[REVOLUTIONARY WAR, CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. THOMPSON, Charles (1729-1824), Secretary of the Continental Congress. Manuscript document signed ("Charles Thomson, Secy,"), an "extract from the Minutes" of the Continental Congress. Philadelphia, 2 October 1778. 2 1/8 pages, large folio (14¼ x 9½ in.), slight tears at folds (some with repairs, leaving small stains).
THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS CRACKS DOWN ON SPECULATORS AND HOARDERS WHO ARE "DESTRUCTIVE OF THE PUBLIC WEAL"
An unusual resolution of Congress relating to the shortages of food and other commodities which plagued the Continental Army in the nearly disastrous winter encampment at Valley Forge (1777-1778). The Quarter Master Department, under Thomas Mifflin, had proven woefully ineffective, and it was not until May 1778, when Nathanael Green (1742-1786)--at the express urging of Washington--took over the thankless post that supply conditions showed some improvement. But blatant speculation, especially in grains needed for the army, had become rampant and large quantities of much-needed flour and other grains were held off the market by unprincipled profiteers gambling on windfall profits.
Here, Congress takes drastic action to address "the scantiness of crops of wheat & grain" in the central states, exacerbated by "the wicked art of speculators, forestallers & engrossers [hoarders], who infect every quarter of the country, & are industriously purchasing up grain & flour at the most exorbitant prices," making it "impracticable to obtain timely & sufficient supplies for the operations of the Army & Navy." Therefore, "rigorous measures" are adopted "to restrain practices so destructive of the public weal." An embargo previously enacted by Congress, preventing the transshipment of certain foodstuffs, is hereby extended, in order to prevent the speculators from holding grain off the market until the expiration of the embargo. The respective state legislatures are enjoined to pass laws to permit the outright seizure of "all grain & flour purchased up or engrossed," and Congress stipulates that "the shippers and every man on board" any vessel must "solemnly swear" not to be party to "any measure whatsoever which may tend to defeat the arrival of the vessel at some safe port in one of the Eastern states."