Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston (1758-1812)

By George C. Rogers | Go to book overview

XI
WILLIAM SMITH, CONGRESSMAN, 1790-1793

T HE SOUTH CAROLINA delegation, with the exception of Thomas Sumter, was present on the first day of the second session, January 4, 1790. On January 9 Hamilton was ready to present in person his first report on the public credit, but Congress denied him the floor, requiring that he present it in writing. As the House began to consider Hamilton's report, Smith offered five resolutions to promote orderly discussion:

Resolved, That Congress ought not to adjourn, until they have adopted such measures as will make an adequate provision for the public debt.

Resolved, That in making such provision, no discrimination shall be made between the original holders of the evidences, and the assignees thereof.

Resolved, That such of the debts of the individual States, as have been incurred by them, during the late war, ought to be assumed by the General Government, and like funds provided for them.

Resolved, That the arrearages of interest on the Continental and State debts, ought to be funded, and consolidated with the principal.

Resolved, That the interest to be paid thereon does not exceed ---- -- per cent. per annum, for the present.1

Although this set of resolutions was not adopted for discussion -- a set of eight offered by Thomas Fitzsimons of Pennsylvania replaced them -- these represent the major points that were to be taken up in turn by the House.2

The first question was whether to fund the debt or pay it off entirely. Smith favored funding as a temporary measure. Others feared that funding would saddle the people with a permanent debt, and therefore they favored paying it off as quickly as possible. Jackson of Georgia marshaled Blackstone and Adam Smith as authorities opposed to a standing debt, but Smith rebutted that those authorities had made a distinction between large and small debts and said that "funding a small debt" was "beneficial."3Blackstone had been "writing of an enormous public debt when he mentions it as injurious, because he expressly says, that 'a certain proportion of debt

____________________
1
Annals of the Congress of the United States, Washington, 1834, I (1st cong., 2nd sess.), 1131.
2
Ibid., p. 1139.
3
Ibid., p. 1143.

-193-

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