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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
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.