Jan. 26, 1795.
Mr. Wolcott has just informed me that the Secretary of State had called upon him as by your direction, to confer on the subject of a person to be appointed Comptroller, in the event of his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury; and intimated that you had concluded to take some gentleman from the South; that Mr. Habersham (brother of the collector of Savannah) was more particularly in your eye, and that if he or I had any different view of the subject, it was your wish that it might be speedily communicated, as you were desirous of coming to a conclusion.
This I accordingly feel it my duty to do.
It is of the greatest importance to the proper conducting the business of the Treasury Department that the Comptroller should be a man of the following description: of strong sense, of clear discernment, sound judgment, indefatigable industry, firmness, and prompt decision of temper; possessing a comprehensive knowledge of accounts, and of course good principles.
As well from the nature of the office as from the particular situation of the department, as it will stand at the moment of my resignation, it is of peculiar consequence that there should be no mistake in the selection of the proper character for Comptroller. It will be easy for the department to run into disorder if such a mistake should happen.
From all the light I have been able to obtain on the subject, though it results in a favorable impression of Mr. Habersham generally, yet it leaves a considerable doubt on my mind that he would be an eligible appointment as Comptroller of the Treasury. I cannot, therefore, add my opinion to the rest of the opinions which may favor it.
There is one gentleman South, whom I have before mentioned, of whose fitness in every respect, from trial of him in different public situations, it appears to me impossible to entertain a doubt—I mean Colonel Edward Carrington. I will pledge my reputation to the President for his proving, if appointed, an excellent Comptroller, and a valuable acquisition to the department.
I have fully reflected on the objection which from the distributive geographical rule, is supposed to be against him—and I beg leave to submit, as my opinion, that it ought not to be conclusive. This rule is doubtless a good one; but if carried so far as to hazard the appointment of unqualified persons to offices of material importance to the general administration of the government, it will become a bad one, sacrificing primary to secondary considerations.
I have offered my opinion with the less reserve because I ought to be explicit in a case not only of much moment to the public service, but when the arrangements which may be made, may, naturally from situation, be presumed to have had the concurrence of my opinion, and where, therefore, my reputation is more particularly concerned.
to willink, van staphorst, & hubbard
Jan. 31, 1795.
It is probable that before this reaches you, you will have heard of my determination to resign my office as Secretary of the Treasury as on this day. The event will accordingly take place.
I could not permit myself to renounce my official situation without placing among my last acts the expression of the high sense I continue to entertain of the fidelity and ability with which you have uniformly served the United States. This testimony is due to you, and it is with great pleasure I give it.
The gentleman whom the President has determined to nominate as my successor, and who will be no doubt appointed, is Oliver Wolcott, Esquire, the present Comptroller of the Treasury. I do him no more than justice by assuring you that he is a gentleman of undoubted intelligence, probity, and good principles with regard to public credit. The confidence of yourself and your countrymen may be safely reposed in him.
Jan. 31, 1795.
Agreeably to the intimation heretofore given, I have the honor now to tender you my resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury, and to be with sincere respect and affectionate attachment, sir, etc.
washington to hamilton
Feb. 1, 1795.
I received the enclosed letter, with the document therein, last night.
For reasons which will appear obvious, I make you acquainted with the contents of them—being yours,
Endorsement on this letter by A. H.
This covered a letter from Mr. Coxe, of the 31st January, 1795, containing a charge against Mr. Wolcott, for my having committed to him, and he having exercised, the duties of Secretary of the Treasury in my absence on the Western expedition.
washington to hamilton
Feb. 2, 1795.
After so long an experience of your public services, I am naturally led, at this moment of your departure from office—which it has always been my wish to prevent—to review them.
In every relation which you have borne to me I have found that my confidence in your talents, exertions, and integrity, has been well placed.
I the more freely render this testimony of my approbation, because I speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me, and which furnish satisfactory proof of your title to public regard.
My most earnest wishes for your happiness will attend you in your retirement, and you may assure yourself of the sincere esteem, regard, and friendship of, etc.
Feb. 3, 1795.
My particular acknowledgments are due for your very kind letter of yesterday. As often as I may recall the vexations I have endured, your approbation will be a great and precious consolation.
It was not without a struggle that I yielded to the very urgent motives which impelled me to relinquish a station in which I could hope to be in any degree instrumental in promoting the success of an administration under your direction; a struggle which would have been far greater had I supposed that the prospect of future usefulness was proportioned to the sacrifices to be made.
Whatsoever may be my destination hereafter, I entreat you to be persuaded (not the less for my having been sparing in professions) that I shall never cease to render a just tribute to those eminent and excellent qualities which have been already productive of so many blessings to your country, that you will always have my fervent wishes for your public and personal felicity, and that it will be my pride to cultivate a continuance of that esteem, regard, and friendship of which you do me the honor to assure me. With true respect and affectionate attachment, etc.
Feb. 12, 1795.
I have maturely reflected on the subject of the within papers. I do not hesitate to give it as my opinion that, if it were not for very peculiar personal circumstances, the fittest arrangement, upon the whole, would be to consign the temporary execution of the comptroller’s office to the commissioner of the revenue. But I could not advise this, because it could not fail, for strong reasons, to be unpleasant to Mr. Wolcott, and because there is real danger that Mr. Coxe would first perplex and embarrass, and afterward misrepresent and calumniate.
The treasurer would by no means answer, because, as the keeper of the money, it is particularly essential that all the checks upon him should be maintained in full vigor, and the comptroller is the officer who, in the last resort, settles his accounts, as well as concurs, in the first instance, in authorizing, by the warrants which are issued by the secretary, and countersigned by the comptroller, the payments and receipts of the treasurer.
The register is also one of the principal checks of the department: first, upon the secretary and comptroller, whose warrants he must register and sign before they can take effect; and secondly, upon the settlements of the comptroller and auditor, by recording their acts, and entering them upon the books to the proper accounts.
Of any of the officers of the department, except the commissioner of the revenue, the business can be best managed through the auditor, consistently with the preservation of the most material checks, with the restriction I mentioned this morning, of his not deciding, as comptroller, upon any account he may have settled as auditor. The temporary suspension of the final conclusion of the accounts—all the previous examinations going on, cannot be attended with any serious inconvenience. If the laws admit of it (which I doubt, as they now stand), the appointment of the auditor’s first clerk to act as the auditor in his stead will be a conveniency. I do not think this would be liable to the same objections as the appointing a clerk to act as comptroller, whose office imports the second trust in the department. In one sense, to appoint the auditor to act as comptroller, would comport best with the spirit of the constitution of the department. This is, that the officer who is to settle the accounts by countersigning the warrants for receipts and payments, shall have an opportunity to observe this conformity with the course of business as it appears in the accounts, and shall have notice in the first instance of all payments and receipts, in order to the bringing all persons to account for public moneys. This reason operates to make the auditor, who is the coadjutor of the comptroller in settlements, his most fit substitute in this particular view.
On the whole, I am of opinion that it is most advisable to appoint the auditor.
A clerk, for reasons already mutually adverted to, does not appear to be expedient. I have the honor to be, etc.
P. S.—The restriction above suggested, for greater caution, had best be in writing in a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury.
The instrument appears to me to be in proper form.
to theodore sedgwick
Feb. 18, 1795.
My Dear Sedgwick:
Every moment’s reflection increases my chagrin and disgust at the failure of the propositions concerning the unsubscribed debt. I am tortured by the idea that the country should be so completely and unnecessarily dishonored. A day of reckoning must come. I pray you let the yeas and nays separate the wheat from the chaff. I may otherwise have to feel the distress of wounding a friend by a shaft levelled at an enemy. The case is an extreme one. Managements are every way improper.
to rufus king
Feb. 21, 1795.
