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Petition to the House of Commons, January 14, 1766


To the Honourable the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses of GREAT BRITAIN, in Parliament assembled.

The Petition of the Representatives of the Freemen of the Province of PENNSYLVANIA, in General Assembly met, most humbly showeth:

That, taking into their most serious consideration the statute passed in the fourth year of his present Majesty' s reign, prohibiting the further emissions of Bills of Credit from being lawful tender in the Colonies; and attentively weighing the mischiefs which must attend the continuance of the said statute; the obstructions to the growth and increase of this young, and lately flourishing Colony; and the diminution of its commercial intercourse with Great Britain which it must necessarily occasion, we find ourselves under the unhappy necessity of making our application to your honourable House for a repeal of the said law.

That it is known, from the most evident experience, that the growth and increase of this Province has been, in a great measure, occasioned by the moderate sums of paper money which from time to time have been emitted, by and under the direction of its legislative authority. That before these emissions were made, the progress of the Colony, in its wealth and settlement, laboured under the greatest difficulty, and proceeded in its course by degrees almost imperceptible. The inhabitants being under a necessity, from the want of a medium of commerce, to negotiate a groat part of their business and traffick in the inconvenient mode of barter and commutation; but, that, upon striking the first Bills of Credit, this disadvantageous method of commerce was soon laid aside; contracts multiplied; personal and real estates rose to their proper value; our numbers increased; trade became extended; and the settlement of the country proceeded with more rapidity than the most sanguine expectations could suggest; and that the same happy and fortunate effects have ever flowed from the further emissions of paper Bills of Credit, in proportion to the sums emitted, without the least inconveniency or prejudice to the merchants of Great Britain or the people of this Province.

That we apprehend no arguments can be necessary, to prove that commerce cannot be carrried to any beneficial extent, without a proper medium of circulating cash, destitute of which, the trade of this Colony must, in a short time, be confined to the restricted limits of


barter among ourselves, and the commercial intercourse with Great Britain be greatly diminished, to the manifest loss to the mother country, and impoverishment of the Colony.

That the trade to the foreign ports, from whence our merchants formerly imported gold and silver, in part of their returns, is effectually obstructed by the high duties imposed on the produce of those ports, to the great detriment of our commerce with Britain; and, oven when those duties shall be taken off, the gold and silver imported will be remitted, in discharge of the debts to the mother country; and, therefore, that we can have no permanent medium of commerce, without the liberty of emitting such reasonable quantities of paper Bills of Credit as may be necessary for that purpose.

That, by the policy of the English laws, the person of every debtor remains as a security to his creditor, for the performance of the contract and discharge of the debt; and, should the Legislature of this Province be restrained from making paper money a lawful tender to the creditor, in discharge of the body of the debtor, the person of every American is liable to duress and imprisonment, at the will and pleasure of his creditor.

Moved by the sincerest desire of promoting and increasing the commerce of our mother country, as well as that of our particular Province, we beg leave further to represent, that upon this liberty of instituting a proper medium of trade, the future importations of British manufactures in a great measure depend; that we find, from incontestable vouchers, and experience, that, at all times, the importations from Great Britain have increased or diminished, in proportion to the quantity of this medium and the foreign gold and silver current. That, in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty, when the largest sums of Bills of Credit and foreign specie were circulating, the greatest quantity of English merchandise was imported that has ever been known, either before or since that period. That before this time, as the quantity of this medium waff increased by the demand of the Crown, the orders of the Pennsylvania merchants grow larger, and the importations from Britain also increased. That since this period, those importations have lessened, in proportion to the sinking of those Bills of Credit, and the exportation of our gold and silver to Great Britain; and that in so great a degree as to be extremely injurious to the mutual commerce between our mother country and this Colony. That in the said year, the Bills of Credit of this Province amounted to more than five hundred thousand pounds, which, by sinking a part annually, is now reduced to about two hundred and ninety-three thousand. That a great part of the bills now current are subserving the purposes of commerce, in the Colonies of New-Jersey and Maryland, being received by them from a full solidity of the funds upon which they are establislied. That the commercial interest of the last mentioned Colony must hate been greatly distressed, without their having had, for some years past, no sufficient medium of trade of her own. That before the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-three, all the Bills of Credit now current are directed to be sunk and destroyed, by the laws which emitted them. And, with the greatest concern and uneasiness we assert it, we have reason to fear our commerce with our mother country will languish and expire with them.

That the funds for calling in and sinking these Bills of Credit, have ever been formed on the best security; the real and personal estates of all the people in the Province being subject to a tax for the sinking of them. The quantity emitted, from time to time, has ever been so moderate as to be scarcely sufficient to answer the purposes of trade and the settlement of the country, even when aided by large importations of foreign gold and silver. The merchants of Great Britain have never been injured by their emission, but, on the contrary, have been greatly benefited and enriched, as it enabled our merchants to enlarge their importations, and to pay their debts with honour and punctuality, until their late distress, occasioned by the restrictions of their foreign trade, remitting our gold and silver to England, and the present diminution of the quantity of the said Bills of Credit. That the unhappy effects of this diminution of our paper currency are, already, most sansibly full; the price of all kinds of labour is lessened; the numbers of our poor are increased; the value of our estates greatly sunk; our trade and importation from Britain evidently decreased; the further settlement of the Province is obstructed, and the people reduced to the greatest distress.

Wherefore, your petitioners, deeply affected with a view of the present and impending calamities which threaten His Majesty' s most faithful subjects, the good people of the Province, most ardently entreat your honourable House, that you will be pleased to take the subject of their aggrievanccs into your serious and candid consideration, and grant them that relief which must arise from a repeal of the said statute, and the liberty thereby afforded the Legislatures of this Province, of emitting Bills of Credit as lawful tender, in all our Colony debts, from time to time, as the purposes of commerce, the settlement of the Colony, and the necessities of the Government shall reasonably require.

Signed, by order of the House, JOSEPH Fox, Speaker.

January 14, 1766.

A true copy from the Journals:

CHARLES MOORE, Clerk of Assembly.