CHAPTER V
FEDERAL FINANCES

AFTER having served two years as a Councillor of State, Madison was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress by the General Assembly and took his seat March 20, 1780. He described the situation as it then existed in a letter to his father: "Our army threatened with an immediate alternative of disbanding or living at free quarters; the public treasury empty; public credit exhausted, nay the private credit of purchasing agents employed, I am told, as far as it can bear; Congress complaining of the extortion of the people; the people of the improvidence of Congress; and the army of both; our affairs requiring the most mature and systematic measures, and the urgency of the occasion admitting only of temporary expedients, and these expedients generating new difficulties; Congress recommending plans to the several States for execution, and the States separately rejudging the expediency of such plans, whereby the same distrust of concurrent exertions that has dampened the ardour of patriotic individuals must produce the same effect among the States themselves; an old system of finance discarded as incompetent to our necessities, an untried and precarious one substituted and a total stagnation in prospect between the end of the former and the operation of the latter. These are the outlines of the picture of our public situation."

Robert Morris said the authority of Congress was almost "reduced to a metaphysical idea."* The payments of the several States into the Federal treasury

____________________
*
Sumner The Financier and the Finances of the American Revolution," I, 286.

-32-

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