My Dear King:
The unnecessary and capricious and abominable assassination of the national honor by the rejection of the propositions respecting the unsubscribed debt in the House of Representatives haunts me every step I take, and afflicts me more than I can express. To see the character of the government and the country so sported with—exposed to so indelible a blot—puts my heart to the torture. Am I, then, more of an American than those who drew their first breath on American ground? Or what is it that thus torments me at a circumstance so calmly viewed by almost everybody else? Am I a fool—a romantic Quixote—or is there a constitutional defect in the American mind? Were it not for yourself and a few others, I could adopt the reveries of De Paux as substantial truths, and could say with him that there is some thing in our climate which belittles every animal, human or brute.
I conjure you, my friend, make a vigorous stand for the honor of your country! Rouse all the energies of your mind, and measure swords in the Senate with the great slayer of public faith—the hackneyed veteran in the violation of public engagements. Prevent him if possible from triumphing a second time over the prostrate credit and injured interests of his country. Unmask his false and horrid hypothesis. Display the immense difference between an able statesman and the man of subtleties. Root out the distempered and noisome weed which is attempted to be planted in our political garden, to choke and wither in its infancy the fair plant of public credit.
I disclose to you without reserve the state of my mind. It is discontented and gloomy in the extreme. I consider the cause of good government as having been put to an issue and the verdict rendered against it.
Introduce, I pray you, into the Senate, when the bill comes up, the clause which has been rejected, freed from embarrassment by the bills of credit, bearing interest on the nominal value. Press its adoption in this, the most unexceptionable shape, and let the yeas and nays witness the result.
Among the other reasons for this is my wish that the true friends of public credit may be distinguished from its enemies. The question is too great a one not to undergo a thorough examination before the community. It would pain me not to be able to distinguish. Adieu. God bless you!
P. S.—Do me the favor to revise carefully the course of the bill respecting the unsubscribed debt and let me know the particulars. I wish to be able to judge more particularly of the under-plot I suspect.
to rufus king
Feb. 26, 1795.
My Dear Sir:
I have received your letter with the printed bills. The new clause is an additional bad feature, yet ’T is better the thing should pass as it is than not at all. Every thing should be gained that can be.
So it seems that under the present administration of the department, Hillhouse and Goodhue are to be the ministers in the House of Representatives, and Ellsworth and Strong in the Senate. Fine work we shall have!
But I swear the nation shall not be dishonored with impunity.
to oliver wolcott
April 10, 1795.
I wrote you a few lines by the last post. I sit down to fulfil my promise then made.
The fulfilment of our foreign engagements under the existing circumstances is no doubt a perplexing task. But I hope it will not be found impracticable to effect enough to preserve character and credit.
Every thing must be done to this end, though with considerable sacrifices, provided you do not go so far as to endanger credit at home. This must at all events be kept sound, since a shock there will be fatal, while the extraordinary situation of the times will furnish an apology for any omissions which may happen abroad; and, by eventual indemnification, the wounds which may be given to foreign credit may be healed. The opinion which some entertain is altogether a false one—that it is more important to maintain our credit abroad than at home. The latter is far the most important nursery of resources, and, consequently, far the most important to be inviolably maintained. A failure here would be the more material, because it would argue want of means, and could not shelter itself under the plea of temporary embarrassments from external causes, and because it would derange our whole internal economy.
But, except the compromitting our whole domestic credit, nothing must be left undone to preserve external credit.
I do not doubt that the means which have been taken down to the first of June, inclusively, will be deemed adequate, considering the circumstances. They may, however, fail of the effect intended. But I do not apprehend any material evil from the delay of reimbursing the instalment of principal, if the interest is but punctually and honestly paid. I hope our commissioners, with the public and their own resources, will effect this, till further provision can be brought into action.
As to sending specie from this country, ’T is out of the question. ’T would derange every thing, and our commissioners ought to be frankly told that it is impracticable, owing to the interruption by the war of some of the usual channels through which we have derived our supplies of specie.
But commodities may be remitted on the public account, and this (the resource of stock failing) must, for aught I see, be done, unless what I shall now mention can be accomplished, with the judgment of our commissioners in its favor, to wit:
Let them enter into an arrangement with the constituted authorities of Holland or France (preferring the former) to receive at Amsterdam the sums necessary for paying those which we shall owe, giving drafts upon our treasury for equivalent sums. This will enable the French or Dutch government to obtain supplies here, which they will want.
But may they for this purpose receive and pay assignats? Not so, if assignats are not the general currency of the country; but if they are, there may be no choice. Gold and silver may not then be obtainable at all. Perhaps the commissioners may be able to raise funds by the sale of bills upon this country; otherwise, as many may wish, to remit from the Netherlands.
Yet our creditors must not be paid without a reasonable indemnification in depreciated paper. Consequently our commissioners must be authorized, if obliged to pay in assignats, to augment the rate, so as to allow an equivalent.
Accordingly, if the arrangement I have intimated can be effected, the commissioners may give bills, florin for florin, of gold or silver (or a dollar for 2 ½ florins); but if they are obliged to receive assignats, they ought to secure a premium of exchange equal to the depreciation.
This transaction ought to be managed under the superintendence of our minister.
What I wish you were able immediately to do is this: To ship without delay commodities sufficient, together with the moneys certainly in the command of the commissioners, independent of sales of stock, to pay interest to September, inclusively, writing them a letter suggesting the above plan, and authorizing them to act upon it if they approve.
The stock remitted may be ordered to be sold in England, which will furnish a fund upon which you can draw, in order to prosecute other methods of remittance.
At the same time, I think it may be well to take measures for ascertaining whether some arrangement could not be relied upon for remitting through England to Amsterdam. I know of no impediment, even now, to sending bullion (including Spanish and other foreign gold and silver coin) in American bottoms to Amsterdam, but impediments might arise. Perhaps in this case London might be made an intermediary of remittances to Holland, either by sales of stock or commodities there.
The commodities to be remitted ought to be such as to be liable to as little casualty as possible from war considerations, and they ought to be most effectually insured, and ought to appear authentically as those of the United States sent to pay their debts on their own account and risk. I suspect, however, the other plan will be found practicable on satisfactory principles, but no agreement ought to be for a longer term than a year.
If you are not able to send, immediately, commodities for payment of interest to September, it may then be of necessity to wait further information, giving full latitude, if it has not already been given, to sell stock for payment of interest at any price; suggesting the possibility of doing some thing through London, and proposing the plan of the arrangement which has been suggested. All the stock not salable in Amsterdam ought to be placed in London, under due precautions for security, to be sold there as a fund.
The co-operation of our minister in Holland will be proper throughout; and pretty large discretions must be confided.
If a very trusty and a clever fellow could go from hence, as agent for the treasury, with alternative instructions according to circumstances, it might be very useful. I believe William Smith, of South Carolina, would go and he would be safe and competent. Would not James Watson go? He would also do.
In contemplating a possible course of things, I had my eye upon the expedient of issuing warrants upon the treasurer, payable at future periods, from two to twelve months, in nature of exchequer bills. This may be a means of providing for the current service of credit, besides the expedient of loans from the bank. By being negotiable, they may answer the purpose of contractors, though articles may there by cost some thing more to the public, than on the plan of anticipated or prompt payment.
I mention this, because I foresee that, from the embarrassment of foreign events, there may be a press upon the treasury.
If any thing further occurs, you shall have it. Write me as freely as you please.
P. S.—There is one idea which may deserve attention—a depreciated paper naturally gives to gold and silver an artificial and exaggerated value. This may even occasion an undue loss to a debtor who is honorable enough to pay in gold and silver, when a depreciated paper is the general currency. This is more than just. But it may be policy in a government to submit to it. Yet there may be bounds. The idea may be brought into the view of our minister and commissioners for this purpose: To suggest, that if such an artificial advancement of gold and silver takes place, the compensation for depreciation may be adjusted upon some equitable ratio. But a moderate sacrifice, for simplicity of proceeding, may, in this case, be best.
