CHAPTER XI.


THE DELIVERY OF THE MONEY IS DELAYED AND OBSTRUCTED.


Two stages in the progress of the petition had now been accomplished: The favorable consideration by the Lords of the Treasury and the grant by parliament of the specific sum of money which had been recommended.

It might, perhaps, have been inferred that the payment, without further discussion, was to be the next step in the transaction. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. There was temporizing on the part of the Lords of the Treasury, obstruction on the part of merchants, and discussions as to the amount and the manner of payment. Bollan's firm defence of the rights of the province and his active opposition to the obstructionists, alone saved the grant in its integrity for the use of the province. On the 15th of June, 1748, he filed a petition with the Lords of the Treasury in which he set forth that the province was reduced to poverty, weakness and distress, by the prosecution of the expedition for the reduction of Louisburg.(1) He recapitulated the existing state of affairs in detail and asserted that the province was absolutely compelled to alter its currency, yet was unable to do so until these expenses should be reimbursed. The longer the delay the greater the opportunity for capitalists to absorb the bills. He prayed for payment as soon as conveniently might be.

The impression made by Bollan left Kilby so far behind in popular esteem that the latter felt impelled to set matters right as far as he could. He, therefore, wrote, June 30, 1748, that from the outset it had been evident that parliament would grant the petition. The evident purpose of the letter was to convey the impression that, after all, the agents of the province had not influenced matters to any appreciable extent.(2)

On the 7th of September, 1748, Bollan wrote that the method of payment was still unsettled. He was surprised at this, as he had supposed that all those details were agreed upon before the money was granted by parliament. The ministry had proposed that the payment be made by instalments, the last in 1754. He had urged immediate payment, but, although no vote was taken upon the question, it was the general sense of parliament that the determination of this point should be left to the treasury. He claimed that the grant having been duly made, the exchequer had no other control over the money than to pay it over when the condition of the treasury would permit, and he insisted upon the right of the province to have this done without conditions as to the application of the money.

Divers persons, he said, had thronged about the treasury with plans and proposals as to the payment of the money. At the time when he claimed that the province was entitled to the reimbursement of all the expenses of the expedition he stood single, without the aid of any man living. He was indignant at those people, who under pretence of serving the province, obstructed the payment of the money. He had insisted upon the rights of the province in its corporate capacity to the money, but Kilby had interposed and declared that their Lordships ought to stand between the province and the merchants or possessors of bills. The Lords Commissioners had told him, August 10th, that he must be accountable to the exchequer for the money when received. He claimed that he could only be accountable to the province itself after payment was made, but if necessary in order to get the money, he would submit. He was glad to receive orders to oppose the fixing of a rate at which the bills should be exchanged. To avoid confusion he had not laid before the board the plan of Mr. Hutchinson.(3)

The Lords of the Treasury, at a meeting held at the treasury chambers, Whitehall, September 14, 1748, advanced an entirely new proposition in regard to the payment of the grant. They said that in the first place they should require adequate security from the person appointed to receive the money. When that was provided to their satisfaction, they would pay over one third of the money. The method of payment would then be reported to the governor, and if satisfactory, he could signify his approval of the same. Upon receipt of this approval the remainder would be paid.(4)

This suggestion met with Bollan's violent opposition. He was opposed to giving security upon principle, but apart from that, if this was done, it would involve the payment at the remembrancer's office of 6s. 8d. on every 100. "The charges of getting into this court," he said, "are certain, but no man can tell what it will cost to get out."(5)

In reply to this proposition, Bollan filed a memorial with the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury. He could not agree, he said, to give security, and to receive the money in the manner proposed. Firstly, because the province as a body politic had an absolute right to the money which had been granted by parliament, and from the date of the passage of the grant stood in the position of a creditor of the kingdom. Secondly, the money being due, the person duly authorized to receive it had a right to claim delivery, and it did not lie in the power of the exchequer to interpose objections. Thirdly, the court of exchequer was a court of record and as such could settle a debt but could not create any new obligations. The substitute for the province could only be chargeable to the province. Fourthly, as no obligation on the part of the substitute could be created, no security should be required. Fifthly, the statute provided that the money should be paid over without limitations or conditions. Lastly, the payment of one third would be of no service whatever for the purposes to which it was intended to apply the money. He then pointed out, how, through a deposit in the Bank of England, he had always intended to throw around the money the necessary protection for its security.(6)

