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1794 - to the united states senate - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 10 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 10.
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to the united states senate
Feb. 22, 1794.
I have received a late order of the Senate on the subject of a petition of Arthur Hughes. Diligent search has been made for such a petition, and it has not been found. Neither have I now a distinct recollection of ever having seen it. Whether, therefore, it may not have originally failed in the transmission to me, or may have become mislaid by a temporary displacement of the papers of my immediate office, occasioned by a fire which consumed a part of the building in the use of the Treasury, or by some of those accidents which in an extensive scene of business will sometimes attend papers, especially those of inferior importance, is equally open to conviction. There is no record in the office of its having been received, nor do any of my clerks remember to have seen it. A search in the Auditor’s office has brought up the enclosed paper, which it is presumed relates to the object of the petition; but this paper, it will appear from the memorandum accompanying it, was placed in that office prior to the reference of the petition.
The Auditor of the Treasury is of opinion, though his recollection is suppositive, that the claim had relation to the services of John Hughes as forage master. Two objections opposed its admission: (1) the not being presented in time; (2) the name of John Hughes, in the capacity in which he claimed, not appearing upon any return in the Treasury.
If these be the circumstances, I should be of opinion that it would not be advisable by a special legislative interposition to except the case out of the operation of the acts of limitation.
The second order of the Senate on the subject of this petition leads to the following reflections:
Does this hitherto unusual proceeding (in a case of no public and no peculiar private importance) imply a supposition that there has been undue delay or negligence on the part of the Secretary of the Treasury?
If it does, the supposition is unmerited; not merely from the circumstances of the paper, which have been stated, but from the known situation of the officer. The occupations necessarily and permanently incident to the office are at least sufficient fully to occupy the time and faculties of one man. The burden is seriously increased by the numerous private cases, remnants of the late war, which every session are objects of particular reference by the two Houses of Congress. These accumulated occupations again have been interrupted in their due course by unexpected, desultory, and distressing calls for lengthy and complicated statements, sometimes with a view to general information, sometimes for the explanation of points which certain leading facts, witnessed by the provisions of the laws and by information previously communicated might have explained without those statements, or which were of a nature that did not seem to have demanded a laborious, critical, and suspicious investigation, unless the officer was understood to have forfeited his title to a reasonable and common degree of confidence. Added to these things, it is known that the affairs of the country in its external relations have for some time past been so circumstanced as unavoidably to have thrown additional avocations on all the branches of the Executive Department, and that a late peculiar calamity in the city of Philadelphia has had consequences that cannot have failed to derange more or less the course of public business.
In such a situation, was it not the duty of the officer to postpone matters of mere individual concern to topics of public and general concern, to the preservation of the essential order of the department committed to his care? Or, is it extraordinary that in relation to cases of the first description there should have been a considerable degree of procrastination? Might not an officer who is conscious that public observation and opinion, whatever deficiencies they may impute to him, will not rank among them want of attention and industry, have hoped to escape censure, expressed or implied, on that score?
I will only add that the consciousness of devoting myself to the public service to the utmost extent of my faculties and to the injury of my health, is a tranquillizing consolation of which I cannot be deprived by any supposition to the contrary.
With perfect respect, etc.1
March 8, 1794.
The present situation of the United States is undoubtedly critical, and demands measures vigorous, though prudent. We ought to be in a respectable military posture, because war may come upon us, whether we choose it or not; and because, to be in a condition to defend ourselves, and annoy any who may attack us, will be the best method of securing our peace. If it is known that our principal maritime points are out of the reach of any but formal serious operations, and that the government has an efficient active force in its disposal for defence or offence on an emergency, there will be much less temptation to attack us, and much more hesitation to provoke us.
It seems then advisable—
Each regiment to consist of two battalions, and of the following officers and men:
1 colonel, 2 majors, 10 captains, 20 lieutenants, 2 lieutenants and adjutants, 2 sergeant-majors, 40 sergeants, 4 musicians, and 1,000 rank and file.
These troops to be engaged upon the following terms:
To be enlisted for two years; but upon condition, that if a war should break out with any European power, they shall be obliged to serve four years from the commencement of such war, upon the same terms as the troops of the establishment.
To receive as a bounty, clothes with 12 dollars per man.
To be under an obligation to meet forty days in the year, and thirty of these days to encamp. When assembled, to be paid, officers and men, as the troops of the establishment, and to have the same subsistence and rations. To be furnished with arms and accoutrements by the United States, to be surrendered at the expiration of their term of service.
