<br /> Lee Letter: n873

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Edmund Randolph

1Dear Sir,

By a letter and some enclosures (lately received by the Delegates) from our
Executive; it appears that in May last our Treasurer tendered Mr.
Hopkins2 Indents for something more than
170,000 dollars upon the requisition of 1786 – That he refused to
receive them because they were not accompanied with the proper
proportion of specie. By the requisition of Congress, the Loan Officers
are expressly bound to do so. In consequence of that refusal, it seems,
those indents have remained at our risk, and we continue on the Federal
books as delinquent for the large sum of 1,425,767.77 dollars. But I
think Sir it will be seen, by investigating this subject with
attention, that not only the above sum tenderd and refused, but
whatever indents may since have been in the Treasury (and it is
probable that by this time a further large sum has been paid in) maybe
paid to Mr. Hopkins consistently with the acts of Congress, and thereby
be removed from our risk, besides lessening the large ballance that now
appears against us. Of the several requisitions heretofore made by
Congress, none remain at this time to be considered but that of the 4th
& 10th of September 1782, and the three subsequent ones of 1784,
1785, & 1786. The first of these was for 1,200,000 dollars for
paying interest on the domestic debt. Of this requisition Virginia was
quota’d 174,000 dollars, and she was at liberty to apply as much as
should be necessary of that sum to discharge the interest of
Continental Loan Office certificates, or of Liquidated debts of the U.
States due in the State. Virginia stands on the Treasury book here as
having paid of this requisition, nothing.

The next in order is the requisition of 1784, where the quota assigned to
Virginia is 538,693.47 dollars & ninetieths; of which sum, one
fourth part or 134,673.34 dollars might be paid in Certificates of
interest by the terms of the requisition: And by a resolve of Congress
October the 12th 1785 page 356 of the
Journal,3 the Indents issued under the
requisition of 1785 may be paid for the whole of the above sum of
134,673.34 dollars, or one fourth of the said requisition of 1784. Of
this requisition Virginia has paid 407,511.30 in Specie, and 38,231.25
Indents. By which mode of payment she has paid more of specie than was
required by 3,491.17 dollars, and less of Indents than she might, by
96,442.9 dollars. The question now is, whether it will not be advisable
to pay Mr. Hopkins Indents to the amount of 96,442.9 dollars and so
close the requisition of 1784 completely? Having done this, and sent
forward the Account so settled, with the Loan Officers receipt for the
96,442.9 dollars, Virginia will stand on the Treasury books here as
having overpaid the requisition of 1784 by 3,491.17 specie dollars.
But, at the same time that this account shall be transmitted, notice to
the Treasury-board of the Union might accompany it stating, that the
above 3,491.17 specie dollars would be carried to the States credit
upon the specie requisition of 1785. This will cover two thirds of the
sum in Indents agreably to the requisition of 1785. The ballance of all
the indents in the possession of our Treasurer above what shall be
necessary to close the requisition of 1784, may either be applied,
without specie, to satisfy the requisition of Septr. 1782; or they may
go (as the Executive shall choose) to the requisition of 1785 which
requisition (see journal of Congress Septr. 27th 1785 Page 310) quotas
Virginia to 512,974 dollars.4 Of which sum,
two thirds on 341,983 dollars may be paid in Indents, if accompanied by
one third, or 170,991 specie dollars. Of this requisition Virginia is
credited with sundry specie payments amounting in the whole to
51,596.71 dollars; but she is only credited for having paid 19,095.10
Indents, altho the above sum of specie will warrant the payment of
103,193.52 Indents exclusive of the ballance of 3,441 dollars specie
overpaid of the 84 requisition. And this is the more surprising, as it
is stated in one of the enclosures from the Executive as before
observed, that more than 170,000 dollars of Indents had been, in May
last, tender’d to, and refused by Mr. Hopkins. His refusal could only
have been founded on these Indents being offered for the requisition of
1786, which could not have been so receivd. unaccompanied with the
proportion of specie that is directed by the said requisition. Whereas,
if those Indents, on a much larger sum of them had been offered upon
the requisitions of 1782, 1784 & 1785 they might have been received
on Congressional principles, and the State credited therewith. For, if
this business had been transacted as is here stated, instead of being
credited only for 51,596.71 specie dollars & 19,095.10 Indents upon
the requisition of 1785; our credit would be for 55,087.71 specie
dollars & 10,175.52 Indents without dispute with the Loan Officer.
Proceeding in this manner, there will still be a large ballance due
from Virginia to the U. States on the requisition of 1785 – the same
being of Indents 231,807.38 and of specie 115,903.2 – Which being added
to the requisition of 1782 for 174,000, and the requisition of 1786
which remains

(after deducting 493 dollars paid upon this requisition) 645,350 dollars;
and will make the whole of our debt upon the several requisitions of
82, 84, 85 & 86 equal to 1,167,060.57 dollars specie & Indents
inclusive – Which is 258,707.20 dollars less than we now stand charged
on the books of the federal treasury, where the sum stated, is
1,425,767.77 dollars as mentioned in the first part of this letter. The
difference may arise from our Indents not having been paid, and from a
mistake of Office here, in charging us with our full share of the half
of 8 millions required in Octr. 1781, without deducting the payments
made previous to the requisition of 1784 as Congress has done. See the
Journal 27 April 1784.5 Before I quit this
subject, permit me Sir to observe that only so many Indents as were in
the Treasury on or before the 1st of Jany. 1787 can be paid on the
requisition of 1785 as is directed by that requisition – So that 130,654
Indents (the sum in the Treasury of the State on the 1st of Jany. last)
should be appropriated to the requisition of 1785, and the ballance,
whatever it may be, already paid in; may be applied as hath been
already mentioned. Pardon me Sir for the long letter that I have
written. My only motive being to remove existing doubts, and to prevent
such in future as I see are productive of public inconveniences. The
account that I have stated will more concisely place in view the ideas
herein contended for than could easily be done in writing.

I am happy to hear that your business in Convention is near a close. You
have had a hard time of it – And I hope you will be rewarded with the
thanks of this and future generations.

I have the honor to be, with all possible respect and esteem, dear Sir Your
affectionate and obedient servant,

Richard Henry Lee.

P.S. I have observed that Mr. Hopkins refused the Indents offer’d to him
because they were unaccompanied by Specie. He might have urged another
reason, that no Indents but those issued under the requisition of 1786
could have been received in discharge of that requisition; and you know
that we were not provided with any of those.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, James S. Copley Library, La Jolla, California.

1 Although it is not apparent to whom Lee addressed this letter, he indicated
in the next to the last paragraph that “your business in Convention
is near a close,” an undoubted reference to the Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia. Of the Virginia delegates at the
convention, only Gov. Edmund Randolph could be expected to act on the
information contained in this letter once he returned to Virginia and
resumed his executive duties.

2 That is, John Hopkins, the loan office commissioner for the state of
Virginia.

3 See JCC, 29:823 – 24.

4 JCC, 29:767.

5 JCC, 26:309.