Alexander Hamilton Letters document,


Poughkeepsie, July 22, 1782.


Agreeable to my letter to you from Albany, I came to this place, and had an interview with a committee of the legislature, in which I urged the several matters contained in your instructions. I strongly represented the necessity of solid arrangements of finance, and by way of argument, pointed out all the defects of the present system. I found every man convinced that something was wrong, but few that were willing to recognise the mischief when defined, and consent to the proper remedy. The quantum of taxes already imposed is so great, as to make it useless to impose any others to a considerable amount ; a bill has, however, passed both houses, payable in specie, bank notes, or your notes, for eighteen thousand pounds.

"It is at present appropriated to your order, but I doubt whether some subsequent arrangement will not take place for a different appropriation. The commander-in-chief has applied for a quantity of forage, which the legislature is devising the means of furnishing, and I fear it will finish by diverting the eighteen thousand pounds to that purpose. I have, hitherto, been able to prevent this ; but as it is of indispensable importance to me to leave this place immediately, to prepare for an examination, for which I have pledged myself the ensuing term, which is at hand, it is possible, after I have left it, contrary ideas will prevail. Efforts have been made to introduce a species of negotiable certificates, which I have strenuously opposed. It has not yet taken place, but I am not clear how the matter will terminate. Should the bill for the eighteen thousand pounds go out, in its present form, I cannot hope that it will produce in the treasury above half the sum, such are the vices of our present mode of collection. A bill has also passed the assembly, for collecting arrearages of taxes, payable in specie, bank notes, your notes, old continental emissions at one hundred and twenty-eight for one, and a species of certificates issued by the state, for the purchase of horses. This is now before the senate ; the arrearages are very large.

Both houses have unanimously passed a set of resolutions, to be transmitted to congress and the several states, proposing a convention of the states, to enlarge the powers of congress, and vest them with funds. I think this a very eligible step, though I doubt of the concurrence of the other states ; but I am certain without it, they never will be brought to co-operate in any reasonable or effectual plan. Urge reforms or exertions, and the answer constantly is, what avails it for one state to make them, without the consent of the others ? It is in vain to expose the futility of this reasoning. It is founded on all those passions which have the strongest influence on the human mind.

The legislature have also appointed, at my instance, a committee to devise, in its recess, a more effectual system of taxation, and to communicate with me on this subject. A good deal will depend on the success of this attempt. Convinced of the absurdity of multiplying taxes in the present mode, when in effect the payment is voluntary, and the money received exhausted in the collection, I have laboured chiefly to instil the necessity of a change in the plan, and though not so rapidly as the exigency of public affairs requires, truth seems to be making some progress.

There is no other appropriation to the use of congress than of the eighteen thousand pounds.

"I shall, as soon as possible, give you a full and just view of the situation and temper of this state. This cannot be till after my intended examination ; that over, I shall lay myself out in every way that can promote your views, and the public good. I am informed, you have an appointment to make of a commissioner of accounts for this state. Permit me to suggest the expediency of choosing a citizen of the state, a man who, to the qualifications requisite for the execution of the office, adds an influence in its affairs. I need not particularize the reasons for this suggestion. In my next I will also take the liberty to mention some characters. I omitted mentioning, that the two houses have also passed a bill, authorizing congress to adjust the quotas of the states, on equitable principles, agreeable to your recommendation."

Alexander Hamilton