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DEAR SIR, The past week has been rendered important by nothing but some discussions on the subject of British debts. The bill brought in varied from that which miscarried last year : 1 . By adding provision in favor of the creditors for securing payment at the dates of the instalments. 2. By annexing a clause empowering the Executive to suspend the operation of the act in case Congress should notify their wish to that effect. Great difficulty was found in drawing the House into Committee on the subject. It was at length effected on Wednesday. The changes made in the Bill by the Committee are: 1. Striking out the clause saving the Creditors from the act of limitation, which makes the whole a scene of mockery. 2. Striking out the provision for securities. 3. Converting the clause authorizing Congress to direct a suspension of the act into a clause suspending it until Congress should notify to the Executive that Great Britain had complied with the Treaty on her part, or that, they were satisfied with the steps taken by her for evacuating the posts, paying for Negroes, and for a full compliance with the Treaty. The sentence underlined was proposed as an amendment to the amendment, and admitted by a very small majority only. 4. Exonerating the public from responsibility for the payments into the Treasury by British debtors beyond the real value of the liquidated paper. Since these proceedings of the Committee of the whole the subject has slept on the table, no one having called for the report. Being convinced myself that nothing can be now done that will not extremely dishonor us and embarrass Congress, my wish is that the report may not be called for at all.
In the course of the debates no pains were spared to disparage the Treaty by insinuations against Congress, the Eastern States, and the negociators of the Treaty, particularly J. Adams. These insinuations and artifices explain, perhaps, one of the motives from which the augmentation of the federal powers and respectability has been opposed. The reform of the County Courts has dwindled into directions for going through the docket quarterly, under the same penalties as now oblige them to do their business monthly. The experiment has demonstrated the impracticability of rendering these courts fit instruments of Justice; and if it had preceded the Assize Question, would, I think, have ensured its success. Some wish to renew this question in a varied form, or at least under a varied title, but the session is too near its period for such an attempt. When it will end I know not. The business depending would employ the House till March. A system of navigation and commercial regulations for this State alone is before us, and comprises matter for a month's debate. The compact with Maryland has been ratified. It was proposed to submit it to Congress for their sanction, as being within the word Treaty used in the Confederation. This was opposed. It was then attempted to transmit it to our Delegates, to be by them simply laid before Congress. Even this was negatived by a large majority.
- Letters and other writings of James Madison. Vol. I. 1769-1793. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippencott & Co, 1865, digitized by archive.org