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title:“Fairfax County Petition Protesting Repeal of the Act to Prevent Extensive Credits”
authors:George Mason
date written:1783-6-18

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:24 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 4, 2024, 7:54 a.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Letter to Prevent Extensive Credits." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 785-87. Print.
Manuscript, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va.

Fairfax County Petition Protesting Repeal of the Act to Prevent Extensive Credits (June 18, 1783)

[18 June 1783]
The Petition of sundry Freeholders and Inhabitants of the County of Fairfax, To the Honourable the Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Delegates.
YOUR PETITIONERS being informed that a Petition bath been preferred by some of the Merchants of this County, to this present Session of Assembly, for repealing the Act to prevent extensive Credits upon open Accounts; humbly beg leave to declare their Disapprobation of the said Petition, and of repealing the Law against extensive Credits, for the following among other Reasons.
Because the Proceedings & Circumstances which gave Birth to the said Petition, for repealing the Act to prevent extensive Credits, are not such as deserve the Encouragement or Countenance of the Legislature; for the Merchants who promoted the said Petition, in Order to dispose of their Goods at exorbitant Prices, have sold them upon long Credit, on open Accounts; notwithstanding the Act against it; and after having acted willfully in Defiance of the Laws of their Country, are now petitioning the Assembly to legalize their illegal Doings.
Because giving extensive Credits will enable the British Merchants (who speak our Language, and are personally acquainted with this Country & the People) to monopolize our Trade, and to discourage, if not totally prevent Foreigners from trading with us.
Because the giving extensive Credits, adds greatly to the first Cost of imported Goods, the foreign Exporter, or the American Importer, being under the necessity of obtaining as long Credits, as in the Course of Trade he gives his Customers here, and consequently of buying from the Manufacturers & Shop-keepers at much dearer Rates than he wou'd otherwise do. If the British Merchant (under the former Government) had a hundred thousand Pounds due to him in the Tobacco-Colonys, he must have owed near as much to his different Tradesmen & Shop-keepers, who received Compensation in the high Prices they charged for their Goods; and all this fell at last, with redoubled Weight, upon the Planter & Farmer here; this not being the only Manner in which the Custom of extensive Credits enhances the Price of Merchandize to all the Buyers; for as no Man in his Senses willfully engages in a losing Trade, the Merchant must estimate his Loss or Risque in bad Debts, in the same Manner that he does Insurance, Commissions, or any other Charges, and lay a proportionable Advance upon his Goods; by which Means, the industrious & honest Part of the Community makes good, and pays for the Insolvencys of the idle & dishonest.
Because as the Price of imported Goods will, of necessity, be considerably increased in America, by the Duty on them of five Per Centum, for the Purposes of public Revenue; all other just & reasonable Ways & Means of rendering them cheap to the Consumers ought to be adopted. And your Petitioners are of Opinion (for the Reasons abovementioned) that continueing the Act to prevent extensive Credits will be the Means of saving annually to the good People of this Commonwealth, in the Price of the Goods they consume, a much greater Sum than their proportion of the national Debt; besides it's good Effects in promoting Industry & Frugality.
Because the extensive Credits formerly given upon open Accounts necessarily tended to ruin, and actually did ruin a great number of Familys, by involving them, unawares, in inextricable Debts, for such is the incautious & unguarded nature of most Men, that while they can obtain Credit, and no Demand is made for Payment, they proceed to plunge themselves deeper & deeper in the Books of their Creditors, without knowing the Amount of their Debts, or reflecting on their Ability to pay, until it is too late: whereas had they been called upon, at short Periods, to settle, & discharge their Accounts, or reduce them to Bonds, their Eyes wou'd have been opened in time, and their Ruin prevented.
Because we know from Experience, that by means of extensive Credits upon open Accounts, the Merchants, under the former Government, reduced great numbers of the People to a Condition little better than Servants upon board-Wages; and not only commanded the Produce of their Lands & Labour, upon what Terms they pleased; but had it also in their Power to influence them in Elections, and deprive them of all the Rights of free-Men.
And finally, Because extensive Credits will multiply Law-Suits & Officer's Fees, to the Impoverishment of the Country in general.
YOUR PETITIONERS having seen & felt these Evils under the former Government, and wishing never to have them renewed in this, most humbly beseech this honourable House, that the Law for preventing extensive Credits, upon open Accounts, may not be repealed.
And your Petitioners will ever Pray.
[Signatures of George Mason and nearly one hundred other freeholders.

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