I send a letter to the Attorney-General which you will read, seal, and deliver. You will easily divine my reason for addressing it to him. The President ought to view this matter as it is, but I do not write to him, because I do not wish to appear officious.
Have you taken any arrangement at Amsterdam, to facilitate the change of foreign and domestic debt, according to the law of last session? The moment is favorable. Facilities on the spot may promote the object. Our commissioners and our minister are worthy of trust.
to rufus king
April 24, 1795.
I return you a certain draft, with a little substitute for the close of it proposed by Mr. J——, with an eye to your suggestion.
Our petition went yesterday by express. It had more than 3,200 signers, which is within about 300 of the highest poll we ever had in this city on both sides, at the most controverted election. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate our unanimity, and I feel no doubt of equal or greater unanimity throughout the State.
The meeting-men have not dared to publish the names of the committee, because it impudently contained a considerable proportion of persons hostile to its object, several of them actually on our petition. You see by this their embarrassment and their weakness.
to william bradford
Yours of the twenty-first of May, by going to Albany, did not reach me till yesterday. The expectation of Mr. Adet properly varied the course of proceeding. I am glad the impression with you corresponded with mine.
If Mr. Randolph showed Fauchet any part of the instructions to Mr. Jay, I do not much regret that he manifests displeasure at the withholding of a part. When shall we cease to consider ourselves as a colony of France? To assure her minister that the instructions to Mr. Jay contained nothing which could interfere with our engagements to France might, under all the circumstances, have been expedient; but to communicate specifically any part of the instructions to our envoy, was, in my judgment, improper in principle and precedent.
I expect the treaty will labor. It contains many good things, but there is one ingredient in it which displeases me—of a commercial complexion. I am, however, of opinion, on mature reflection, that it is expedient to ratify, accompanied by a declaration that it is our intention, till there be a further explanation and modification of the article, to forbear the exercise of a certain privilege, and consequently the performance of the condition of it, or some thing equivalent. This, it is true, may or may not be accepted. But I believe it will create no difficulty, and I would rather risk it than take the treaty unqualifiedly. I prefer this course to that of sending back the treaty for a new negotiation, because (among other reasons) it may save time, and more speedily close certain matters which I deem it very important to terminate. I am also glad to learn that, since the date of your letter, there have been some convictions of the insurgents. This was very essential to the permanent good effects of the measures which were pursued on that subject. You see, I have not entirely lost my appetite for a little politics; you must not infer that I have not a very good one for law.
P. S.—I had almost forgotten a principal object of this letter. It concerns the Marquis Lafayette. In conversation, I think, but certainly by letter (this entre nous), I suggested to Mr. Jay that, in case the treaty with Great Britain turned favorably, it will be well to hint to the British minister that the United States took a very particular interest in the welfare of Lafayette, and that the good offices of that country, to procure his liberation, would be regarded as a valuable mark of friendship. I believe I also had some conversation, in the same spirit, either with the President or the Secretary of State; but I do not remember if any thing was done. If the thing has not been tried, and if the treaty is ratified, will it not be advisable to instruct the person who is to exchange it, to accompany it with an observation of the above import? The moment will be a favorable one—and I imagine the time is fast approaching when Lafayette will recover his popularity in his own country. The chief thing against this is the rivalship of those who hold the power. But will they not be glad to consolidate their general plan by weight of a man who with all parties, has maintained the character of well-intentioned, and who probably has the good-will of the multitude, spite of all that has passed. I see no inconvenience in your taking occasion to ask Mr. Jay if the Marquis Lafayette was ever the subject of conversation between him and the British ministry, and how it terminated. And I will thank you, if you feel yourself at liberty, to let me know whether any thing like the step I have suggested obtains.
to rufus king
June 11, 1795.
I thank you for your letter of the 10th. The case has been with me as with you. Reflection has not mitigated the exceptionable point. Yet it will be to be lamented, if no mode can be devised to save the main object and close the irritable questions which are provided for. Every thing besides an absolute and simple ratification will put some think in jeopardy. But while, on the one hand, I think it advisable to hazard as little as possible, on the other, I should be willing to hazard some thing, and unwilling to see a very objectionable principle put into activity.
It is to be observed that no time is fixed for the ratification of the treaty. It may then be ratified with a collateral instruction to make a declaration, that the United States considers the article in question, aggregately taken, as intended by the king of Great Britain as a privilege; that they conceive it for their interest to forbear the exercise of that privilege, with the condition annexed to it, till an explanation in order to a new modification of it shall place it on a more acceptable footing, or till an article to be sent to our minister containing that modification shall be agreed upon between him and the British court as a part of the treaty—the ratification not to be exchanged without further instruction from this country, unless accepted in this sense and with this qualification.
This course appears to me preferable to sending back the treaty to open the negotiation anew, because it may save time on the points most interesting to us, and I do not see that if the ratifications be exchanged with this saving, there can be any doubt of the matter operating as intended. Adieu.
to oliver wolcott
June 13, 1795.
Your letter from New York, after a circuit by Albany, found me here.
I forgot to observe to you in my last, that unless there were objections to it which did not occur to me, it appeared advisable, if not done, to institute at Amsterdam a plan for subscribing the Dutch and Antwerp debt. It may be conducted under the management of our commissioners with the superintendence of our minister. In all such cases a considerable deal depends on facilities on the very spot, and the moment seems particularly favorable.
P. S.—I will willingly testify what you mention respecting Mr. Cabot, but having torn up your letter, trusting to my memory, it has left me in the lurch, and I do not know where Cabot is, whether here or in Europe. What prospects as to the treaty?
to rufus king
June 20, 1795.
My Dear Sir:
A considerable alarm has been spread this morning by a report that the treaty had been disagreed to. I have assured those I have seen that I was convinced any rumor of a decision must be premature. The anxiety, however, about the result is extreme. The common opinion among men of business of all descriptions is that a disagreement to the treaty would greatly shock and stagnate pecuniary plans and operations in general. This is not a small source of disquietude. Others, who are not likely to be affected in that sense (and among these myself), look forward to the result with great solicitude, as fixing or endangering the stability of our present beneficial and desirable situation.
My influence in seconding the wishes of our friend General Greene is, I fear, overrated. Unwilling to raise expectation which may not be realized, I will only say that is will give me real pleasure to be able to promote his accommodation or advantage, as my opinion of him entirely corresponds with yours. In the meantime I will, as far as circumstances permit, have an eye to the affair.
to oliver wolcott
June 22, 1795.
I have received your letter of the 18th instant. I will reply to one or two points now, and to the rest hereafter.
With regard to the measure of receiving Dutch bonds here to be exchanged, as is usual, it has different sides. To do it may be, in some measure, necessary to effectuate the main object, as there may be many individuals who, from circumstances, might not think themselves safe in employing the mode which has been adopted, and which is no doubt proper. Yet it is easy to see it might be attended with hazard of imposition. But some thing may depend on the nature of the checks which the course of the business originally gives to our agents at Amsterdam. If similitude of handwriting is the only internal check, perhaps it may be possible to manage the matter here. A conversation with Cazenove may furnish you with the requisite data. Yet I feel great doubts of the safety of the operation, and, if adopted at all, it ought to be upon condition that no definitive or alienable evidences are to be given in exchange for the original bonds till after a period (to be named) long enough to receive at the treasury the result of the operation in Holland, and a particular and detailed statement of it; and that no interest be payable (in the meantime) without a guaranty for repayment. With these checks none but respectable men will come forward, and there may be little or no risk. Yet, as I intimated, even the expediency of this depends on the nature of the original checks, and it ought to be announced that the treasury reserves to itself entire discretion as to the admission or non-admission of the bonds presented here.
