Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1797 - to william smith - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 10
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
1797 - to william smith - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
to william smith
My Dear Sir:
I received your letter of the ——. Though I do not like in some respects the answer of the House to the speech, yet I frankly own that I had no objection to see it softened down. For I think there is no use in hard words—and in public proceedings would almost always unite the suaviter in modo with the fortiter in re.
But I must regret that there is no prospect of the fortiter in re. I perceive clearly that your measures will wear upon the whole the aspect of resentment, without means or energy sufficient to repel injury. Our country will be first ruined, and then we shall begin to think of defending ourselves.
I will not enter much into detail, but I will observe that instead of three frigates of thirty-two, I would prefer an increase of the number of cutters. Surely twenty of these cannot embarrass the most squeamish, and less than this number will be useless.
But from all I can see you will have no revenue. Overdriven theory everywhere palsies the operations of our government, and renders all rational practice impossible.
My ideas of revenue would be:
I have explained my ideas of the house tax to Wolcott and Sedgwick.
It is to take certain criteria of different buildings, and annex to them ratios, not rates. (What I gave to Sedgwick as rates may serve as ratios.) Then apportion the tax among the States, and distribute the quota of each among the individuals according to ratios. The aggregate of the ratios will represent the quota of the State—then, as that aggregate is to be the sum of the quota, so will be the sum of the ratios of each building to the tax to be paid by each individual.
I am told an objection will arise from the negro houses in the South. Surely there is no impracticability in annexing ratios to them which will be proportional to their taxable value. This plan will avoid the worst of all inconveniences—arbitrary valuations; and will avoid the embarrassment for the present of a land tax; will be also consistent with expedition. I entertain no doubt it can be adjusted so as to be free from any material objection. The smallness of the tax will render any material inequality impossible. You cannot compute fewer than six hundred thousand houses, which, at an average, would be about a dollar and a half a house. The proportions of the better houses on the proposed plan would make the tax fall light on the inferior and country houses, which is desirable for recommending the first essay; nor would any house I am persuaded have to pay ten dollars. What room for serious objection? You then lay a foundation for an annual million on real property, which will become a permanent accession to your revenue; whereas you will feel an endless embarrassment about agreeing upon any tax on lands.
You seem to be of opinion to defer to a future period the commencement of direct taxation. I acknowledge I am inclined to lay hold of it now. The leaders (Findley, Gallatin, Madison, Nicholas) of the opposite party favor it now perhaps with no good design. But it will be well to take them while in the humor, and make them share the responsibility. This will be the more easy, as they are inclined to take the lead. Our external affairs are so situated, that it seems to me indispensable to open new springs of revenue, and press forward our little naval preparation, and be ready for augmenting it.
I have been reading the report of the Secretary of the Treasury on this subject. I think it does him credit. The general principles and objects are certainly good; nor am I sure that any thing better can be done. I remember that I once promised you to put in writing my ideas on the subject. I intended to have done it, and communicated them to the Secretary. My hurry and press of business prevented me, but I concluded lately to devote an evening to a rude sketch and to send it to you. You may show it to the Secretary and confer. If, in the course of the thing, it can be useful to the general end we all have in view, it will give me pleasure. If not, there will have been but little time misspent. Of course, no use will be made of it in contradiction to the views of the Treasury department.
As to the part which relates to land, I do not feel any strong preference of my plan to that in report; for this, in my opinion, ought to be considered only as an auxiliary, and not as the pith of the tax. But I have a strong preference of my plan of a house tax to that in the report. These are my reasons: It is more comprehensive, embracing all houses, and will be proportionally more productive. It is more certain, avoiding the evasions and partialities to which valuations will forever be liable, and I think is for that reason likely to be at least as equal. I entertain no doubt that the rules of rates, adapted as they are to characterize circumstances, will in fact be more favorable to equality than appraisements. I think the idea of taxing only houses of above a certain annual value will be dissatisfactory. The comparison of the proprietors of houses immediately above with those immediately below the line will beget discontent, and the errors of valuation will increase it. I think there will be a great advantage in throwing the weight of the tax on houses, as well because lands are more difficult to manage, as because it will fall in a manner less dissatisfactory. I would not bear hard in this way. I would add, as aid, the taxes contemplated last session on stamps, collateral successions—new modifications of some articles of imports, and, let me add, saddle-horses. The idea of taxing slaves generally will not work well. If confined to all menial servants for luxury, as coachmen, footmen, cooks, etc., it would be eligible.1
Jan. 19, 1797.
Mrs. De Neuville, widow of Mr. De Neuville,1 formerly of Holland, lately passed through this city. On her way she called upon me, and announced her intention to make application to Congress, on the ground of the political services rendered the United States by her husband as, in fact, a principal cause of his pecuniary misfortunes, and expressed a wish that I would lay the case under your eye. I told her that your situation did not permit you to take an agency in similar matters depending before Congress, and that you were very delicate on such subjects. She replied that you might, perhaps, indirectly promote her cause, and that from a letter from you to her husband, she was encouraged to think you would be disposed to befriend her. I yielded at last to female importunity, and promised to mention the matter. I do not know what the case admits of, but from papers which she showed me, it would seem that she has pretensions on the kindness of this country.
Our merchants here are becoming very uneasy on the subject of the French captures and seizures. They are certainly very perplexing and alarming, and present an evil of a magnitude to be intolerable, if not shortly remedied. My anxiety to preserve peace with France is known to you, and it must be the wish of every prudent man that no honorable expedient for avoiding a rupture be omitted. Yet there are bounds to all things. This country cannot see its trade an absolute prey to France without resistance. We seem to be where we were with Great Britain when Mr. Jay was sent there, and I cannot discern but that the spirit of the policy, then pursued with regard to England, will be the proper one now in respect to France—viz.: a solemn and final appeal to the justice and interest of France, and if this will not do, measures of self-defence. Any thing is better than absolute humiliation. France has already gone much further than Great Britain ever did.
I give vent to my impressions on this subject, though I am persuaded your own reflections cannot materially vary.
to william smith
January 19, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
Mrs. De Neuville, widow of Mr. De Neuville,1 formerly of Holland, is on her way to Philadelphia to solicit the kindness of Congress in virtue of services rendered the American cause by her husband. You probably know their history, as South Carolina was particularly concerned. From what I have heard, it seems to me her pretensions, on the score of her husband, to the kindness of this country, are strong; as a distressed and amiable woman, she has a claim to everybody’s kindness.
