March 17, 1783
I have gone into these few details merely to elucidate one position, viz., that all the money now at our command, and which we may expect from the States for this two months to come, will not do more than satisfy the various engagements which will by that time have fallen due.
It is of importance that Congress should know their true situation, and therefore I could wish that a committee were appointed to confer with the minister of France. My reason for that wish is, that every member of Congress may have the same conviction which I feel of one important fact—that there is no hope of any further pecuniary aid from Europe. The conduct of the French court on the subject has been decisive. Some persons have indeed flattered themselves that her positive declarations were merely calculated to restrain our rashness and moderate our excess, but these ideas can no longer have place in any sound and discerning mind. Her conduct has been consistent with her declarations, and if she had ever so much inclination to assist us with money, it is not in her power.
But whatever may be the ability of nations or individuals, we can have no right to hope, much less to expect the aid of others, while we show so much unwillingness to help ourselves. It can no longer be a doubt to Congress that our public credit is gone. It was very easy to foresee that this would be the case, and it was my particular duty to predict it. This has been done repeatedly. I claim no merit from the prediction, because a man must be naturally or wilfully blind who could not see that credit can not long be supported without funds.
From what has already been said, Congress will clearly perceive the necessity of further resources. What means they shall adopt it is their wisdom to consider. They can not borrow, and the States will not pay. The thing has happened which was expected. I can not presume to advise. Congress well know that I never pretended to any extraordinary knowledge of finance, and that my deficiences on this subject were a principal reason for declining the office. I have since had reason to be still more convinced of my incompetency, because the plans which I did suggest have not met with approbation. I hope, therefore, that some abler mind will point out the means to save our country from ruin.
I do assure you, sir, that it is extremely painful to me to be obliged to address Congress on this subject. I wish most sincerely that I could look at our future prospects with the same indifference that others have brought themselves to regard them. Perhaps I am not sufficiently sanguine. It is common for age to listen more to the voice of experience than youth is inclined. The voice of experience foretold these evils long since. There was a time when we might have obviated them, but I fear that precious moment is passed.
Before I conclude this letter, I must observe on the misconstructions which men totally ignorant of our affairs have put on that conduct which severe necessity compelled me to pursue. Such men, affecting an intimate knowledge of things, have charged the destruction of public credit to me, and interpreted the terms of my resignation into reflections upon Congress. I hope, sir, that so long as I have the honor to serve the United States I shall feel a proper contempt for all such scurrility. I shall confidently repose myself on the candor of Congress. It is for them to judge of my conduct on full and intimate knowledge. Writers for a newspaper may, indeed, through the medium of misrepresentation, pervert the public opinion, but the official conduct of your servants is not amenable to that tribunal. I hope, however, to be excused for observing that, on the day in which I was publicly charged with ruining your credit, those despatches arrived from Europe which tell you it was already at an end. The circumstances which I alluded to in my letter of resignation were not yet known in Europe. It was not yet known that Rhode Island had unanimously refused to pass the impost law, and that Virginia had repealed it. The very delays which the measures of Congress had met with were sufficient to sap the foundations of their credit; and we now know that they have had that effect. When those circumstances, therefore, shall be known, it must be overturned. I saw this clearly, and I knew that, until some plain and rational system should be adopted and acceded to, the business of this office would be a business of expedient and chicane. I have neither the talents nor the disposition to engage in such business, and therefore I pray to be dismissed.
Wharton, Francis, ed. The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States. 6 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889. 6:309-11