Third Session of U.S. Congress



The third session of the U.S. Congress in December, 1790, was a most important one, for measures were then adopted which laid the foundations of public credit and national prosperity deep and abiding. The relations with the Indians on the frontiers of the republic had received the earnest attention of the new government; and by prudent management Washington had induced McGillivray, a half-breed leader of the Creek Indians, near the Gulf of Mexico, to come to New York with a large delegation of Creek chiefs to negotiate a treaty. They were received by the Tammany Society or Columbian Order, then recently established, whose ideal patrons were Columbus and a legendary Indian chief named Tammany who had once been lord of Manhattan Island, and was adopted by them as the patron saint of America. The members, dressed in Indian costume, escorted the deputation into the City of New York, and entertained them at a public dinner. A treaty was concluded by which all the territory south and west of the Oconee River (in portions of which some Georgians had settled) was secured to the Indians, and all east of that stream was relinquished by them to the white people. There was also a mutual agreement of friendship; and by a secret article it was stipulated that presents to the amount of $1,500 were to be annually distributed among the nation. This was calculated to secure the fidelity of the savages. Arrangements with the Indians in the Northwest were not so easily made, as we shall observe presently.

The subject of a national currency had early engaged the attention of Congress. Hamilton, in his masterly report on the finances, proposed the establishment of a national bank. The whole banking capital in the United States was then only $2,000,000, invested in the Bank of North America, established by Morris, in Philadelphia, in 1781; the Bank of New York, in New York city, and the Bank of Massachusetts, in Boston. A bill for the establishment of such a bank in the City of Philadelphia became a law early in 1791, when a corporation with the title of "President, Directors and Company of the Bank of the United States" was created, to be governed by twenty-five directors, to have a capital of $15,000,000, and to exist for twenty years. This bank went into operation in February, 1794, with a capital of $10,000,000, and branches were established at various commercial centres.

A national coinage had occupied the attention of the public mind for some time. So early as 1782, the subject was presented to the Continental Congress in an able report by Gouverneur Morris, written at the request of Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance. In 1784, Mr. Jefferson, chairman of the committee appointed for the purpose, submitted a report on the subject, agreeing with Morris in regard to a decimal system, but disagreeing with him as to the details. Morris tried to harmonize the moneys of all the States. Starting with an ascertained fraction as an unit, for a divisor, he proposed the following table of moneys: Ten units to be equal to one penny; ten pence to one bill; ten bills one dollar (about seventy-five cents of our currency), and ten dollars one crown. Jefferson proposed to strike four coins--a golden piece of the value of ten dollars; a dollar, in silver; a tenth of a dollar in silver, and a hundredth of a dollar in copper. In 1785, Congress adopted Mr. Jefferson's recommendation, and made legal provision for the coinage. This was the origin of our cent, dime, dollar, and eagle. The establishment of a mint was delayed, however, and no special action was taken in that direction until 1790, when Mr. Jefferson, then Secretary of State, urged the matter upon the attention of Congress. It was not until April, 1792, when laws were proposed for the establishment of a mint. It was not put into regular operation until 1795. During the three preceding years there were experimental operations, and long debates were had in Congress concerning the device for the new coins. The Senate proposed the head of the President at the time of the coinage; the House of Representatives proposed an imaginary head of Liberty, as less imitative of royalty. The latter was adopted. The first mint was established in Philadelphia, then the temporary seat of the national government, and remained the sole coiner until 1835, when branches were authorized in North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana. It was at about the time when the law passed authorizing the establishment of a mint (1792), when a postal system, substantially the same as now exists, was put into operation.

Vermont, originally known as the New Hampshire Grants, had a long controversy with New York about territorial jurisdiction, which was not settled when the war for independence broke out. In 1777, the people of the province, in convention, declared it to be an independent State. In 1781, the Congress offered to admit it into the Confederacy then formed, but with a considerable curtailment of its area. The people refused the terms, and it remained an independent State ten years longer. Then New York agreed to relinquish all claim to the territory and political jurisdiction on the payment by Vermont of the sum of $30,000. This was done; and on the 4th of March, 1791, that State entered our Union as the fourteenth. The same year the first census or enumeration of the inhabitants was completed. On the first of June the following year, Kentucky, with the consent of Virginia of which it formed a part, entered the Union as the fifteenth State.





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