It was at this time, while the Lords of the Treasury were seeking to avoid the payment, at one time, of the entire grant, and were calling upon Bollan to furnish satisfactory security before they would agree to deliver the money, a task which he might have found very difficult of performance, that a number of merchants and others trading to and interested in New England, added the weight of their influence to the opposition with which Bollan was contending. On the 21st of September, 1748, they presented a memorial to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, setting forth the general facts as to the decline of the currency and especially pointing out that since the account of the province was stated, exchange had risen from 540 to more than 1000 per cent. Large quantities of bills had been collected by individuals in the expectation that possessors would realize this difference. They proposed that the remittance of the money should be held back until parliament should fix a rule for its application and that then it should be made in coin suited to the country. They asserted that many persons in the administration of the government of the province had become possessors of bills and expected to receive nearly double what they had paid.(7)

The insinuation that the members of the province government were speculating in the bills of credit was officially denied in a letter of instructions sent November 22, 1748, to Bollan.(8) This is not, perhaps, of much importance, for however influential the signers of this memorial, the blow which they then struck produced far less results than might have been expected. It is to the credit of the Lords of the Treasury that notwithstanding the support which they received in their temporizing policy from a body of men closely allied to the province and deeply interested in its welfare, they allowed themselves to be convinced by the arguments in opposition thereto, submitted by Bollan, and did not take advantage of this memorial further to postpone payment. On the same day that it was presented they acknowledged that the money was due and ready for payment. They were not, however, satisfied with Bollan's power which was said to have been given before the vote of parliament. For this reason, they thought he ought to give security, but would refer the point to their counsel.(9) In due course of time the matter was referred to the Attorney General and Solicitor General and on the 23rd of November, 1748, they reported that Bollan's power, not being under the seal of the province, was not satisfactory. They thought that this defect could not be cured by security being given.(10) In order to provide against future contentions of this sort, Bollan wrote November 29, that he proposed to have a form of a power of attorney approved by the Attorney General, which he would then forward to the province for execution.(11)

The resolve of the House of Commons allowing the province 183,649, 2s. 7d. sterling, as a reimbursement for the expenses of the Cape Breton expedition was communicated to the house of representatives on the 13th of June, 1748. This was followed later by information that the method of payment had been referred to his Majesty's ministers.

On the 27th of October, Shirley in his speech to the assembly, distinctly asserted that a bill for sinking the currency by means of the late reimbursement had been passed and had been transmitted to England. This bill, he said, "which passed both houses of the last assembly", he had reason to believe had induced his Majesty's ministers, to whom consideration of the manner of paying the money voted for the benefit of the colonies had been referred, to determine that it should be paid in such a manner as would put an end to the paper currency in New England.

In referring to the bill passed by both houses of the last assembly, Shirley could only have meant the act for calling in and exchanging the bills of credit, which was reported by the committee appointed to consider Hutchinson's scheme. While the report of the committee had been accepted, and an attempt had been made to establish an agreement upon the subject with the other governments of New England, there is no record of any other action in the assembly than the reading of this bill. Under ordinary circumstances one would hardly look beyond the official utterances of the governor to the law-making body itself, for proof that legislation had taken place. Yet it must be inferred from the absence of any record of further action in the assembly, and from language subsequently used by Bollan, that this statement was made solely for the effect that it might produce.

On the 18th of November, the assembly petitioned the Lords Commissioners for prompt payment of the money, stating that they hoped by means of it to remove the paper currency then in circulation and substitute silver therefor.(12)

Shirley's positive statement concerning the passage of the bill for sinking the currency made to the assembly as above stated, attracted the attention of the Board of Trade, and on the 23rd of January, 1748-49, they summoned Bollan to appear before them on the 24th, at eleven o'clock in the morning. Bollan accordingly presented himself next day, and was interrogated as to his reasons for concealing the action of the assembly on so important a point as the passage of this bill. The board thought proper to require of him some information with respect to said bill and to acquaint him with the mischiefs and difficulties which might arise from the government not being informed of the sense of the province upon an affair the determination of which was then under consideration. Bollan was in a quandary as to what he could say. He had received a copy of the proposed bill with authority to use it if he saw fit, but he knew that it was not a law, and he believed that it would be impracticable to borrow the 50,000. He, therefore, rehearsed what had taken place and stated frankly, that as the bill was not complete, and as he doubted the power of the province to borrow the money, he had used the discretionary power lodged in him and had not submitted the bill to the consideration of the board. As to what Mr. Shirley had said in his speech, the governor was mistaken, and Bollan believed he never did receive such information as he mentioned, but might have been induced to go so far as he did in order to strengthen and give credit to the proposals and thereby engage persons (disinclined) to come into them. Bollan then offered to submit the details of the matter to any member of the board or to any other of his Majesty's ministers who had the direction of these matters, but on the ground of policy declined to furnish them to the public, in view of the property interests concerned.

