrumentality
of military ^^^sdom & virtue are employed for that purpose,
and these can never be had till we use a sovereign power in
calling them forth where ever we find them. It is to no
purpose to talk of the practice of despotic princes. They
promote according to seniority it is true, but they possess an
absolute power of recalling, disgracing, or breaking thier
general officers as soon as they make them, and w-e find
they are fond of exercing this power upon the least neglect,
inattention, or want of success. The case is different with
"-^- A general may loose a battle or a province, and we
I'o^^sess no power to recall or to displace him. If the motion



140 Historical Notes of Dr. Benjamin Bush, 1777.

is passed, I sliall raovc immediately afterwards thrit all the
civil power of the continent may be transferred from our
hands into the hands of the army, tt that they may be
proclaimed the highest power of tlie peoj^le.

Z)'' 'SVet]\cr$£>oon — M' President: I am against the motion.
It will produce faction, and disputes among your generals.
I once left the honors of the college over which I preside,
to the choice of the senior class. But it produced so much
confusion & ill blood, that I was obliged to resume that
power again, and have since excercised to the satisfaction of
my pupils as well as my own.

Col Bich'^ Henry Lee; I wish the learned Doctor would
distinguish between the practice of children k men. Our
generals would certainly make a judicious choice, and
would not be governed by the principles which actuate
boys at school.

John Adams ; M"" President — I differ from the gentleman
who spoke last. There are certain principles which follow
us thro' life, and none more certainly than the love of the
frst place. ^Ye see it in the forms on which Children sit
at Schools. It prevails equally to the last period of life.
I am sorry to find it prevails so little in this Assembly. I
have been distressed to see some members of this house
disposed to idolize an image which thier own hands have
molten. I speak here of the superstituous veneration y' is
Bometimes paid to Gen' Washington. Altho' I honour him
for his good qualities, yet in this house I feel myself his
superior. In private life I shall always acknowledge that
he is mine. It becomes us to attend early to the restraining
our army. This we shall find the next difiicult thing to
prevent: the depreciation of our money. I have no fears
from the resignation of ofiicers if junior ofiicers are pre-
ferred to them. Kthey have virtue they will continue with
us. If not, thier resignation will not hurt us.

Congress received a letter Feb'' 20"" 1777, from Gen' Lee,
a prisoner in ISTew York (written by permission of Lord &



Jlislorical Xoles of Dr. Benhmin Rush, 1777 • 141

(Jor.oral Howe) requestiug a couferonce with two or three
uiombors of Congress upon matters of the hist importance
t<. himself, ».*c in his opinion to ^Vjnerica, upon wliich it Avas
paid by

D'^ Rush, — M' President, — In considenng of the propriety
of this request, it becomes us 1, to attend to the present situa-
tion of the court of Britain, 2'-% to the conduct «i- characters of
Lord and General Howe, and 3, to the conduct, & character
of General Lee. 1, The court of Britain is alarmed with
the fear of a french war. They wish to terminate the
{;rc.-e!it war in America by a negociation as well as by the
8\vord. They have no terms to ofier us. They mean only
to deceive Sc divide us. 2, Lord & Gen' Howe were chosen
as fit instruments for seducing & deceiving the colonies.
They have practised many arts for that purpose. Witness
the conference they extorted from the Congress thro' Gen'
Sullivan last summer. They have been told by the rein-
forcement of tories, that lately joined them, its effect upon
tlie people of America, & they expiect thro' a better instru-
uicnt (Gen' Lee) to produce greater ^- worse effects by a
cunforence with the members of Congress set on foot at
thier request by the General. 3, General Lee mth all his
great qualities, possesses the weakness of being easily im-
l»osed upon. His charecters of men are dictated by caprice
or passion. I have seldom known him give a true charecter
of a!iy man. He is fond of negociations A: conferences.
He tried to bring about an inter\-iew vs-ith Gen' Burgoyne
at Cam1)ridge, for that purpose. He urged a second inter-
view with Lord Howe last summer. I believe Gen' Lee to
be lionest & sincerely attached to our cause, but some peo-
ple sui)pose he threw himself in the way of being taken
prisoner. Considering all these things, I maintain that a
compliance witli the general's request would be mipolitic, &
bighly dangerous to the union & safety of the united States.

