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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Memorial from merchants in Great Britain concerning debts owed by Americans [Extract]
No Author
Volume 19, Pages 952-955

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Extract of the Case and Memorial of the Merchants of London, Bristol, Liverpool, Whitehaven and Glasgow, trading to Virginia, Maryland & North Carolina previous to the year 1776; Addressed to the Right Hon’bl. the Marqis of Caermarthen, his Majesty’s principal Secretary of State, for the Foreign department.

“That in the year 1777 the British Agents and Factors, as well as many of the merchants, were compelled to quit the late American Colonies leaving behind them real Estates, Debts and other property, equal in Value to more than three Millions Sterling, Belonging to the Merchants of London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow; that in the Course of the War, much of the Property of the British Merchants was confiscated and sold, and Debts owing to persons who had no share in the Contest were paid into the Public Treasury of Virginia and Maryland by Legislative Authority.

That the Provisional Articles of Peace, between Great Britain and the United States of America, having been agreed upon the 30th of

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November, 1782, and finally adjusted on the 3rd March, 1783, it was settled and agreed by the 4th article of the said Treaty that Creditors on either side should meet with no lawful impediment in recovery of the full value in Sterling Money of all Bona Fide Debts heretofore Contracted; and the 5th Article having Stipulated that the Congress should earnestly Recommend to the Legislatures of the respective States to provide for the Restitution of all Estates, Right & properties which had been confiscated, belonging to real British Subjects; and the 6th Article having provided that there should be no future Confiscations, many of the British Merchants, anxiously Solicitous to recover the property so long withheld from them and upon which the support of their Families in many Instances depended, sent out Agents and Factors, particularly to Virginia and Maryland, not doubting but they should experience every Facility in the Collection of the Wrecks of their Fortunes, but upon the 2nd July, 1783, an edict was published by the Governor of Virginia, Ordering all the British Factors and Agents who had arrived in the State forthwith to depart the Same; that in this Situation these Agents and Factors were not only compelled to retire on Board of British Ships, then trading the Country, but had the Mortification to find that the real Estates of many of the British Merchants had been Confiscated and Sold and the produce of the same applied to the public Services of Government. That in the Month of October, 1783, the Legislative Body of Virginia removed the Restriction. In November following the British Merchants and Agents were permitted to return and have remained unmolested since that period, but no permission whatever has been given, either to Merchants acting for themselves or to Agents or Factors, Acting for employers in Great Britain, to recover any part of the Debts or property left in the Country in the Year 1775. That in the month of October, 1784, the legislative Body of Virginia met and in the course of the Sessions a Bill was brought in the Preamble of which runs thus:

Whereas, by the fourth Article of the Definitive Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and Great Britain, ratified by the King of Great Britain, on the 12th day of May, last, it was stipulated among other things, by the said contracting parties, that Creditors on either side shall meet

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with no lawful impediment in the recovery of the full value in Sterling money, of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted, and good Faith requires that the said Treaty shall be carried into execution according to the true intent and meaning thereof. The Bill then proceeds to several enacting Clauses, the Substance of which are as follows: 1st, That the restraints disabling Subjects from Prosecuting for the recovery of Debts shall be removed by the repeal of an Ordinance made since the 19th of April, 1775. 2nd, That all British Debts due before the date of the provisional Articles shall be discharged by 7 equal payments, the first of which shall become due the 1st of April, 1786. 3rd, That the other payments shall fall due on the same day, in the six years then next following, respectively. 4th, That no interest shall be allowed to British Subjects for any intermediate time, between the 19th day of April, 1775, and the 3rd day of March, 1783, the said time to be considered as one day in law. 5th. That no settlement made by bonds or other Specialties with interest included, at any time since that period, shall preclude a Citizen of America from the benefit of this Act, so far as respects interest and payment by Installments to British Creditors. 6th, That no execution shall issue against any Debtor for more than the proportion of the Installment due for the time being, but such execution may issue annually for the proportion then due until the whole shall be discharged. 7th, That the Citizens of Virginia, who had been resident there on the 19th of April, 1775, and have remained ever since, although the Partners of the British Merchants, shall not so far as they are concerned be subject to the restrictions of this Act, but shall enjoy the Privileges of other Citizens.

This Bill passed the Assembly and Senate of Virginia, but for the want of some forms it was delayed if not lost.

That whether the same system of explaining and fulfilling the 4th Article of the Definitive Treaty will be followed by other States of America, or whether the Commonwealth of Virginia will finally enact this law remains to be determined; but the peculiar hardships which British merchants are subjected to cannot fail to be strikingly Conspicuous when it is considered that it is now ten years since their property has been withheld from them. 2nd, That they are to be deprived of eight years interest equal to 40 per Cent. 3rd,

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That the system of making payments by Installments, to run out to such lengths of time, must subject them to the great loss from the Mutual causes of deaths, Bankruptcy and removals, which must be expected to happen in the course of eight years. 4th, That during this period no Security can be demanded, neither can a debtor be restrained by law from wasting or removing property.

5th, That with all these disadvantages, that of removing the last payments to the year 1792 and of consequence obliging the British Merchants to keep Factors and Agents at a Great Expence in the Country to collect these debts, cannot fail to prove a Great Additional burden to your Memorialists. 6th, That no provision is proposed to be made for the real Property Confiscated and sold for public services nor for money paid into the Treasury of Virginia and Maryland.

That these and other hardships are distressing in the Extreme to the British Merchants, and when it is considered that in addition to all this some of them have had the Mortification to have their Property confiscated and sold since the ratification of the Treaty of Peace, they conceive the grounds of their distress to be so peculiarly striking as to Claim the Assistance and Interposition of the British Government in procuring a Complyance with the Treaty of Peace entered into with the American States.”