In the same speech in which Shirley, in order to strengthen and give credit to the proposals, was induced to make the statement which Bollan euphemistically termed a mistake, he also referred to other schemes proposed in England, many of which he said had a manifest tendency to lessen the benefits to the province of the proposed reimbursement. The accounts of these projects were to be found in the letters of one of the agents. The projects themselves had been opposed by the other agent.

In January, 1747-48, Kilby had written: "'Tis notorious that the exchange between New England and London has arisen so much since the value of the province bills in sterling money was certified (in order to ascertain the province account of expense), that two-thirds, or nearer one-half sterling money that would have been necessary would now purchase all the bills at current exchange. . . . If this government should pay off the whole demands of the province according to the exchange as fixed by the account upon no other condition than that the bills shall be paid off immediately at that rate, it would be giving the last possessors a most unreasonable advantage in obtaining payment for bills under 600 per cent, which were undoubtedly taken into hand at or about 1,000 per cent., and with this inconvenience to debtors that they will have to pay two-fifths more than the preceding year. . . . All the advantage gained by their means will centre in those who have had address enough to obtain possession of the bills in virtue of some secret scheme calculated for such purposes, and many people here believe in such a scheme."(13)

The inference seems to be a fair one that Kilby so far back as that date favored the views expressed by the merchants of London in their petition in September, and it hardly needed Bollan's direct assertion to that effect made in his letter of September 7th, already quoted, to convince us that this was so. It is evident that whatever justice there might be in his views, a postponement of the payment and a re-submission of the matter to parliament, would have been full of danger. Action had already been taken in a liberal spirit, and it was plainly the duty of the agents of the province to press for payment. Hutchinson says: "Some of the ministry thought it sufficient to grant such sum as would redeem the bills issued for the expedition, etc., at their depreciated value, and Mr. Kilby, the other agent, seemed to despair of obtaining more, but Mr. Bollan, who had an intimate knowledge of our public affairs, set the injustice of this proposal in a clear light and made it evident that the depreciation of the bills was as effectually a charge borne by the people as if the same proportion of bills had been drawn in by taxes, and refused all proposals of accommodation, insisting upon the full value of the bills when issued. He certainly had great merit for this and for other services."(14)

This was no time for the province to be represented by a faint hearted agent. Such an one was more of a hindrance than a help. Still less was it desirable that the affairs should be pressed by two agents who entertained different views. Harmony and co-operation were essential for success. The assembly recognized this, and as the complications of the situation were made plain through the correspondence of the agents, they dismissed Kilby on the 17th of November, 1748,(15) and placed the management of the affair solely in the hands of Bollan. On the 22nd a second vote was passed by the house authorizing Bollan to act in receiving the money.(16) He was empowered to give a full and ample discharge to the Lords Commissioners for the sum granted by parliament upon the deposit of the money in the Bank of England to the credit of the province.

Simultaneously a petition of the governor, council and house of representatives was sent to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury in which it was asserted that by vote of March 5, Bollan had been authorized to receive the money, but in consequence of this action having been taken before the grant was made by parliament doubts had arisen as to the legality of his authority. In order to remove these doubts it was proposed that the money should be deposited in the Bank of England, subject to the order of the province, and that being done Bollan was to give a discharge for the money so lodged. To induce their lordships to act promptly it was stated that the money so obtained was to be applied to the sinking and redemption of the bills of public credit.(17)

On the 23rd of November, 1748, it was voted to postpone the consideration of what was further necessary to be done for redeeming and exchanging the bills of credit, and bringing to a period the paper currency of the province and for applying to those purposes in the best manner the grant made by parliament, until the next sitting of the court, at the opening of which all the members of the court were required to give their attendance.(18)

On the 22nd of December, Shirley informed the assembly that the session which was then opened was for the purpose of considering the currency. The proposals, he said, which were made to the neighboring governments, to join with the province in consulting upon this important affair, and the appointment of a meeting of commissioners for that end, had made this short delay necessary, but there being now no prospect of any assistance from them, no time should be lost. If an act for retiring the currency should be passed, all obstacles to receiving the money would be removed.

