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nishing the colonies with paper-money, that should not be a legal tender, viz.
1. To form a bank, in imitation of the bank of England, with a sufficient stock of cash to pay the bills on sight.
This has been often proposed, but appears impracticable, under the present circumstances of the colonytrade; which, as is said above, draws all the cash to Britain, and would soon strip the bank.
2. To raise a fund by some yearly tax, securely lodged in the bank of England as it arises, which should (during the term of years for which the paper-bills are to be current) accumulate to a sum sufficient to discharge them all at their original value.
This has been tried in Maryland : aud the bills so funded were issued without being made a general legal tender. The event was, that as notes payable in time are naturally subject to a discount proportioned to the time: so these bills fell at the beginning of the term co low, as that twenty pounds of them became worth no more than twelve pounds in Pensylvania, the next neighbouring province; though both had been struck near the same time at the same nominal value, but the latter was supported by the general legal tender. The Maryland bills however began to rise as the term shortened, and towards the end recovered their full value. But, as a depreciating currency injures creditors, this injured debtors; and by its continually changing value, appears unfit for the purpose of money, which should be as fixed as possible in its own value; because it is to be the measure of the value of other things.
3. To make the bills carry an interest sufjicient to support their value.
This too has been tried in some of the New England colonies; but great inconveniencies were found to attend it. The bills, to fit them for a currency, are made of various denominations, and some very low, for the sake of change; there are of them from 101. down to 3d. When they first come abroad, they pass easily, and answer the purpose well enough for a few months; but as soon as the interest becomes worth computing, the calculation of it on every little bill in a sum between the dealer and his customers, in shops, warehouses and markets, takes up much time, to the great hindrance of business. This evil, however, soon gave place to a worse; for the bills were in a short time gathered up and hoarded; it being a very tempting advantage to have money bearing interest, and the principal all the while in a man's power, ready for bargains that may offer; which money out on mortgage is not. By this means numbers of people became usurers with small sums, who could not have found persons to take such sums of them upon interest, giving good security; and would therefore not have thought of it; but would rather have employed the money in some business, if it had been money of the common kind. Thus trade, instead of being increased by such bills, is diminished; and by their being shut up in chests, the very end of making them (viz. to furnish a medium of commerce) is in a great measure, if not totally defeated.
On the whole, no method has hitherto been formed to establish a medium of trade, in lieu of money, equal in all its advantages, to bills of credit-funded on sufficient taxes for discharging it, or on land-security of double the value for repaying it at the end of the term; and in the mean time, made a GENERAL LEGAL TEN
DER. The experience of now near balf a century in the middle colonies has convinced them of it among themselves; by the great increase of their settlements, numbers, buildings, improvements, agriculture, shipping, and commerce. And the same experience has satisfied the British merchants, who trade thither, that it has been greatly useful to them, and not in a single instance prejudicial.
It is therefore hoped, that securing the full discharge of British debts, which are payable here, and in all justice and reason ought to be fully discharged here in sterling money; the restraint on the legal tender within the colonies will be taken off; at least for those colonies that desire it, and where the merchants trading to them make no objection to it*.
To the Freemen of Pensylvania, on the Subject of a particular Mi
litia-Bill, rejected by the Proprietor's Deputy or Governor.
Philadelphia, Sept. 28, 1764.
YOUR desire of knowing how the militia-bill came to fail in the last assembly shall immediately be coinplied with.
* I understand that Dr. Franklin is the friend who assisted governor Pownall in drawing up a plan for a general paper-currency for America, to be established by the British government. See Governor Pownall's Administration of the Colonies, 5th Edition, p. 199, and 208. B. V.
As the governor pressed hard for a militia-law to secure the internal peace of the province, and the people of this country had not been accustomed to militia service; the house, to make it more generally agreeable to the freeholders, formed the bill so as that they might have some share in the election of the officers; to secure them from having absolute strangers set over them, or persons generally disagreeable.
This was no more, than that every company should choose, and recommend to the governor, three
persons for each office of captain, lieutenant, and ensign; out of which three, the governor was to commission one, that he thought most proper, or which he pleased, to be the officer. And that the captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, so commissioned by the governor, should, in their respective regiments, choose and recommend three
persons for each office of colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and major; out of which three the governor was to commission one, whichever he pleased, to each of the said offices.
The governor's amendment to the bill in this particular was, to strike out wholly this privilege of the people, and take to himself the sole appointment of all the officers.
The next amendment was to aggravate and enhance all the fines. A fine, that the assejubly had made one hundred pounds, and thought heavy enough, the governor required to be three hundred pounds. What they had made fifty pounds, he required to be one hundred and fifty. These were fines on the commissioned officers for disobedience to his commands; but the non-commissioned officers, or common soldiers, whom,
for the same offence, the assembly proposed to fine at ten pounds, the governor insisted should be fined fifty pounds.
These fines, and some others to be mentioned hereafter, the assembly thought ruinously high: but when, in a subsequent amendment, the governor would, for offences among the militia, take away the trial by jury in the common courts; and required, that the trial should be by a court-martial, composed of officers of his own sole appointing, who should have power of sentencing even to death; the house could by no means consent thus to give up their constituents' liberty, estate, and life itself, into the absolute power of a proprietary governor; and so the bill failed.
That you may be assured I do not misrepresent this matter, I shall give you the last-mentioned amendment (so called) at full length; and for the truth and exactness of my copy I dare appeal to Mr. Secretary Shippen.
The words of the bill, p. 43, were, "Every such person, so offending, being legally convicted thereof, &c.” By the words legally convicted, was intended a conviction after legal trial, in the common course of the laws of the land. But the governor required this addition immediately to follow the words [“ convicted thereot”] viz." by a court-martial, shall suffer DEATH, or such other punishment as such court, by their sentence or decree, shall think proper to inflict and pronounce. And be it farther enacted by the authority aforesaid, That when and so often as it may be necessary, the governor and commander in chief for the time being shall appoint and commissionate, under the great seal of this province, sixteen commissioned officers in each regiment; with authority and power to them, or any