What are you about in Congress? Our affairs seem to be at a very critical point with France. We seem to be brought to the same point with her as we were with Great Britain when Mr. Jay was sent there. One last effort of negotiation to produce accommodation and redress, or measures of self-defence. Have you any thoughts of an embargo? There may be erelong a necessity for it. Are you in earnest about the additional revenue? this is very necessary.
to theodore sedgwick
January 20, 1797.
I received your late letter in due time. You seem to be of opinion to defer to a future period the commencement of direct taxation. I acknowledge I am inclined to lay gently hold of it now. Leaders of the opposite party favor it now, perhaps, with no good design. But it will be well to take them while in the humor, and make them share the responsibility. This will be the more easy as they are inclined to take the lead. Our external affairs are so situated, that it seems to me indispensable to open new springs of revenue, and press forward our little naval preparation, and be ready for augmenting it. But, on the whole, I have always leaned to the opinion that half a million from direct taxes was not enough to begin with, nor should I have proposed more.
What are we to do with regard to our good allies? Are we to leave our commerce a free prey to them? I hope not. It seems to me we are even beyond the point at which we were with Great Britain when Mr. Jay was sent thither, and that some thing like a similar plan ought to be pursued—that is, we ought to make a final effort to accommodate, and then resort to measures of defence. I believe erelong an embargo on our own vessels will be advisable—to last till the conduct of France changes, or till it is ascertained it will not change. In the last event, the following system may be adopted: to grant special letters of marque, with authority to repel aggressors and capture assailants; to equip our frigates; to arm a number of sloops-of-war of existing vessels to convoy our merchantmen. This may be a middle term of general hostility, though it may slide into the latter. Yet, in this case, it may be well to let France make the progress. But at all events we must protect our commerce and save our honor.
As to the balance business, the agitation has been every way unfortunate. There is not an individual in the State of New York who is not profoundly convinced that the settlement was wholly artificial, and as it regarded the rule of quoting, manifestly unjust, and consequently, that there is no justice in paying it. I never saw but one mode of getting through the business, which is for Congress to call for a certain sum of each debtor State annually, say a fiftieth part, declaring that if not paid, each instalment shall bear interest from the time it becomes due, but till then the principal to carry no interest. I believe the State for harmony’s sake would yield to such an arrangement. It may be said this will be only a nominal payment. I answer, true, but an artificial balance ought only to be nominally paid. The conduct of some gentlemen in the late question has pained me much. It is inconsistent with a tacit pledge of faith. Every New Yorker who had any thing to do with our fiscal arrangements has been personally compromised.
January 22, 1797.
The sitting of the court and an uncommon pressure of business have unavoidably delayed an answer to your last favor. I have read with attention Mr. Pickering’s letter. It is, in the main, a substantial and satisfactory paper—will, in all probability, do considerable good in enlightening public opinion at home, and I do not know that it contains any thing which will do harm elsewhere. It wants, however, in various parts, that management of expression and suaviter in modo which a man more used to diplomatic communications could have given it, and which would have been happy if united with its other merits.
I have reflected as maturely as time has permitted on the idea of an extraordinary mission to France, and, notwithstanding the objections, I rather incline to it under some shape or other. As an imitation of what was done in the case of Great Britain, it will argue to the people equal solicitude. To France it will have a similar aspect (for Pinckney will be considered there as a mere substitute in ordinary course to Mr. Monroe), and will in some degree soothe her pride. The influence on party, if a man in whom the opposition has confidence is sent, will be considerable in the event of non-success; and it will be to France a bridge over which she may more easily retreat.
The best form of the thing, in my view, is a commission including three persons, who may be called commissioners plenipotentiary and extraordinary. Two of these should be Mr. Madison and Mr. Pinckney; a third may be taken from the Northern States, and I know of none better than Mr. Cabot, who, or any two of whom, may be empowered to act.
Mr. Madison will have the confidence of the French and of the opposition. Mr. Pinckney will have some thing of the same advantage in an inferior degree. Mr. Cabot, without being able to prevent their doing what is right, will be a salutary check upon too much Gallicism, and his real commercial knowledge will supply their want of it. Besides that, he will enjoy the confidence of all the friends of the Administration. His disposition to preserve peace is ardent and unqualified.
This plan, too, I think, will consist with all reasonable attention to Mr. Pinckney’s feelings.
Or (which, however, I think less eligible) Mr. Madison and Mr. Pinckney only may be joint commissioners, without a third person. Mr. Cabot, if appointed without being consulted, will, I think, certainly go. If not, the other two may act without him.
The power to the commissioners will be to adjust amicably mutual compensations and the compensations which may be due by either party, and to revise and remodify the political and commercial relations of the two countries.
In the exercise of their power they must be restrained by precise instructions to do nothing inconsistent with our other existing treaties, or with the principles of construction of those with France adopted by our executive government, as declared in its public acts and communications; and nothing to extend our political relations in respect to alliance, but to endeavor to get rid of the mutual guaranty in the treaty, or, if that shall be impracticable, to stipulate specific succors in lieu of it, as so many troops, so many ships, so much money, etc.; strictly confining the casus fæderis to future defensive wars, after a general and complete pacification terminating the present war, and defining offensive war to be, where there is either a full declaration of war against the ally, or a first commission of actual hostility on the territory or property of the ally by invasion or capture. As to commerce, with the above restrictions, there may be full discretion. These are merely inaccurate outlines.
Unless Mr. Madison will go, there is scarcely another character that will afford advantage.
Cogent motives of public utility must prevail over personal considerations. Mr. Pinckney may be told, in a private letter from you, that this is an unavoidable concession to the pressure of public exigency and the state of internal parties.
to timothy pickering
January 23, 1797.
I remember that very early in the day, and prior to any act of Great Britain, the French passed a decree violating, with regard to all the neutral powers, the principle of free ships, free goods, and I think making provisions liable to seizure. This decree was afterwards rescinded as to America—then again revived, and then again revoked. I want copies of these decrees for a particular purpose useful to the government, and presuming they must be on the files of your department, you will oblige me much by letting me have copies as speedily as may be convenient.
to timothy pickering
Feb. 6, 1797.
I duly received your letter of the 23d of January, with its enclosure, for which I am much obliged to you. I have read it with great pleasure. It is a substantial, satisfactory paper; will do good in this country; and as to France, I presume events will govern there.
Is it not proper to call upon the merchants to furnish your department with statements and proofs of the spoliations which we have suffered from the French, as was done when the English were in their mischievous career?
I received your other letter with certain enclosures.
to timothy pickering
February 10, 1797.
If I recollect right, Chancellor Livingston, while Secretary of Foreign Affairs, reported a censure upon our commissioners who made the peace with Great Britain, for not obeying their instructions with regard to France. Will you favor me in confidence with the real state of this business? I was at the time a member of Congress. It was immediately on the arrival of the provisional articles.
