Front Page Titles (by Subject) to washington - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 10
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
to washington - 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.
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.