With regard to the contract proposed by Mr. Swan, I answer, that I doubt much the advisability of concluding any thing with him here, for being concluded, it must be relied upon as a primary resource with the auxiliary and contingent expedient of drawing in case of failure; and Mr. Swan is not of standing, or character, to justify the leaving the public credit to depend primarily upon his punctuality. If Mr. Swan is able to do what he offers, it must be on the basis of French government funds, or that of a powerful moneyed combination in Europe. If either, why cannot he be referred to our commissioners and minister, under letters from the treasury stating the offer, the desirableness that such a contract could be formed under adequate guards for its performance, and leaving it to them to judge of the adequateness of the guards which shall be proposed? It appears to me very material that they should be satisfied with the arrangement, and essential that there should be good security and known resources for the execution of it.
Else no loss on shipping commodities, or otherwise, for the short time it can last, will counterpoise the risk of disappointment and censure of reliance on an incompetent character.
I will barely observe on one point of the latter part of your letter, namely, the payment of interest under the direction of the commissioners of the sinking fund. I have not the act by me, and can only speak from memory; but I am persuaded it does not require it. I am sure it will be highly inexpedient to place any extra clogs on that operation, and I do not perceive why the manner of keeping the accounts may not obviate any embarrassment from a separate management of the two things. I will write again more particularly, on this as well as on other points. I am glad to know that there is a probability of a proper issue to the affair of the treaty.
to oliver wolcott
June 26, 1795.
I have direct information, in confidence, that the minister of France, by a letter received yesterday, has ordered a fast-sailing vessel for France to be prepared at this port. No doubt this has connection with the treaty with England. I presume, with the reserves that decorum requires, he is apprised of the contents of that treaty. This ought, at least, to go so far as to satisfy him that there is nothing in it inimical to his country, especially as I suppose it to have been adopted. It is well to guard our peace on all sides, as far as shall consist with dignity.
Indeed, I am of opinion, on the whole, that all further mystery at present is unnecessary, and ought to be waived, for the satisfaction of the public mind. I do not think any scruples of diplomatic decorum of weight enough to stand in the way.
to oliver wolcott
June 30, 1795.
Doctor Livingston some time since left with me a bundle of vouchers relating to the questions between Phil. Livingston’s estate and the public. There was, among other things, a little register or book with a marble cover, doubled up. I do not find it among my papers, and if my memory does not deceive me it was sent, on breaking up at Philadelphia, to one of the officers of the treasury. Mr. Jones may know some thing of it. It is interesting to the estate. Let a careful search be made, and when found let it be forwarded by a careful hand to me.
P. S.—I find the non-publication of the treaty is working as I expected—that is, giving much scope to misrepresentation and misapprehension. The Senate, I am informed by several members, did not take any step towards publication, because they thought it the affair of the President to do as he thought fit.
to robert troup
July 25, 1795.
My Dear Troup:
Confiding in your integrity and friendship to me, I have made you executor of my will. My concerns are not very extensive and of course will not give you much trouble. Indeed, I might have dispensed with the ceremony of making a will as to what I may myself leave, had I not wished that my little property may be applied as readily and as fairly as may be to the benefit of my few creditors. For after a life of labor I leave my family to the benevolence of others, if my course shall happen to be terminated here.
My property will appear on the list herewith marked A.
My creditors are John Barker Church, to whom I owe about five thousand pounds, as will appear by account marked B.
The Office of Discount and Deposit, New York, who hold a note of mine for five hundred dollars endorsed by Nicholas Fish. The holders, unknown, of two drafts drawn upon me by my father, one for five hundred, the other for two hundred, dollars. Mr. Meade, to whom Ceracchi gave a bill on me for six hundred and odd dollars, which I told Mr. Ludlow it was my intention to pay.
Mr. Sheaf, of Philadelphia, wine merchant, to whom I owe a balance of account not very considerable. Gaspard Joseph Armand Ducher, who has my bond in duplicate for £698 principal, being for money which he left in my hands when he went to France, having no better disposition of it. This, being a bond debt, will claim a preference, and from the nature of it I am glad of it.
Arthur Noble, Esquire, who has my bond for the fourth part of the lands purchased of him in company with yourself, Lawrence, and Fish. The lands themselves will be a fund for the payment of these bonds. I hope the poor fellow may be alive. He was a member of the convention.
I have left in the hands of Col. Fish the obligations mentioned in the list of Cortland and of Wickham & Thompson, to secure him in this mere act of friendship from the possibility of loss, and to accelerate his reimbursement.
I hesitated whether I would not also secure a preference to the drafts of my father, but these, as far as I am concerned, being a voluntary engagement, I doubted the justice of the measure, and I have done nothing. I regret it, lest they should return upon him and increase his distress. Though, as I am informed, a man of respectable connections in Scotland, he became, as a merchant, bankrupt at an early day in the West Indies and is now in indigence. I have pressed him to come to me, but his great age and infirmity have deterred him from the change of climate.
I hope what I leave may prove equal to my debts. If it does not, I have the consolation of hoping that the loss will be permitted by himself to fall upon my brother-in-law, Mr. Church, whose friendship and generosity I do not doubt.
I regret that his affairs as well as my own have suffered by my devotion to the public service. But I trust, upon the whole, that the few operations I have made for him will more than recompense him for my omissions, though they will not have been as profitable to him as they ought to have been, and as they would have been if I could have paid more attention.
Purchases of lands have been made for Mr. Church, first, in Pennsylvania, in company with Tench Coxe, to whom I advanced ten thousand dollars; second, in this City of New York, in company with J. Lawrence, to whom I have advanced the sums mentioned in the account marked C, in bundle AA. Besides these advances, I have put into his hands a draft of Fitsimmons upon Constable, accepted by the latter, for four thousand dollars, and a set of bills for five hundred pounds sterling, received from Robert Morris, drawn by Harrison & Sherret upon the house of Cazenove & Co., London. These are all on the same account of the purchases.
You will find, in the bundle marked AB, a smaller bundle marked D, which will explain the nature and state of the business with Mr. Coxe, by which also you will see that Mr. Anthony, who is a very good man, is my agent in that affair.
You will also find in bundle AA a note of Mr. Morris for nine thousand five hundred dollars, on account of which the above bills are. This note was for money lent belonging to Mr. Church. Mr. Morris will not dispute that it bears interest from the date. Indeed, the real sum was ten thousand dollars, but Mr. Morris after some time paid me five hundred. The interest ought to be calculated accordingly. Mr. Morris can furnish the data.
As this money was thus disposed of without being warranted by the spirit of Mr. Church’s instructions, I considered myself as responsible for it. And I trust that Mr. Morris will exert himself to pay the balance speedily, to be applied to the investments which Mr. Lawrence is making.
I have received some large fees for which the parties could not have had equivalents: from Williamson, one hundred pounds; from Constable, one hundred pounds; from Macombe, one hundred pounds; from Mr. Bayard, on behalf of Wilken and Jared Willink, one hundred pounds. It would be just, if there were means, that they should be repaid. But what can I direct who am, I fear, insolvent?
God bless you, my friend. Be assured always of the attachment of, etc.
P. S.—I remitted Sheaf, on my way through Jersey, an order on the Bank of the United States for a good part of his demand. This will appear by my bank account.
In my leather trunk, where the bundles above mentioned are, is also a bundle I. R. inscribed thus:
To be forwarded to Oliver Wolcott, Fun., Esqr.
I entreat that this may be early done by a careful hand.
This trunk contains all my interesting papers.
to oliver wolcott
July 28, 1795.