I hope, my dear sir, effectual measures are taking to bring us to some issue with France to ascertain whether her present plan is to be persisted in or abandoned. For, surely, our commerce ought not to be thus an undefended prey.
to rufus king
February 15, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
Give me leave to recall to your recollection and acquaintance Mr. De Galon the bearer of this, who, as he informs me, goes to Europe on private business. I need not observe that he is an interesting man, as you know all his titles to the attention which your situation permits you to afford.
You must not think I forget you because I do not write (for this is only my third letter). I am over-whelmed in professional business, and have scarcely a moment for any thing else.
You will have learned the terrible depredations which the French have committed upon our trade in the West Indies, on the declared principle of intercepting our whole trade with the ports of her enemies. This conduct is making the impression which might be expected, though not with that electric rapidity which would have attended similar treatment from another power. The present session of Congress is likely to be very unproductive. That body is in the situation which we foresaw certain anti-executive maxims would bring them to.
Mr. Adams is President, Mr. Jefferson is Vice-President. Our Jacobins say they are well pleased, and that the lion and the lamb are to lie down together. Mr. Adams’ PERSONAL friends talk a little in the same way. “Mr. Jefferson is not half so ill a man as we have been accustomed to think him. There is to be a united and a vigorous administration.” Skeptics like me quietly look forward to the event, willing to hope, but not prepared to believe. If Mr. Adams has vanity ’T is plain a plot has been laid to take hold of it. We trust his real good sense and integrity will be a sufficient shield.
to oliver wolcott
Feb. 17, 1797.
I groan, my dear sir, at the disgraceful course of our affairs. I pity all those who are officially in the vortex. The behavior of Congress in the present crisis is a new political phenomenon. They must be severely arraigned before the bar of the public. How unfortunate that our friends suffer themselves, by their passiveness, to be confounded in the guilt.1
to theodore sedgwick
February 26, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
The present inimitable course of our public affairs proves me to be a very bad politician, so that I am afraid to suggest any idea that occurs to me. Yet I will give over my timidity and communicate for your consideration a reverie which has struck me.
It is a fact that the resentment of the French Government is very much levelled at the actual President. A change of the person (however undesirable in other respects) may give a change to the passion, and may also furnish a bridge to retreat over. This is a great advantage to a new president, and the most ought to be made out of it. For it is much our interest to preserve peace, if we can with honor, and if we cannot, it will be very important to prove that no endeavor to do it has been omitted.
Were I Mr. Adams, then, I believe I should begin my presidency by naming an extraordinary commission to the French republic, and I think it would consist of three persons: Mr. Madison, Mr. Pinckney, and Mr. Cabot. I should pursue this course for several reasons, because I would have a man as influential with the French as Mr. Madison, yet I would not trust him alone, lest his Gallicism should work amiss, because I would not wound Mr. Pinckney, so recently sent in the same spirit; thirdly, I think Cabot would mix very useful ingredients in the cup.
The commission should be charged to make explanations, to remonstrate, to ask indemnification, and they should be empowered to make a new treaty of commerce, not inconsistent with our other treaties, and perhaps to abrogate or remodify the treaty of alliance.
That treaty can only be inconvenient to us in the future. The guaranty of our sovereignty and independence henceforth is nominal. The guaranty of the West India Islands of France, as we advance in strength, will be more and more real. In future, and in a truly defensive war, I think we shall be bound to comply efficaciously with our guaranty. Nor have I been able to see that it means less than obligation to take part in such a war with our whole force. I have no idea of treaties which are not executed.
Hence, I want to get rid of that treaty by mutual consent, or liquidate its meaning to a treaty of definite succor, in a clearly defensive war; so many men, so many ships, so much money, and to be furnished by one ally to the other. This, of course, must be so managed as to exclude unequivocally the present war in all its possible mutations. The idea of a definite duration would also be useful.
Such objects are important enough for three. In executive matters, I am as little fond as most people of plurality, but I think it pedantry to admit no exceptions to any general rule, and I believe, under the present circumstances of the case, a commission would be advisable. I give my dream of it as it occurred; you will do with it what you please.
The idea here given, to be useful ought to be executed at once. The Senate should not be permitted to disperse.
to james mchenry.
March 22 (?), 1797.
My Dear Friend:
Take my ideas and weigh them of a proper course of conduct for our Administration in the present juncture.
You have called Congress. ’T is well.
When the Senate meets (which I should be glad to see anticipated), send a Commission Extraordinary to France. Let it consist of Jefferson or Madison, Pinckney, and a third very safe man, say, Cabot (or Jay).
Proclaim a religious solemnity to take place at the meeting of Congress.
When Congress meet, get them to lay an embargo, with liberty to the Executive to grant license to depart to vessels armed or sailing with convoys.
Increase the revenues vigorously and provide naval forces for convoys.
Purchase a number of vessels now built the most fit for sloops-of-war and cutters, and arm and commission them to serve as convoys. Grant qualified letters of marque to your merchantmen to arm, defend themselves, and capture those who attack, but not to cruise or attack.
Form a provisional army of 25,000 men, to be engaged eventually and have certain emoluments. Increase your cavalry and artillery in immediate service.
Or do as much of all this as you can. Make a last effort for peace, but be prepared for the worst.
The Emperor Paul is at best equivocal. A successor is apt to differ from a predecessor. He seems to be a reformer, too. Who can say into what scale his weight may be finally thrown?
If things shall so turn that Austria is driven to make peace and England left to contend alone, who can guarantee us that France may not sport in this country a proselyting army?
Even to get rid of the troops if it fails may be no bad thing to the government of that country. There is a possible course of things which may subject us even to an internal invasion by France. Our calculations to be solid should contemplate this possibility.
I know in your Administration there is a doubt about a Commission or Envoy Extraordinary. I am very sorry for it, because I am sure it is an expedient measure. But perhaps France has said she will receive no minister till her grievances shall be redressed.
’T is hardly possible this can refer to any but a minister who is to reside. A special extraordinary mission cannot be intended to be excluded, because it is at least necessary to know what measure of redress will satisfy if any is due. But grant she will refuse to hear.
Still, the great advantage results of showing in the most glaring light to our people, her unreasonableness, of disarming a party of the plea that all has not been done which might be done, and of refuting completely the charge that the actual administration desires war with France.
But the enemies of the government desire the measure. ’T is the strongest reason for adopting it. This will meet them on their own ground and shut their mouths.
