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to oliver wolcott - 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 oliver wolcott
November 22, 1796.
I thank you for your note sending me Adet’s letter. The present is, in my opinion, as critical a situation as our government has been in, requiring all its prudence, all its wisdom, all its moderation, all its firmness.
Though the thing is now passed, I do not think it useless to say to you that I was not well pleased with the Secretary of State’s answer to Adet’s note communicating the order respecting neutral vessels. There was some thing of hardness and epigrammatic sharpness in it. Neither did I think the position true that France had no right to inquire respecting the affair of seamen. I am of opinion that whenever a neutral power suffers liberties to be taken with it by a belligerent one, which turns to the detriment of the other party, as the acquiring strength by impressing our seamen, there is a good ground of inquiry, demanding candid explanation.
My opinion is, that our communication should be calm, reasoning, and serious, showing steady resolution more than feeling, having force in the idea rather than in the expression.
I am very anxious that our government should do right on the present occasion.
My ideas are these:
As Adet has declared his functions suspended, the reply ought not to be to him, but through Mr. Pinckney to the Directory.
It ought to contain a review of our conduct from the beginning, noticing our first and full acknowledgment of the Republic, and the danger we ran by it. Also the dangers we incurred by other large interpretations of the treaty in favor of France, adverting to the sale of prizes.
It should meet all the suggestions of the Minister, correct his misstatements of facts, and meet, argumentatively, his principles. Where arguments already used are repeated, it ought to be in a new language, or by quotations in the body of the reply, not by reference to other communications annexed, or otherwise, which embarrass the reading and attention.
It should review calmly the conduct of France and her agents, pointing out fully and clearly the violations of our rights, and the spirit which was manifested, but in terms the most cautious and in-offensive.
It should advert to the policy of moderation towards the enemies of France, which our situation and that of France, especially as to maritime power, imposed upon us.
It should briefly recapitulate the means of obtaining redress from Great Britain employed by our government, and the effects they have produced.
It should explain why the government could not adopt more expeditious modes; why the Executive could not control the Judiciary, and should show that, in effect, the opposite party, as well as France, suffered the inconveniences of delay.
It should make prominent the consequences upon the peace and friendship of governments, if all accidental infractions from situation, from the negligences, etc., of particular officers, are to be imputed with severity to the government itself, and should apply the remark to the case of the injuries we have suffered, in different ways, from the officers and agents of France.
It should make prominent two ideas: the situation in which we were with Great Britain prior to the last treaty, so as to show that, by the laws of nations, as admitted to us and declared to France and the world, prior to that treaty, all the things complained of as resulting from that treaty previously existed. And it should dwell on the exception, in that treaty, of prior treaties.
It should point out strongly the idea that the inconvenience at particular junctures of particular stipulations is no reason for one party superseding them, but should intimate that the President is willing to review the relations between the two countries, and, by a new treaty, if the same shall be approved by the Senate, to readjust the terms of those relations.
The article in the treaty with France respecting an admission of the same privileges which are granted to other powers should be examined. This plainly means where there is any concession of a positive privilege which the United States were free to refuse, not where there is a mere recognition of the principles of the laws of nations.
It should be made prominent that the United States have always wished, and still wish, to cultivate the most amicable relations, and are still disposed to evince this disposition by every method in their power; that in what they said they mean only to show that they have acted in sincerity and good faith, and have rather received than given cause to complain; that they have been disposed to make a candid construction of circumstances which might seem inconsistent with a friendly conduct in France, and claim a similar candor in the estimate of their situation and conduct.
There should be an animadversion upon the unfitness of looking beyond the government to the citizens.
And there should be these ideas, properly couched: that the United States cannot admit that a just cause of resentment has been given; that they appeal from the misapprehension which dictated this sentiment to the justice and magnanimity of France, for a retraction of it, and for meeting them freely in the complete restoration of a friendly intercourse; that France will not deliberately expect that they could make a sacrifice of self-respect, since she must be sensible that a free people ought, in every event, to cherish it as a sacred duty, and to encounter with firmness every danger and calamity which an attempt to make them forget it, or degrade them from their independent character, may involve.
This would be the general complexion of the reply which I would give. The manner should be extremely cautious, smooth, even friendly, but yet solemn and dignified.
The alliance, in its future operation, must be against our interest. The door to escape from it is opened. Though we ought to maintain with good faith our engagements, if the conduct of the other party releases us, we should not refuse the release, so far as we may accept without compromitting our peace. This idea is very important.