The officers in time of war to rank and rise with the officers of the military establishment. The arrangement to cease, ipso facto, at the expiration of a certain term (about two years).
The expense of these operations would be,
In addition to this, the Legislature ought to vest the President of the United States with the power to lay an embargo, partial or general, and to arrest the exportation of commodities, partially or generally.
It may also deserve consideration whether the Executive ought not to take measures to form some concert of the neutral powers for common defence.
Mr. Hamilton presents his respects to the President—submits to him some reveries which have occupied his imagination. It may be interesting for the President to consider whether some such plan is not demanded by the conjunction of affairs; and if so, whether there ought not to be some Executive impulse. Many persons look to the President for the suggestion of measures corresponding with the exigency of affairs. As far as this idea may be founded, many important and delicate ideas are involved in the consideration.
The pains taken to preserve peace, include a proportional responsibility that equal pains be taken to be prepared for war.
May 27, 1794.
I some time since communicated my intention to withdraw from the office I hold, towards the close of the present session.
This I should now put in execution, but for the events which have lately accumulated, of a nature to render the prospects of the continuance of our peace in a considerable degree precarious. I do not perceive that I could voluntarily quit my post at such a juncture consistently with considerations either of duty or character; and therefore I find myself reluctantly obliged to defer the offer of my resignation.
But if any circumstances should have taken place in consequence of the intimation of an intention to resign, or should otherwise exist, which serve to render my continuance in office in any degree inconvenient or ineligible, I beg leave to assure you, sir, I should yield to them with all the readiness naturally inspired by an impatient desire to relinquish a situation opposed by the strongest personal and family relations, and in which even a momentary stay could only be produced by a sense of duty or reputation.
June 4, 1794.
My Dear Sir:
The session of Congress is about to close better than I expected. All mischievous measures have been prevented, and several good ones have been established. Among these, additional provisions of revenue and some of force, are not the least important.
But as more immediately connected with the objects of your mission, you will learn with satisfaction, that the bill which had passed the Senate before you left this, for punishing and preventing practices contrary to neutrality, has become a law with only one material alteration, the rejection of the clause which forbids the selling of prizes. I now consider the Executive and the Judiciary, as armed with adequate means for repressing the fitting out of privateers, the taking of commissions, or enlisting in foreign service, the unauthorized undertaking of military expeditions, etc.
At Charleston some considerable irregularities have lately happened. But means have been taken, and are in train, which will no doubt arrest their progress, and correct the evil.
I believe it would be useful for you to collect and communicate exact information with regard to the usage of Europe as to permitting the sale of prizes in neutral countries. If this should be clearly against the toleration of the practice, the Executive might still, perhaps, disembarrass itself.
Men’s minds have gotten over the irritation by which they were some time since possessed, and if Great Britain is disposed to justice, peace, and conciliation, the two countries may still arrive at a better understanding than has for some time subsisted between them. Is there not a crisis which she ought not to suffer to pass, without laying a solid foundation for future harmony? I think there is.
Adieu, my dear sir: not knowing how far any press of business on the Department of State might delay its communications, I thought a few hasty lines would not be unacceptable.
July 13, 1794.
I have considered the two subjects upon which you desire my opinion, as maturely as my situation has permitted.
With regard to the proceedings in Kentucky, I perceive nothing that can, with propriety or utility, be done, unless the attorney-general, on full and careful examination, should be of opinion that they furnish indictable matter, in which case I should think it very material that prosecutions against the ostensible and leading characters should be instituted.
With regard to the affair in Georgia, the following course presents itself as eligible:
to rufus king
Sept. 17, 1794.
When you recollect that I have two departments on my shoulders, and when I tell you that I have been out of health in the bargain, you will perhaps admit an excuse for my not answering sooner your letter some time since received.
Mr. Jay has given nothing conclusive. His letters to the 26th of June barely gave the idea that appearances were not unfavorable. The last letter, I forget the date, but it came by the last arrival at New York, refers to letters which were not received, but which are supposed to have been confided to the Portuguese Minister. This letter is couched in the same cautious terms, considers the scale as capable of turning either way, and advises not to relax in military preparation. The ministry, however, have certainly continued to countenance shipments to this country, and very large ones were making. It is a strange, mysterious business. The change in administration had made some pause in the negotiation.
