Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Richard Dobbs Spaight to Alexander Martin
Spaight, Richard Dobbs, 1758-1802
October 16, 1784
Volume 17, Pages 172-175

-------------------- page 172 --------------------

Oct. 16, 1784.


I wish through your Excellency to communicate to the hon'b'l. the general assembly the cause of the dissolution of the Committee of the States, appointed by Congress to sit during their recess. Its effects I fear, will prove very disadvantageous to the interest of the United States, at this particular and important period.

It has already been spread throughout Europe by the emissaries of the British Court “that the United States are only united in name and “that a little time will show that we are incapable of governing ourselves, that great dissensions prevail in the different States and that “we are unwilling if not unable, to pay the debts we have contracted during the War.”

Many circumstances which have taken place on the Continent tend to confirm these reports; but none has more fully answered that purpose than the dissolution of all Continental Government by breaking up of the Committee of the States.

It is expected that the Commissioners of the United States have opened or shortly will open Negotiations for forming treaties of amity and Commerce with the European powers. Under what disadvantages they must negotiate with a people prejudiced against us as a Nation divided in itself, and whose Government has not suffiient power to compel even its own Citizens to keep the articles of a treaty when made.

They will rather suppose that more beneficial treaties may be made with the respective States, and will cherish those ideas of independence and separation which are said to prevail among us, for their particular emolument.

Towards the last of July Mr. Dana the Delegate from Massachusetts, seconded by Mr. Blanchard the Delgate from New Hampshire, moved that the Committee might adjourn on the—day of Aug. to meet again at Trenton on the first Monday in September and that in the interim the papers of the secretary's Office and the Office of

-------------------- page 173 --------------------
foreign affairs should be removed to that place. To strengthen the reasons in favor of the adjournment, they said they were obliged to leave Annapolis in a short time, and it would give their colleagues an opportunity to come forward to take their places; And that they did not expect they would come so far South as Annapolis. These reasons being urged and knowing the bad effects the dissolution of the Committee, by the withdrawing of any of its members, would have in the political world on the affairs of the United States, induced me to vote for it thinking it would have a better appearance for the Committee to be dissolved (it should happen to have that effect by its not being formed again) by its own vote than by the former mode, the one would at least bear the face of unanimity the other of disunion.

Four States being opposed to the motion, negatived it. Those Delegates being still determined in their intentions of returning home, obliged the others who saw the consequence of their leaving the Committee without a competent number to do business, to fall on some mode if possible to prevent their going, or to make them postpone it until they should be relieved by their colleagues. Accordingly a motion was brought forward by General Hand seconded by myself, stating the evils that would result from a dissolution of the Committee, in order to convince them of the necessity there was for their staying until relieved, or until Delegates should come on from the unrepresented Staes, to fill up the Committee (a copy of the motion is inclosed). After the motion had been some time debated, and the Chairman about to put the question Mr. Blanchard the Delegate from New Hampshire left the room; there being then only eight states on the floor, we could proceed on no business: The members present sent to him requesting his return, but he declined it. He did not appear the next day, and was again sent for, but declined coming. On Wednesday the 11th of August neither Mr. Dana nor Mr. Blanchard appeared and on that evening they both left Annapolis to return home carrying with them Mr. Dick of Jersey.

This unprecedented step of the Eastern Delegates did not supprize me, it was only acting in unison with their former conduct, and seems to me to be a concerted scheme among the Delegates of the four New England States as they opposed the appointing a Committee

-------------------- page 174 --------------------
during the recess, and would not have agreed to it, could they have had an adjournment of Congress without.

Since I have had the honor of a Seat in Congress their uniform conduct has been to weaken the power of the union as much as possible, and sacrifice our national strength and dignity in hopes of rendering themselves more conspicuous as individual states. They have even attempted, to answer their particular purposes, to call in question and dispute those powers which are expressly granted to Congress by the Confederation. I do not think they wish for a dissolution of the Confederacy, but they press so extremely hard on the chain that unites us, that I imagine it will break before they are well aware of it. A Separation certainly would not be to their advantage. The produce of the Southern and Middle States will ever command the friendship of the maritime powers, while the New England States depending totally on their industry and the carrying trade, in the last of which they are rivals to the British and Dutch, must ever depend upon the friendship of the Southern and Middle States for their employment and support. This event may by many be thought to be distant, but it is my opinion that unless those states lay aside their present policy, and adopt one more liberal, and which shall have for its basis the general good of the whole, uncrampt by the policy and interest of particular States, that it will happen in a very short period.

The disputes between Pennsylvania and Connecticut for the Wyoming Lands, And New York and the Vermonters with the support and promises which the New England States have given the Latter, have sown the seeds of dissension which I think will not end without a Civil War.

And the conduct of the Eastern States in opposing the peace establishment, plainly appears to me, to have been with a view to put it out of the power of Congress to check those evils in the bud, as soon as they should appear.

The six States that remained at Annapolis met from day to day until the 19th of August, when finding there was not the most distant prospect of a Committee being again formed at that place, and that our remaining there without power to do any one Act, would answer no beneficial purpose, came to an agreement to recommend it to the Secretary to remove the papers of his Offices and Office of

-------------------- page 175 --------------------
foreign affairs to Philadelphia till places were got ready for their reception at Trenton.

I should still have thought it my duty to have remained at or in the neighborhood of Philadelphia so that if a Committee had met before the meeting of Congress, the State of North Carolina should not have been unrepresented, but receiving no Supplies from the State and my finances growing low, at the same time knowing that my private affairs wanted my presence in Carolina, I determined on returning and proposed getting back to Trenton by the annual meeting of Congress for which place I am at present on my Way.

I have the honor to be, &c.,
His Excellency
Governor Martin, Esqr.