-V"- Jn'^ Adams. 'SV President, — I am against the pro-
posed conference. It will do mischief. The last confer-
ence with Lord Howe did no good. The Whigs were



142 HL^lorical Xotes of JJr. licnjajncn Jiush, 1777.

alarmed witii it, and the tories complained that the reason
why it did not end in negociation was because improper
men were eent, and because the Congress did not relax eno'
from its dignity. I admire Gen' Lee for his military
talents, but he possesses an unbounded share of Yanit}-.
This Vanity led him to correspond ^vith Gen' Burgoyne,
and induced him to propose himself as one of a committee
to confer with Lord Howe. His Lordship has no terms to
offer us. The king's speech is decisive against us. It lets
loose all the dogs of war & corruption upon us. But it
carries a remedy to its terrors along with it, it holds out the
probability _(:)f a war w'^ France.

J/*" Chase, I am against the conference, but I move for
the publication of Gen' Lee's letter to the Congress, in
order to satisfy our constituents, who have heard that it
contains propositions of peace.

M' Middkto/i, I am against the conference for the reasons
that have been given. Lord Howe has made use of Gen'
Lee as a decoy duck, to take in the colonies. I am against
the publication of the General's letter to the Congress, Unless
you publish with it his letter to Gen' Washington, in which
he requests the company of his aid-de-camp and his dogs.

Col. Harrison, I suspect Lord & General Howe have
offered Gen' Lee his hfe on condition of his bringing about
this conference, which is designed to betray us into a nego-
ciation. It will suspend our military operations, and injure
us in the court of France, where our commissioners are
now soliciting an Alliance for us. The last conference w**"
Lord Howe had this effect. Let us suppose that he means
only to confer with us about his private affairs, and let us
pass a resolution declaring our determination to support
him & our wnllingness to hear & transact any thing that
related to his safety or interest.

This resolution was unanimously agreed to.

The Question for raising the interest of loan ofHce certifi-
cates from 4 to 6 1^ ct was determined in the affirmative



Uidorical Notes of Dr. Benjamin j-iush, 1777. 143

].y t)ic following states; X. H; M. B ; C. ; X. J; P; V; k
Ci. In the negative E. I; X. and S. C; Maryland divided.

M' Carter Braxton, of Virginia, speaking of the [torn]
of Xew England, in the Virginia convention, before the
declaration of Independance said :' " I abhor thier manners
— I abhor thier laws — I abhor thier governments — I abhor
thier rehgion,'" I say on the contrary, " I admire thier man-
ners — I admire thier laws — I admire thier governments — I
admire thier religion." The people of America may be
divided into the five following classes.

1. A rank tor]). This class are advocates for nncon-
jjitional pnbmission to Great Britain. They rejoice in all
the misfortunes that befall the united States. They fabri-
cate lies to deceive and divide the people of America.
They employ their utmost ingenuity to depreciate the con-
tinental money.

Moderate men. This class are advocates for the situation
of the year 1763. They have no relish for independance.
They are influenced either 1, by a connection with men who
ludd offices under the old Government. 2°^, by an attach-
ment to the pomp, and hiarchy of the church of England
which is reduced to a level with the other protestant
churches by the Declaration of independance, or 3'^, by a
fondness for those luxuries which were introduced among us
by our commerce w"" Great Britain. In this respect they
reseiqble the children of Israel, who say of themselves, " AVe
remember the fish which we did eat in Eg^^^t freely, the
cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions,
uiid the garlic: But now our Soul is dried away; There is
nothing [torn] besides the Manna before our eyes." JWimb.
Tt and 5 cf 6. They think freedom too dear when purchased
\vith the temporary loss of tea, cofiee, sugar, and wine,
good mutton, beef. Bread, milk, and the fruits of the earth,
which are the manna of this country, appear as nothing at
fdl in thier eyes. Lastly it is characteristic of a moderate
njan to hate all true whigs, and to love all rank tories.



144 Historical Xofcs of Dr. Bcnjmmn Hush, 1777.

3. llie Vmid WJo'js, form a third class of the people of
j^iiicrica. They entertain a terrible idea of the resources
& power of G. Britain, and a ialse idea of the resources and
power of America. The lass of a few ritlemen in a Skir-
mish, or a fort, or a Village, induce them to conclude that
the contest is over and that America is subdued, [torn] ter-
rified at the expense of the war as much as the sight of a
musqnet, they fly into the most obscure corners for safety.
After a defeat, they refuse continental money, but upon the
news of a victory they come forth, appear stout, and wonder
that any body sh** dread the power of Britain.