We have some cause to suspect, though not enough to believe, that our Jacobins meditate serious mischief to certain individuals. It happens that the militia of this city, from the complexion of its officers in general, cannot be depended on, and it will be difficult for some time to organize a competent armed substitute. In this situation our eyes turn as a resource in a sudden emergency, upon the military now in the forts, but these, we are told, are under marching orders. Pray converse confidentially with the Secretary of War, and engage him to suspend the march. Matters in eight or ten days will explain themselves.
How are things truly in Philadelphia? I have good reason to believe that the President, before he left Philadelphia, had concluded to ratify the treaty according to the advice of the Senate. Has any thing finally been done, or are we where we were?
to oliver wolcott
August 5, 1795.
I have received yours of the 3d instant. You make no mention of having received one from me, enclosing another for the Attorney-General, in which I tell him that I will attend the cause which involves the question respecting direct taxes when notified of the time it will come on.
The silence of your letter makes me fear it may have miscarried.
I do not wonder at what you tell me of the author of a certain piece. That man is too cunning to be wise. I have been so much in the habit of seeing him mistaken, that I hold his opinion cheap.
to oliver wolcott
August 10, 1795.
I have received your letter by Saturday’s post. The one you enquire about was received.
I incline very much to the opinion that this will be the proper course of conduct in reference to the order to seize our vessels with provisions—viz., to send to our agent the treaty ratified as advised by the Senate, with this instruction: that if the order for seizing provisions is in force when he receives it, he is to inform the British ministry that he has the treaty ratified, but that he is instructed not to exchange the ratification till that order is rescinded, since the United States cannot ever give an implied sanction to the principle. At the same time a remonstrance ought to go from this country, well considered and well digested, even to a word, to be delivered against the principle of the order.
My reasons for this opinion are summarily these:
Firstly.—That in fact we are too much interested in the exemption of provisions from seizure to give even an implied sanction to the contrary pretensions.
Secondly.—That the exchange of ratifications pending such an order would give color to an abusive construction of the eighteenth article of the treaty, as though it admitted of the seizure of provisions.
Thirdly.—That this would give cause of umbrage to France, because it would be more than merely to refrain from resisting by force an innovation injurious to her, but it would be to give a sanction to it in the midst of a war.
Fourthly.—It would be thus construed in our country, and would destroy confidence in the government.
Fifthly.—It would scarcely be reputable to a nation to conduct a treaty with a Power to heal past controversies, at the very moment of a new and existing violation of its rights.
P. S.—Deliver the enclosed as soon as it gets to hand. If an order has existed, and has been rescinded, the remonstrance ought still to be presented, after the exchange of ratifications, as a protest against the principle, etc.
to oliver wolcott
Sept. 20, 1795.
My Dear Sir:
A slight indisposition prevented my meeting you at E. Town, which I should otherwise have done with great pleasure.
It is wished for a particular purpose to know who are the writers of Valerius, Hancock, Belisarius, Atticus. If any thing about them is known in a manner that can be depended upon, I will thank you for it in confidence.
The fever in this town has become serious. The alarm, however, exceeds the quantum of disease and danger. It is not ascertained that the fever is contagious. It is clearly traced to local causes, but it is sufficiently mortal. Bleeding is found fatal. Most of our physicians purge more or less, some with calomel, I fear more than does good; bark, wine, etc., plentifully used, and with good effect. They, however, all behave well, and shrink not from their duty.
Show the last paragraph of this letter to Doctor Stevens, from whom, though I have written to him, I have not received a line since I came to New York.
to oliver wolcott
Oct. 3, 1795.
My Dear Sir:
I have received your letter of the —— and thank you for the information. As to Randolph, I shall be surprised at nothing, but if the facts come out, his personal influence is at all events damned. No coloring will remove unfavorable impressions. To do mischief, he must work in the dark.
What you say respecting your own department disquiets me, for I think we shall, for the present, weather all storms but those from real deficiencies in our public arrangements. Not knowing details, I can attempt to suggest nothing, except the general observation, that if the means here to fore provided, are seriously likely to prove inadequate, Congress ought to be explicitly told so, in order to a further provision. It was a maxim in my mind, that executive arrangements should not fail for want of full disclosure to the Legislature. Then, if adequate provision be not made, the responsibility is theirs. The worst evil we can struggle with is inefficiency in the measures of government.
If I remember right, it never appeared that Fauchet had any power to make a commercial treaty with us, and the late Attorney-General (Bradford) informed me that Adet had power only to treat, none to conclude. How are these things? I ask for special reasons.
What is the object of the dispatch-boat from France? Nothing menacing, I hope.
to oliver wolcott
Oct. 3, 1795.
I have received your letter of the 6th instant.
I am of opinion that the commissioners to be appointed under the seventh article are competent to grant relief, in all cases of captures and condemnations of our property, during the present war, and antecedent to the treaty, which were contrary to the laws of nations, and in which there is adequate evidence (of which they are to judge bona fide), that compensation could not, at the time of the treaty, for whatever reason, be actually obtained. I think their power competent to relief, after a decision, in the last resort; that is, by the Lords Commissioners of Appeals, and if the proper steps have been taken to ascertain that justice cannot be had, in the ordinary course of justice, before and without such decision.
This opinion is founded upon the following reasons:
Firstly.—The subject of complaint to be redressed is irregular or illegal captures or condemnations. The word “condemnations” is general. It is not restricted to condemnations in the inferior courts, or in the final Court of Appeals. It may then apply to either. Condemnation in the last resort may have been had prior to the treaty. There being no restriction, they, like those in inferior tribunals, were equally within the terms of complaint. But could they be illegal? Yes, in controversies between nations, respecting the application of the rules of the laws of nations, decisions of the highest court of one of the parties, if contrary to those rules, are illegal.
In other words, they are contrary to that law, which is the standard of legality and illegality between nations; and, if manifestly so, are a cause of war. Moreover, this rule of legality or illegality, is recognized by the article itself, in that part which authorizes the commissioners to decide according to the merits of the several cases, to justice, equity, and the law of nations.
Secondly.—The article contemplates that “various circumstances” may obstruct compensation in the ordinary course of justice. These terms would not be fully satisfied by tying the article down, as has been attempted, to cases of insolvency and absconding.
Thirdly.—The article expressly declares, that when compensation cannot, “for whatever reason,” be had in the ordinary course of justice, it shall be made by the British Government upon the award of the commissioners. It is inadmissible to narrow down these very comprehensive terms to the two cases of insolvency or absconding. They are commensurate with every cause of irregularity or illegality, pronounced such by the laws of nations. The exceptions of manifest delay, or negligence, or willful omission, confirm the extensive interpretation.
Fourthly.—The commissioners are not restricted in the description of cases they are to take up; and they are to decide them according to their merits, to justice, equity, and the laws of nations. These terms are as latitudinary as they could be made. They seemed formed on purpose to overrule any technical difficulties, with regard to local tribunals, or positive rules of decision in those tribunals.
Fifthly.—The nature of the circumstance which led to the article, and which involved a controversy between the two nations, respecting the rules of the laws of nations, as well as the application of those rules. The natural presumption is that it was meant to refer this controversy, in all its latitude, to the extraordinary tribunal created; to transfer the right of judgment of each nation, which, being exercised differently, might have ended in war, to that tribunal. Any thing less than this would be inadequate to the origin of the business, to the solemnity of the provision, or to the views which, from the facts, must be conceived to have governed the parties.
All this appears so clear to me that I confess I am confounded at an opinion which I have seen of Messrs. Lewis and Rawle. They seem to pare away the object of the articles to the two cases mentioned above, founding their opinion upon the maxim that the courts of the belligerent power are the competent tribunals to decide similar questions between that power and a neutral nation.
