the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

There was a decisive presence in charge of fiscal

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there was a decisive presence in charge of fiscal policy, declaring that the days of mounting debt and routinized recalcitrance were over. “It is high time to relieve ourselves from the Infamy we have already sustained and to rescue and restore the public credit,” he lectured. “This can only be done by solid revenue…. We may be as happy or miserable as we please.” 21 He also launched an all-out campaign for passage of the impost, the equivalent of a national tax, which, for substantive and symbolic reasons, was the acid test of the union’s viability. He apprised the governors that all the European bankers were watching the vote on the impost, and if it failed, they would plausibly conclude “that we are unworthy of Confidence, that our Union is a Rope of Sand, that the People are weary of Congress and that the respective States are determined to reject its authority.” The fact that the vote had to be unanimous was obviously a political challenge, all the more reason that the states had to speak with a single voice, since the impost was an essential instrument in paying off the debt they all shared together. 22 Upon entering office, Morris had announced that his eye was focused on the long-term health of the
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American economy, and that he therefore was not going to divert funds to pay the army. However sensible this decision was fiscally, it soon proved politically and even morally untenable. Letters from Nathanael Greene, who was commanding slightly more than a thousand troops in South Carolina, described men who were literally starving to death and walking around in loincloths. And then Washington apprised Morris that a providential version of the perfect storm was occurring: that the French fleet had sailed up from the West Indies to the Chesapeake, just as the British army under General Cornwallis, 7,700 strong, had placed itself on the Yorktown peninsula. There was now an opportunity to trap and capture the largest British force on the continent, but Washington lacked the resources to move the Continental Army and its invaluable French allies from New York down to Virginia. Morris wrote personal checks to provide rations and clothing for Greene’s troops and to cover the costs of Washington’s Yorktown campaign, believing that he would recover his losses when a cargo of silver from France arrived in Boston the following month. This was the kind of juggling act that he had practiced and perfected as America’s premier merchant, now deployed to assure success in what proved to be the culminating battle of the war. 23 Within a few short months Morris had made himself the most powerful figure in the American government, second only to Washington as a national leader. In August 1781, at the same time he was signing the check to fund the Yorktown campaign, he drafted a comprehensive financial plan that synthesized his thinking about the reforms necessary to move the American economy from bankruptcy to solvency. The plan included the national bank, the impost, a land tax, a poll tax, and an excise tax on
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