Front Page Titles (by Subject) hamilton to washington - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
hamilton to washington - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 6.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
hamilton to washington
New York, September 4, 1795.
Sir:—I had the pleasure of receiving, two days since, your letter of the 31st ultimo. A great press of business, and an indifferent state of health, have put it out of my power sooner to attend to it.
The incidents which have lately occurred have been in every way vexatious and untoward. They render indispensable a very serious, though calm and measured, remonstrance from this government, carrying among others this idea, that it is not sufficient that the British Government entertain toward our nation no hostile disposition; ‘t is essential that they take adequate measures to prevent those oppressions of our citizens, and of our commerce, by their officers and courts, of which there are too frequent examples, and by which we are exposed to suffer inconveniences too nearly approaching to those of a state of war. A strong expectation should be signified of the punishment of Capt. Holmes, for the attempt to violate an ambassador passing through our territory, and for the hostile and offensive menaces which he has thrown out. The dignity of our country, and the preservation of the confidence of the people in the government, require both solemnity and seriousness in these representations.
As to the negotiation for alteration in, and additions to, the treaty, I think it ought to embrace the following objects:
A new modification of the 12th article, so as to extend the tonnage, and restrain the prohibition to export from this country, to articles of the growth or production of the British islands. The more the tonnage is extended the better; but I think ninety tons would work advantageously, if nothing better could be done. I had even rather have the article with seventy, as it stood, than not at all, if the restriction on exportation is placed on the proper footing. Some of our merchants, however, think its value would be questionable at so low a tonnage as seventy. It would be also desirable that the article should enumerate the commodities which may be carried to, and brought from, the British islands. This would render it more precise and more intelligible to all.
Great Britain may have substantial security for the execution of the restriction, if it be stipulated on our side: “That a law shall be passed and continued in force during the continuance of the article, prohibiting the exportation in vessels of the United States, of any of the articles in question, if brought from British islands, on pain of forfeiture of the vessel, for wilful breach of the law; and that the same law shall provide that the regulations contained in our laws respecting drawbacks, shall be applied to all exportations in our vessels of the articles in question, to ascertain that they were imported into the United States from other than British islands, and this whether a drawback of duty is required or not by the exporter; and shall also provide that all such articles exported in our vessels from the United States, shall be expressed in the clearance, with a certificate of the collector endorsed, specifying that he has carefully examined, according to the treaty and to the law, the identity of the articles exported, and that it did bona fide appear to him that they had not been imported from any British island or islands.” This security is the greatest difficulty in the case, and would, in my opinion, be given by a provision similar to the foregoing.
It would be a very valuable alteration in the 13th article, if a right could be stipulated for the United States to go with articles taken in the British territories in India to other parts of Asia. The object of the present restriction upon us to bring them to America was, I believe, to prevent our interference with the British East India Company in the European trade in India goods. If so, there could be no objection to our having a right to carry commodities from the British territories to other parts of Asia. But if all this latitude cannot be obtained, it would be a great point gained to have a right to carry them thence to China. It is a usual and beneficial course of the trade to go from the United States to Bombay, and take in there a freight for Canton, purchase at the last place a cargo of teas, etc.
It would be well if that part of the 15th article, which speaks of countervailing duties, could be so explained as to fix its sense. I am of opinion that its only practicable construction is, and ought to be, that they may lay on the exportation from their European dominions, in vessels of the United States, the same additional duty on articles which we lay on the importation of the same articles into the United States in British vessels. But the terms of the clause are vague and general, and may give occasion to set up constructions injurious and contentious.
As to the more exact equalization of duties, of which this article speaks, it is a ticklish subject, and had better, I think, be left alone.
It would be right that it should be expressly agreed that wherever our vessels pay, in the ports of Great Britain, higher charges than their own vessels, a proportional reduction shall be made out of any duty of tonnage which may be laid on our vessels to counteract the difference of tonnage on theirs in our ports.
The 18th article is really an unpleasant one, and, though there is, I fear, little chance of altering it for the better, it may be necessary, for the justification of the President, to attempt it. The standard to be approached by us as nearly as possible is that in our treaty with France. As to the point of free ships making free goods, though it be desirable to us to establish it if practicable—and it ought to be aimed at—yet I neither expect that it will be done at present, nor that the great maritime powers will be disposed to suffer it to become an established rule, and I verily believe that it will be very liable, though stipulated, to be disregarded, as it has been by France through the greater part of the present war. But naval stores and provisions ought, if possible, to be expressly excluded from the list of contraband, except when going to a blockaded or besieged port, town, or fortress, or to a fleet or army engaged in a military operation, for I can imagine no other cases in which there is a just pretence to make provisions contraband.
Some provision for the protection of our seamen is infinitely desirable. At least Great Britain ought to agree that no seaman shall be impressed out of any of our vessels at sea, and that none shall be taken out of such vessel in any of her colonies which were in the vessel at the time of her arrival at such colony. This provision ought to be pressed with energy as one unexceptionably just, and at the same time safe for Great Britain.
The affair of the negroes, to give satisfaction, may be retouched, but with caution and delicacy. The resolution proposed in the Senate will afford a good standard for this.
As to the crowd of loose suggestions respecting the treaty, which have no reasonable foundation, it would not consist with the reputation of the government to move concerning them. Only reasonable things merit or can, with propriety, have attention.
I beg, sir, that you will at no time have any scruples about commanding me. I shall always with pleasure comply with your commands. I wish my health, or the time for it, would permit me now to be more correct. The other part of your letter shall be carefully attended to in time.