The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview

19
The Aftermath of Wartime Finance

The Settlement of Accounts

THE GOVERNMENT of the Confederation worked hard at liquidating the financial problems left by the war. Although something had been done before the end of the war, there still remained the vast problem of settling accounts between Congress and the states; the accounts of the five army departments; the granting of depreciation, back pay, and commutation certificates promised the officers and soldiers of the Continental Army; the disentanglement of the muddled affairs of the secret and commercial committees; the adjustment of the records of American agents and diplomats, and of European bankers and merchants, involved in borrowing money and buying war supplies in Europe.

The settlement of all these accounts was enormously difficult because throughout eight years of war so many different people had handled government funds. Some had kept records which could be found, others had kept records and lost them, still others refused to surrender those they held, while many had kept none at all. All sorts of people had been given cash, bills of exchange, paper money, and quartermaster and commissary certificates. The records of what they had received, what they had bought, and what they had turned over to the government and the army were, at best, confused. This was as true of headquarters offices as it was of commanders of small bodies of troops in remote parts of the country. Agents in Europe handled vast sums: loans, bills of exchange, cargoes of tobacco, proceeds from the sales of cap

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