Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
July 24, 2000
The Honorable Denise L. Nappier
Treasurer, State of Connecticut
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Ms. Nappier:
You recently requested an opinion from this office regarding the following question:
Whether bonds issued in 1784 became a responsibility of the United States Government at the time of the adoption of the Constitution around 1790, provided claim was made within ten years of the due date.
Based upon the following, it is our opinion that bonds issued in 1784 became the responsibility of the United States Government in the early 1790’s. Public acts enacted in the state of Connecticut in 1798 and 1799 bar all claims on State Notes and Interest Certificates that were outstanding at the time the acts were passed. As to the validity of a claim against the federal government, the federal statute of limitations for claims against the United States has been changed from ten years to six years. 31 U.S.C. §3702.
As you stated in your letter, the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut issued an opinion on December 17, 1964, concluding that bonds issued in 1780 ceased to be an obligation of the State of Connecticut, and became a responsibility of the United States Government at the time of the adoption of the federal Constitution.1A similar conclusion applies to notes issued by the State in 1784.and indeed at any time prior to 1794. In 1794, the Connecticut Assembly passed a resolution confirming that all State Notes had become the responsibility of the federal government. The 1794 resolution provides in part:
Resolved by this Assembly that all holders of Evidences of Debt against this State may bring in and deposit with the Comptroller of Public Accounts all such Evidences and receive in satisfaction thereof transfers of the Debt due to this State from the United States in the manner and Sums herein after mentioned, That the Evidences of Debt so to be received shall be the following viz Notes Issued by the several Treasurers of this State computing Interest on such thereof as are by Law liable to liquidation.... (emphasis added).
In October of 1798 the Connecticut Assembly passed an Act limiting the time for presentation of payment claims on all outstanding State Notes. This 1798 Act provided that any State Notes that were not presented to the Connecticut Comptroller for payment by March 1799 would be "forever after Barred, and precluded from settlement, and allowance".2 An Act passed in May 1799, extended this deadline to April 1800. The 1799 Act again provided that any "State Notes, Interest Certificates Pay Table Orders and Bills of Credit of this State" that were not presented for payment within said time, would "be forever after barred and precluded from Settlement and Allowance".3This legislation clearly indicates that payment by the State of Connecticut on the 1784 note in question is barred and precluded.4 As to a claim against the federal government, the ten year federal statute of limitations (31 U.S.C. §237) cited in the 1964 Attorney General’s opinion, is now codified at 31 U.S.C. §3702. The federal statute (31 U.S.C. §3702) provides that a claim against the United States Government must be received by the Comptroller General within six years after the claim accrues. Therefore, it appears that a claim on the 1784 note against the federal government is also precluded.
Based upon the foregoing, it is our opinion that payment by the State of Connecticut on the 1784 note in question is barred and precluded. We therefore advise you to deny the request for payment of the obligation in question.
Very truly yours,
Joan C.G. Grear
Assistant Attorney General
1The 1964 Attorney General opinion provides:
Henry Bronson in a historical account of Connecticut Currency, published in Vol. 1 New Haven Colony Historical Society Papers (1865), at page 137, says that “the small balance of the bills which remained at the date of the federal Constitution, went in as a claim against the general government, at par value, with interest.” We therefore feel that the note in question ceased to be an obligation of the State of Connecticut at the time that it became a claim against the Federal Government.
2The October 1798 Act provides:
Be it Enacted by the Governor, Council, and house of Representatives in General Court Assembled, that all State Notes, Interest Certificates, Pay Table Orders, and Bills of Credit of this State, which at the Time of passing this Act shall be outstanding, shall on or before the fourth day of March next, be presented at the Office of the Comptroller of this State for the purpose of being discharged in a transfer of Stock of the United States standing to the Credit of this State on the Books of the Treasury of the United States, agreeable to existing Laws (or of being lodged and registered in said Office at the option of the Holders). And every of said State Notes, Interest Certificates, Pay Table Orders, or Bills of Credit which shall not be presented at the said Office within said Time, shall be forever after Barred, and precluded from settlement, and allowance; and the Comptroller shall make return of all such Notes, Interest Certificates, Pay Table and Bills of Credit of this State, as the holders shall not choose to have paid and discharged in stock of the United States.
3The 1799 Act provides: Be it Enacted by the Governor, and Council and House of Representatives in General Court Assembled, that all State Notes, Interest Certificates, Pay Table Orders and Bills of Credit of this State which are now outstanding and have not been lodged for Registry at the Office of the Comptroller agreeable to An Act passed in October last, limiting the Time for presenting for payment or Registry such State Notes, Interest Certificates Pay Table Orders and Bills of Credit of this State, may be Lodged and Registered in the Office of the Comptroller any Time previous to the first day of April 1800 any thing in said Act contained notwithstanding, and all such State Notes, Interest Certificates Pay Table Orders and Bills of Credit of this State which shall not be presented for Registry at said Office within said Time, shall be forever after barred and precluded from Settlement and Allowance.
4In the New Haven Colony Historical Society Papers, author Henry Bronson, M.D., includes a discussion of these historical events. See "A Historical Account of Connecticut Currency, Continental Money, and the Finances of the Revolution," New Haven Colony Historical Society Papers (1865, Vol. I, p. 184-189).