But to answer the end, a man who will have their confidence must be sent—Jefferson or Madison. To do this and to be safe, others must be united—Jay, Pinckney, and Cabot. Hence the idea of a commission.
I am really, my friend, anxious that this should be your plan. Depend on it, it will unite the double advantage of silencing enemies and satisfying friends.
I write you this letter on your fidelity. No mortal must see it or know its contents.1
to timothy pickering
March 22, 1797.
It is now ascertained that Mr. Pinckney has been refused, and with circumstances of indignity. What is to be done? The share I have had in the public administration, added to my interest as a citizen, makes me extremely anxious that at this delicate crisis a course of conduct exactly proper may be adopted. I offer to your consideration, without what appears to me ceremony, such a course.
First.—I would appoint a day of humiliation and prayer. In such a crisis this appears to me proper in itself, and it will be politically useful to impress our nation that there is a serious state of things—to strengthen religious ideas in a contest, which in its progress may require that our people may consider themselves as the defenders of their country against atheism, conquest, and anarchy. It is far from evident to me that the progress of the war may not call on us to defend our firesides and our altars. And any plan which does not look forward to this as possible, will, in my opinion, be a superficial one.
Second.—I would call Congress together at as short a day as a majority of both houses can assemble.
Third.—When assembled, I would appoint a commission extraordinary, to consist of Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Madison, together with Mr. Cabot and Mr. Pinckney. To be useful it is important that a man agreeable to the French should go. But neither Madison nor Jefferson ought to go alone. The three will give security. It will flatter the French pride. It will engage American confidence and recommend the people to what shall be eventually necessary. The commission should be instructed to explain; to ask a rescinding of the order under which we suffer, and reparation for the past—to remodify our treaties under proper guards. On the last idea I will trouble you hereafter.
Fourth.—The Congress should be urged to take defensive measures, these to be an embargo, unless with convoy by special license.
The following considerations appear to me weighty. The Empress of Russia is dead. Successors are too apt to contradict predecessors. The new emperor may join Prussia. The emperor of Germany by this means or by the fortune of war may be compelled to make peace. England may be left alone. America may be a good outlet for troublesome armies which the government is at a loss to manage. The governing passion of the rulers of France has been revenge. Their interest is not to be calculated upon. To punish us, to force us into a greater dependence, may be the plan of France.
At any rate we shall best guarantee ourselves against calamity by preparing for the work. In this time of general convulsion, in a state of things which threatens all civilization, ’T is a great folly to wrap ourselves up in a cloak of security.
The Executive before Congress meet ought to have a well-digested plan and to co-operate in getting it adopted.
to timothy pickering
March 29, 1797.
The post of yesterday brought me your letter of the day before.
I regret that the idea of a commission extraordinary appears of doubtful propriety. For after very mature reflection I am entirely convinced of its expediency. I do not understand the passage you cite as excluding the reception of a special extraordinary minister, but of an extraordinary resident minister. It seems impossible that the Directory can mean to say that they will shut the door to all explanation, even as to the nature and measure of the redress of grievances which they require. They speak too hastily not to authorize a large interpretation of what they say.
But if I were certain they would not hear the commission, it would not prevent my having recourse to it. It would be my policy, if such a temper exists in them, to accumulate the proofs of it with a view to union at home.
This union (I do not expect to proselyte all the leaders of faction) appears to me a predominant consideration; and, with regard to France, more than ordinary pains are requisite to attain it.
That the enemies of the government desire the measure, is a cogent reason with me for adopting it; because I would meet them on their own ground and disarm them of the argument that all has not been done which might have been done towards preserving peace.
The estimation of the merit of all our past measures depends on the final preservation of peace. This, besides the interest of the country in peace, is a very powerful reason for attempting every thing. The best friends of the government will expect it, and if this expedient be not adopted, it seems to me rupture will inevitably follow.
There is an opinion industriously inculcated (which nobody better than myself knows to be false), that the actual administration are endeavoring to provoke a war. It is all important by the last possible sacrifice to confound this charge. I cannot but add that I have not only a strong wish, but an extreme anxiety, that the measure in question may be adopted.
To attain the end of it, however, it is very material to engage in the errand a man who will have the full confidence of the adverse party, and who will be agreeable to France.
This cannot be done without employing others with him. Hence the idea of a commission, which to me appears capable of attaining every advantage and obviating every danger.
I am also desirous of impressing the public mind strongly by a religious solemnity, to take place about the meeting of Congress. I also think the step intrinsically proper.
to oliver wolcott
March 30, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
Every one who can properly appreciate the situation of our affairs at this moment, in all the extent of possible circumstances, must be extremely anxious for such a course of conduct in our government, which will unite the utmost prudence with energy. It has been a considerable time my wish, that a commission extraordinary1 should be constituted to go to France, to explain, demand, negotiate, etc. I was particularly desirous that the first measure of the present president’s administration should have been that. But it has not happened. I now continue to wish earnestly that the same measure may go into effect, and that the meeting of the Senate may be accelerated for that purpose. Without opening a new channel of negotiation, it seems to me the door to accommodation is shut, and rupture will follow, if not prevented by a general peace. Who, indeed, can be certain that a general pacification of Europe may not leave us alone to receive the law from France? Will it be wise to omit any thing to parry, if possible, these great risks?
Perhaps the Directory have declared they will not receive a minister till their grievances shall have been redressed.
This can hardly mean more than that they will not receive a resident minister. It cannot mean that they will not hear an extraordinary messenger, who may even be sent to know what will satisfy.
Suppose they do. It will still be well to convince the people that the government has done all in its power, and that the Directory are unreasonable.
But the enemies of the government call for the measure. To me this is a very strong reason for pursuing it. It will meet them on their own ground, and disarm them of the plea that some thing has been omitted.
I ought, my good friend, to apprise you, for you may learn it from no other, that a suspicion begins to dawn among the friends of the government, that the actual administration is not much averse to war with France. How very important to obviate this!
The accounts just received offer a great danger, that the Emperor may be compelled to make peace. Paul of Russia is evidently lukewarm in the cause of the allies. From lukewarmness to enmity, when fortunes take the other side, is but a step.
If England is left to bear the burthen alone, who can say that France may not venture to sport an army to this country? It may get rid of troublesome spirits.