4. furious Whi[/s. This class of men injure the cause of
liberty, as much by their Wolence as the timid Whigs do
by thier fears. They think the Destruction of Howe's
army of less consequence than the detection k punishment
of the most insignitlcant tory. They wish for laws & good
government, not so much to collect the Strength of our
country against Great Britain, as to punish our internal
enemies. They think the common forms of Justice sh* be
suspended towards a tory criminal, [and] that a man who
only speaks against our common defence [torn] toma-
hawked, scalped, and roa3[ted] alive. Lastly, they are
always cowards, & shrink under the cover of an office, or a
eickly family, when they are called upon to oppose the
enemy in the field.

5. The Staunch Whi[/s, form the 5'^ and last class of the
people of America. They are friends to liberty from prin-
ciple. They esteem the loss of property, friends, even of
life itself as nothing when compared with Slavery. Perse-
verance & firmness belong to thier character. They are
never dismayed with misfortunes, or unusually elated mth
undecisive advantages over our enemies. They are impla-
cable in thier hatred as to the court of Britain. They had
rather renounce thier existence than thier beloved indepen-
dance. They have an unshaken [faith] in the divine justice,
and they [es] teem it a mark of equal folly & impiety, to
beleive that Great Britain can ever subdue America. They



IFistorical Notes of Dr. Bcvjawm Fush, 1777. 145

are friends to order k good goveruineut. They despise the
little acts of the torics to injure our eause, and aim at thier
destruction chiefly by the destruction of the army & com-
merce of our enemies. They are just and mercirul in the
exercise of power. They esteem virtue k \nsdom as tlie
principal qualities in legislators, and are unwilling to trust
power in the hands of '* Bullies, bankrupts, and black-
heads."

6. Xeither Whigs nor Tories. These men change their
conduct, and convei-sation acording to the times and thier
company. They have no principles of any kind.

The declaration of independance was said to have di\'idcd
ftnd weakened the colonies. The contrary of this wjis the
case. Xothing but the signing, k recognising of the decla-
ration of independance, preserved the Congress from a
dissolution in Decern"" 1776, when Howe marched to the
Delaware. Maryland had instructed her delegates to concur
in an accomodation, not^^'ith3tanding any rneasi'.re (mean-
ing independance) to the contrary. But further, the declara-
tion of independance produced a secession of tories, timid,
moderate & double minded men, from the counsels of
America, in consequence of which the Congress, as well as
each of the states, have possessed ten times the vigor and
strength they had formerly.

April 8, 1777.

A number of Indian chiefs came from Fort Pitt, (where a
treaty had been held with them by commissioners appointed
hy Congress) came to Philad^ in jSToV 1776. They were
all introduced to the Congress. They took each member
by the hand, and afterwards sat down. One of them (after a
pause of 10 minutes) rose up and addressed the Congress in
the follo^ving words.

" Brothers, we received your commissioners at the little
counsel fire at Fort Pitt. 2, Wa wiped the sweat from their
bodies. We cleansed the dirt from thier ankles. We
pulled the thorns from [their] feet. We took thier stafis
from thier hands, and leaned them [against] the tree of
VOL. XXVII. — 10



146 Jlisforical Xotes of Dr. Butjamin Bush, 1777,

peace, We took tliier belts from thier \vaists, and conducted
them to the scats of peace."

April Sth, 1777.
Gen' Howe's army at Burnswick i<c Xew York is now in
motion. A majority of the people of Pliilad* think that
tliier destination is up the Xorth river in order to join Gen'
Carleton, so as to cut off the communication between the
Eastern & Southern states, agreeably to the original plan of
the british ministry. But I think it most probable that
thier object is Philad*, for the following reasons. 1. Because
it is obviously ag" the interest of Howe's army to come to
Philad* and a ignorance of thier true interest is the only
thing that has appeared like uniformity in thier conduct.
2'^. The design of the present war is to chastise the people
of America, and this can only be done by changing the
seat of war ; & 3'-'', to purify it of toriism and to eradicate
timity k moderation. This can only be done by Howe's
coming within the sphere of the attraction of the tories k
moderate men. 4'^. There is a false confidence in the
situation & strength of the city of Philad", and in the spirit
k number of our troops. The same kind of confidence
prev^ in Xew York before its reduction last year.

April 8'^ 1777.
I think it more than probable the General Washington
will not close the present war w''' g. Britain. 1. Because
in ordinary revolutions different characters always appear



Online LibraryJohn Collins WarrenGenealogy of Warren, with some historical sketches → online text (page 11 of 39)