For the next few days, the time of the assembly was largely taken up with the consideration of the act for drawing in the bills of credit of the several denominations, etc., etc. On the 6th of January, 1748-49, the representatives rejected the bill then under consideration and in the afternoon of the same day voted that "the house will at this sitting come unto some method to apply the sum granted by parliament towards the redemption of the paper currency and to substitute a silver medium in lieu thereof" In pursuance of this purpose a joint committee was ordered on the subject. On the 10th an act for drawing in the bills of credit was reported and on the 17th it was ordered to be engrossed. On the 20th the house passed an order that this act should be forthwith printed and a copy delivered to each member of this court. A copy was also to be sent to the selectmen of each town of the province, who were to be required to lay the same before their respective towns at the anniversary meeting in March for their opinions thereon, if they should see cause. They were to give notice thereof in their warrants for such meetings, and to make return to this court at their sitting next thereafter. While the council could neither force the house to immediate action nor prevent them from temporizing if they saw fit to adopt that line of action, they could refuse to approve of this absurd proposition to submit the scheme for the application of the funds to be derived from the reimbursement, to the discussion of all the town meetings in the province, and could not be compelled to admit to the subsequent consideration of the court the various opinions that might be reached upon the subject. The board, therefore, declined to concur in the order to print the act for this purpose. The house then considered the question whether they could proceed in this matter alone. They voted first that they could not with propriety come into a resolution to print the bill without the concurrence of the board. Having determined that it would be improper for them to print the bill independently from the board, they then voted not to do it at all; after which the question was submitted whether the bill should be printed and a copy delivered to each member of the court and one to every town in the province. In view of the vote previously passed the conclusion of the house to print the bill would have required the approval of the council. Inasmuch, however, as the final determination was not to do it, this point is not of consequence.

On the 25th of January, 1748-49, the question was put whether the house would reconsider the vote of the day before respecting the enactment of the engrossed bill and then proceed to consider the bill. This was resolved in the affirmative and the bill was then passed.

This review of the proceedings in the house at this critical time, when so much depended upon their action, shows, that up to the last moment, the paper money men were in the ascendancy. They were in favor of a gradual reduction of the bills, and if in the schemes of the temporizers, due consideration had been made for the protection of the debtor class, the perilous position would have been accepted of dallying with the situation.

Hutchinson, who introduced the bill which was passed at this time, thus describes the events connected with its passage and the fortunate turn which affairs took, bringing success within his reach : "Some of the directors and principal promoters of the land bank scheme,(19) being at this time members of the General Court, unexpectedly joined with the party who were for finishing paper money, but the opposition was so great that after many weeks spent in debating and settling the several parts of the bill, and a whole day's debate at last in a committee of the whole house upon the expediency of passing the bill, as thus settled, it was rejected, and the report of the committee accepted. . . . However, the next morning two of the members of the house,(20) zealous adherents of this party (the country party, which was in favor of paper), and who had been strong opposers of the bill, came early to the house to wait the coming of the speaker [Hutchinson], and in the lobby let him know that, although they were not satisfied with several parts of the bill, yet they were alarmed with the danger to the province from the schemes of those persons who were for a gradual reduction of the bills, and by that means for raising the value of the currency without any provision for the relief of debtors, and, therefore, they had changed their minds, and if the bill could be brought forward again they would give their voice for it, and others who opposed it would do the same. . . . As soon as the house met, upon a motion by one of these members, seconded by the other, the bill was again brought under consideration, and passed the house as it afterwards did the council, and had the governor's consent."(21)


Return to Brock home page.
Go on to the next Chapter.


Footnotes

1. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 428.

2. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 430.

3. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, p. 435.

4. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 442.

5. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 443.

6. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 447.

7. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 445.

8. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 465.

9. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 450.

10. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 478.

11. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 481. The vote authorizing the execution of this instrument did not pass the assembly until April 22, 1749. Mass. Arch., vol. 102, no. 429. For copies of the power, see Mass. Arch., vol. 20, nos. 500, 508.

12. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 471.

13. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 408.

14. History of Massachusetts, (Ed. 1795), vol. 2, p. 391. One point that was urged was that some of the bills issued for the expenses of this expedition were still outstanding. Such bills had, of course, shared the depreciation. Bollan argued that they should be redeemed at the rate when issued.

15. Bollan's letter of September 7th was referred to a committee on the 16th with instructions to report forthwith.

16. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 476.

17. Mass. Arch., vol. 102, no. 394.

18. Mass. Arch., vol. 102, no. 397.

19. John Choate and Robert Hall.

20. Joseph Livermore, the representative of Weston, and Samuel Witt, representative of Marlborough.

21. History of Massachusetts (Ed. 1795), vol. 2, pp. 393-394. One of the pamphleteers of the day discussing the effects of this resumption says: "But taking it for granted that we were one hundred thousand pounds sterling in debt, yet it would be no great misfortune; for we have at this time two millions old tenor in silver in the province; and supposing we should discharge that one hundred thousand pound with a part of it, yet we should have eight hundred thousand pound old tenor remaining for a medium amongst us, at the lowest computation, which sum is allowed by those who are well acquainted with the course of our trade to be fully sufficient to answer all the purposes of a medium." Some observations relating to the present circumstances of the province of the Massachusetts Bay; humbly offered to the consideration of the general assembly. Boston, 1750, p. 9.