Nothing from the Western country authorizes an expectation of a pacific termination of that business. All the militia are going forward as fast as they can be got forward. Virginia, all below the mountains, is zealous; beyond, neutral in conduct and divided in affection. Jersey is also zealous; so are the eastern shore of Maryland and the town of Baltimore. Thence to Frederictown a pretty good temper prevails; beyond that a very insurgent spirit and some insurrection. In Philadelphia an excellent and productive zeal, embracing all parties, has been kindled. A good spirit will generally pervade the old counties. But there is much bad leaven in the new counties this side of as well as beyond the mountains—Cumberland, Franklin, Mifflin, and even Northumberland.
Governor Lee is at the head of the Virginia militia, and will command if the President does not go out; he is all zeal. Governor Howell, with equal zeal, was to march from Trenton to-day with the van of the Jersey militia, consisting of 500 horse. Mifflin, who at first showed some untoward symptoms, appears now to be exerting himself in earnest and with great effect, and goes at the head of his militia.
The President will be governed by circumstances. If the thing puts on an appearance of magnitude, he goes; if not, he stays. There is a pro and a con in the case. If permitted, I shall at any rate go.
to rufus king
September 22, 1794.
I thank you, my dear sir, for your letter of the ——. A few days previously I wrote you pretty fully. I hope my letter got to hand.
The inclosed paper gives you the substance of our European intelligence under the Philadelphia head.
The returns from the western counties of this State are just come to hand. They show a valuable division, ranging on the side of the laws the most influential men, and a respectable body of others—but leaving a great number still uncomplying and violent, so as to afford no appearance of submission to the laws without the application of force. It will give you pleasure to learn that there is every prospect of our being able to apply this effectually, and of the issue being favorable to the authority of the laws. It will occasion a large bill of costs, but what is that compared with the object? Adieu.
to george matthews, governor of georgia
Sept. 25, 1794.
In the absence of the Secretary of War, I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letters to his department of the 5th, 19th, and 30th of August, and to reply to such parts as are the most pressing, referring the others to the return of that officer.
Among the posts which have been established, that of Doctor’s Town creates a question, in consequence of Lieutenant Colonel Gaither’s information that it is within the Indian boundary.
This is a matter which ought to be unequivocally ascertained, and if found to be within the Indian line, or if it be even doubtful whether that be the case, the post must be immediately removed. It is deemed essential that no encroachment should take place. And your Excellency is relied upon for a strict and scrupulous adherence to this principle.
Under the circumstances which led to it, the President has thought proper to authorize the adoption by the United States of the new troop ordered by you into service, from the time of its commencement, and to continue until the first of November ensuing, when it is to be disbanded.
And you are at liberty, if the state of things shall render it, in your judgment essential, to substitute at that time a company of infantry for the same purpose. Corps of horse, upon the terms on which that in question is engaged, are expensive in the extreme, and in a much greater proportion, compared with infantry, than any supposable superiority of usefulness can justify. Indeed, it would require a treasury much better supplied than that of the United States to support the expense of a multiplication or extension of such corps. Consequently, that multiplication or extension would tend to defeat its own object, for our instruments of defence, to be durable, must be relative to our means of supporting them. And when we find, as in the instance of the insurrection now existing in the western parts of Pennsylvania, that those for whose immediate benefit the objects of military expenditure occur are among the first to resist, even to violence, the necessary means of defraying them, it is easy to appreciate the perplexing dilemma to which the government is reduced, between the duty and the means of affording protection, and the necessity, consequently, of economy in the modes of effecting it.
Your Excellency is pleased to express your concern at being so repeatedly compelled to solicit protection for the State of Georgia.
This is not understood as implying any want of due disposition on the part of the Executive of this government to afford all the protection which is within the compass of the means placed within its power, having regard to all the objects which, along a very extended frontier, equally demand attention. It is not doubted that you render justice, in this respect, to the views of the Executive.