As in the case of England, so now, my opinion is, to exhaust the expedients of negotiation; and, at the same time, to prepare vigorously for the worst. This is sound policy. Any omission or deficiency either way, will be a great error.
to timothy pickering
April 1, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
I have received your letter of the 30th, with the statement enclosed. I do not believe that its publication would have any influence upon the question of a rupture with France, but yet, as it seems that those who surround the President are not agreed in the matter—as an opinion is industriously circulated that too much fuel has been added by the publications of the government—as it is important to disarm a certain party of the weapons of calumny,—as it is in general best to avoid unofficial publications of official matter—as it may be even useful, for the sake of impression, to reserve the disclosure till the meeting of Congress, when the accumulation of insult may be the instrument of giving a strong impulse,—I rather advise the withholding of the statement. When Congress meet, it will be very useful to have a statement ready, as the abstract of the communication, to present to the people a summary view.
Such, my dear sir, is the infatuation of a great part of our community, that it will be policy in our government to do a great deal too much to make the idea palpable that rupture was inevitable. Adieu.
Yours truly, etc.
If the statement is published, I would close with the words “January last” in the last paragraph. The residue will make a good separate newspaper paragraph. Pray, who is the emigrant alluded to?
to oliver wolcott
April 5, 1797.
I have received your letter of March 31st. I hope nothing in my last was misunderstood. Could it be necessary, I would assure you that no one has a stronger conviction than myself of the purity of the motives which direct your public conduct, or of the good sense and judgment by which it is guided. If I have a fear (you will excuse my frankness), it is lest the strength of your feelings, the companions of energy of character, should prevent that pliancy to circumstances which is sometimes indispensable. I beg you only to watch yourself on this score, and the public will always find in you an able as well as a faithful servant.
The situation of our country, my dear sir, is singularly critical. The map of Europe is every way discouraging. There is too much reason to apprehend that the Emperor of Germany, in danger from Russia and Prussia, perhaps from the Porte, as well as from France, may be compelled to yield to the views of the latter. England, standing alone, may be driven to a similar issue. It is certain that great consternation in court and country attended the intelligence of Bonaparte’s last victories. Either to be in rupture with France, united with England alone, or singly, as is possible, would be a most unwelcome situation. Divided as we are, who can say what would be hazarded by it?
In such a situation, it appeared to me we should rather err on the side of condescension than on the opposite side. We ought to do every thing to avoid rupture, without unworthy sacrifices, and to keep in view, as a primary object, union at home.
No measure can tend more to this than an extra-ordinary mission. And it is certain to fulfil the ends proposed. It ought to embrace a character in whom France and the opposition have full credit. What risk can attend Madison, if combined, as I propose, with Pinckney and Cabot, or such a man (two deciding)? Depend on it, Pinckney is a man of honor, and loves his country. Cabot we both know. Besides, there ought to be certain leading instructions from which they may not deviate.
I agree with you that we have nothing to retract; that we ought to risk every thing before we submit to any dishonorable terms. But we may remould our treaties. We may agree to put France on the same footing as Great Britain by our treaty with her. We may also liquidate, with a view to future wars, the import of the mutual guaranty in the treaty of alliance, substituting specific succors, and defining the casus fæderis. But this last may or may not be done, though with me it is a favorite object.
Ingersol will not fulfil the object, but I would rather have him than do nothing.
I am clearly of opinion with you that the President shall come forward to Congress in a manly tone, and that Congress shall adopt vigorous defensive measures. Those you propose are proper, and some others on which I may write hereafter.
If Madison is well coupled, I do not think his intrigues can operate as you imagine. Should he advocate dishonorable concessions to France, the public opinion will not support. His colleagues, by address, and showing a disposition to do enough, may easily defeat his policy, and maintain the public confidence. Besides that, it is possible too much may be taken for granted with regard to Mr. Madison.
to william smith
April 5, 1797.
I have received, my dear sir, your letter of the 2d of April, (1797,) with your little work accompanying it, which I shall read with the interest I take in the author, the first leisure hour. I have cast my eye over it, and like very much the plan.
Our affairs are indeed very critical. But I am sorry to find that I do not agree with several of my friends. I am clearly of opinion for an extraordinary mission, and as clearly that it should embrace Madison. I do not think we ought to construe the declaration of the Directory against receiving a Minister Plenipotentiary, as an extraordinary mission pro hac vice. And if it does, it would be no reason with me against it. I would accumulate the proofs of French violence, and demonstrate to all our citizens that nothing possible has been omitted. That a certain party desires it is with me a strong reason for it—since I would disarm them of all plea that we have not made every possible effort for peace. The idea is a plausible one, that as we sent an Envoy Extraordinary to Britain, so we ought to send one to France. And plausible ideas are always enough for the multitude.
These and other reasons (and principally to avoid rupture with a political monster, which seems destined soon to have no competitor but England) make me even anxious for an extraordinary mission.
And to produce the desired effect, it seems to me essential that it shall embrace a distinguished character agreeable to France, and having the confidence of the adverse party. Hence I think of Madison, but I think of him only as one, because I would not trust him alone. I would unite with him Pinckney, and some strong man from the North, Jay, Cabot, and two of the three should rule. We should then be safe.
I need not tell you that I am disposed to make no sacrifices to France. I had rather perish myself and family than see the country disgraced. But I would try hard to avoid rupture, and if that cannot be, to unite the opinions of all good citizens of whatever political denomination. This is with me a mighty object.
I will give you hereafter my ideas of what ought to be done when Congress meet. My plan ever is to combine energy with moderation.
to rufus king
April 8, 1797.
I thank you, my dear sir, for your letter of the 6th of February. The intelligence that the Directory have ordered away our minister is every way unpleasant. It portends, too, a final rupture as the only alternative to an ignominious submission. Much public feeling has been excited; but the government. I trust and believe, will continue prudent, and do every thing that honor permits towards accommodation. It is, however, to be feared that France, successful, will be too violent and imperious to meet us on any admissible ground.
Congress are called together. I can give you no conjecture as to what will be done. Opinions are afloat. My idea is, another attempt to pacify by negotiation, vigorous preparation for war, and defensive measures with regard to our trade. But there never was a period of our affairs in which I could less foresee the state of things.
I believe there is no danger of want of firmness in the Executive. If he is not ill-advised, he will not want prudence. I mean, that he is himself disposed to a prudently firm course.
You know the mass of our Senate. That of our House of Representatives is not ascertained. A small majority on the right side is counted upon. In Virginia it is understood that Morgan comes in place of Rutherforth, and Evans in place of Page. The whole result of the Virginia election is not known.
The conduct of France has been a very powerful medicine for the political disease of our country. I think the community improves in soundness.
to william smith
April 10, 1797.
Since my last to you I have perused with great satisfaction your little work on our governments. I like the execution no less than the plan. If my health and leisure should permit, I would make some notes; but you can not depend on it, as I am not only extremely occupied, but in feeble health.