This maxim is true, but how can it be deemed to apply to the instance of a controversy between two nations about the interpretation of the laws of nations, and about the decisions of courts founded upon an interpretation concerning which they disagreed? And this when an extraordinary tribunal has been constituted by the joint acts of the two parties, to decide their differences plainly as a substitute for a controversy by arms? Is not the constitution of such a tribunal by the two parties a manifest abandonment of the pretension of one to administer justice definitely through its tribunals? How can it be presumed, after such a proceeding, that the neutral power meant to be concluded by the decisions of those tribunals? Is not the reverse the obvious presumption? Why else was it not left to the British Courts of Admiralty to liquidate the damages in the admitted cases of insolvency and absconding to be paid by the government? These circumstances could call for a substitute only in the person to pay, not in the person, or tribunal, which was to liquidate. There was no need, on the principle set up, for an extraordinary tribunal to liquidate and award damages.
I confess that the opinion referred to appears to me destitute of color; contrary to the antecedent course of the transaction, contrary to the antecedent course of the transaction, contrary to the positive expressions of the article, and to what can reasonably be presumed to be the intention of the parties. It fritters away to nothing a very solemn and important act between two contending nations.
The exception of the cases in which justice might be obtained, in the ordinary course, appears to me to decide nothing. It might be unobtainable in that course as well from the obstructions of positive regulations of the belligerent parties controlling the courts, and from false principles adopted by the courts, as from the inability or default of the captors. The commissioners, who are the court of the two nations, are to pronounce whether justice is unobtainable in the ordinary course for any of these reasons. As the tribunals of both parties, they are necessarily superior to the tribunals of either. And they are the judges, in their own way, and upon their own grounds, of the question whether and when justice can or cannot be obtained in the ordinary course.
But they ought to exercise their discretion reasonably—not to abuse it, otherwise they may release the party injured from the obligation to perform.
Hence, though it is not necessary that every individual case of capture should be prosecuted to a decision in the last resort, it appears to me proper that, by such prosecution of some one case of the several classes of cases, it may be ascertained, by a final decision on the principle of each class, that redress cannot be obtained. Else the commissioners may object that there has been a neglect to procure for them satisfactory evidence that justice could not be had in the ordinary course.
I would advise, then, that our agent be instructed to lay all the cases, with the evidence, before our counsel, and to desire them to make a selection of one of each class in which a defence can be made with probability of success, on some difference of principle; to have these cases prosecuted to an ultimate decision, and to leave all the rest pending, if possible, undecided in a course of appeal. This will give reasonable evidence to the commissioners, strengthened, in view of those appointed by the other party, by the character of our counsel, who, I learn, are every way men of respectability.
The other points in your letter I shall pursue hereafter.
P.S.—In a consultation on an insurance case between our district attorney, Mr. Burr, B. Livingston, and myself, the above points incidentally occurred, and I understood all these gentlemen as agreeing in the opinion I have stated. You are at liberty to communicate this to Mr. Pickering.
Oct. 16, 1795.
About a fortnight since arrived here Mr. Frestel, with G. W. Fayette, the son of the marquis. The former, who is in capacity of tutor to the latter, requested me to mention their arrival to you, and that they meant to retire to some place in the neighboring country until they should receive some direction from you. Thus, at least, I understood him, and accordingly they are gone to a house between Hackensack and Ramapo, in the Jerseys, to which may be conveyed any letter you may confide to me for them. They are incog.
Having been informed you were speedily expected from Philadelphia, and being oppressed with occupation, I delayed writing till this time.
Mr. Frestel, who appears a very sedate, discreet man, informs me that they left France with permission, though not in their real characters, but in fact with the privity of some members of the Committee of Safety who were disposed to shut their eyes and facilitate their departure.
The young Fayette also appears to me very advantageously modest, of very good manners, and expressing himself with intelligence and propriety.
Shall I trespass on your indulgence by hazarding a sentiment upon the subject of this young gentleman? If I do, let it be ascribed to the double interest I take in the son of the marquis, and in whatever interests the good fame and satisfaction of him to whom I write.
On mature reflection, and on sounding opinions as far as opportunity and the nature of the case have permitted, I fully believe that the President need be under no embarrassment as to any good offices his heart may lead him to perform towards this young man. It will not, I am persuaded, displease those in possession of the power of the country from which he comes, and in ours it will be singularly and generally grateful. I am even convinced that the personal and political enemies of the President would be gratified, should his ideas of the policy of the case restrain him from that conduct which his friendship to the marquis and his feelings otherwise would dictate. The youth of this person, joined to the standing of his father, make the way easy.
I even venture to think it possible that the time is not very remote when the marquis will again recover the confidence and esteem of his country, when perhaps the men in power may be glad to glorify themselves and their cause with his alliance. This, however, is supposition, merely to be indulged as a reflection, not to be counted upon as a fact.
There is another subject upon which I will hazard a few words. It is that of Mr. Randolph. I have seen the intercepted letter, which, I presume, led to his resignation. I read it with regret, but without much surprise, for I never had any confidence in Mr. Randolph, and I thought there were very suspicious appearances about him on the occasion to which the letter particularly refers.
I perceive that, rendered desperate, he meditates as much mischief as he can. The letter he calls for, I presume, is that above alluded to. His object is, if he obtains it, to prejudice others; if any part is kept back, to derive advantage to his cause from the idea that there may be some thing reserved which would tend to his exculpation, and to produce the suspicion that there is some thing which you are interested to keep from the light.
Though, from the state of public prejudices, I shall probably for one be a sufferer by the publication; yet, upon the whole, I incline to the opinion that it is most advisable the whole should come before the public. I acknowledge that I do not express this opinion without hesitation, and therefore it will deserve, as it will no doubt engage, your mature reflection; but such is the present bias of my judgment. I am the more inclined to the opinion, as I presume that the subject being in part before the public, the whole letter will finally come out through the quarter by which it was written, and then it would have additional weight to produce ill impressions.
With great respect and affectionate attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
Oct. 26, 1795.
I have noticed a piece in the Aurora, under the signature of the “Calm Observer,” which I think requires explanation, and I mean to give one with my name. I have written to Mr. Wolcott for material from the books of the treasury.
Should you think it proper to meet the vile insinuation in the close of it, by furnishing for one year the account of expenditure of the salary, I will with pleasure add what may be proper on that point. If there be any such account signed by Mr. Lear, it may be useful.
I wrote to you some days since, directed to you at Philadelphia, chiefly on the subject of young La Fayette. I mention it merely that you may have knowledge that there is such a letter, in case it has not yet come to hand.
I touched in it upon a certain intercepted letter. The more I have reflected, the more I am of opinion that it is advisable the whole should speedily appear.
to oliver wolcott
Oct. 26, 1795.
I have observed in the Aurora, a piece under the signature of “A Calm Observer,” which I think merits attention. It is my design to reply to it, with my name, but for this I wish to be furnished, as soon as possible, with the account of the President, and of the appropriations for him, as it stands in the Secretary’s office, the Comptroller’s, and the account rendered to Congress, and also the account of appropriations for this object. Of one point I am sure—that we never exceeded the appropriations, though we may have anticipated the service. Add any remarks you may judge useful. The sooner the better.
to oliver wolcott
Oct. 27, 1795.
I wish the statements requested in my letter of yesterday may contain each particular payment, not aggregates for periods. It runs in my mind that once, there being no appropriation, I procured an informal advance for the President from the bank. If this is so, let me know the time and particulars. If the account has been wound up to an exact adjustment, since the period noticed by the “Calm Observer,” it may be useful to carry it down to that period.
I should like to have a note of other instances of advances on account of salaries.
to oliver wolcott
Oct. 30, 1795.
I wrote you yesterday [Editors Note. Illegibel text. Please check.] a statement of the advances and appropriations for the Department of State.
