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American Finances

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

November 6.—A writer in London, says:—The incredible fall of continental currency in America, may be understood from the following notorious fact, viz.: Ten thousand pounds Maryland currency was worth six thousand sterling; ten thousand pounds continental money is worth one hundred pounds. The difference makes a loss of five thousand nine hundred pounds sterling, being as sixty to one.

This was the exchange at Philadelphia in June last, and as they had not then heard of Gates’s defeat, it must be now lower. Actions commenced for considerable sums by creditors, have been obliged to be withdrawn, or a non-suit suffered; a lawyer of eminence not opening his mouth in a trial of consequence, under a fee of one thousand pounds, though the legal fee is about forty, and the debt, if recovered, being paid in continental money, dollar for dollar, worth now but a penny, the difference between a penny and 4s. 6d. sterling, is lost to the receiver. The Congress having called in the former emissions, forty dollars for one, and giving that one in paper, cuts off every hope it will hereafter appreciate. The freight of a hogshead of tobacco is three hundred pounds, or one hogshead for the carriage of another; instead of the creditor pursuing the debtor with an arrest, the debtor pursues the creditor with a tender of continental money, and forces the bond out of his hand. Hence it appears what the best fortunes in that country are reduced to; an unpleasing reflection it must be! for time, which lightens all other losses, aggravates the loss of fortune. Every day we feel it more, because we stand more in want of the conveniences we have been used to. On the other hand, new fortunes are made on the ruin of old ones. War, which keeps the spirits in motion, has diffused a taste for gayety and dissipation. The French Resident at Philadelphia gives a rout twice a week to the ladies of that city, amongst whom French hair-dressers, milliners, and dancers are all the ton. The Virginia Jig has given place to the Cotillon, and minuet-de-la-cour. The Congress are fallen into general contempt, for their want of credit and power; the army is absolute, and has declared it will not submit to a peace made by Congress; the people grumble, but are obliged to surrender one piece of furniture after another, even to their beds, to pay their taxes. After all, a power drawn from such distant and dissonant parts cannot form a permanent union. The force of this kingdom, moving uniformly from one centre, must in all human probability ultimately prevail; or an accident may produce, in an instant, what the most powerful efforts require time and perseverance to accomplish.