I send you my ideas of the course of conduct proper in our present situation. It is unpleasant to me to know that I have for some time differed materially from many of my friends on public subjects, and I particularly regret that, at the present critical juncture, there is in my apprehension much danger that sensibility will be an overmatch for policy. We seem now to feel and reason as the Jacobins did when Great Britain insulted and injured us, though certainly we have at least as much need of a temperate conduct now as we had then. I only say, God grant that the public interest may not be sacrificed at the shrine of irritation and mistaken pride. Farewell.
to oliver wolcott
April 13, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
The post of to-day brought me a letter from you. I am just informed that an order is come to the custom-house not to clear out any vessels if armed, unless destined for the East Indies. Under the present circumstances, I very much doubt the expediency of this measure. The excesses of France justify passiveness in the government; and its inability to protect the merchants requires that it should leave them to protect themselves. Nor do I fear that it would tend to rupture with France, if such be not her determination otherwise. The legality of this prohibition cannot be defended; it must stand on its necessity. It would, I think, have been enough to require security that the vessel is not to be employed to cruise against any of the belligerent powers. Perhaps even now, where vessels have been armed previous to the receipt of the prohibition, it is safe and advisable to except them on the condition of such security. Think of this promptly. The general measure may be further considered at leisure. Nor am I prepared to say that, having been taken, it ought to be revoked.
I will send you shortly some remarks in reply to questions you propose.
to —— hamilton
May 2, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
Some days since I received with great pleasure your letter of the 10th of March. The mark it affords of your kind attention, and the particular account it gives me of so many relations in Scotland are extremely gratifying to me. You, no doubt, have understood that my father’s affairs at a very early day went to wreck, so as to have rendered his situation during the greatest part of his life far from eligible. This state of things occasioned a separation between him and me, when I was very young, and threw me upon the bounty of my mother’s relatives, some of whom were then wealthy, though by vicissitudes to which human affairs are so liable, they have been since much reduced and broken up. Myself, at about sixteen, came to this country. Having always had a strong propensity to literary pursuits, by a course of study and laborious exertion, I was able, by the age of nineteen, to qualify myself for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in the College of New York, and to lay the foundation by preparatory study for the future profession of the law.
The American Revolution supervened. My principles led me to take part in it; at nineteen, I entered into the American army as captain of artillery. Shortly after I became, by his invitation, aide-decamp to General Washington, in which station I served till the commencement of that campaign which ended with the siege of York in Virginia, and the capture of Cornwallis’ army. The campaign I made at the head of a corps of light infantry, with which I was present at the siege of York, and engaged in some interesting operations.
At the period of the peace with Great Britain I found myself a member of Congress, by appointment of the legislature of this State.
After the peace, I settled in the city of New York, in the practice of the law, and was in a very lucrative course of practice, when the derangement of our public affairs, by the feebleness of the general confederation, drew me again reluctantly into public life. I became a member of the Convention which framed the present Constitution of the United States; and having taken part in this measure, I conceived myself to be under an obligation to lend my aid towards putting the machine in some regular motion. Hence, I did not hesitate to accept the offer of President Washington to undertake the office of Secretary of the Treasury.
In that office I met with many intrinsic difficulties, and many artificial ones, proceeding from passions, not very worthy, common to human nature, and which act with peculiar force in republics. The object, however, was effected of establishing public credit and introducing order in the finances.
Public office in this country has few attractions. The pecuniary emolument is so inconsiderable as to amount to a sacrifice to any man who can employ his time with advantage in any liberal profession. The opportunity of doing good, from the jealousy of power and the spirit of faction, is too small in any station to warrant a long continuance of private sacrifices. The enterprises of party had so far succeeded as materially to weaken the necessary influence and energy of the executive authority, and so far diminish the power of doing good in that department, as greatly to take away the motives which a virtuous man might have for making sacrifices. The prospect was even bad for gratifying in future the love of fame, if that passion was to be the spring of action.
The union of these motives, with the reflections of prudence in relation to a growing family, determined me as soon as my plan had attained a certain maturity, to withdraw from office. This I did by a resignation about two years since, when I resumed the profession of the law in the city of New York under every advantage I could desire.
It is a pleasant reflection to me, that since the commencement of my connection with General Washington to the present time, I have possessed a flattering share of his confidence and friendship.
Having given you a brief sketch of my political career, I proceed to some further family details.
In the year 1780, I married the second daughter of General Schuyler, a gentleman of one of the best families of this country, of large fortune, and no less personal and political consequence. It is impossible to be happier than I am in a wife; and I have five children, four sons and a daughter, the eldest a son somewhat past fifteen, who all promise as well as their years permit, and yield me much satisfaction. Though I have been too much in public life to be wealthy, my situation is extremely comfortable, and leaves me nothing to wish for but a continuance of health. With this blessing, the profits of my profession and other prospects authorize an expectation of such addition to my resources, as will render the eve of life easy and agreeable; so far as may depend on this consideration.
It is now several months since I have heard from my father, who continued at the island of St. Vincent. My anxiety at this silence would be greater than it is, were it not for the considerable interruption and precariousness of intercourse which is produced by the war.
I have strongly pressed the old gentleman to come and reside with me, which would afford him every enjoyment of which his advanced age is capable; but he has declined it on the ground that the advice of his physicians leads him to fear that the change of climate would be fatal to him. The next thing for me is, in proportion to my means, to endeavor to increase his comforts where he is.
It will give me the greatest pleasure to receive your son Robert at my house in New York, and still more to be of use to him; to which end, my recommendation and interest will not be wanting, and I hope not unavailing. It is my intention to embrace the opening which your letter affords me to extend my intercourse with my relations in your country, which will be a new source of satisfaction to me.
to timothy pickering
May 11, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
On my return here I found your letter of the 29th. The sitting of a court of chancery, and important business there, have unavoidably delayed a reply; now, it must be much more cursory than I could wish.
As to the mission, in some shape or other, the more I have reflected upon it, the more has it appeared to me indispensable. To accomplish, with certainty, a principal object of it—the silencing of Jacobin criticism, and promoting union among ourselves,—it is very material to engage in it a person who will have the Jacobin confidence; else, if France should still refuse to receive, or if receiving, the mission should prove unsuccessful, it will be said that this was because a suitable agent was not employed. Hence, my mind was led to Jefferson or Madison; but, as it would be unsafe to trust either alone, the idea of associates occurs as an essential part of the plan. This, likewise, is an expedient for saving Mr. Pinckney’s feelings.