I am very anxious that Fauchet’s whole letter should appear just as it is. Strange whispers are in circulation of a nature foreign to truth, and implicating honest men with rascals. Is it to come out? Can’t you send me a copy? I will observe any condition you annex.
The secret journals, and other files of the Department of State, will disclose the following facts:
That during the war a commission to negotiate a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, was given to Mr. Adams, and afterwards revoked.
That our commissioners for making peace were instructed to take no step whatever, without a previous consultation with the French ministry, though there was at that time reason to believe that France wished us to make peace, or truce, with Great Britain, without an acknowledgment of our independence, that she favored a sacrifice to Spain of our pretensions to the navigation of the Mississippi, and the relinquishment of a participation in the fisheries.
It will appear that instructions were actually given to Mr. Jay to yield the navigation of the Mississippi to Spain, in consideration of an acknowledgment of our independence; that Mr. Jay made a proposal accordingly, but clogged with some condition or qualification to bring it back to Congress before a final conclusion, and expostulated with Congress against the measure.
It will appear that this was effected by a Southern party, who would also have excluded the fisheries from being an ultimatum, in which they were opposed by the North, who equally contended for Mississippi and fisheries.
It will appear that Chancellor Livingston, as Secretary of State, reported a censure on our commissioners for breaking their instructions in the negotiations for peace.
It will appear that shortly after the arrival in this country of the preliminary articles, I made a motion in Congress to renew the commission to negotiate a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, that a committee was appointed to prepare one, with instructions, of which Mr. Madison was one, and that the committee never reported.
Thus stand the facts in my memory.
It is very desirable, now that a free access to the files of the department can give the evidence, to examine them accurately; noting times, places, circumstances, actors, etc. I want this very much for a public use, in my opinion essential.
It would also be useful to have a copy of Mr. Jefferson’s letter to Congress concerning the transfer of the French debt to private money-lenders, on which the report of the Board of Treasury is founded.
Nov. 12th. This letter, by accident, has lain in my desk since it was written. I send it still. Bache’s paper of the eleventh has a VALERIUS, which I think gives an opportunity of oversetting him. The leading ideas may be:
Firstly.—He discloses the object of the party to place Mr. Jefferson in contrast with the President.
Secondly.—He discloses the further object—an intimate and close alliance with France—to subject us to the vortex of European politics, and attributes it to Mr. Jefferson.
Thirdly.—He misrepresents totally Mr. Jefferson’s returning from France.
A solid answer to this paper, with facts, would do great good.
Nov. 5, 1795.
I received on the second instant your two letters of the 29th of October with the enclosures. An answer has been delayed to ascertain the disposition of Mr. King, who, through the summer, has resided in the country, and is only occasionally in town. I am now able to inform you he would not accept. Circumstances of the moment conspire with the disgust which a virtuous and independent mind feels at placing itself en but to the foul and venomous shafts of calumny which are continually shot by an odious confederacy against virtue, to give Mr. King a decided disinclination to the office.
I wish, sir, I could present to you any useful ideas as a substitute; but the embarrassment is extreme as to the Secretary of State. An Attorney-General, I believe, may easily be fixed upon by a satisfactory choice. Either Mr. Dexter or Mr. Gore would answer. They are both men of undoubted probity. Mr. Dexter has most natural talent, and is strong in his particular profession. Mr. Gore, I believe, is equally considered in his profession, and has more various information. No good man doubts Mr. Gore’s purity, but he has made money by agencies for British houses in the recovery of debts, etc., and by operations in the funds, which a certain party object to him. I believe Mr. Dexter is free from every thing of this kind. Mr. King thinks Gore on the whole preferable. I hesitate between them. Either will, I think be a good appointment.
But for a Secretary of State, I know not what to say. Smith, though not of full size, is very respectable for talent, and has pretty various information. I think he has more real talent than the last incumbent of the office. But there are strong objections to his appointment. I fear he is of an uncomfortable temper. He is popular with no description of men, from a certain hardness of character; and he, more than most other men, is considered as tinctured with prejudices towards the British. In this particular his ground is somewhat peculiar. It may suit party views to say much of other men, but more in this respect is believed with regard to Smith. I speak merely as to bias and prejudice. There are things, and important things, for which I would recommend Smith—thinking well of his abilities, information, industry, and integrity; but, at the present juncture, I believe his appointment to the office in question would be unadvisable.
Besides, it is very important that he should not now be removed from the House of Representatives.
I have conferred with Mr. King with respect to Mr. Potts. We both think well of his principles and consider him as a man of good sense. But he is of a cast of character ill-suited to such an appointment, and is not extensive either as to talents or information. It is also a serious question whether the Senate at this time ought to be weakened.
Mr. Innis, I fear, is too absolutely lazy for Secretary of State. The objection would weigh less as Attorney-General.
The following characters, in the narrowness of the probable circle as to willingness, have occurred to me. Judge Pendleton, of Georgia; Mr. Desaussure (late Director of the Mint), of South Carolina; Governor Lee, or Mr. Lee, late Collector of Alexandria, of Virginia; McHenry, of Maryland—I mean the Doctor.
Judge Pendleton writes well, is of respectable abilities, and a gentleman-like, smooth man. If I were sure of his political views, I should be much disposed to adopt his appointment under the circumstances, but I fear he has been somewhat tainted with the prejudices of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison, and I have afflicting suspicions concerning these men. Desaussure, I believe, has considerable talents, is of gentleman-like manners, good views, and only wants sufficient standing to put him upon a footing with any attainable man.
Governor Lee has several things for him and several against him. He ought to have a good secretary under him. His brother I only know enough of to think him worth considering.
McHenry you know. He would give no strength to the administration, but he would not disgrace the office. His views are good. Perhaps his health, etc., would prevent his accepting.
I do not know Judge Bee. I have barely thought of him.
In fact, a first-rate character is not attainable. A second-rate must be taken with good dispositions and barely decent qualifications. I wish I could throw more light. ’T is a sad omen for the government.
By the fifteenth I will carefully attend to the other parts of your letters. I regret that bad health and a pressure of avocations will permit nothing earlier.
Nov. 19, 1795.
Your letters of the 16th and 18th instant, with the enclosures, are received.
An extraordinary pressure of professional business has delayed my reply on the subject of young La Fayette, in which another cause co-operated. I wished, without unveiling the motives incidentally, to sound the impressions of other persons of judgment, who, I know, had been apprised of his being in the country.
The bias of my inclination has been that you should proceed as your letter of yesterday proposes, and I cannot say it is changed, though it is weakened. For I find that in other minds, and judicious ones, a doubt is entertained, whether at the actual crisis it would be prudent to give publicity to your protection of him. It seems to be feared that the factious might use it as a weapon to represent you as a favorer of the anti-revolutionists of France; and it is inferred that it would be inexpedient to furnish at this moment any aliment to their slanders.
These ideas have enough of foundation and importance to make me question my own impressions, which, from natural disposition, are in similar cases much to be distrusted.
I shall therefore do nothing more at present than write to La Fayette and his preceptor to come to New York, and I shall forbear any definite communication to them till I hear further from you, after you have reflected on the information I now give.
Should you on reconsideration conclude on yielding to the doubt as a matter of greater caution, perhaps it will be then left for you to write to La Fayette a letter, affectionate as your feelings will naturally lead you to make it, announcing your resolution to be to him a parent and friend, but mentioning that very peculiar circumstances of the moment impose on you the necessity of deferring the gratification of your wishes for a personal interview, desiring him at the same time to concert with me a plan of disposing of himself satisfactorily and advantageously in the meantime. I shall with pleasure execute any commands you may give me on the subject. The papers respecting this matter are herewith returned. I shall without delay attend to all the others.
Nov. 20, 1795.
