Rufus King to Elbridge Gerry

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We go on in Congress as when you left us. Three days since October only have nine States been on the Floor. Eight are now here, when we shall have nine is a melancholy uncertainty. I proposed a few days since that Congress should resolve, that provided on a certain day, sufficiently distant for information to reach all the States in season, the States were not so represented as to give power to administer the Government, Congress would adjourn without day. Something of this kind must be done. It is a mere farce to remain here as we have done since last October. Foreigners know our situation and the friends of free Governments through the world must regret it.

Resolves have been passed upon Resolves—and letter after letter has been sent to the deficient States, and all without the desired effect. We are without money or the prospect of it in the Federal Treasury; and the States, many of them, care so little about the Union, that they take no measures to keep a representation in Congress. The civil list begin to clamour—there is not money to pay them: they are now unpaid for a longer period than since the circulation of Paper Money. The handful of troops over the Ohio are mutinous and desert because they are unpaid. The money borrowed in Europe is exhausted and this very day our Foreign Ministers have it not in their power to receive their salaries for their support.

Where, my dear friend, will the evils consequent to this inattention in the States terminate? The people of the States do not know their dangerous situation; this torpor and inactivity should alarm the Guardians of the People; but indeed the Legislatures seem the least attentive. Pray think of our situation and advise me. I can open my heart with freedom to you; you are now at home, and will be concerned in the Government of the State. Can there be no means devised whereby Massachusetts can yield something to the common Treasury? Since the organization of the Board of Treasury, the State has paid nothing. We are told of it in Congress—we justify by declaring that past exertions have exhausted us; but that we should revive, when the States would accede to such commercial Regulations as would place the American Navigation on an equal footing with that of Foreigners.

This is ostensible—but poor as we are I hope we could do more than we now accomplish—indeed the State neither pays anything to the federal Treasury, nor supports her Delegates.

The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. Edited by Charles R. King. 6 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894-1900. 1:133-34

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