But will either of them go on this footing? If offered, and they refuse, they will put themselves in the wrong; for on so great an emergency, they cannot justifiably decline the service without a good reason; and it would not be a good reason for refusal, that there was to be a commission. The refusal, too, if it happened, would furnish a reply to Jacobin clamor. It was offered to your leaders, and they would not act.
I confide in Pinckney’s integrity and federal attachments; why, then, name a third? Because, first, two may disagree, and there may be inaction. Second, though I have the confidence I mention, I think Pinckney has had too much French leaning to consider him, in conjunction with Jefferson or Madison, as perfectly safe. A third on whom perfect reliance could be placed would secure Pinckney’s co-operation. I do consider him, as in some sort, a middle character.
As to the two gentlemen named (Jefferson and Madison), it may be fairly observed to either of them that the combination of character is essential to combine the confidence of the country, and to render the result, whatever it may be, acceptable. It may also be observed that delicacy to Mr. Pinckney dictates this course—not to exclude him after what has happened. To Mr. Pinckney the state of parties here may also be pleaded.
The French Directory may also be made to understand indirectly that the association has proceeded from a desire in the Executive to unite confidence in the mission and secure its success at home.
I should not despair that in such a crisis men of opposite politics might agree. I verily believe that Jefferson, Pinckney, and King would agree. There might be a joint commission for action and a separate commission to Jefferson as envoy or ambassador extraordinary for representation.
I miscalculate if Jefferson will not be anxious for peace. I only fear that alone he would give too much for it.
If this plan is though liable to too strong objections, the next best thing is to send the commission of ambassador extraordinary to Pinckney, and send him also some clever fellow as secretary of embassy.
But I repeat it with extreme solicitude, another mission is absolutely indispensable.
On the subject of permitting our vessels to arm, there is some difficulty. You are right in the idea that merchant vessels under the convoy of ships-of-war are exempt from search. But I know no book where it is to be found. Yet I have so constantly understood it to be the usage, that I venture to rely upon it. But I believe the privilege is confined to public ships of war, and could not, according to usage, be transferred to private armed vessels. The measure must, therefore, be justified by the extremity.
Moreover, I understand no other consequence as resulting from the being armed than that it exposes the vessel to confiscation for resisting a search. It is no breach of neutrality to permit the being armed.
But I would avoid the formality of a commission, and would substitute some permit, perhaps to be signed by the head of a department. This should be united with great precautions to prevent abuse by cruising, by driving contraband trade by transfers to foreigners.
At all events our trade must have protection; for our whole mercantile capital will else be destroyed, our seamen lost, and our country involved in extreme distress.
As to a provisional army, I reason thus: no plan of a militia which is not the equivalent, in other words, which is not under a positive engagement to constitute a permanent army in case of invasion, will be worth any thing. For we want a stable force created beforehand to oppose to the first torrent, which, with mere militia, would involve incalculable dangers and calamities. Hence, as a substitute for a standing army, I offer a provisional one. It would be composed thus: the officers to be appointed by the United States and rank with those of the establishment, to receive some pay till called into actual service—say half, a third, or a fourth; those employed to recruit to be fully paid.
The men to be regularly enlisted upon condition not to be called into actual service, except in case of invasion, and then to serve during the war; to receive a uniform coat and a dollar, perhaps two dollars per month when not in the field; to be obliged to assemble for exercise so many days in the year, and then to have full pay and rations; when called into actual service to have the same compensations, etc., with the establishment; in short, to become part of it. To be armed by the United States; to be liable from the beginning to the articles of war.
I think such a corps, from the certainty of advantage, and the uncertainty of service, might be engaged sooner than a standing force, and, with precautions in the enlistment, would be a solid resource in case of need.
I am much attached to the idea of a large corps of efficient cavalry, and I cannot allow this character to militia. It is all-important to an undisciplined against a disciplined army. It is a species of force not easy to be brought by an invader—by which his supplies may be cut off and his activity extremely checked. Were I to command an undisciplined army, I should prefer half the force with a good corps of cavalry to twice the force without one.
to timothy pickering
Saturday, May 13, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
Mr. Goodhue takes on with him a Boston paper, the printer of which states that he has obtained, by a ship just arrived, a London paper of March 24th, mentioning in positive terms an account just received from the Emperor, that in consequence of a combination between Prussia and France, he is driven to the necessity of making an immediate peace for the safety of the empire; that in consequence of this, the king, who was at Windsor, had been sent for, etc.
The manner of announcing it is too positive to allow much doubt that the thing is substantially true.
This intelligence confirms the expediency of a further attempt to negotiate, but I hope it will not carry us too far. A firm and erect countenance must be maintained, and the vigor of preparation increased. Safety can only be found in uniting energy with moderation. Honor certainly is only to be found there, and either as a man or citizen, I, for one, had rather perish than submit to disgrace.
to rufus king
June 6, 1797.
I thank you, my dear sir, for two letters lately received from you, the last by Mr. Church. I feel very guilty for my negligence. But how can I help it?
The public prints will inform you of the course of public proceedings hitherto. You will perceive that the general plan is analogous to what was done in the case of Great Britain, though there are faults in the detail. Some people cannot learn that the only force which befits a government is in the thought and action, not in words, and many reverse the golden rule. I fear we shall do ourselves no honor in the result, and we shall remain at the mercy of events, without those efficient preparations which are demanded by so precarious situations; and which, not provoking war, would put us in condition to meet it. All the consolation I can give is, that the public temper of this country mends daily, and that there is no final danger of our submitting tamely to the yoke of France.
to oliver wolcott
June 6, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
You some time ago put a question to me which, through hurry I never answered, viz.—whether there can be any distinction between the provision in the treaty with Great Britain respecting British debts and that respecting spoliations as to the power of the commissioners to rejudge the decisions of the courts? I answer that I can discover none.
I am of the opinion, however, that in the exercise of this power two principles ought to be strenuously insisted upon. One—that the commissioners ought not to intermeddle but when it is unequivocally ascertained that justice cannot now be obtained through our courts. The other—that there ought to be no revision of the question of interest where abatements were made by juries undirected by any special statute. For it is certain that interest is capable of being affected by circumstances, and that the law leaves a considerable discretion on this point with juries. I take it for granted also, that where compromises were made between creditor and debtor without the intervention of courts, or the injunctions of positive law, there will be no revision. This is all a very delicate subject, one upon which great moderation on the part of the British commissioners is very important to future harmony.
I like very well the course of Executive conduct in regard to the controversy with France, and I like the answer of the Senate in regard to the President’s speech.
But I confess, I have not been well satisfied with the answer reported in the House. It contains too many hard expressions; and hard words are very rarely useful in public proceedings. Mr. Jay and other friends here have been struck in the same manner with myself. We shall not regret to see the answer softened down. Real firmness is good for every thing. Strut is good for nothing.
