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