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Want of Chief Justice’s Salary Just One Example of Maryland’s Deep State Debt
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Robert Harrison attempts to find a way to get his salary for November 1787 through January 1788 by offering notes on the state treasurer to various merchants.

ROBERT HANSON HARRISON. Autograph Letter Signed, to Walter Stone, March 12, 1788. 2 pp.

Inventory #22053       Price: $450

Complete Transcript

                  Nanjemoy March 12, 1788

D Sir,

            I have One hundred & Fifty pounds due me for a quarters salary to the 1st of February, and having Corn &c to buy & very largely too, should be very glad if I could receive it. The Colo, your Brother, was so obliging as to inform me by a Letter from Annapolis, some time ago that, “to secure it, I might get the money of Mr H Hanson & give him an order on the Treasurer for my salary, which would answer his purpose as well as Cash.” Just about this time, I recd a Letter also from Mr Latimer, who had when I left Annapolis obligingly undertook to receive the balance of my salary to the 1st of Novr. By this he informed me that he had not been able to do any thing but adds “The clause added to the Bill for the payment of the Journal of Accounts, includes? orders for pay due the Civil Officers discountable in lands, had put it more in his power than it had been to obtain the money” and in a very few days it was transmitted, as you will remember by your Brother. Those communications induced me to write to Mr Hanson, with a view of receiving  the Qrs Salary to the 1st of Feby, but Mr Hanson had not any <2> public money in his hands, and apprehended that the Law, had he been possessed of any, would not have authorized his paying me the quarterly salary & taking my order on the Treasurer. For that the provision only extended to those officers, in his idea, who owed for Lands, and that as I had settled mine, nothing could have been done. I have never yet seen the Law, possibly you & Mr Hanson have. Will you be so obliging as to speak to him upon the subject, and if he can with propriety give money for the amount of my order in his favor, which I inclose you, I am sure he will do it, & you will be so good as to exchange the order with him for money. If Eighty or one hundred pound should be in Dollars, all the better. Excuse this freedom & charge it to your own obliging disposition.

                                                                        I am Dr Sir / Yrs

                                                                        Rob: H: Harrison

You see I want paper.

PS. In case Mr Hanson can’t or don’t think himself authorized to let you have the money for my order, be pleased to destroy it, and forward the inclosed to your Brother the Colo. If Mr Hanson pays the money, be pleased to destroy this. Mind those Requests for Destroying

<3> <4>

[Address:] Mr Walter Stone / Portobo [Portobacco]

Historical Background

As Chief Justice of the General Court of Maryland, Robert H. Harrison earned an annual salary of £600. However, Maryland had a cash-flow problem and had difficulty paying its civil officers.

In 1780 and 1781, the Maryland General Assembly passed acts for the emission of bills of credit to meet the financial needs of the state. Although the bills of credit were supposed to be redeemed in 1784 and 1785, they continued in circulation due to the scarcity of specie. The state also issued certificates of debt to meet its expenses. After the Maryland Senate rejected a House of Delegates bill for another emission of bills of credit in December 1786, the legislature adjourned to take the issue to the people. Conservative opinion in Maryland was strong, and the House of Delegates was forced to retreat in the spring of 1787.

Robert Hanson Harrison (1745-1790) was born in Maryland, moved to Virginia, and practiced law. He represented George Washington in several legal matters in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. In November 1775, he became an aide-de-camp to General Washington. In May 1776, he became Washington’s military secretary and served in that position for five years with the rank of lieutenant colonel. With Alexander Hamilton, Harrison negotiated the exchange of prisoners of war. After the death of his father, Harrison resigned from the Continental Army in the spring of 1781. He was appointed Chief Justice of the General Court of Maryland in March 1781. In 1787, the Maryland General Assembly elected Harrison as one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, but Harrison declined. In September 1789, President Washington appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Senate confirmed him, but Harrison declined the appointment.

Walter Stone (1750-1791) was a merchant in Charles County, Maryland with his brother, Colonel John H. Stone (1745-1804), who commanded the 1st Maryland Regiment at the Battles of Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown, where he was severely wounded. His injuries forced him to resign in August 1779. Their older brother Thomas Stone (1743-1787) signed the Declaration of Independence as a representative of Maryland. Walter Stone had business dealings with Robert Morris in 1790, and he corresponded with Dr. Benjamin Rush regarding his health and medical treatment.

Hoskins Hanson (1745-1796) was born in Charles County, Maryland, and lived at Port Tobacco. He served as a sergeant and second lieutenant in a Maryland militia company during the Revolutionary War. He owned more than five hundred acres of land in Charles County, where he was a planter.

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