But the observation you have made in this particular naturally leads to another, which calls for the most serious attention of the governments of the States exposed to Indian depredations. It is this, that there is a reciprocal duty in the case. The obligation upon the United States to afford adequate protection to the inhabitants of the frontiers is no doubt of the highest and most sacred kind. But there is a duty no less strong upon those inhabitants to avoid giving occasion to hostilities by an irregular and improper conduct, and upon the local governments sincerely and effectually to punish and repress instances of such conduct, and the spirit which produces them. If these inhabitants can with impunity thwart all the measures of the United States for restoring or preserving peace, if they can with impunity commit depredations and outrages upon the Indians, and that in violation of the faith of the United States, pledged not only in their general treaties, but even in the special (and among all nations peculiarly sacred) case of a safe conduct, as in the instance of the attack upon the Indians while encamped within our protection, on the 10th of May last, can it be surprising if such circumstances should abate the alacrity of the national councils to encounter those heavy expenses which the protection of the frontiers occasions, and the readiness of the citizens of the United States distant from the scenes of danger to acquiesce in the burdens they produce? It is not meant by these remarks to diminish the force of the excuse within due limits which is drawn from the conduct of the Indians towards the frontier inhabitants. It cannot be denied that frequent and great provocations to a spirit of animosity and revenge are given by them, but a candid and impartial survey of the events which have from time to time occurred can leave no doubt that injuries and provocations have been too far mutual, that there is much to blame in the conduct of the frontier inhabitants, as well as in that of the Indians. And the result of a full examination must be that, unless means to restrain by punishing the violences which those inhabitants are in the habit of perpetrating against the Indians can be put in execution, all endeavors to preserve peace with them must be forever frustrated.
An example worthy of imitation in its spirit has lately been given by the surrender to Governor Blount of some Indians who lately committed a murder upon one John Ish, an inhabitant of the southwestern territory, and who have been tried and executed. The record of such an example of justice and fair dealing will give occasion to us to blush, if we can cite no instance of reciprocity amidst the numerous occasions which are given for the exercise of it.
These reflections, your Excellency may be assured, are merely designed to present to consideration some very important truths—truths a due attention to which is of the most serious concern to those States which have an exposed frontier. To give full weight to their claims upon the exertions of the Union to afford the requisite protection, it is of great moment to satisfy the United States that the necessity for them has not been created or promoted by a culpable temper, not sufficiently restrained among those to whom the protection is immediately to be extended.
The President learns with great pleasure the measures your Excellency had begun and was about to pursue for the removal of the settlers under General Clarke. It is impossible to conceive a settlement more unjustifiable in its pretexts, or more dangerous in its principle than that which he is attempting. It is not only a high-handed usurpation of the rights of the general and State governments, and a most unwarrantable encroachment upon those of the Indians, but proceeding upon the idea of a separate and independent government, to be erected on a military basis, it is essentially hostile to our republican systems of government, and is pregnant with incalculable mischiefs. It deeply concerns the great interests of the country that such an establishment should not be permitted to take root, and that the example should be checked by adequate punishment, in doing which no time is to be lost, for such is the nature of the establishment that it may be expected rapidly to attain to a formidable magnitude, involving great expense and trouble to subvert it.
The President therefore depends absolutely upon measures equally prompt and efficacious to put an end to it.
to oliver wolcott1
Sept. 29, 1794.
Being about to leave the seat of government for a few weeks, to accompany the army in its march against the western insurgents of Pennsylvania, I commit to you during my absence the management of those matters which are reserved to my superintendence, under the constitution and regulations of the department, especially the receipts and expenditures of money, and I rely upon your diligence and zeal that nothing will suffer during my absence. With regard to remissions and mitigations of penalties and forfeitures, it will be best to avoid acting in any case in which particular inconvenience will not arise from delay, as there is not time to explain the principles which have governed in the past, and the course of policy may, without such explanation, be innovated upon so as to occasion something like inconsistency. But in urgent cases you will act, consulting the most recent precedents in similar cases. To preserve the usual forms, I have signed and left in my office a large number of blank warrants of the different kinds which issue. Enclosed is a letter to the President and Directors of the Bank of New York. If they agree to loan you will conclude it. You will find in the office a power from the President for the purpose. It will be regular in any contract which may be made to pursue the terms of the power as to parties.1
to rufus king
Oct. 30, 1794.
Our light corps, the Jersey infantry, and a brigade of cavalry, are about eight and a half miles in front, beyond all the mountains. This division, which has been delayed by a somewhat worse route and the incumbrance of the public stores, will be at the same place this evening. The left wing is at a corresponding point. All is essentially well; no appearance of opposition. It is of great consequence that a law should, if possible, be expedited through Congress for raising 500 infantry and 100 horse, to be stationed in the disaffected country. Without this, the expense incurred will be essentially fruitless.
