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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Robert Morris to Elias Boudinot
Morris, Robert, 1734-1806
July 28, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 848-850

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Office of Finance, 28th July, 1783.


Conceiving that it is almost certain that a definitive Treaty of Peace is concluded I am bound to request the attention of Congress towards reducing their expenses. It is unnecessary to repeat that our resources for absorbing the anticipations depend on the produce of Taxation. There is no hope of fulfilling the public engagements but by a strict economy, for there is no evidence of that energy among the States which the Act of Congress of the Second of May framed to inspire. Let me therefore repeat my request that the public expences be greatly reduced. The number of Men which it may be necessary to keep in the Field I cannot presume to name, as it is a military question, but it would best consist with the present State of my department to disband the whole. Your Excellency will easily conceive the situation to which I am driven, when I am compelled to withhold assent to a moderate demand of the Secretary at War for building magazines to preserve the public Stores. It is certainly of importance that arsenals should be erected in such proper places as to provide for the public defence. But the reasons against advancing money are incontrovertible. Congress know the extent of my

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engagements for the discharging of which they have solemnly pledged themselves. Congress know also that the States do not furnish means. They will perceive therefore that I shall wantonly sacrifice their honor and dignity should I form new engagements before the old are satisfied.

I know Sir, that many of the Stores may be wasted and destroyed from the want of magazines and that if they are sold it will be to a considerable loss. But such loss must be added to the mass of injuries America has already sustained by not complying with the requisitions of Congress. It is a loss which in its consequences must fall upon the States themselves who are the immediate authors of it; but if the engagements already taken are violated by applying money to other purposes, then the Honor of Congress will be sacrificed together with the property of those who relied on it.

I should not Sir, have dwelt so long on this small circumstance if it did not serve to impress the true object of my letter a reduction of National Expense.

And here let me notice what has often been mentioned the expence of the Civil List. If in this general term of Civil List are comprehended the public Servants abroad I freely acknowledge my opinion that it might be curtailed. But the foreign affairs not being within my line, this sentiment is expressed with all possible deference.

Our domestic civil list consists of two parts. First that which is engaged in settling and adjusting old accounts, and secondly that which is employed in present objects. The first is rendered necessary by the confusions which arose before regular systems were established: but it is of a temporary nature and can never again take place unless our affairs are suffered to relapse into that irregularity from which they are beginning to emerge. The second consists of as few as were ever appointed to perform the business of a nation. For what relates to the expence of both I must observe that those who labor for the public are at least to be subsisted, and the proof that their salaries do not amount to more than a decent subsistence, is the difficulty with which men qualified to fill the several Offices can be prevailed on to accept them. Shortly after my appointment a special order was passed to defray the expences of the Civil List, but should Congress think proper to repeal that order I will suspend

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the payment and apply the money to take up my Notes. But whether the Gentlemen of the Civil List will continue their Services after they know that their Salaries are to be withheld is a question which I shall not agitate.

With perfect respect
I have the honor, &c.,