To the Honorable Joseph Reed June 4, 1780
To the Honorable Joseph Reed June 4, 1780
I trouble you with a few thoughts on the present state of affairs. Every difficulty we are now in arises from an empty treasury and an exhausted credit. These removed and the prospects were brighter. While the war was carried on by emissions at the pleasure of Congress, any body of men might conduct public business, and the poor were of equal use in government with the rich. But when the means must be drawn from the country the case becomes altered, and unless the wealthier part throw in their aid, public measures must go heavily on.
The people of America understand rights better than politics. They have a clear idea of their object, but are greatly deficient in comprehending the means. In the first place, they do not distinguish between sinking the debt and raising the current expenses. They want to have the war carried on, the Lord knows how.
It is always dangerous to spread an alarm of danger unless the prospect of success be held out with it, and that not only as probable, but naturally essential. These things premised, I beg leave to mention that suppose you were to send for some of the richer inhabitants of the city, and state to them the situation of the army and the treasury, not as arising so much from defect in the departments of government as from a neglect in the country generally, in not contributing the necessary support in time. If they have any spirit, any foresight of their own interest or danger, they will promote a subscription either of money or articles, and appoint a committee from among themselves to solicit the same in the several counties; and one State setting the example, the rest, I presume, will follow. Suppose it was likewise proposed to them to deposit their plate to be coined for the pay of the Army, crediting the government for the value, by weight.
If measures of this kind could be promoted by the richer of the Whigs, it would justify your calling upon the other part to furnish their proportion without ceremony, and these two measures carried, would make a draft or call for personal service the more palatable and easy.
I began to write this yesterday. This morning, it appears clear to me that Charleston is in the hands of the enemy, and the garrison prisoners of war. Something must be done, and that something, to give it popularity, must begin with men of property. Every care ought now to be taken to keep goods from rising. The rising of goods will have a most ruinous ill effect in every light in which it can be viewed.
The army must be reunited, and that by the most expeditious possible means. Drafts should first be countenanced by subscriptions, and if men would but reason rightly, they would see that there are some thousands in this State who had better subscribe thirty, forty, or fifty guineas apiece than run the risk of having to settle with the enemy. Property is always the object of a conqueror, wherever he can find it. A rich man, says King James, makes a bonny traitor; and it cannot be supposed that Britain will not reimburse herself by the wealth of others, could she once get the power of doing it. We must at least recruit eight or ten thousand men in this State, who had better raise a man apiece, though it should cost them a thousand pounds apiece, than not have a sufficient force, were it only for safety sake. Eight or ten thousand men, added to what we have now got, with the force that may arrive, would enable us to make a stroke at New York, to recover the loss of Charleston-but the measure must be expeditious.
I suggest another thought. Suppose every man, working a plantation, who has not taken the oath of allegiance, in Philadelphia County, Bucks, Chester, Lancaster, Northampton and Berks, were, by the new power vested in the Council, called immediately upon for taxes in kind at a certain value. Horses and wagons to be appraised. This would not only give immediate relief, but popularity to the new power. I would remark of taxes in kind, that they are hard-money taxes, and could they be established on the non-jurors, would relieve us in the articles of supplies.
But whatever is necessary or proper to be done, must be done immediately. We must rise vigorously upon the evil, or it will rise upon us. A show of spirit will grow into real spirit, but the country must not be suffered to ponder over their loss for a day. The circumstance of the present hour will justify any means from which good may arise. We want rousing.
On the loss of Charleston I would remark-the expectation of a foreign force arriving will embarrass them whether to go or to stay; and in either case, what will they do with their prisoners? If they return, they will be but as they were as to dominion; if they continue, they will leave New York an attackable post. They can make no new movements for a considerable time. They may pursue their object to the Southward in detachments, but then in every main point they will naturally be at a stand; and we ought immediately to lay hold of the vacancy.
I am, sir, Your obedient humble servant,