My Dear Sir:
I duly received your letter of the 17th, which needed no apology as it will always give me pleasure to comply with any wish of yours connected with the public service, or your personal satisfaction.
Good men, in the idea of your appointment to the office of Secretary of State, will find many consolations for your removal from one in which your usefulness was well understood.
I wish it was easy to replace you in the department you will leave. But this is a most difficult point.
I consider it as absolutely necessary that the person shall come from some State south of Pennsylvania. All the great offices in the hands of men from Pennsylvania northward, would do the lord knows what mischief. I speak as to public opinion. Hence I forbear any remarks on characters from that quarter.
Of those South, notwithstanding there are real and weighty objections, I incline on the whole to Lee.
Of the others whom you present (and none others have occurred to me), whose qualifications are known to me, I believe I should prefer Howard.
Yet I speak with hesitation, for I am afraid he is not enough a man of sense or business. But he is of perfect worth, is respectable in the community, and has reputation as a soldier.
There are others who would stand better as to talents, but temper or fairness of character is wanted. I do not know enough of Winden.
Since writing the above, Judge Pendleton, of Georgia, has occurred to me. He was a military man, Aide to General Greene, and esteemed by him. He is certainly a man of handsome abilities. I have, however, within a few days, heard that he had some agency in the purchase of the Georgia lands. If he has had any interested concern in this transaction, it would be an immense objection. Otherwise, if he would accept, all things considered, I should prefer him. He is tinctured with Jeffersonian politics, but I should be mistaken if, among good men and better informed, he did not go right.
I have received the French copy of a certain paper, and thank you for it. The translation you mention has not yet come to hand. I will with pleasure revise, if requisite, and correct it. I even wish for the opportunity; for, as you say, it much concerns me, and it is also very important to the public, and there are many nice turns of expression, which, to be rendered perfectly, demand a very critical knowledge of the language.
to rufus king
December 14, 1795.
My Dear Sir:
An extraordinary press of occupation has delayed an answer to your letter on the subject of Mr. R. Though it may come too late, I comply with your request as soon as I can.
The subject is truly a perplexing one; my mind has several times fluctuated. If there was nothing in the case but his imprudent sally upon a certain occasion, I should think the reasons for letting him pass would outweigh those for opposing his passage. But if it be really true that he is sottish, or that his mind is otherwise deranged, or that he has exposed himself by improper conduct in pecuniary transactions, the bias of my judgment would be to negative. And as to the fact, I would satisfy myself by careful inquiry of persons of character who may have had an opportunity of knowing.
It is now, and, in certain probable events, will still more be of infinite consequence that our judiciary should be well composed. Reflection upon this in its various aspects weighs heavily upon my mind against Mr. R. upon the accounts I have received of him, and balances very weighty considerations the other way.
P.S.—From what a Mr. Wadsworth, lately in Philadelphia tells me of a conversation between Burr, Baldwin, and Gallatin, it would seem that the two last gentlemen have made up their minds to consider the treaty, if ratified by Great Britain, as conclusive upon the House of Representatives. I thought it well this should be known to you, if not before understood from any other quarter.
Dec. 24, 1795.
I have received your letter of the—
Young La Fayette is now with me. I had before made an offer of money in your name, and have repeated it; but the answer is, that they are not as yet in want, and will have recourse when needed.
Young La Fayette appears melancholy, and has grown thin. A letter lately received from his mother, which speaks of some thing which she wishes him to mention to you (as I learn from his preceptor), has quickened his sensibility and increased his regret. If I am satisfied that the present state of things is likely to occasion a durable gloom, endangering the health, and in some sort the mind of the young man, I shall conclude, on the strength of former permission, to send him to you for a short visit; the rather, as upon repeated reflection, I am not able to convince myself that there is any real inconvenience in the step, and as there are certainly delicate opposite sides. But it will be my endeavor to make him content to remain away.
I have read with care Mr. Randolph’s pamphlet. It does not surprise me. I consider it as amounting to a confession of guilt; and I am persuaded this will be the universal opinion. His attempts against you are viewed by all whom I have seen, as base. They will certainly fail of their aim, and will do good, rather than harm, to the public cause and to yourself. It appears to me that, by you, no notice can be, or ought to be, taken of the publication. It contains its own antidote.
I perceive that Mr. Fauchet, and with him Mr. Randolph, have imputed to me the having asked to accompany you on the Western expedition.
The true course of the fact was as follows: You had mentioned, and that early in the affair, as a question for consideration, the propriety and expediency of your going out with the militia. But no opinion had been given to you, and you had not announced any determination on the point when my letter to you, of the 19th of September, was written. That letter does not ask to accompany you, but to be permitted to go on the expedition. A short time after it was sent, you mentioned to me that you had concluded to go as far as Carlisle in the first instance, and to take your ulterior determination according to circumstances, and proposed to me to accompany you.
My request was independent of your going or not going. Its objects were—1st. That mentioned in my letter. 2d. An anxious desire that, by being present, I might have in my power, in a case very interesting to my department, as well as the government generally, to promote, in the event of your not going on the expedition, a course of conduct the best calculated to obviate impediments, and secure its object. I had serious fears of treachery in Governor Mifflin, and I thought that even Lee might miss the policy of the case in some particulars, etc., etc.
These were the considerations that determined me, and not the little cunning policy by which Mr. Fauchet supposes me to have been governed.
I greatly miscalculate if a strong and general current does not now set in favor of the government on the question of the treaty.
to timothy pickering
Dec. 26, 1795.
Mr. Cutting has given to me a perusal of his papers, respecting his agency in relieving our seamen from British impress. He wished my opinion professionally respecting the validity of his claim, which I declined to give, because it would contradict certain maxims I have prescribed to myself with regard to public questions pending while I was part of the administration.
But there are reasons which induce me to convey to you privately my view of the subject.
It appears to me clearly established that Mr. Cutting rendered a very meritorious and an important service to the United States. Its value is not to be estimated merely by the number of persons relieved, but by the influence of the exertion upon other cases—indeed, upon our trade generally with the English ports at the juncture. It is also a service very interesting to the feelings of all our citizens—and there was certainly much good zeal and address displayed upon the occasion. It sufficiently appears, too, that the nature of the case must have involved considerable expense, and in ways which frequently would not admit of after authentication.
Under these circumstances I feel a strong impression that it is of the policy, as well as of the justice of the government, to go lengths in giving satisfaction to Mr. Cutting. ’T is a case which calls for liberality, not scrupulous or prying investigation. Mr. Cutting’s own testimony from necessity ought to be received as to expenditures. This observation, to be sure, has reasonable limits. But still the case demands that the testimony should be received with influential effect.
Mr. Dorhman is an example of similar compensation in circumstances not unlike. Our own citizen has not an inferior claim.
What has been hitherto done for Mr. Cutting appears to be manifestly inadequate. If it could be supposed that there was risk of doing too much, it is of the reputation of the government that the error should be on that side. Care ought to be taken that a zealous citizen, who has rendered real service, should not be out of pocket, and out of reputation, too, by his bargain. I include a reasonable compensation for service, as well as reimbursement of expenses.
These ideas will, I am sure, be received as they are intended.
I have the pleasure to send you enclosed two letters—one from young Lafayette, the other from his preceptor. They appear reconciled to some further delay.
I take the liberty to enclose a copy of a letter to the Secretary of State respecting Mr. Cutting. I do not know upon the whole what sort of a man Mr. Cutting is; but as to the particular subject of his claim, I really think it deserves an indulgent consideration, and that it is expedient and right to favor it to a liberal extent. Some reflections have made me think it advisable to place the matter under your eye. Neither the Secretary of State nor Mr. Cutting will be informed of this.
I wrote you a few lines two or three days ago in answer to your letter concerning Mr. Randolph’s pamphlet.