A law regulating a peace process of outlawry is also urgent; for the best objects of punishment will fly, and they ought to be compelled by outlawry to abandon their property, homes, and the United States. This business must not be skinned over. The political putrefaction of Pennsylvania is greater than I had any idea of. Without rigor everywhere, our tranquillity is likely to be of very short duration, and the next storm will be infinitely worse than the present one.
to a friend in europe
My own hope of making a short excursion to Europe the ensuing spring increases. Believe me, I am heartily tired of my situation, and wait only the opportunity of quitting it with honor and without decisive prejudice to the public affairs. This winter, I trust, will wind up my plans so as to secure my reputation. The present appearance is that the depending elections will prove favorable to the good cause and obviate anxiety for the future. In this event my present determination is to resign my political family and set seriously about the care of my private family. Previous to this I will visit Europe. There I shall have the happiness of meeting you once more. But will not a few months afterwards give us the pang of a final separation? Let us hope the best. Adieu.1
to thomas fitzsimmons
Nov. 27, 1794.
Seeing the debates on the subject of Democratic Societies, I called at your house to state some facts.
It is true that the opposition to the excise laws began from causes foreign to Democratic Societies, but it is well ascertained by proof in the course of judiciary investigations that the insurrection immediately is to be essentially attributed to one of those societies sometimes called the Mingo-Creek Society, sometimes the Democratic Society. An early and active member of it commanded the first attack at Neville’s House; another active member of that Society, McFarlane, the second attack. Benjamin Parkinson, the president, and several other members of it seemed to have directed the second attack as a committee. This may be asserted as founded upon good proof and information recently received, though it would not be consistent with decorum to name me. Make what use you please of this, and communicate it to other friends.1
Dec. 1, 1794.
I have the honor to inform you that I have fixed upon the last of January next as the day for the resignation of my office of Secretary of the Treasury. I make the communication now that there may be time to mature such an arrangement as shall appear to you proper to meet the vacancy when it occurs.
December 2, 1794.
The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor respectfully to make the following representation to the President of the United States, in order that he may determine on the expediency of laying the subject of it before Congress.
The procuring of military supplies generally is, with great propriety, vested by law in the Department of the Treasury. That department, from situation, may be expected to feel a more habitual solicitude for economy than any other, and to possess more means of information respecting the best modes of obtaining supplies.
It is, however, important that the particular arrangement should be such as to enable the department to execute the trust in the best manner. This branch of business forms a very considerable one of the public expenditure. Including supplies for the navy, it is so extensive as, to be well executed, would occupy the whole time and attention of one person, possessing the requisite qualifications. This, with the growth of the country, must be every year more and more the case. It cannot, therefore, be conducted in detail by the head of the department, or by any existing officer of it, now charged with other duties, and without being less well executed than it ought to be, or interfering with other essential duties, or without a portion of both these inconveniences, to the material detriment of the public service. Experience has already verified the position.
It must then, of necessity, either be confided to a special agent, employed by the head of the department, or to a new officer of the department, to be constituted by law, and to act under the discretion and superintendence of that head. The last mode is preferable to the first, for obvious reasons.
Whenever an object of public business is likely to be permanent, it is more fit that it should be transacted by an officer of the government, regularly constituted, than by the agent of a department, specially intrusted.
The officer can be placed, by law, under more effectual checks. In the present case, that idea is particularly important. The person intrusted ought to be prohibited, under penalties, from all dealing, on his own account, in the objects of supply.
The duration and emoluments of mere agency being precarious, a well-qualified man, disposed to make the necessary sacrifices of other pursuits, and to devote himself exclusively to the business, could with much greater difficulty, if at all, be found.
The compensation to such an officer ought, it is conceived, to weigh nothing as an objection. Independent of the equivalent expense, arising from the necessity of employing and compensating an agent, it is morally certain that the close, constant, undivided attention of a person, charged exclusively with this object, and in condition, for that reason, to make the minute as well as extensive inquiries and investigations which are often requisite, would produce savings to the United States with which the salary of the officer could bear no comparison. It is equally evident that it would contribute greatly to punctuality, despatch, and efficiency in procuring the supplies.
Reprinted from American State Papers, “Claims,” p. 77. This letter has also been reprinted in Adams’s Life of Gallatin, p. 116. It is a very interesting and somewhat amusing document, and it may be doubted if any other Secretary of the Treasury ever dared to lecture the Senate in this way.
Comptroller of the Treasury.
Reprinted from Administrations of Washington and Adams, i., 155.
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, vi., 193, where it has neither address nor date. This letter, however, must have been written in the autumn of 1794, as the reference to the pending elections and the writer’s resignation in the following winter shows.
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, vi., 123.