Last session I sent Sedgwick, with request to communicate to you, my project of a building tax. Enclosed is the rough sketch. I do not know whether there was any alteration in the copy sent to him.
But the more I reflect, the more I become convinced that some such plan ought to be adopted, and the idea of valuation dropped, and I have also become convinced that the idea of a tax on land ought to be deferred. The building tax can be accommodated to the quota-rule. For what were intended as rates may be considered as ratios of each individual’s tax only, and then, as the aggregate of these ratios within a State is to the sum of the ratios on a particular building, so will the sum to be raised in the State be to the sum to be paid by the owner of that building, and so the very bad business of valuations may be avoided in general. In regard to stores, if they are comprehended, rents or valuations may be adopted, and these rents may also be represented by ratios equivalent to the proportion of the specific ratios to the rents of houses to be estimated in the law.
If these ideas are not clear I will on your desire give a further explanation.
My plans of ways and means then for the present would be:
I should like also a remodification of the duties on licenses to sell spirituous liquors by multiplying discriminations.
I would then open a loan for five millions of dollars, to be repaid absolutely within five years, upon which I would allow a high interest, say eight per cent., payable quarterly, and redeemable at pleasure by paying off, and I would accept subscriptions as low as one hundred dollars. In case of pressure, Treasury-bills bearing a like interest may be used.
If unfortunately war breaks out, then every practicable object of taxation should at once be seized hold of, so as to carry our revenue in the first instance to the extent of our ability. Nor is the field narrow.
I give you my ideas full gallop and without management of expression. I hope you always understand me a-right and receive my communications as they are intended, in the spirit of friendly frankness.
to oliver wolcott
June 8, 1797.
I have received your two letters of the 6th and 7th. The last announced to me no more than I feared. Nor do I believe any sufficient external impulse can be given to save us from disgrace. This, however, will be thought of.
I regret that you appear remote from the idea of a house tax simply, without combining the land. I do not differ from your general principle. The truth is a solid one that the sound state of political economy depends, in a great degree, on a general repartition of taxes on taxable property, by some equal rule. But it is very important to relax in theory, so as to accomplish as much as may be practicable. I despair of a general land tax without actual war. I fear the idea of it; it keeps men from the augmentation of revenue by other means which they might be willing to adopt. The idea of a house tax alone is not so formidable. If placed upon a footing which would evince practicability and moderation in the sum, I think it might succeed. Now, one million of dollars, computing the number of houses at six hundred thousand, would be an average of about a dollar and a half. The tax would be very low on the worst houses, and could not be high on the best. This idea would smooth a great deal.
As to the circumstance of the habitations of the Southern negroes, I see no insuperable difficulty in applying ratios to them which would tend to individual equity. As between the States, the quota principle would make this point unimportant.
As to the inequality in certain States, I believe, on the plan suggested, there could be no general tax which in fact would operate more equally. The idea of equalization by embracing lands does not much engage my confidence. Besides that, this may be an after-object, and we are to gain points successively.
As to the productiveness of the stamp tax, with the items I suggest, it is difficult, in the first instance, to judge. But I am persuaded it would go far towards the point aimed at. There cannot be much fewer than three millions of hats consumed in a year in this country. At an average of eight cents per hat, this would be two hundred and forty thousand dollars, a large proportion of the five hundred thousand dollars. If law proceedings can be included, directly or indirectly, the produce will be very considerable. I think you mistake when you say these taxes in England are inconsiderable in proportion. According to my recollection, the reverse is the truth.
to timothy pickering
August 27, 1797.
Some time since I received the enclosed, being directions concerning measures requisite to be pursued to obtain indemnification in case of capture by British cruisers. I laid it by in haste, and have since overlooked it. I do not recollect to have seen it in the newspapers, and yet it appeared to me necessary that it should be so. As it came to me from some one of our public characters in London, I presume you must have received the equivalent. I am curious to know if this has been the case, and if any thing has been done upon it.
After perusal, and making such use as you may think proper, you will oblige me by returning it.
August 28, 1797.
My Dear Sir:
The receipt two days since of your letter of the 21st instant gave me sincere pleasure. The token of your regard which it announces is very precious to me, and will always be remembered as it ought to be.
Mrs. Hamilton has lately added another boy to our stock; she and the child are both well. She desires to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Washington and yourself.
We have nothing new here more than our papers contain, but are anxiously looking forward to a further development of the negotiations in Europe, with an ardent desire for general accommodation. It is at the same time agreeable to observe that the public mind is adopting more and more sentiments truly American, and free from foreign tincture.
I beg my best respects to Mrs. Washington.
to oliver wolcott
November 20, 1797.
Give me leave to remind you of your promise to send me the documents and information which authenticate the situation of Mr. Beaumarchais as to the unaccounted-for million.
Allow me also to mention to you another point. I hear there is a plan among the directors of the bank to transfer the management of their concerns from the house of Cazenove to that of Baring. When the arrangement was originally upon the tapis, I felt some preference to the house of Baring as of more known solidity. But after its having taken a different course I should regret a change unless upon grounds which I am persuaded do not exist—circumstances of insecurity in the conduct of affairs of the existing agents. I verily believe they unite prudence and solidity. The change might, without cause, injure their credit and do them positive harm. It was one thing to have entrusted them in the first instance. It is another to recall that trust, which neither justice nor the reputation of the bank will countenance, but for valid reasons of change of opinion. My friendship for Mr. Cazenove, the father, corresponds with my sense of propriety, to induce the wish that you may see fit to exert your influence in every proper way to prevent a change.1
to oliver wolcott
I thank you for your last letter. The opinion with regard to the conduct of the President is very important.
As to our finances, all will be well if our councils are wise and vigorous; if not, all will go to ruin. I fear there is not among the friends sufficient capaciousness of views for the greatness of the occasion.
I send the enclosed because it requires correction.1
Reprinted from the History of the Republic, vi., 592.
John De Neuville, of the Dutch banking-house of John De Neuville & Sons. He was an active, agreeable, speculative man, who had more or less to do with our financial efforts during the war. He made propositions to Franklin, which were dismissed as extravagant, and John Adams, with many misgivings and ultimate disapproval, had some dealings with him.
See above to Washington, January 19, 1797.
Reprinted from the Administrations of Washington and Adams, i., p. 443.
Now first printed entire from the Hamilton papers in the State Department. A portion of this letter is given in the History of the Republic, vii., 18.
Madison, Pinckney, and Cabot.
Now first printed from the Wolcott papers in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society.