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to timothy pickering - 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 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.