Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Establishing a Revenue System
Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts
Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts
by James Barton Longacre after John Vanderlyn
(Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Letter of Rep. Benjamin Goodhue
Rep. Benjamin Goodhue of Massachusetts to the Salem Insurance Officers,
June 11, 1789
(Courtesy of the New York Society Library)

Elbridge Gerry, a wealthy Massachusetts merchant with a distinguished career of public service, was elected to Congress after opposing the ratification of the Constitution. In what his friends saw as a surprising reversal, he declared that "the salvation of America depends upon the establishment of this Government, whether amended or not." According to Benjamin Goodhue, Gerry was partially responsible for the delay in the Collection Bill [HR-6]. He had chaired the first committee to draft a system for collecting the impost and tonnage duties. This committee presented a bill that would have established a temporary system under the laws and regulations of the individual states. Goodhue states, "many find great fault with Gerry who say he had this subject in his charge as a sub committee a month and never put pen to paper." In his letter to the Salem Insurance Officers, Goodhue outlines some of the complications involved in setting up the revenue system.

Full text transcript of Rep. Goodhue's letter.

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